The Magicians: Unauthorized Magic

Syfy is your go to guy when it comes to high concepts, wide green screens and deep space. Their shows, without exception, need a much bigger budget than the network can afford, but that doesn’t keep them from making them. I can only assume the Syfy executives are unable to offer less resources than other outlets, but they can easily make up for it by giving the writers a lot of creative freedom. At least, that’s what I would do.

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Trilogy
Their newest fantasy drama is called The Magicians. Back in 2011, FOX passed, but three years later Syfy picked it up and produced a pilot episode, which aired last week (the first season will start next month). The show is based on the book ‘The Magicians’ by Lev Grossman, the first one in a trilogy. You’d think that’ll be enough material to map out a few seasons, but you just never know. Wayward Pines was based on three novels, the first season was a modest success, but as months have been passing by with a deafening silence, a continuation seems very unlikely.

He
‘Unauthorized Magic’ starts off like The Wire – with people outside playing chess – but only for about 2 seconds. A door opens, and we don’t see the inside of a (ware)house, but a field of grass and butterflies. If that isn’t a quick establishing of ‘fantasy TV show’, I don’t know what is. Dean (Rick Worthy, Eyes, The Man in the High Castle, Heroes) steps through the door, into the city, sits down on a bench to read a newspaper. A woman comes to him, anxious, because there is a ‘he’ coming. ‘He’ is Syfy code for ‘bad guy we don’t speak of yet, for dramatic effect’.

Scar Tissue
But Worthy isn’t the star of the show. That job goes to a couple of teenagers, who are handpicked by Dean, to pretend to study at Hogwarts. It’s a school for the gifted (hello, X-Men), for young wizards – or ‘magicians’, as they’re called here (hello, Harry Potter), and the only way to get there is by opening a random door (hello, Narnia). During the selection process, some hopefuls don’t make the cut, but that’s okay; their memory will be wiped. Julia (Stella Maeve, Chicago P.D.) isn’t going to let that happen, though. She cuts herself, so when she wakes up in her bed and sees the scar, she knows Hogwarts exits, and that she was rejected.

They
Her friend Quentin (Jason Ralph, Aquarius, Manhattan, Madam Secretary) does make it in. And not only that. All signs point to him being ‘the One’. His magic trick (or skill) involves making playing cards fly all around the room. Julia, feeling wrongfully rejected and stuck in the real world, has been practicing her gift: shooting flames of electricity out of her fingers. That’s much cooler. I totally understand that a guy named Pete (David Call, Smash, Gossip Girl) recruits her. ‘They’ have had their eyes on her for some time. ‘They’ is Syfy code for ‘we don’t know yet who they are either, but just give us the benefit of the doubt’.

Frozen in Time
The show addresses a lot of stuff adolescents struggle with. Rejection, feeling lost, hopeless, the talent you apparently have because ‘everybody has a talent’, being misunderstood, questioning whether you’re crazy or not. However, just when you think ‘The Magicians’ is a series about self-discovery, disguised as a fantasy tale, ‘he’ shows up. The man who’s also referred to as ‘the Beast’, and brutal he is. He makes time stand still, steps out of a mirror into Quentin’s classroom, surrounded by pretty wild mosquitos. Everybody’s frozen. They can’t move, except for their eyes. The Beast kills the teacher – Darth Vader style -, then rips out Dean’s eyes. Suddenly fantasy’s turned into horror. Harry Potter would’ve never let this happen.

The Coin
Then, the coin in Quentin’s hand, falls out. The Beast turns his headful of flies. Everything should’ve been on pause. This means something. This boy means something. Is there going to appear a lightning bolt on Quentin’s forehead? Is he going to turn the Beast into a spider on roller-skates? On January 25, 2016, we’ll find out. Expecto patronum!

Olympus: Truth

After Wayward Pines (‘The Truth’) and UnReal (just ‘Truth’), Olympus is also ready to reveal the truth, in ‘Truth’, the season (series?) finale. Will Hero receive immortality? Will he give it to anyone else? Is Zeus finally going to make an appearance? Let’s find out.

