DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Magicians episode “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” contains a fork ton of spoilers. Seriously, if you don’t want to be spoiled regarding the SyFy darling’s Season 4 finale, turn back now. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.
Welcome back, Fillorians! The Magicians packed quite the punch with its much-anticipated season finale. The magnitude of Quentin’s sacrifice, the poignancy of it felt like a smack in the face. In the best way possible, of course. Penny 40’s mysterious elevator scene makes more sense now. Our gang holding a fireside wake complete with a rendition of “Take On Me” had me in tears. What a wonderful send off for Quentin Coldwater. This episode would’ve been a satisfying series finale if the show ended with Season 4. Thankfully, Season 5 is a go and a few introductory threads for said season were woven into the finale.
Alright, ready to delve into “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry?” Just be sure to have a cache of tissues handy. You will need them – this I guarantee.
We open right where we left off: Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) are facing off against Julia Monster (Stella Maeve). Alice utilizes battle magic to keep Julia Monster at bay while Penny (Arjun Gupta) sneaks up behind the latter. He stabs Julia Monster with Margo’s ice axes, and we see the essence of the Monster’s sister escape unfettered. Alice and Q trap the spirit inside one of the demon jars and use an incorporate bond to bind it. Julia is incredibly weakened but alive. Success! Our gang makes their way toward the magical reservoir under Whitespire to replenish Julia’s body.
Next, we see Everett (Brian Markinson) making his way toward the reservoir. Uh oh. Methinks he has a crafty plan up his sleeve…
Sure enough, our gang arrives at the reservoir only to find it dry. Completely, absolutely dry. The Magicians never fails to deliver the plot twists.
Later, Julia is in the infirmary at Brakebills. Professor Lipson (Keegan Connor Tracy) is tending to her wounds. Penny is clinging to Julia’s bedside. Apparently, Julia’s wounds from the ice axes keep incessantly opening and closing. She’s clearly in agony. Penny summons the Binder (Matt Frewer) for guidance. The Binder reveals that Julia has a choice to make – either she succumbs to total humanity or she’s reinstated as a goddess. However, Julia is currently unconscious. Thus, the choice falls on Penny’s shoulders. No pressure, bro.
Meanwhile, Kady (Jade Tailor) is chatting it up with none other than Pete (David Call). I don’t know about you, but I was under the impression that Pete was dead. He survived being kidnapped by the Serpent and withstood receiving a Reed’s Mark. Pete begs Kady to rejoin the cause, to fight for hedge witches everywhere. Kady is still reeling from her trip with Zelda into the Poison Room. She’s emotionally fragile and still grieving for Penny 40. However, with some prodding on Pete’s part, she agrees to continue fighting to save hedges everywhere.
Next, we see Julia is up and about at the Physical Kids cottage. She informs Quentin that she’s privy to bits and pieces of the Monster’s grand plan. The spirit that possessed her left an ancient scroll in her pocket, which is extremely helpful. Thanks, spirit of the Monster’s sister!
Later, Margo (Summer Bishil) administers the cure to Fish Josh, who transforms into Human Josh (Trevor Einhorn). We’ll just call him Josh now. Margo admits her undying, unadulterated love for him. The two begin snogging when Penny appears. Way to be a vagina block, Penny. Margo sees that Eliot is still missing and is furious with Penny. Margo unleashes her fury, and hell hath no fury like a Margo scorned. That’s when Josh discovers that, despite being a fish, he received some god juice from the reservoir. Josh refers to it as “fish magic,” so I guess that’s a thing now.
Meanwhile, Kady and Zelda (Mageina Tovah) are hooked up to IVs and slowly but surely healing from their Poison Room trip. Kady is still bitter regarding the Library hording the cure for Penny 40. Frankly, I would be too. Kady also believes that Everett will turn on them in spite of Zelda’s belief to the contrary. If Everett rises as a power-hundry, omnipotent god than Zelda vows to shoulder the numerous hedge witch deaths herself. That’s a lot of responsibility for one person to claim.
