Top 10 Episodes of The Magicians
The Magicians was more than just a show about magic — it was a deep, cavernous exploration of the humane psyche and mental health.
As we learn from Quentin Coldwater and his friends, magic comes from pain. It’s a physical manifestation of depression and anxiety. Throughout the tenure of this Syfy series, the Brakebills gang learned to band together, support each other, and love themselves. That’s the crux of The Magicians. You strip away the magic, the formidable foes, and the extraneous layers, you get a show about self-love.
Below, I’d like to dive into my personal top 10 episodes of The Magicians. You’ll notice I didn’t include any from Season 1. As much as I loved the first season, I feel this series didn’t find its groove until Season 2 and on. So, without further ado … let’s go to Fillory and further.
“Divine Elimination” (S02E03)
This is a heavy one, folks. Quentin (Jason Ralph) lost Alice (Olivia Taylor-Dudley) after she battled The Beast a.k.a. Martin Chatwin in Fillory. Julia (Stella Maeve) attempted to lure Reynard into a trap with the help of The Beast. Of course, her plan was unsuccessful.
“Divine Elimination” is a high-octane, gut-wrenching episode wherein a lot is on the line for our magicians. Not only that, but it ended in the death of one of their own. For casual and steadfast viewers alike, that cliffhanger was probably the subject matter of many a therapy session thereafter.
“Plan B” (S02E07)
Content warning for adult themes and mentions of assault.
If you love magical bank heists, you’ll love “Plan B.” Julia and Kady (Jade Tailor) enlisted the aid of Margo (Summer Bishil), Eliot (Hale Appleman), Penny (Arjun Gupta), and Quentin for the heist to end all heists. Think Ocean’s Eleven meets Hogwarts. But a little bit racier, because these ain’t your grandmother’s magicians.
Julia was pregnant with Reynard’s offspring — the trickster god that raped her. Since this baby wouldn’t be fully human, she sought out a pair who could perform a magical abortion of sorts. But there was a cost. Magic always comes with a cost. This episode really spreads its creative wings and dives deeper into the intricate mythology that’s part of what makes it so compelling. Not to mention, Margo is delightful here.
“Be the Penny” (S03E04)
In the previous episode, “The Losses of Magic,” Penny died. Well, kind of. In “Be the Penny,” we saw our favorite curmudgeonly Traveler try to communicate with his friends while being an astral projection of himself. As it turned out, he just needed to be placed back in his body. He met Hyman Cooper (Dustin Ingram), a Brakebills student who had been stuck in the astral plane since the 1920s. Hyman taught Penny how to speak to his pals via various objects throughout the Physical Kids cottage.
“Be the Penny” gave Arjun Gupta a chance to really showcase his comedic chops. It was a nice, lighthearted outing that injected some levity into the season after the heaviness of “The Losses of Magic.”
“A Life in the Day” (S03E05)
Now, this episode might be my favorite of The Magicians. It’s so beautifully poignant. It tugs on the heartstrings. Season 3 was all about the quest for the seven keys. Our heroes’ mission to restore magic in all of the realms. Quentin and Eliot went back in time to a Fillory before the Chatwins and Christopher Plover. They had to solve an elaborate mural as part of their mission to obtain said seven keys.
Amid the mundanity of solving a mural, Quentin and Eliot embarked on a romantic relationship. We’d seen tantalizing hints leaning toward a potential romance, but “A Life in the Day” finally brought that romance to fruition. They grew old. Had a child. They lived a life of domesticity. Of course, after the puzzle is solved, they’re returned to their own timeline. Just when you thought their memories of that life were wiped clean, they spotted a reminder in the form of a peach. If you know, you know.
I wish The Magicians took more time to explore the Queliot pairing. Regardless, this episode is brilliance personified.
“Six Short Stories About Magic” (S03E08)
This outing almost played like an anthology of sorts — it focused on separate character arcs as opposed to an overarching episodic plot. Penny found a home in the Underworld. Cassandra (Olivia Taylor-Dudley) penned stories about Poppy (Felicia Day), Fen (Brittany Curran), Harriet (Marlee Matlin), Eliot, and Alice. “Six Short Stories About Magic” is a stark reminder that it’s not about who “wins,” but about how the story is told. The process that unfurls along the way.
