The gang faces the fact that the best illusions they create are the facades they share with each other and the rest of the world.
Tonight’s The Magicians was filled with deceit, introspection, confessions, and threats of bestial fellatio. Because, you know…The Magicians! It was actually quite a well-paced episode; despite the fact that everyone had a lot to do in the episode, there wasn’t an unending list of subplots to keep up on.
The episode had our first years completing The Trials, a Brakebills rite of passage supervised by the upperclassmen to weed out the students incapable of becoming true magicians. The trials require the students to go further into themselves with each level, until they literally have to share the naked truth about themselves to a partner in order to break the spell. Definitely not the Goblet of Fire.
At the same time, Julia is facing her own trials, still trying to find a new safe house after Marina and Pete destroyed her relationship with James last week. She attracts the attention of an older woman Hannah after storming out of the second most powerful safe house in New York, and the two of them agree to work together to gain more magic, particularly after Julia learns that Hannah was also spurned by Marina.
But Hannah is a bit murky about her past, and we find out a little bit more about her connection to Brakebills when she calls someone for assistance in getting through Marina’s wards to access her spells. Kady is her daughter, and is not pleased at having been called by her mother. Apparently Hannah was in a heist gone bad that killed two people, and Marina bailed her out. In exchange, though, she in essence sold Kady into Marina’s service. Although Kady refuses to help, she still takes the spell from Hannah and Julia that could get past Marina’s wards to use later. Julia wisely backs away from this family drama and starts her own safe house, working to try to obtain the spells herself.
Before she gets the call from her mother, however, Kady, Quentin, Penny, and Alice have been completing The Trials. Quentin and Penny are the on the same team called The Horny Chupacabras with a straight laced fellow first year who refuses to cheat with them when they realize they are running out of time to decode their spell and complete the first trial. Obviously, the non-cheating magician goes home, because Eliot is running The Trials, and cheating was totally what was needed, and our Fantastic Four move on to the second trial.
The transition to the start of this trial is a little odd, as it involves a fairly flirtatious conversation between Quentin and Margo and Quentin getting drugged by Margo to slip into the hallucination of the trial. I’m kind of surprised no one is yelping about the double standard of the guy getting drugged by the girl, but whatever.
I know that Quentin and Alice are the canon relationship from the books, but I kind of love Quentin and Margo more so far. What’s the proper portmanteau for them? I know it should be Qualice, but I’m Team Quargo. Or should it be Mentin? Or Alientin? And yes, I know about Queliot, which I suspect will happen sometime before the end of season one. Ooooh…but what about Team Malice? How great would that be just for the name alone? OK, sorry, back to the recap…still Team Quargo.
Anyway, when Quentin wakes up, he is next to a creek, with Eliot sitting at a lavish table filled with h’or d’ouvre being, well…Eliot. Complaining about too much dill in the tiny sandwiches and musing about the fish in the creek that are just “eating, shitting, and breeding.” He shows Quentin a bow and arrow that has been left for him to spear him a fish. It doesn’t seem like the most appropriate tool, and he can’t use magic, and Quentin, being Quentin, halfheartedly shoots the arrow into the water and complains about only having one arrow.
But then we see Kady running through the woods surrounding the creek with a net, Alice nearby trying to secure a beautiful white horse with a rope, and Penny. Margo is at a similar set up as Eliot, and gives Penny an axe to bring her the horse so she can get her “Catherine the Great on” (snerk). Exasperated, he takes off after the horse, and instead runs into Kady.
At this point, Kady is a bit hysterical, having returned from her interactions with her mother and Marina and being given only a net to catch a pheasant. Plus she can’t really tell Penny any of this, so instead she just cries in his arms. This was a nice vulnerable moment for her that I wasn’t expecting – I really thought they were going to throw down their tools and get it on in the forest, because, you know…Kady and Penny.
The foursome finally realize that they need to work together and trade tools in order to pass the trial, so while Quentin goes after the horse (his reasoning is that “I went to Junior Cowboy camp”), Alice shoots down the pheasant with the bow and arrow, Kady gets out a lot of her anger by cutting down a tree with the axe, and Penny catches the fish with the net. After they complete their tasks, they see Eliot and Margo applauding and wishing them congratulations.
