Tag Archives: the magicians

Best of 2019: Episodes

As much as I enjoy cliffhanger-driven television for encouraging me to keep watching a series, I will always prefer shows with slightly more discrete and distinct episodes. The ability to craft a good story that satisfies in 22-60 minutes that also ties into the season or series as a whole is a difficult one that not every show can manage, but when they do, it stays with with you. Some of these episodes, I liked simply because they did a good job doing exactly what they set out to do, others had something more profound to say that spoke to me on a deeper level, and I think both types are important to me as a viewer.

If you’re not already, be sure to check out the year-end reviews over at MGCircles and continue to celebrate the things that you enjoyed the most this year!

Episode One (Fleabag) Everything about this episode is brilliant and absolutely riveting. The jumps between scenes, the choral backing, the most satisfying punch in the history of television, the introduction of Hot Priest, and the complication and devotion that can only exist between sisters. It’s a fantastic reintroduction to the series after three years away and the whole episode is infused with a frantic energy that sucks you in and won’t let go. The family dinner after over a year apart where they are so desperately trying to appear normal in front of this outsider and utterly failing because they are absolutely not functional as a unit. The writing and acting are both terrific and Andrew Scott slid so seamlessly into this world and immediately feels like a natural fit for the off-kilter, fast-paced banter that helps define its style. It’s a masterclass in efficient, dynamic television and I cannot possibly say enough good things about it. 

The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (Game of Thrones) In a season that was mostly filled with disappointment and horrible writing choices, this episode feels like a gift from Bryan Cogman. In this precursor to the battle against the White Walkers, the characters and the viewers were given a chance to breathe and to take stock of what was important. And this import was found in each other – the history they’d shared, the bonds that had formed, the trusts that had yet to be shaken. This show is plot-heavy, it always has been. But just this once, we got a look at a version of the show that wasn’t. Yes, there was some necessary battle prep like the shots of Gendry making weapons and the war council, but really, it was a change for discussions and decisions and declarations. It was only right that Cogman wrote this episode after gifting us with “Kissed by Fire” and “Oathbreaker” in previous seasons. This was the culmination of Jaime and Brienne’s arc that started so many seasons ago and I could not have wanted anything more. Regardless of their ending that I will be mad about forever, this is who they were to each other. The person they chose to fight and potentially die alongside. The one who had their unquestioned trust and loyalty. The one they loved. There are three separate points in this episode where that subtext nearly ticks over into actual text and for as much as I love these two, it was the better choice to leave it unspoken but still heard. Then we cap off the episode with Jon and his terrible timing but as a result, we headed into battle with all the cards on the table for the most important relationships on the show. 

Anxiety (One Day at a Time) This episode is so well-made and the care that went into its creation is so apparent in every choice. As always, Justina Machado is incredibly talented and I will never understand how every awards body isn’t showering her with accolades and she grounds her performance in something compassionate and real. I love that the bulk of the non-flashback portion of the episode takes place at group therapy. We absolutely need to normalize getting help like this and the benefits of having a supportive community around you and there was something special in seeing this group of women come together around an issue that affects them all in very different ways. There’s not one way for anxiety to present and not a single coping mechanism that will work for everyone and it feels like the writers of this episode wanted to be extra sure that the viewers knew that. It was an outstretched hand saying that we aren’t alone and there is possible relief. This episode also really demonstrates what’s so special about Penelope and Schneider’s relationship. We all need that person in our life that we can be honest with and trust that they will be there in response with whatever it is that we need. Just being able to tell someone “I’m having an anxiety attack” and putting a name to the feeling is an important step and allowing yourself to lean on someone else when shame would have us isolate and hide away is a powerful and healing part of the process and this episode demonstrated that perfectly. I’m so grateful for everything that went into making this episode what it is and hope that it started conversations and fostered a little more understanding in the world. 

Who’s Got the Pain (Fosse/Verdon) Coming together and falling apart. This episode is Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s relationship in a nutshell. From their first meeting, you see why they connected both personally and professionally. It changed nearly everything for them, they found someone who instinctively understood them creatively and worked to make them shine even brighter. It invigorated them in every way. But it didn’t change who they were. Fosse wasn’t capable of a monogamous relationship with anything, he was always looking for something more or new or different. We see it as his marriage with Joan falls apart and we see in the fight in Majorca. He undoubtedly loved Verdon as much as he was able and it was never going to be enough. She needed more of him than he had to give and sometimes that made her walk away but sometimes she stayed anyway because some of him made more sense than none. This episode is brilliantly directed and edited, the camera angles in their pre-rehearsal fight are tense and suffocating, William’s line delivery of her stage directions for their fight on the beach are brutal and cutting, and the dance scenes are all filled with chemistry and a natural intimacy. Every element of it was perfectly executed and it’s the episode I’m most likely to keep coming back to as an example of who these two were and how the show captured them. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: Episodes

Do Better. Sincerely, An Exhausted Fan.

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.

Continue reading Do Better. Sincerely, An Exhausted Fan.

March 2019 Recommendations

 

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Show Title: The Magicians

Episodes: 52 (by the end of s4)

Where to Watch: The first three seasons are on Netflix, s4 is available on demand or to purchase)

I originally started this show sometime last fall, got busy and lost interest halfway through season one. After some excited screaming from the fandom in the midst of season four, I got inspired to start the series over and quickly watched the available episodes over the course of a couple weeks. There are some things I don’t love about the first couple seasons but season three is genuinely one of the best seasons of TV I’ve ever seen. It completely rejects the “we’re actually making a ten hour movie” mentality and instead embraces the strengths of its medium by giving us a character-focused, season-spanning quest. There was an overarching storyline that swiftly moved along, but it also took time to make each episode count and play with the form and structure of the show. There are not nearly enough shows that pull off that episode/season balance as well as The Magicians has and while it hasn’t quite hit the same peak in season four, it has still taken risks and embraced the chaos that comes with a fantasy show that isn’t interested in being complete misery at all times. The characters are damaged and messy and make big mistakes but they also love and fight hard for one another, even when they don’t like each other. They grow and evolve in ways that make sense for their journeys and what they have been through and it is beautiful to watch. You can’t help but love them even (and sometimes especially) when they are assholes. And, as you’ve heard if you are at all engaged in fandom spaces on the internet, they are telling what is so far a beautiful and painful love story in an incredibly satisfying way that I am unused to as a fan. They are excelling at so many things that make me love TV and it is everything I needed in this moment. It’s already been renewed for a fifth season and even if you can’t watch it right now, it’s well worth taking a look at before next January.

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Book Title: That Ain’t Witchcraft

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Urban Fantasy

I don’t think there’s a current author who knows how to write an ongoing series better than Seanan McGuire. The individual pieces are good and compelling stories with characters that I love but when you put them all together and look at them as a whole, they become something greater. The climax of this book would not have had the impact it did without 8 books and numerous short stories (especially The Recitation of the Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork) to back it up. We needed to know the legacy of the Price women and to understand the purity of the faith the Aeslin mice have in their priestesses. We needed Annie to truly feel the strength of those bonds and her love for her family, blood and chosen. It was emotionally earned and incredibly effective, given how hard it made me cry. This book was, in many ways, the end of one chapter of this story and the beginning of something new and exciting and I am already anxious to see the next part of the extended Price-Healy family’s story.