After five wonderfully weird, emotionally wrecking seasons, The Magicians is coming to an end. Based on the novels by Lev Grossman, The Magicians quickly proved that it was much more than just “adult Harry Potter”. It’s five seasons have given us some of the most complex, interesting and emotional stories in the genre.
Let’s revisit some of the best episodes of this epic show before the end. Here at the top ten episodes of The Magicians!
#10 “Escape from the Happy Place” season 4, episode 5
Eliot spends basically all of season 4 possessed by the Monster. This is the episode where we finally find out what our Eliot has been up to. Turns out Eliot is trapped in a mind prison, his happy place, where the Monster can’t reach him.
The only way to take control away from the Monster, even for a moment, is to relive his worst memories. So that’s precisely what Eliot does. With the help of past versions of Margo, Quentin and Fen he examines the worst moments of his life. The Magicians never shies away from showing the darker sides of our characters.
It’s heartbreaking as Eliot realizes his most traumatic memory is rejecting Quentin in the throne room. His deepest regret is being too scared to try and find happiness with Quentin. It’s tragic to watch Eliot self-sabotage out of fear. Eliot does manage to break through and get a message to Quentin: he’s alive. The message reaches Quentin just in time to stop his plan to kill Eliot.
# 9 “The Fillorian Candidate” season 3, episode 12
As they reach the end of their quest to save magic, all the storylines come together right before the season finale. It’s one of the rare Magicians episodes where things are going right for our characters, except for Quentin who faces a devastating choice.
This is the episode where Eliot and Margo bring democracy to Fillory! It’s all part of a plan to secure the final key from the fairies, but they are also admirably committed to Fillory. The election has an unexpectedly great result as Margo wins the election for High King because Fillory’s talking animals voted for her!
#8 “Plan B”, Season 2, Episode 7
It’s a bank heist episode! Despite being separated for most of the season the gang comes together to rob a bank so that Julia can pay for an evil demigod abortion. Margo and Eliot also need money to pay for war in Fillory. so robbing a bank helps their situation too.
Margo comes up with the perfect plan where everyone has a role assigned determined by their magical strengths. Heist sequence are always fun, adding magic to them only enhances their enjoyment factor. It a delight to see the plan come together, and even more fun when it obviously falls apart and everyone has to scramble to save the day. It’s a fun episode that highlights how great it is to watch the whole gang work together.
#7 “The Side Effect” season 4, episode, episode 7
I was debating between this episode and “Six Short Stories About Magic” from season three, but there was a lot of season 3 in this list, and this great episode explores a similar structure and theme. The episodes urges us to examine our own biases about whose stories should be told and how.
Penny 40 is in the Underworld, reminding us of the importance of side characters, after all, “the most important characters aren’t who you expect”. We get to see the story from the perspective of the characters who frequently get sideline, in this case: Zelda, Fen and Kady.
Zelda clings to the hope that her daughter is somehow alive. Fen tries to make sense of her prophetic dreams. Kady, who doesn’t want to be a sidekick, investigates the death of some hedges. Stepping away from our “main” character makes us re-contextualize what we know. The episode connects these storylines in interesting ways and actually moves the season’s plot forward, successfully making the case for telling their stories.
#6 “Have You Brought Me Little Cakes?” season 1, episode 13
The season one finale deconstructs the hero journey through the figure of Quentin Coldwater.We entered the world of The Magicians through the eyes of Quentin, our protagonist, the chosen one, our hero.
The episode even opens with Quentin writing the next Fillory and Further book and narrating the story through voice-over. He has been obsessed with Fillory his whole life, it would make sense that he is the one to save it. Except the episode makes the argument over and over that Quentin isn’t the hero.
It begins as a fun episode, Quentin and Julia time travel and go to Fillory together and they even get to part of a scene from the books. They figure out a plan to kill the Beast and the whole gang goes to Fillory to get a magic knife and kill the Beast.
While in Fillory, it’s Eliot, not Quentin who turns out to be destined to become High King. A position Eliot accepts out of a desperate desire to give meaning to his life. All Quentin has ever wanted was to be the chosen one, here he’s mature enough to recognize he’s not.
Quentin has grown up and knows that Alice is the better magician. If he does want to save Fillory, then he has to step aside. Except it all ends horribly, but that’s another lesson the shows wants us to learn, in The Magicians happy endings are hard to come by.