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The Bar
Did this little Syfy show about Greek gods suddenly become awesome? It doesn’t happen too often, a season finale that raises the bar, but this time I have to give credit where credit’s due. Olympus gave itself an adrenaline shot and made ‘Truth’ the best episode of the series. Sure, the show’s had its fair share of mediocre fight scenes, obvious CGI backdrops and other goofiness, but the finale sure left me wanting more.

Mirror, Mirror
Gatekeeper Chronos points Hero, the Oracle, Medea and Daedalus to a passage – at the end they’ll find their ‘heart’s desire’ – but it’s blocked by a mirror. The trick to get through it is as simple as it is brilliant; just walk into the opposite direction. Olympus often comes up with very far fetched solutions for very obscure problems, but this one is actually quite clever.

Suit and Tie
At the end of the passage they have to cross a sort of labyrinth, from above. Following a very narrow path, with an abyss on each side, the Oracle guides them through – eyes closed. At some point they have to jump, and everyone lands somewhere else; it’s where they’ll be judged. Medea meets her three sons, with Hades as a kind of mediator. Lykos carries out her sentence: damnation.
Daedalus finds himself in an extremely surreal environment. He meets a 21st century version of himself, clean shaven, suit and tie, who shows him an airplane in the sky. It’s definitely my most favorite scene of the season. It’s the perfect combination of humor and intrigue, and a sign that anything’s possible on this show.

Ready
Hero gets judged by the Oracle (given name: Pandora), with the head on a mountain that is Gaia as their mediatrix. It turns into a wedding ceremony, of sorts, when the Oracle refuses to condemn Hero. They’re both ready now, Gaia says, and Hero is given a new task (yes, another one). Hermes – the computer program gone haywire – tells him the true purpose of the Lexicon. It’s a selection process, to see who has what it takes to kill Zeus.

Little Man Big Man
You’ve read that right: killing Zeus is what the other gods have been conspiring about. Maybe a good title for Bill O’Reilly’s new book? Zeus is locked in a prison, but they need Hero to finish him off. When Hero and the Oracle enter, they’re confronted with a giant man, who looks a lot like Hero, with the body of a rattlesnake.
Hero decides to make a deal with him. Tired of the gods’ trickery and games, he makes Zeus promise to destroy them all. Whatever you say, puny man, Zeus thinks, and Hero sets him free. And there you have it. To all you people who stayed with the show, you certainly have been rewarded. ‘Truth’ is the cherry on top of a very fresh, sympathetic series and the vehicle that’s undoubtedly made Sonya Cassidy a star. Until next year, I hope.

The Fellowship of the Lexicon

The penultimate episode of Olympus, Syfy’s video game version of the mythical world of Ancient Greece, is here. At last, ’Door to Olympus’ puts our heroes right where they need to be; at the beginning.

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Grey
It’s always a useful plot device when your characters are kind of at a standstill, to just let a ghost – or god, or in this case a little of both – show up and point them in the right direction. Medea does one of her magic tricks and Circe appears, a sort of fiery witch goddess. She’s delighted to tell Medea where the door to Olympus is, but there’s a catch: she has to pay with her soul for the information. Medea complies and Circe enters her body by shooting flame. Don’t try this at home, kids, also because your hair will go 50 shades of grey within seconds (and your voice won’t sound too hot either).

Trouble
Led by a possessed Medea, the fellowship of the lexicon – Hero, the Oracle, Daedalus; basically the only people in Ancient Greece still standing – is on its way. They do run into trouble quickly again. Something’s after them, so they hide inside an empty shed. Is the Blair Witch going to get ‘em? Time for another magic trick, me thinks, as does Medea. She transports everybody to a white open space. You know, the kind they use for taping commercials, music videos, the gun catalogue of The Matrix and ridiculous scenes involving a dead Jack Sparrow.

Alien
In the white nothingness, they meet Hermes, messenger of the gods. He looks more like a huge alien, though, trapped inside a skipping computer program. He’s portrayed by Michael Daingerfield, who’s actually more of a sound booth guy; he’s done a lot of voice work, for example Ace Ventura in the animated series of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Anyway, Hero shows him his ring, Hermes gets scared and – boom – they’re back in the shed.

