I’m very nearly surprised that this week’s episode of The Magicians, “The Side Effect,” worked for me; it’s self-aware, and self-awareness is a tough line to toe, because one misstep means nudging viewers in the ribs ’til they break. Lucky for The Magicians that
- It’s a very good show, and
- It’s a fantasy show full of Fantasy Bullshit™
Fantasy Bullshit™ lets a very good show like The Magicians get away with a lot of self-aware storytelling, though I think now that calling “The Side Effect” “self-aware” isn’t totally accurate; it’s self-interrogatory. The interrogation extends to other fantasy series, and series of other genres, of course, but The Magicians does have a white male protagonist, and given little critical thought, that protagonist is key to narrative progression.
What “The Side Effect” presupposes is that: Maybe he isn’t?
You can read my full breakdown of the episode over at Paste Magazine.