The Ancient Magus' Bride Season 2
by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 7 of
The Ancient Magus' Bride (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.2
Before we get into the actual contents of this episode, I just need to note how absolutely hilarious and jarring it was to open this week by learning the underground magic college has its own rock climbing wall. I don't have anything critical or substantive to say about it or anything. I just wanted you all to know I spent a good ten minutes laughing at the idea of a panel of stuffy British sorcerers all having to vote on whether to include bouldering as part of their arcane magical curriculum.
Outside of that, this episode once more returns to the College, and it seems like we're finally, earnestly digging into the extended cast and their underlying conflicts. It's kind of remarkable, if I'm being honest, how riveting this episode managed to be without really revealing anything too concrete or earth-shattering. Across the runtime we stop in with what feels like a dozen different characters, new and old, and save for a single exception we just get a sprinkling of their interior conflicts, or in some cases just the hint of what might be going through their mind. If you asked me to sit down and list out what all happens this week, it would be a pretty short and sparse list, yet through the atmosphere and evocative scripting, “Slow but Sure” lives up to its title with aplomb.
Take, for instance, Veronica. She's been around since the first episode of this season, and it's clear that there is something going on between her and Philomela, but I absolutely could not tell you what it is. We know their families are connected in some way, and that Philomela's only attending college thanks to Veronica's influence, but the Hows and Whys of their relationship are a total mystery, veiled behind enigmatic smiles and suggestive dialogue. All I can say for certain is that the look Veronica gave when Philomela asked if she was being ordered to make friends with Chise set off tiny fireworks in my brain with the potential implications. Whether they're friends, enemies, or have some kinda messed up, toxic lovers situation going on, I now desperately need to find out.
Less urgently, we check in with some of the extended cast and begin piecing together the outlines of their own relationships and stories. We confirm that Stroud is a bit of a mage himself, and has been kicking around the College for decades – nurturing a friendship with Renfred so strong that the sorcerer still stops by his office to drink and vent. It's very cute. Meanwhile, the cold opening reveals that Rian and Philomela grew up together, and were close enough to be playmates as kids, begging the question of what happened for them to be so distant now. We even follow up with Alice, who's taken up fire-arms training, just in case magic isn't enough to get the bodyguard job done. It's hard to tell whether any of those moments will be relevant in the larger story, but packaged together they fill in more and more of the background of the College's myriad histories. Plus, I just like the weird slime-blob teacher. He's funny and existentially unsettling all at once.
Then, of course, there's Philomela. Even her visit to her family home is obscured with cryptic hints, but the few brush strokes we see paint with suffocating darkness. Philomela's never exactly looked healthy, but she somehow manages to get paler and more distressed the moment she sees her grandmother's messenger bird. There's a palpable sense of fragility to her that's apparent with every step she takes and word she speaks inside her family's manor. The ice-cold disdain from her matriarch tells you exactly why. Granny Sargant is fiercely intimidating from every angle, and the casual abuse she fires off at her own granddaughter makes it crystal clear how the entire family functions. It's chilling, and only slightly tempered by how god-damn cool Grandmother's design is. Like damn, she's got a cane with a raven skull topper? She may be evil but I respect the drip.
I'd also be remiss to not mention the direction of that sequence. This season's displayed an excellent grasp of atmosphere, and the Sargant household may just be the peak so far; from the dimly lit corridors and pale daylight filtering through its windows, to the unsettling familiar that whispers to Philomela as she shuffles through its halls, there's a sense of smothering unease to every second spent within its walls. We still don't know the particulars of Philomela's situation, but the sheer vibes of this glimpse into her family life tell us more than enough. It's so foreboding that I didn't even need that creepy purple eye at the end to tell me that something very wrong is going to happen during this school camping trip. That's a damn good way to bring us back into the fold of the College and has me very excited to see what magical disasters are coming next week.
The Ancient Magus' Bride is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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