The Magicians Episode 5×12 Review: “The Balls”

The Magicians Ep. 512 "The Balls"
“The Balls”: Marina oversees The Magicians’ latest big heist! (Source: Syfy, 2020)

The Magicians’ series penultimate episode “The Balls” is both a musical and a heist rolled into one!

Tonight’s newest episode of The Magicians was the show’s last musical episode, seeing as how there is only one more episode left before the series is officially over. If you haven’t already heard, Syfy decided to not renew the show for another season, which means our time with these stellar characters is almost over. I honestly want to cry. 

The Magicians has done at least one musical episode since the first season, although the first season’s “musical episode” was more of an experimental singular musical number—Quentin singing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. The same happened with season 2. However, seasons 3 and 4 both had multiple musical numbers rolled into one full episode. Tonight’s episode, “The Balls” was no exception. 

Although I’ve enjoyed all of the musical elements in this show, I have to admit that this week’s episode was somewhat of a letdown. It felt significantly less spectacular than last season’s musical episode, simply because it seemed like the writers wanted to throw in as many songs as they could. Season 4’s musical episode was arranged better and flowed a lot nicer with addition to the plot that it was telling. 

“The Balls” incorporates the famed “heist” theme that The Magicians has done twice before, one back in season one when the character needed to rob a bank and in this year’s season when the characters needed to steal a moon rock to help stop the apocalypse. Both of those episodes are some of my own personal favorites, so I was super happy to see the show steer back towards the trope. 

This episode dealt with the urgency of stealing the World Seed away from The Couple. As noted in last week’s recap, Fillory will get ripped apart by the rise of the living dead if something isn’t done to save the planet. And well, the only way to properly save Fillory is to grow a new planet (via The World Seed) so that all of the innocent Fillorians can be transferred to the new planet. 

It turns out that the World Seed is being kept by The Couple in a magical hotel that is heavily guarded by magical wards and golem bellhops that can sense if you’re up to no good. The World Seed also has to be kept under extremely precise temperature conditions so it does not die. Therefore, the cast of characters must split off into different groups and operate as a combined force. 

The Magicians Ep. 111 "Remedial Battle Magic"
Quentin with his emotions bottled up in ep. 1×11 “Remedial Battle Magic” (Source: Syfy, 2015)

Believe it or not, this is where the “musical” aspect is introduced. Zelda introduces everybody to the “conductor’s spell” (created by a magician musical conductor) which allows one person to telepathically link everybody up. It’s like a magical walkie-talkie kind of deal. The only difference is that the spell compels people to break out into song. This leads Alice to bring back the “bottled emotions” from season 1’s episode “Remedial Battle Magic” wherein the characters literally bottled up their emotions to keep out distractions. 

Marina takes charge of leading everybody else through the conductor’s spell, but things at the hotel almost immediately go haywire in a sequence of failures. And this is actually what I love about these “heist” episodes that The Magicians does from time-to-time. The characters work so hard to plan everything through, but somebody screws up and then everything turns into a huge mess. 

Fen, Josh, and Margo get caught by “Psycho Fogg” who has teamed up with The Couple. Meanwhile, Eliot and Alice get attacked by one of the Empath Bellhops. When Alice and Eliot try to escape, Alice’s emotions get un-bottled and she breaks into song. And in typical whacky Magicians’ fashion, the bellhops’ weakness turns out to be getting overloaded by musical numbers. 

The Magicians Season 4x10
The Magicians’ Fourth Season Musical Episode (Source: Syfy, 2019)

But unfortunately, that’s where this episode hits its ceiling, because everything past this point seems like a rinse-and-repeat kind of thing. While I understand that a “musical episode” is supposed to have musical numbers (obviously), it quickly became obvious there was no real plot to the episode. I loved the heist trope, but even that seemed dulled out. Yet, last season’s musical episode found a great balance between telling the stories of the characters and including songs. 

There were 4 different musical performances in tonight’s episode, and I would argue that 3 of them felt interchangeable due to the fact that the same thing kept happening. Basically, Bellhops were running amok, causing mischief, and needed to be deactivated with the sound of music. Due to this, the musical numbers felt less fun and more tedious, almost like they were just another weapon in the arsenal of what a Magician can do. 

Another thing that kind of irked me about “The Balls” was The Couple’s portrayal. Now, we only found out about the Couple a handful of episodes ago, but they were made to sound very intimidating and threatening. And then we got to episode 9 of this season, “Cello Squirrel Daffodil”, where George (the man of The Couple) traps Alice in an illusion and then proceeds to snip off each of her fingers until she tells him where the instruction manual to the World Seed is. 

But then we get to this episode and The Couple is essentially just a rich married couple, holding up in a luxurious hotel. The woman of The Couple has a magical knock-off designer handbag that is used to transport the World Seed. That’s the extent of her character profile. And the reason why The Couple even wants the World Seed? Because they’ve made enemies on Earth and want to grow a whole new planet for themselves so that they can settle down and have kids…. that’s it. 

“The Balls”‘ problem might be with how rushed things felt, but it also might be because a lot was riding on this episode. This is the second to last episode of The Magicians series and it feels obvious the writers weren’t necessarily counting on cancellation. As a result, it felt misplaced to have a musical episode act as the series’ penultimate episode. 

This also worries me for next week’s finale because it will be the series finale. And for me personally, it just feels like there’s too much stuff left to address and wrap up to get the satisfying end to a show that so many of us have watched. It isn’t that surprising, because I feel like this happens with a lot of shows that get cancelled unexpectedly. And even though the writers have said they wrote this season’s finale to potentially be a series finale, it seems unlikely. 

Just going off the top of my head, we still don’t know why Quentin had the instruction manual to the World Seed in his research notes before dying, The Dark King still needs to be stopped in order to save Fillory. Dean Fogg is still stuck in the Ethereal realm. The World Seed still has to be used. The Moon needs to be fixed in order to fix magical circumstances on Earth. And Julia needs to figure out her pregnancy situation. 

But what did you guys think about “The Balls”‘ as The Magicians’ second-to-last episode ever?

Let us know in the comments below!

Author: Rodney

Rodney has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Aspiring to one day write television shows and novels, he’s an avid slash-shipper and enthusiast for all things gay. Rodney’s especially a lover of magic, mystery, and superheroes—holding Harry Potter, the X-Men, and Scooby-Doo close as his own personal favorites. But when he’s not fantasizing about how cool it would be to have magic, he’s busy writing fanfiction and re-watching old TV shows.


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About the author

Rodney has a bachelor's degree in English Literature. Aspiring to one day write television shows and novels, he’s an avid slash-shipper and enthusiast for all things gay. Rodney’s especially a lover of magic, mystery, and superheroes—holding Harry Potter, the X-Men, and Scooby-Doo close as his own personal favorites. But when he’s not fantasizing about how cool it would be to have magic, he’s busy writing fanfiction and re-watching old TV shows.