#5 “Divine Elimination” season 2, episode 3
Everything about this episode screams season finale. It’s involves a major confrontation with The Beast the big bad since season 1, which leads to his demise. Alice, one of our main characters sacrifices herself in order to save the world. Except, this is only the third episode of season three.
By making this move at this point in the season, The Magicians proved that it understood the rules of the genre, but was perfectly willing to bend them however it saw fit. Before the doom and gloom, this episode also manages to have some very funny moments as all the queens and kings of Fillory attempt to assassinate each other due to some pesky cursed thrones. It takes skill to balance tragedy and humor the way The Magicians does.
#4 “Be the Penny” season 3, episode 4
Penny gets an episode to really shine! Except he’s dead! Which is kind of a bummer.
It’s a very fun episode that in retrospect feels sadder. It really was the beginning of the end of Penny 40 as we knew him. Penny was astral projecting when his body died, so he’s still hanging around, but he can’t figure out how to communicate with anyone to let them know.
It’s a sad episode, Penny was part of the gang from day one, and yet he was always an outsider. Now he’s gone and he gets to see how everyone reacts (or doesn’t react) to his demise. It’s also a very funny episode. We follow Penny as goes from storyline to storyline, increasingly desperate to figure out a way to be seen or heard. He even gets help from another astral projector (hi Hyman!), and tries to possess inanimate objects (be the penny!) in a further attempt to communicate with his friends. Penny manages to seen by the end of the episode, but not before he can stop his friends from burning his body.
#3 “Oops! I Did It Again” season 5, episode 06
5×05 and 5×06 are kind of a two-parter where the gang tries to steal the moon (yes that moon) to save the Earth. Episode 5 ends with them breaking the moon, so yeah, things are not going great. The world is ending, as usual, but this time Margo and Eliot are trapped in groundhog day type time loop where they keep failing to save the world.
Relationships are constantly changing on The Magicians, but one thing that will always be a constant is the love between Margo and Eliot. This episode highlights what is so excellent about their dynamic.
The best episodes of The Magicians, like this one, work so well because of what The Magicians is so good at, putting character before plot. Yes, we’re trying to save the world. But we’re really here to explore how Margo and Eliot have grown in the last five seasons.
Margo is the one who actually figures out how to save the world. Unfortunately, she gets kicked out of the loop before she can put the plan into action. This forces Eliot has to ovary up, face his trauma and continue where his bestie left off. Eliot finds a way to save the day, it involves releasing the kraken (I’m going to miss this show) and be the hero we know he is.
#2 “All that Josh” Season 3, Episode 9
Of course I had to include one of the musical episodes in this list. While they all have their charms, the season three entry is my personal favorite. Josh has been around since season one, but the show and our characters have been known to forget about him for long periods of time. This episode gives him his chance to shine.
Josh is left behind by his friends. His pain of being left behind, of always being on the outside, of wanting to be included is noticed by a demon. The demon builds him a reality where he’s trapped in a party that never ends. Meanwhile the demons get to feed off his happiness. It’s in this party world that Margo, Alice and Quentin must acknowledge how badly they’ve treated Josh, find the next key and stop the demon.
The unity key forces all the questers to put their differences aside and come together (despite being in different worlds) to perform in a magical rendition of “Under Pressure”. Every one of the questers has to contribute to the song. They finally have to show up for Josh and accept him as a fellow quester and as their friend. By showing up for each other they are able to save themselves from multiple dire situations. The power of song and friendship saves the day and that’s kind of amazing.
#1 “A Life in the Day” Season 3, Episode 4
“Peaches and plums.” Need I say more?
There are several interesting ongoing storylines in this episode. Kady’s detox, Alice and Julia teaming up, Margo’s wedding from hell, but we all know this episode is so beloved because of Quentin and Eliot.
The quest for the next key takes Eliot and Quentin to Fillory in the past where they must solve The Mosaic, a puzzle that “reflects the beauty of all life.” In a beautifully crafted montage we watch Eliot and Quentin live a whole life together trying to solve the puzzle. After a lifetime where they have a family and grow old together, Eliot dies and when Quentin goes to bury him, he finds the final piece of the puzzle and gets the key. The beauty of life was…well, life. It was the love, joy and pain of the life they lived together.
In the end, with the help of a letter Quentin wrote, Margo is able to stop Quentin and Eliot from going on the quest and their life together happened in an alternate timeline. This alone would be heartbreaking, but Quentin and Eliot are somehow able to remember the lifetime they spent together. They are given glimpses of a live that never was, which makes it even more bittersweet.
What is your favorite episode? Hit the comments and let us know!