Next, Julia unleashes her fury on Penny. We learn that Penny chose to instill Julia with a heaping dose of humanity. Now, Julia is completely normal and powerless. Penny apologizes for making the choice for Julia, but cites that he didn’t want to lose her. Julia asks Penny to linger for a bit so she can be mad at him in person. I think these two will be just fine.
Later, Eliot Monster (Hale Appleman) pops into the cottage while Josh and Quentin are chatting it up. He’s hellbent on finding his sister and the ancient scroll meant to lead him to the old gods realm. However, Josh feigns ignorance regarding said scroll, and buys enough time for Fogg (Rick Worthy) to zap Eliot Monster out of the cottage and into a nondescript forest.
Next, Josh inadvertently uses his Fish Magic (patent pending) when he touches the scroll. Quentin and Josh fall through a swirling trip-inducing vortex and land in a strange man’s office. A cheerful, plump man releases a banner complete with cake and rousing music. He congratulates our duo for finding the realm of the old gods. This man acts as a bridge between mortals and the old gods. Josh and Q reveal that they discovered this place by accident and they’re in dire need of disposing twin gods. Office man informs our pair of the Seam – a plane between the living world and the anti-living world. We learn that the Seam is essentially the mirror realm. Office man reveals that if our crew chucks anything into the Seam it’ll remain imprisoned there for all eternity. Before Q and Josh leave, they snag slices of that sweet old god cake. Yum.
Then, Quentin and Josh reunite with the remainder of the group to formulate a plan. Everyone is feeling less than positive regarding their collective ability to defeat the Monster and his sister. However, Kady brings a plan to the table. Yes, the reservoir is dry. Yes, Quentin, Alice and Josh are currently bereft of their god magic. However, what if everyone performs a spell together to keep the Monster sealed in the demon jar? Cooperative magic is the most powerful form of magic there is. Kady proposes everyone cast said spell near a magical pipe, since ambient magic is still scant. She also suggests that hedge witches would be the best candidates. Alice recalls seeing a door during her niffin days, one that existed in the mirror realm. She felt a strange pull toward it but refrained from crossing its threshold. She volunteers to tag team alongside Quentin to dispose of the Monster and his sister.
Next, we see Q and Alice have a heartfelt conversation regarding their predilection toward self-sacrifice. Quentin is always saving Alice and vice versa. However, they decide to approach this task as a team, because that’s how they work best – as one. Qualice is adorable.
Later, our team sans Julia travels to where Fogg sent Eliot Monster. Margo stabs him herself with an ice ax. Q and Penny trap the Monster’s essence inside the second demon jar while simultaneously casting an incorporate bond. Margo lingers over Eliot who is currently bleeding out. She beseeches him to stay with her. Thankfully, the real Eliot refers to her as “Bambi,” and my heart grew three sizes with the return of our Eliot Waugh. Suddenly, we see hedges everywhere performing a spell in tandem to keep the Monster sealed tightly. Fogg and Alice are casting alongside Zelda, Kady, Pete and several others. Thankfully, the spell works. Success! Next, Eliot is admitted to the infirmary at Brakebills. However, since the spell drained all the ambient magic, Lipson will have to rely on her human medical expertise.
Then, Penny, Quentin and Alice step through a mirror into the mirror realm. Alice advises the group to refrain from using magic, since it goes “bad” in the mirror realm. Alice opens the aforementioned strange door and finds the lab from Brakebills. The infamous Seam looms before them, a swirling black hole. Quentin tosses the first demon jar into the Seam with success. However, Everett makes his grand entrance and prevents Q from disposing of the second jar. He smashes the mirror containing the Seam. Everett demands Quentin hand over the jar, citing that he plans to absorb the Monster’s essence to become a god. But he’ll be a good god. A fair and just god. Not a power-hungry autocrat. Cue my eyes rolling so far into my head I can see my brain. A stand-off takes place. Quentin tries to reason with Everett.
However, reasoning appears to have zero effect on the Librarian. Quentin orders Penny to take Alice away as he utilizes his minor mending abilities to fix the broken glass. Then, he hastily chucks the second demon jar into the Seam. But it’s too late – the mirror realm doesn’t take too kindly to displays of magic. The side effects are explosive, and said explosion simultaneously dissolves Everett and Quentin. What. The. What!