Gaia
What follows, is a lot of walking and talking. Hero and the Oracle bicker like an old married couple, Daedalus is his philosophical self, they’re asking themselves why Zeus would put a lexicon inside a mortal man in the first place, is it a test, and why, and this, and that, yada yada yada, and then they are where they need to be: the Temple of Gaia.
Yes, that’s right. They started out 12 weeks ago exactly there. They could’ve spared us a lot of filler, but let’s just be thankful we can finally be done with it. Hero kisses the Oracle – because, as we’ve learnt, a kiss has a lot of power – and the door to Olympus opens up. Actually, it isn’t exactly a door. It’s just that time stands still again. In the corner appears Kronos, the beast that the camera for some reason can’t seem to properly get into focus. Next week we’ll see Hero receiving immortality, or – in case of a season 2 renewal – we might not.

Olympus: The Speed of Time

Winter is no longer coming; it’s come. To the wrong show, mind you, but still. Athens has frozen over, while Hero’s trying to complete his third task, before he’s able to open the doors to Olympus.

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Going insane
After sacrificing his love and heritage, Hero and Medea are trying to figure out what the third task entails. It’s cold – there’s a clump of ice keeping them inside the palace – and Hero starts to slowly lose his mind. That must be it, he says. Going insane, that’s the way to uncover his deepest feelings. Insanity’s probably the only state of mind wherein you can find answers.
His reasoning borders on crazy talk, that’s for sure, but I suppose it all makes sense in Fictional Ancient Greece.

Divine Sense of Humor
Our Hero does start to hallucinate. His mother, Ariadne and the Oracle show up, and they all want a kiss. Before, when Ariadne wasn’t a hallucination but real, visiting him from the underworld, he could restrain himself, but this week not so much. However, when his lips touch theirs, he finds himself back in the palace room, kissing Medea. The gods certainly have a sense of humor, partnering Hero up with his stepmother.
They discover it’s Medea who’s responsible for the frost. It’s her ‘cold heart’, apparently, that’s turned her into Mrs. Freeze. No biggie; just sleep with her and everything will melt away, Hero’s thinking.

Tricky
Sleeping with Medea could be a bit tricky; we know Hero’s so-called lexicon can be sexually transmitted. It’s not really an issue, though, because he can ‘do it’ without giving it up. I wonder how – and how he’s come to know that. He’s not able to feel the lexicon inside of him, is he? So how could you keep it from plopping out?
Maybe we shouldn’t think too hard about this.

Open Jacket
While Hero’s getting it on with his stepmother, the Oracle lays with King Minos. Or does she? Daedalus summons the god Apollo on a bit of a wild goose chase, and that’s about it. Hero, Medea, the Oracle, King Minos and Daedalus. These are all the characters left in the whole of Greece, at this point. There’s literately no one else anymore – did they freeze to death? As long as Daedalus is able to walk through a snow storm with sandals and an open jacket, I’d say the people of Athens shouldn’t be that affected by the cold.
On a side note, did anyone notice the white on Daedalus’ teeth? I guess inventors used to have great dental plans back then.

Soul
When the team meets up again, Hero gets crazy jealous about the Oracle and King Minos. Clearly the writers were having enough of all these characters running amok, so the latter had to go too. It did serve a purpose, though. Hero’s third task wasn’t about sleeping with Medea. It was about sacrificing his soul. (Medea knew that all along, but who can blame her for wanting a piece of the action?)
Despite having turned into a very questionable man, Hero has indeed crossed everything off his list. He’s ready to open the doors of Olympus. It’s about time.

Olympus: Heritage

Last week Ariadne was pulled into a pretty aggressive puddle of mud – Hero dived in after her – but this week it’s a different natural phenomenon that’s out to get them: say hello to our old friend the Smoke Monster.

