Pairing(s): Alice Quinn/Quentin Coldwater
Recced on LiveJournal By: skysamuelle
Spoilers: Season 1 from episode 1 to episode 13, heavy spoilage on the finale
“Quentin Coldwater enrolls at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy to be trained as a magician, where he discovers that the magical world from his favorite childhood books is real and poses a danger to humanity. Meanwhile, the life of his childhood friend Julia is derailed when she is denied entry, and she searches for magic elsewhere.”
Raise your hand if reading this description, you thought –‘damn, here it goes another Harry Potter rip off’. Even knowing this tv show was actually based on whole another book series by Lev Grossman, I admit my thoughts went there. On a superficial level, the resemblance might look evident – enter marginalized shy protagonist with issues who suddenly realizes the fantasies of magic he always loved are actually realizable, that he can be a real magician and be part of a world where he is not an outcast for dreaming about it. Enter a magical university, organized in student sections based on the magical ‘specializations’ an applicant might pursue after his magic is tested by professors. Enter a young woman who is used to be the best at anything she applied herself to, and that can’t accept being rejected by magic school when she feels in her bones she has what it takes. Enter a mysteriously lethal and inhuman villain (The Beast) that seems determined to kill our protagonist for reasons we will learn of long time after.
After the first three episodes, maybe you will be still thinking – it’s a bit like Harry Potter, just with more science, modernity, and a little thing called magical realism. No fairy-tale-esque idealism, but a darkness that dances just at the edges of your vision… and yes, entirely different characters.
Quentin alone is as distant from Harry Potter as you might imagine – he is a total geek (a fact I love), socially awkward, with a head full of dreams and love for a bookseries he nerds about constantly, a past of being treated for depression because he didn’t feel he fit in the ‘real’ world. And even in Brakebills, for all that he is desperate to belong somewhere finally, he is not necessarily the most popular or the most talented.
Julia can be ruthless and a bit of a bitch and she goes at magic with a desperation to prove herself that will bring her to become almost an addict.
Eliot, Quentin’s first friend and mentor at school, is unabashedly bisexual and in an open relationship with Margo, queen bee and mean girl, and looks quite devoted to a pretty dissolute lifestyle of sex, heavy-drinking and drug using while lording over younger students.
Alice, Quentin’s love interest that is all prim and proper, standoffish and basically a magical prodigy, turns to be that way because her parents are way *too* sexually liberated and constantly over-dramatic.
Penny, resident telepath who often harasses Quentin over his being nerdy and ‘girly’, has a surprisingly compassionate heart beneath the street tough exterior.
None of those magicians is a stereotype – in fact, I will say they all start off one just to utterly upturn it-and I loved the show most for going slower on the major-plotline-spinning for the few 5-6 episodes in order to establish firmly the world-building and letting me know each of them well enough to root for all or none.
I dare to say that is not until episode 9 that the series shows its true face and from there on … I was hooked and all in for the ride, because those ‘kids’ whose world I had seen explored separately were coming together for the quest of their lives.
And then… The Beast.
A villain so easy to root against when he seems to be always a couple of steps ahead, is frighteningly powerful and literally faceless. He is a worthy foe and kills often enough that you never stop feeling him as a true danger. Even more when all the steps of the road lead to deduce he is actually a pedophile who studied magic in order to chase his victim to Fillory, a magic world the boy found his refuge in, in order to be free of following a sick lovestory that existed only in his mind. Yeah, you wanted that guy dead and dead for good. You still do when the world turns and you discover the victim in question became a different sort of monster and yes, exactly the monster whose defeat you were waiting for 13 blasted episodes.
This is a show that delivers well aganst when it chooses to go there so personally I am glad the humour and edgy dialogues and the alternating POVs between characters kept it balanced and for the most bright, lively thing to watch.
In general, The Magicians is fantastic with both showing and telling in the exactly needed proportions, and the attention to detail that builds up complex, loveably imperfect heroes.
The world those heroes move in pretty much the world we know, with the addition of magic – their problems and the way they deal with it is pretty much the way we or people we know might to. And that, when they are faced with extreme situations and unconquerable enemies and still go at it with all they have, *together*, as a team of unlikely companions who struggles to connect and support each other despite the great differences in background … makes it a show spellbinding to watch.
Now… a bit of more on the protagonists:
“Becoming me was the greatest creative project of my life.”
He is … surely the character that surprised me the most. He is little a little box full of things you don’t expect coming out at the least likely plot points.