Now, with Everett’s death, the chains on magic are broken. Everyone notices the difference – the air is buzzing with an overabundance of pure, unfettered magic. Success! That is, until Alice and Penny return with the former sobbing.
Later, we see Penny 40 standing in front of the elevator to welcome…Quentin into the Underworld. Yes, he’s really dead. Penny 40 ushers Q to “Secrets Taken to the Grave.” Quentin must unburden himself of any Earthly secrets before passing on. Penny 40 asks Quentin if he felt his death was heroic, if his sacrifice saved his friends. Q reveals his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. Now he wonders if his death was merely suicide in disguise. Did he really just kill himself? Quentin’s self-reflection is utterly heartbreaking, and Ralph continues to knock it out of the park. I’m not ready to let Quentin go.
Next, Penny 40 takes Quentin to his fireside wake. We see everyone sitting around a fire in remembrance of Quentin. Kady enacts a spell to play background music. Our gang bursts into a somber rendition of “Take on Me,” and it feels like a lovely addendum to the musical episode a few weeks prior. Everyone tosses valuable items into the fire, ones that are uniquely tied to Quentin. We see flashbacks revealing the significance of said items. Julia, Fogg, Penny, Alice, Margo, Kady and finally Eliot. Eliot enters the scene with a cane, and Quentin’s reaction to seeing his loved one god-free was gut wrenching. Eliot tosses a peach into the fire, hearkening back to his long life lived with Q in another time. My Queliot senses are on fire, Fillorians. The scene may be one of the best in the history of The Magicians. It perfectly encapsulates the life and enduring legacy of Quentin Coldwater. So many tears.
Later, back in the Underworld, Q asks Penny what’s to come of his friends. Penny reveals that their separate journeys will continue. Brakebills will be on the up and up thanks to magic flowing freely again. At the Library, Zelda refuses to accept the role of Head Librarian, and orders the remaining Librarians to find Alice Quinn. Alice will help the Library rebuild, reconstruct the Order and reform it for the better. Alice is a perfect fit.
Next, we see Margo and Eliot return to Fillory. Margo is hellbent on reclaiming her throne. Our duo notices that Whitespire looks immensely different. Eliot asks a Fillorian if King Fen is still ruling. Said Fillorian informs them that King Fen and Josh were overthrown 300 years ago, and the Dark King now inhabits the throne. What the what? Pesky time travel strikes again!
Then, Quentin asks after Julia. We see Julia sitting before the fire, crying in solitude over losing her best friend. She is about to toss a deck of cards into the flames when they suddenly fly out in all directions. A bubble of soaring cards swarm around her. Julia thinks this is the work of Quentin, but she realizes that she’s doing this all on her own. Magic comes from pain, and Julia is currently in the throes of heartbreaking pain. The scene mirrors the first time Q could do magic during his Brakebills entrance exam. The torch has been passed. This is Julia’s story now. Penny witnesses the magical act and asks Julia what she plans on doing with her rediscovered abilities.
Later, Penny 40 ushers Quentin to a door frame standing alone in an empty room. He hands Q an Underworld Metro Card. Time to move on. Quentin pulls Penny 40 in for a hug. Then…he crosses the threshold to the other side. My hope is that perhaps he’ll reunite with his father there.
The Magicians ripped my heart out of my chest Eliot Monster style this week. Now, a Quentin-shaped hole resides where my heart used to be. I’m almost glad we have a year to cope and recuperate because, to be honest, this loss really hit home for me. I saw myself in Quentin. His struggles mirror mine, and his battle with depression is relatable to so many people. Quentin Coldwater is all of us, and I’m going to miss him so damn much. This finale could easily be the button for the show, but I’m glad we have another season ahead of us. Those introductory Season 5 threads will keep the wheels turning in my brain until 2020. Which, of course, means I’ll have to churn out a ton of articles containing my theories between now and then.
Fare thee well, Quentin Coldwater. You’re a hero to us all.
The Magicians will return for Season 5 on SyFy in 2020.