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Hallucination
We left Medea tied up in the woods, with one of the bigger forest pirates fallen asleep on top of her. His weight clearly made her hallucinate. Her past, more specifically her children, catches up with her. It doesn’t really make sense she’s seeing the children she killed; it’s merely a clever structural plot device. Later on, she sees them again, this time during the Siege of the Smoke Monster, so from a storytelling standpoint it’s useful to know who these kids are.
‘Let’s move the exposition of Medea’s children to the beginning of the episode.’
‘Before we let the smoke monster out?’
‘Yes.’
‘Aren’t people going to see through that?’
‘We’ll just make her hallucinate or something, you’re happy now?’

Styx
After we learn Medea’s apparently killed two of her children, she’s off to the cave with the golden apple above the entrance. That apple – which doesn’t look very golden, by the way – makes me wonder where the snake is… Maybe that’s a different story, although at some point Hero mentions something like: ‘A virgin gave birth to a child? How is that possible?’
Anyway, somehow Medea manages to pull Hero out of the muddy pool, which is in fact revealed to be the river Styx. Ariadne’s nowhere to be found; she’s been flushed away to the underworld. The upside is, Hero needed to sacrifice his love, so after quickly switching being in love with the Oracle to loving Ariadne ‘with all his heart’, and then losing her, he’s completed task 1 of his road to the doors of Olympus. Task 2 is to sacrifice his heritage – hence the title -, whatever that means.

Lykos
Before returning to the palace, Hero and Medea make a short stop at Aegeus and Lykos. The latter’s gone – he died protecting his father – but King Fitness Gym-eus is still alive. Medea doesn’t seem to be too bothered with her (yet another) dead son; they’re in a hurry after all. So the three of them quickly go back to the palace, while the river Styx got tired being messed with and transformed itself, John Locke-style, into a smoke monster.

Hero’s Heritage and the Siege of the Smoke Monster
Actually, it’s more of a dense fog, full of dead people, including Medea’s children, Daedalus’ son Icarus and Ariadne. They’re all trying to lure our heroes to the underworld, all they need is a kiss. Thankfully, everyone’s strong enough to resist, even Hero.
When the dead people (finally) disappear – ‘Heritage’ is probably the least action-packed episode of the season – we do get a battle at the last minute. Hero and Aegeus face off, in one of Olympus’ trademark clunky fight sequences. Aegeus loses out. No more bench pressing 150 pounds for you, pal, or whatever you’re usually occupied with instead of ruling the city of Athens.
It’s yet again a blessing in disguise. By killing his father, Hero’s sacrificed his heritage. Task 2, check!

Air Tight Bunker
The Oracle and King Minos have somehow managed to stay out of the fog blast radius. Outside the doors of their tent – which serves as an air tight bunker, apparently – their army is going crazy, seeing people who they thought were dead. They just sit and wait until the fog lifts and the episode is over. In its last seconds, the Smoke Monster retracts and the whole of Ancient Greece is freezing over. Time to put on some decent moon boots and cross that final task off your list, Hero.

Olympus: Pandora’s Tomb

The 9th of the 13-episode first season of Olympus suddenly switches bad guys. King Aegeus has never had any real power, King Minos isn’t that bad, the blonde serial killer babe has been killed, so it was about time we got something of an antagonist.

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Point Zero
I’m not quite sure Daedalus knows what he’s talking about when he says ‘point zero’ – the number ‘0’ hadn’t been invented yet – but he’s miscalculated nonetheless. The spot should’ve marked the location of the doors of Olympus, but it’s the opposite; hence the title of the episode.
Daedalus isn’t not the only one having a mathematical off day. The Oracle gets another vision, or should I say gets the same old vision once more. However, this time around she finally sees the end of it.

The Ultimate Seduction
Hero and Ariadne are en route to Pandora’s Tomb, and on their way there, Hero has to drag along a wining 10-year old, or so it seems. It’s all part of Ariadne’s plan, though. Step 1: Keep knocking a guy over the head with questions why he doesn’t love her, why he wouldn’t love her, why he doesn’t want to love her. Step 2: Cry and sob and cry and sob some more. Step 3: Act scared and ask for protection. Step 4: Start the ultimate seduction in the middle of the forest, amidst hares and snakes. Step 5: There is no step 5.