Harriet’s story is my favorite. Seeing her fractured relationship with her mother, Zelda (Mageina Tovah), is utterly heartbreaking. It’s entirely performed in sign language and it’s just so visceral and touching.
“All That Josh” (S03E09)
One thing The Magicians excelled at was the art of the Musical Episode. Out of five seasons, the show managed to have four musical installments. “All That Josh” is my favorite of the bunch. Of course, when you have a series about magic, it’s not out of left field to have your characters suddenly burst into song. Quentin, Alice, and Kady discovered that their buddy Josh (Trevor Einhorn) was trapped in a timeline wherein you have to sing. All the time. Naturally, vocal hijinks ensued.
Thankfully, this gave the show an opportunity to put Jade Tailor’s and Hale Appleman’s incredible vocals on display. The final number is “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen and it’s a perfect showstopper. The whole gang got involved with the belting despite being scattered across multiple realms. The magicians that sing together…
“Escape From the Happy Place” (S04E05)
At the start of Season 4, a creature called the Monster utilized Eliot’s body as its host. Quentin and his friends worked tooth and nail to free Eliot. In “Escape From the Happy Place,” Eliot finally broke through to connect with Quentin, even if it was only for a few minutes. Eliot spent the majority of the episode struggling to break free from his mental prison courtesy of the Monster. He met Charlton (Spencer Daniels), the Monster’s original host body who was also entrapped in Eliot’s mind.
Eliot had to travel through a bevy of his own deep, dark memories in order to access a door to the outside world. It’s a wonderfully introspective episode that boasts a tremendous performance from Hale Appleman. Not to mention, we’re blessed with more Queliot!
“All That Hard, Glossy Armor” (S04E10)
Summer Bishil is, easily, one of my favorite young actresses working today. She fully immerses herself into every role. She was Margo Hanson. Every movement, every facial expression tells a story. “All That Hard, Glossy Armor” is a fantastic Margo-centric episode that simultaneously serves as the show’s annual musical outing. This time, songs of the 1980s are on the table.
So, Margo was promptly ejected from Fillory and stripped of her title as High King. She embarked on a sojourn into the desert in search of a pair of ice axes. Said axes were meant to kill the Monster and free Eliot. This solo quest proved to be a time of significant personal growth for Margo. We were privy to the raw, vulnerable side of Margo. How she struggled to balance her innate strength and vulnerability as a woman. It’s a pitch-perfect episode in more ways than one.
“Oops!…I Did It Again” (S05E06)
Ever wondered what would happen if you tried to move the moon? Well, a Groundhog Day homage episode of The Magicians revealed just that. Eliot and Margo, our favorite BFFs, teamed up to save the world while our protagonists were enmeshed in a time loop that always ended in Earth’s fiery, volatile demise. It was a wonderful Eliot/Margo team-up. It had been quite some time since our best friends could revel in each other’s company. We even got to see glimpses of early Season 1 Margo/Eliot.
Not to mention, this episode is another fantastic example of The Magicians‘ creativity. The convoluted hoops Eliot and Margo have to jump through along with the various time loop fails just makes for entertaining TV.
“Fillory and Further” (S05E13)
It’s time to save Fillory! “Fillory and Further” serves as the series finale. Our heroes made one last bid to save the magical realm they loved. However, the result was more destructive than constructive. Julia and co. were able to transport Fillorians in a seashell, but Fillory itself had to be eradicated. Santa Claus showed up at the beginning of the episode because, why not?
Fen delivered a thought-provoking and touching speech about what Fillory meant to her. The speech itself summarizes The Magicians — take the good with the bad. Embrace your uniqueness, love everyone, and reject bigotry. It perfectly encapsulates the show’s various themes. Overall, it’s a great button to a brilliant series. However, there are still a few loose ends that could lead to a Season 6. You know, if the show gets picked up elsewhere.
What are your favorite episodes of The Magicians? Let Your Geek Sideshow and let us know in the comments below!