In the first episode he is fashionably dressed, handsome party boy who looks and speaks and acts as disillusioned, superficial, decadent trust-fund baby. It turns out that a great part of that is a grand show only Margo knows of – studied to the smallest clue to allow him to reach the social status he wanted within Brakebills. In truth, he is from humble origins and a very sensitive, almost fragile sort of guy. Similarly, his relationship with Margo, that looks based on partying and indulging each other, is one where they actually support and enjoy each other as best friends before of being a couple hell-bent on ruling high-society side by side. They are such a comedy to watch together – more often than not, they look more like siamese twins than anything else … although mind you, they are never exactly explicit about their ‘status’ unless they are instructing the third party in their occasional threesome (it’s apparently a thing they do often) or defining boundaries about said other third parties. I don’t think they are necessarily in love, but they certainly love each other and are very codependent.
Margo is ever-caustic, but also confident, smart, quite warm when she decides to put the bitch hat off.
IGN: What do you think is the biggest misjudgment people might have of them from the first five episodes?
Bishil: Probably that the well doesn't run too deep. I think Margo is used to being the smartest person in the room, but she plays it close to the vest. I think she sees everything that's going on around her, I think she's a great judge of character, but she's an advantageous person. She saves everything she finds out and accumulates it in an arsenal to be used later.
Appleman: I think that he's creating an idea of himself, so he wants you to feel a certain way about him. He wants you to feel that he's confident and secure and has all his s--t together and is on top of it. In a way, he wants to control how you experience him. He sort of wants you to misinterpret who he really is. He wants to kind of misdirect you into believing he is a certain way -- which he might be, a little, but he's definitely putting on a bit of an act, a bit of a show, in the effort to not reveal his deeper anxieties and his sadness in his past.
IGN: How do you two explain their relationship? In my mind it doesn't seem fully romantic or fully sexual, but it's also more than just friendship.
Appleman: I mean, it's not not romantic. It's not not sexual. It's not defined. I don't think it is definable. These characters -- and I'll speak for Eliot -- I don't think he's easily boxed, and from a sexual standpoint, all bets are off. It's not "she's my girlfriend so that's never going to happen." If anything, there's such an intimacy between them and such a comfort level. They have found each other at this school and have needed each other. They have such a close-knit dynamic when you meet them, they are the closest person in each others' lives. Would you agree, Summer?
Bishil: I would. I think for Margo, the only person she really has intimacy with is Eliot. I think she's the same in the sense that she doesn't really define herself as one way or another. I think she's pretty open. Like Hale said, they are sexually attracted to each other and have a sexual relationship, but the most dynamic of their relationship is that they're able to be honest with each other at times, which I think is very difficult for both of those characters, and they're forced to be more honest with each other and confront more desires and fears as the season goes on. Their relationship becomes tested, as Hale said, but it's also more interesting to play as an actress and hopefully to watch as a viewer.
Quentin: There is no substitute for a childhood of adventure, warmth, and love.
Penny: You will never be a man.
Quentin’s defining trait in the series is that whereas others know magic is real, he believes in it, loves it the full way a child would … in direct contrast to Penny, who has natural gifts like telepathy and planes-travel but is a cynic at heart, reluctant to step up and think he may make a difference because he mistrusts his magic.
They do counterbalance each other in their bizarre way.
Alice is … mature and self-contained while coming from a crazy house where immature parents hide behind new age and an obsession with sex and sex-magic. She is smart and way too of a natural at what she studies for, a fact she tries to dissimulate in order to not be even more discriminated by her schoolmates.
The revelation she and Quentin are quite the fit together despite their common social inhibitions is something I am still reeling from, but they are good for each other … sweet and sexy too, even if they often fall in miscommunication.
They certainly helped each other to grow and trust– for all the times Quentin had wanted to be ‘the chosen one’, it’s exactly the moment he is, that he finds in himself the maturity to say that it is Alice who is better magician, Alice who has the most chances to defeat the Beast.
I left Julia last because she is who I usually fangirl by an episode’s end. She is also who among everyone I think moved further in the course of one season. She begins like a down-the-earth, brilliant Ivy League student, a determined realist who kinda wishes her childhood friend Quentin would just hurry to grow up and do something serious of his life… then she discovers Brakebills and she realizes there’s more to the world than the bi-dimensional reality she knew. Julia dives in, becomes desperate to not give up that magic everyone suddenly tell her is not hers, and she fights for it. All more *because* others tell her she can’t when she feels it isn’t so. She upturns her so-ordinary and carefully built life so she can chase something she fell in love with the moment she understood it was real. She falls in with a bad crowd and she adapts to their ways to get what she wants. She gives up only when she realizes it went too far, and even at that low, she finds guidance in someone who tries teaching her magic can be used to improve the world. And she does her amends, no matter how hard it is.
Julia is great not only because she didn’t let other people’s lack of faith in her affect her confidence in herself and what she could do, but also because she had the strength and the flexibility to chop and change when she realized she was in the wrong. She has character, ambition, compassion, and a willful streak that keeps her driven and almost obsessively focused on her goals.
