"Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting," the third episode of The Magicians, lives up to its name: It reiterates that magic can completely screw up your life if it's used carelessly.
The Magicians' two-episode premiere, which aired a week ago, set up the show's universe as one in which magic is real and deadly. Episode three hammers that point home right from the start, continuing to contrast the parallel upbringings that Julia and the graduate students get with the hedge witches and the Brakebills faculty, respectively.
"Just don't forget to manage your shit," Pete admonishes Julia, after she makes excuses for being a poor girlfriend to James. Meanwhile, Dean Fogg — alive, but left blind by the Beast's attack in the pilot — does his best to scare the students straight by giving them a with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility speech.
Alice, seemingly undeterred by the Beast's appearance and Dean Fogg's warning, remains determined to reconnect with her dead brother Charlie. She doesn't relent even after she and Margo speak with Emily Greenstreet, a classmate of Charlie's whose own misguided attempt to transform herself eventually led to Charlie's death. Quentin advises against continuing down this path, too. Thankfully for Alice, Quentin and the niffin box are around to save her from Charlie's malevolent immaterial form — even if she doesn't appreciate the help just then.
The scene starts out in the most touching way, with Olivia Taylor Dudley's voice cracking in heartbreaking fashion as she beautifully sings Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)" to bring Charlie back, and nearly ends in tragedy. The fact that Quentin accompanies Alice to the fountain despite his concerns (or perhaps because of them) is a sign that he cares about being a good friend to her. On the other hand, during a chance encounter with Julia in the hedge witches' hideout, Quentin doesn't just discourage her from pursuing magic like he did in the pilot; he belittles her efforts in an ugly, arrogant outburst.
"Stop slumming because you're pissed that you lost for once in your life," Quentin says. "You could really get hurt doing this shit, and for what? Grow up."
It's a role reversal from the pilot, when Julia told Quentin to move on from his childish dreams of Fillory and get serious about post-college life. Only this time, Quentin's well-meaning warning is fueled by lingering anger at Julia over her decision to go out with James instead of him — as well as the idea that magic is supposed to be his thing, not hers. Way to torch that bridge, Quentin.
I wonder if The Magicians will keep bringing the students in contact with the hedge witches. At the very least, we know that Kady is Marina's back door into Brakebills, so it seems like the show wants to maintain that connection rather than just tell Quentin's and Julia's stories separately. Either way, I enjoyed the fake-out in which she calls James over, presumably to tell him about what's been keeping her so busy, only to use magic to shore up her Adderall addiction cover story.
"Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting" also impressed me with the way it leavened its dire message with some humor. Quentin describing himself as "a nothing-mancer" is the line that's gotten the biggest chuckle out of me so far in the series. And it was fun to see the reserved Alice tentatively open up to Margo, even if the bespectacled overachiever didn't quite trust that Margo had the best intentions. Now we'll see how the writers resolve Alice's departure from Brakebills going forward.