It wasn’t exactly “Once More with Feeling,” but danged if I’m not humming “Under Pressure” under my breath for the last day or so.
I’m not sure that “All That Josh” constituted a musical episode, considering that it only featured a few musical numbers and didn’t really follow the structure of a musical production. On the other hand, the whole thing was an extended joke on musical keys, one that my not-so-inner music theory geek appreciated.
I’ve been a fan of “The Magicians” since the show premiered, at first due to its willingness to make some bold choices with its adaptation. That those choices were arguably necessary–the books are essentially unfilmable as written–doesn’t make them less creative, and in “All That Josh” a number of them paid off strongly.
A key element to the show’s success is making it an ensemble story, rather than primarily Quentin’s. Friends who bounced off the books pretty hard because of Quentin’s sad-sack personality find him a bit more bearable when the focus is on the group of principal characters as a whole. Granted, none of them are particularly likeable, which is one of the things I find most realistic about the show: take most of us in our early 20s and add magic, and try to tell me a lot of us wouldn’t be assholes.
Despite this, “The Magicians,” the TV show, carries a message not unlike those of Harry Potter, Buffy, and other stories involving magic: the characters are most successful when they work together. That’s nowhere more evident than in “All That Josh” where they’re literally spread among four different locations–at least two of which are in some other dimension–and still manage to sing together. They’ve been under tremendous pressure all season: to find the keys, to bring magic back, to rescue the Fillorian monarchy from the elves’ control, and perhaps hardest of all, to forgive one another for all the shit that went down in seasons one and two.
“All That Josh” didn’t fix any of those problems permanently–it couldn’t, not with three episodes still to go this season and season four in the works. Yet all of the characters, especially Quentin, have matured tremendously this season. The most important moment in “All That Josh” wasn’t when they all sang together, but in the moment that predicated it: when, called out by Josh, the others acknowledged their neglect of him (and he admitted that he’s not so great about returning phone calls, either).
Even in Never-Never Land, there might be something to be said for growing up.