Beware, You’re Being Envisioned
Medea’s also in the forest, but she bumps into a couple of forest pirates. They always show up when you least expect it.
Just kidding.
Meanwhile, Hero and Ariadne are getting it on like Sawyer and Freckles. This can’t go unnoticed, and indeed, it’s not. Like Jack watching on a monitor, the (lovemaking?) scene is seen by The Oracle, through VisionView.
‘I feel you inside me’, Ariadne says to Hero, however this happens after their tight embrace in the dark, so it’s not clear what exactly has exchanged between them. Maybe the hare could tell us.

Villain Switcheroo
Hero and Ariadne reach the Tomb, apparently head over heels in love. It may have something to do with the fact that The Oracle’s more interested in a ‘woman’s touch’, at least that’s what Ariadne had told her new boyfriend. They find a sort of mysterious fish tank. It’s the most beautiful thing Ariadne has ever seen – the special effects team could’ve made that a little more believable; all I see is a puddle of boiling mud.
At this point, The Oracle sees the end of her vision – the one with the crow and the crumbling statues. It’s not King Aegeus that’ll cause the end of the world, as she’d always assumed, but it’s actually his son. Hero.
It’s an interesting twist in the story. Let’s hope the show milks it a little, maybe draw some inspiration from Anakin Skywalker. His love affair was pretty superficial as well, wasn’t it?

Olympus: Danger and Desire

Ariadne sure knows what she wants. Or not. Well, doesn’t she? Once again she goes from kissing to torture without any hesitation. Is it jealousy or something else? It doesn’t get cleared up, but with a half naked tied up Oracle, you don’t hear me complain.

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Game of Kings
After 8 episodes, the writers finally realize King Aegeus hasn’t really worked out. He’s been a whining brat since the beginning, so time for a leadership change. Daedalus built a big construction that looks like a goat’s head. Together with King Minos’ men, he’s pushing it towards the entrance of the palace. Aegeus and his army don’t seem to know what to make of it, so they wait and wonder. Daedalus breaks through the door and, almost single-handedly, conquers the throne.
It’s a weird place, Athena. There’s a high wall around it, to keep everybody out, but it’s also the only way into the palace. Quite odd architecture. It looks like the special effects team of Olympus was more influenced by video games than history – or basic city layouts for that matter.

Aegeus out, Minos in
Now Aegeus has been forced to step down, Ariadne tries to get him to talk. She wants to know where Hero and Medea are hiding. It’s a dragging scene, with the intention to create tension; Ariadne’s a bit of a loose canon when it comes to interrogation. However, we don’t really care about Aegeus, Lykos, or even Pallas. They’re equally bad guys, standing in Hero’s way. So it’s just Ariadne playing one of her strange mind games again.

Every Character in the Same Room
Never mind, there they are. Hero, The Oracle and Medea show up, to make a deal. It’s a very long scene, because every main character is in the same room. There’s no one to cut to. There’s nothing going on except the negotiation between Hero and King Minos. It’s something every TV series has to watch out for. Do not let everybody come to the same place, for you’ll back yourself into a corner. The whole show’s suddenly packed in a single space and the story becomes too ‘narrow’, like cataract.

Kissing
There’s a lot of kissing going on this week. King Minos and Medea, Ariadne and Hero, and Ariadne and The Oracle. I was hoping for another foot massage, but The Oracle should’ve been so lucky. She gets tied up on a bed, half naked, and Ariadne lets her get acquainted with her favorite pet; a scorpion. It’s funny how The Oracle doesn’t see a lot of it coming from miles away, being an oracle and all. It might be love that’s blocking her visions.

The Door of Olympus
Hero tries it one more time, to defeat Chronos, the gatekeeper of the lexicon. It works, albeit with a lawyer trick. He escapes and is off to the door of Olympus. Daedalus figured out the spot. He saw it when he was flying (episode 2), so he could’ve just thought of it 6 episodes ago, but let’s give the man a break. He’s a bit absent-minded sometimes.