Scene Breakdown: The Magicians’ “A Life in the Day” Montage

THE MAGICIANS — “A Life in the Day” Episode 305 — Pictured: (l-r) Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh, Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

The Magicians did something so fascinating with “A Life in the Day” by telling us a story only the audience and two other people will ever fully understand. It gave us a poetic tragedy that needed no further explanation, it only needed to be marveled at. It was a story that demanded to be seen and a story that demanded to be told. And while time kept moving, it simultaneously stood still, beautifully allowing the audience to see just how special the bond between Eliot and Quentin is. It gave us colors and melancholy. It gave us puzzles and completion. It gave us something truly incomparable and set a great deal in motion.

This show took a dark turn later on that we’d rather not get into, but this scene and this episode will easily live on in the memories of many. It’s one of the few times where I remember an underrated show being on everyone’s best-of-the-year lists because this episode was that extraordinary. This scene was that powerful.

There’s Eliot and Quentin along with the understanding of life only they’ll know about that binds them intricately in a way no two people asides from them would feel. And there’s a mosaic–tiles of thousands of stories, lifetimes, memories within each–just for them, about them because of them. And there were colors that spoke louder than the art itself. This scene especially required its actors to bring everything–the emotions, the heartaches, the turmoil, the frustration, and the growing, indescribable adoration. And they did just that. Hale Appleman and Jason Ralph anchored this scene beautifully with nuanced performances that left us breathless, broken, and somehow whole.

There was always something more with Quentin and Eliot–something real, a proof of concept no two people on this show could reach and they did so through a life in a day. They did so through a lifetime of building and trying and putting broken things together again. 1,784 tiles 15 colors–the attempt to calculate the beauty of all life only to realize that he’s standing before you all along. This journey, this moment, it was everything–it was transcendent, it was fleeting, and it was healing.

How do you show the beauty of all life? You try. You heal. You love. Peaches and plums and love. Growth and compassion. Screaming and crying. Resting and fixing. Loving and parting then loving again. Staying. The beauty of life isn’t something that can be shown, at least not in the way Eliot asks, but it can be felt and it can, leaving a lasting mark. It could solve the mosaic after a lifetime of happiness and understanding. Because that’s just what the beauty of life is–it’s sometimes two people and the life they build together. The good, bad, and the ugly, and finding the pieces of broken things that matter.

Quentin and Eliot are both two broken, complex remarkably individual people. They each operate and solve things in their way, but this journey was made for them. It was made for their growth. It was meant to heal them. And it was meant to show them something that’d live with them forever. It was meant to be their anchor, their saving grace–the piece of their life’s puzzle that’d been missing all along was found through this adoration in the other. This life. This journey. This single day encapsulated more than anyone in their acquaintance could ever grasp or imagine.

I don’t know what happened in the final season of The Magicians. And I don’t care. Nothing this show ever did or could do would be as transcendent or as beautifully thought-provoking as this moment. (And if I still wasn’t so unforgiving of what was done, this post could be as long as a dissertation. It’s that mesmerizing. It’s that magical.)

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