Are You Afraid of the Dark? S2E11 “The Tale of the Magician’s Assistant”

This week’s episode is a nod to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas and it’s heavy ties to the 1940 film, Fantastia. And if you’ve never seen the Disney classic, go away now, watch it, and come back later.

It’s Gary’s turn to tell a tale, and he’s please that everyone has arrived on time. Frank grumbles that Gary sounds like their homeroom teacher, but Greg defends the man. The other kids explain to Gary that their teacher is, in fact, a very talented magician on the side. Kristen tells Frank not to judge people, as they may surprise you. And that, is what Gary’s story is about.

In “The Tale of the Magician’s Assistant,” young Todd is going through a tough time. His father had recently passed-away, leaving his mother to work endless hours at an ad agency to make ends meet. So Todd decides to get a part-time job to help out.

He goes to see a magician after seeing an ad for an assistant in the paper. He arrives at a large van (like an old caravan) with the name “Shandu the Magician” painted on the side.

When Todd enters the trailer, he sees cages full of animals and an unusual stick. But before he can touch it, he’s stopped by Shandu. Todd explains that he is responding to the ad. And despite not having any previous experience as an assistant to a magician (surprise), Todd still gets the position.

Todd is set to work by cleaning up the room. He approaches the stick again, but is stopped again by Shandu. The magician explains that the stick is in fact his wand. He explains to Todd that he can only hold it if he’s been handed it by the magician.

The boy begins learning the tricks of the trade. Poor Todd is a bit crap. He struggles to learn the intricate tricks and the subtle movements. But Shandu is patient, and also constantly recites the rules of the magician to his assistant.

  1. Never ever touch another magician’s wand unless he hands it to you.
  2. Only let them see, what you want them too see.
  3. Never, ever get caught in your own reflection.

Though eventually Todd has enough and tells Shandu to lighten up. The old magician tells Todd that years ago, he was a star. He was in films, performed his magic on Broadway and had fans. But his star has since faded, leaving him washed up. Softened by the boy’s words, Shandu opens a box and hands Todd the bowtie from the first tux he ever wore as a magician. He tells the boy he wants him to wear it for their first show together.

Their first show is a child’s birthday party. Despite the less-than-prestigious audience, the magician and his assistant pull off a brilliant show that the children all love. It’s a success for the pair, even if it’s a small one.

The next day, Todd shows up at the van for work. When he arrives, he sees that the magician’s room is in total disarray.  Not wanting to get into trouble, Todd quickly grabs Shandu’s wand and says “Shandu can do!” And suddenly – the wagon is completely restored before Shandu returns.

Todd returns home in the evening where he finds his mother over-worked. She tells him that she has a whole project that was dumped on her last-minute that she needs to complete before the morning. But she decides to take a nap before getting to work.

While his mother is asleep, he grabs one of her plants that looks strangely like Shandu’s wand. He goes to Shandu’s van where he switches the plant out for the wand. When Todd returns home, he uses the wand to finish the work his mother had done.

Before Todd can leave to replace the wand, a vision appears in the shape a glowing-blue woman. She tells him that she is Nazrak, the spirit of the wand. She tells Todd that he has the ability to unleash powers in the wand. Before he can argue, she encourages him to keep using the wand.

Todd returns to Shandu’s van, where he’s caught trying to return the wand. Todd explains that he had spoken to the spirit Nazrak, but Shandu becomes upset, telling Todd that Nazrak is actually a demon trapped inside the wand. He released, Nazrak could darken the era for all humanity.

So, you know, not that big of a deal.

The next day, Todd discovers that Shandu’s van has been set on fire. He runs inside and uses the wand to stop the fire. When it’s gone, he sees Shandu standing before home, only it’s not the magician – it’s Nazrak, who reveals his true form: a sort of Oberserver look a la Mystery Science Theater. 

Nazrak tells Todd that Shandu is now trapped in the wand, unleashing Nazrak. Todd runs away where he finds his mother in Deadite mode. His mom is, in fact, Nazrak in disguise again.

Todd runs away from the demon where he then spots Shandu in the toaster. The magician tells Todd he needs to “remember the rules”.

Understanding Shandu’s meaning, Todd hands the wand over to Nazrak. When the demon uses the wand, Todd steps aside and the wand’s spell strikes Nazrak’s reflection in a mirror. Rule 3:Never, ever get caught in your own reflection.

With Nazrak back in the wand, Shandu is free again. But he hands the wand over to Todd, telling him that it’s the boy’s turn to be the wand’s owner. He then tells Todd the forth rule: Always leave them wanting more.

The magician vanishes, leaving Todd as the new magician.

This is a weird episode. A good one. But a weird one. I can’t imagine my part-time job from high school ending up as my full-time job for life (solid pass on ever being a hostess at a restaurant again).

It was interesting that Todd never used the wand for selfish reasons. He used to clean up a mess (which, I guess saved him from getting into trouble), saving the van, and helping his mother. But rules are rules, eh?

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