And, while what happened to her in the season finale broke my heart, I thought she was heroic in standing between the Fox and Kady … and I felt so proud of her for making *that move* on the Beast. Arguably she might have killed him on the spot and saved the group from him once for all, but after what had happened to her friends, and after knowing The Beast had managed to kill a god himself, there was not a chance in hell that someone like Julia would have not pursued the chance to avenge herself and her circle.
Ironically, she who spent all those months trying to claim this heritage as magician denied to her, grew to be the only Master Magician in that room, but on the other side of the coin… she who had struggled so long to find her place in the magical community, and who had finally found it … had it ripped off her in most violent way imaginable. She ends Season 1 in the same place she started it – in despair and pushing through it to gain one more chance to make it all right.
And while I believe she will come out of this even stronger (I have been skimming through the book series after all, I know where she ends up *there*), I am hoping on fic to tide me over the next season. Unfortunately so far there’s so very little of it to go around, especially if you prefer het-fic.
PS – On the note on comparing Bookverse and TV-verse: for me, a number of factors conspired to make TVverse more palatable – the fact it’s university based, and not an high school story, Julia’s stronger presence from the beginning, Kady and the differences to Penny’s character. Also Quentin is … softer in the TV version, and the TV version contrives to be more of an ensemble-cast-story than a singular’s character arc. Tough, Novel-verse is more introspective and it comes with some really amazing pieces of writing like:
Maybe. Who knows. But I'll tell you something: I think you're magicians because you're unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.
Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.”
Links for the win:
Rec #1: The Other Side of the World
Pairing: none, Julia and Alice centric, a bit of one sided Quentin/Julia
Word Count/WIP?: 7811
Why This Must Be Read: Book-based but AU – Alice and Julia don’t really get the chance to interact, not in the TV series and not in the novels (at least up to the point I’ve read) , so this story shows in glimpses three different universes where they met and had a sort of friendship: one where they are both attending Brakebills, one where are both hedge witches, and one in bookverse, as Julia became a dryad and Alice a wild spirit of magic. Julia is still very much the driven individual I know from the tv series and Alice is still introverted and full of issues, and they make for one interesting, complicated set of accidental friends.
Rec #2 O'ershoes in Blood
Rating/Warning(s): M, Mentions of abuse
Word Count/WIP?: 438, no
Why This Must Be Read: Elliot in the aftermath of episode 1.09 … aganst and PTSD. Therapeutic reading for post-watching the episode.
Rec #3: If It makes you to feel better
Pairing: Alice Quinn/Quentin Coldwater
Word Count/WIP?: 1018, no
Why This Must Be Read: TV-verse, Pure post episode 11 awakwardness – Eliot, Margo and Quentin had a drink and sorrow fueled ménage-a-troi, and naturally Alice walked on it even before Quentin woke up and understood how badly he had messed up. Here Eliot is his blasé self about it and Quentin is trying to work out how it all happened, and they don’t succeed in having a real conversation about it, which is much like them.
Rec #4: The Longshot Way Around
Pairing: mostly Gen, a bit of semi platonic Marina/Eliot
Word Count/WIP?: 1523, no
Why This Must Be Read: Margo and Eliot have definitely run the probability spell before … and this is the world they have seen. Appropriately haunting.
Rec #5: Getting Happy
Pairing: Alice Quinn/Quentin Coldwater
Rating/Warning(s): M, explicit sex
Word Count/WIP?: 2814, no
Why This Must Be Read: ‘Things are weird when they get back from Brakebills South, and by weird Alice means weirdly normal. Takes place after The Mayakovsky Circumstance’. TV-verse. Nor Quentin or Alice are exactly cheery people if left to their devices. They tend more to be on the moody and repressed side of the spectrum but here they try, and they succeed and they get hot and heavy on each other. Basically the essence of the ship.
Rec #6: Tree Time
Word Count/WIP?: 1620, no
Why This Must Be Read: Bookverse. Four meetings in time between Julia and Jane Chatwin. There’s Fillory, tree goddesses and time-travel… included mostly because this is exactly how I would like for Julia and Jane’s story arcs to end some day.
Rec #6: Winter Kept Us Warm. Summer Surprised Us
Pairing: Alice Quinn/Quentin Coldwater
Word Count/WIP?: 7204, no
Why This Must Be Read: Bookverse. Post Magicians’ Land. Alice and Quentin reconnect through magic and cats. It reads like a pretty intimistic and sweet piece of narrative.
Rec #7: Pink and Glitter
Pairing: none, Julia centric oneshot
Word Count/WIP?: 1555, no
Why This Must Be Read: Bookverse. Based off Book 1 – AU to how Julia might have found a first way to learn magic outside Brakebills. The tone is gritty and just a side of sinister, delivering perfectly.