Here we are again. Three years later and a hell of a lot less patience on my part. I’m tired. I’m tired of being disappointed by the choices made by shows that I really loved and connected with. I’m tired of fandom needing to rally around each other to call out harmful storylines and ensure that their fellow fans are OK, regardless of whether they’ve spoken before (though I am extremely grateful to be part of a community that will do this). I’m tired of the idea that “subversive” writing is automatically good, that the shocking choice is also the strongest one. I’m tired of the idea that hope and healing are somehow less valid of an artistic choice and the prioritization and fetishization of pain being the only thing that’s real. I’m tired of creators specifically being praised for their inclusion and portrayals of queer characters and storylines (and actively courting a queer fanbase along the way) only to later diminish those stories or take away some of that still lacking representation.
The beauty of fiction is the way we bring ourselves to the story. We bring our worldview, our past experiences, our strengths, and our insecurities. We become attached to the characters not just for what they do but for who they are and what they represent. They teach us things about ourselves. They teach us how to love parts of ourselves we previously found unlovable. They give us hope. They give us connection and show us we aren’t alone. But that beauty comes at a cost. It’s what makes it hurt the way it does when something lets us down on a fundamental level.
And wow did The Magicians let me down. How is this the same show that gave me All That Hard, Glossy Armor? That had an entire meta episode about the way that stories matter, that how they’re filed matter? These last two episodes tainted that legacy for me. Kady has been reduced to Penny’s girlfriend (really? that was the only thing she wanted?) who might occasionally remember that she believes in the power of a group of metaphorically marginalized people. Margo is still Eliot’s best friend and I’m grateful that they are reunited but you expect me to believe she was gonna stay behind while someone else was supposed to be getting him back? It didn’t work out and she saved him in the end but it was sloppily done. Julia is just never going to have any say over her life or her body but it’s fine because the man in love with a version of her from an alternate timeline couldn’t stand to lose her and turned her human. And she has her powers still anyway so who needs actual autonomy. Alice’s story has admittedly been a problem for nearly as long as Julia’s, to the point that I don’t even know what they are trying to do with her.
Then there’s the Q of it all. Even taken strictly in context of the episode itself with no thought to creator intention or larger implications, things didn’t really work for me. There were some emotional character beats that I could take with him and as affecting as Jason Ralph’s performance was, it couldn’t bridge that gap for me. And as much as I have loved this show leaning back on a musical moment to best get a feeling or theme across, the fire scene with what would have ordinarily would have been a lovely cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” managed to both make me cry and feel incredibly out of place.