Although they think they have passed, Eliot and Margo share with them that will only have succeeded after they chopped the tree into firewood, whipped them up a little grilled salmon, prepared a little bit of honeyed pheasant and…took turns blowing the horse.
(Hence why I love this show. Because I can be touched by the characters’ cooperation one moment and then be giggling with my husband and teen daughter about magicians being threatened with having to blow a horse as part of their training.)
In any case, after letting them suffer for a moment with those possibilities, they bring them back to Brakebills and engage in some of best Margo – Eliot banter ever:
Meanwhile, Hannah has been trying to get Julia to let her help steal Marina’s spells. She appeals to Julia acknowledging that they have both made mistakes, and if she tries to do this alone, she will get hurt. Hannah also desperately wants a relationship with Kady again, and uses that to win over Julia.
Back at Brakebills, the final task for our first years gets rid of all pretense and involves stripping down to their ultimate truth; bound in rope, they will only be released when they reveal their deepest truth to another magician. Penny and Kady obviously pair up, which leaves Alice and Quentin, the two most awkward partners ever.
Although they are the most awkward, and have to drink excessively to get naked (because apparently, the spell means reveal yourself completely to another magical adept, physically and emotionally), they are the two that come to the most profound truths about themselves. Alice admits that she is capable of so much more, that she holds back so she doesn’t become even more unpopular and end up a spinster magician eaten by her cats. Quentin finally starts to realize that he never lives in the moment, and when he tries, he’s never satisfied, even when it’s his dream environment-he tells Alice “I’m literally this person that I fucking hate.”
He then awkwardly apologizes, thinking he is really drunk. Truth be told though (heh), some of our biggest truths come out when we are extremely drunk – don’t need to be a magician for that. But it is with those words that the ropes slip off of his wrists.
Penny and Kady, on the other hand, are having more of an 80s teen movie, bare your soul, conversation to free themselves from their ropes. Penny shares with Kady that he is although he is scared to tell her, he is falling in love with her.
And then Kady reveals herself to be the shrew I was kind of hoping she wasn’t. It has all been a lie, Penny was just an easy target to use to steal shit from Brakebills and that none of their relationship meant anything. Her ropes finally came off with this confession.
Then, in what was probably the oddest part of the whole episode, the guys (at least) turned into geese. Although we didn’t see Kady and Alice go through the obviously painful physical transformation, I can only assume they did from the small flock of geese that flew off into the night.
The most brutal part of the episode, however, was not Kady’s confession – it was Julia and Hannah’s attempt to steal Marina’s filing cabinet full of spells. Using their combined power, they managed to pull it through another dimension into Julia’s safe house. When the women pull out a folder to look at the spells, though, there is only the following message:
That blood droplet? That’s from Hannah’s nose. But it doesn’t stop there. Soon there is blood gushing from everywhere on Hannah – her eyes, her ears, her hairline – it is literally oozing from thousands of tiny cuts in her skin as she bleeds out. She warns Julia to run as Marina is coming, and dies before Julia can even figure out what to tell the 911 operator she has called. We are left with Hannah dead and a bloody mess against the file cabinet as Julia runs off to God knows where.
There were other subplots that related to hiding the truth that complimented the story line tonight; when the first years are first taken to The Trials, they are kidnapped by the upperclassmen in golden masks and robes. Quentin is also in a lot of denial about Fillory; last week’s episode ended with the revelation that Penny may have seen The Beast in the land that Quentin loved. Quentin doesn’t want to believe it, since it doesn’t match his perceptions of what Fillory should be from reading the books as a child. His fanboying when he was describing Fillory to his classmates was incredibly adorable – I recognized his expression from myself and many friends when we discussed Hogwarts.
I loved Alice and Quentin’s tear streak face painting.
Could we please get an Eliot – Margo “What Not to Wear” style spin off show? We could call it “What Not to Cast” and they could help magicians who use outdated or ineffective spells.
Questions for next time:
Is this great revelation by Quentin going to last, or will he be back to his self-pitying, slightly whiny self when he’s not forced to be introspective, or isn’t drunk?
Are Quentin and Alice going to pursue their awkward relationship now that they’ve gotten emotionally intimate? Or can we please see him and Margo build on that chemistry they have when they have their heart to heart talks?
Does Marina have any hold over Kady now that Hannah is dead, and is Kady going to go after someone for her mother’s death? If so, who? Marina or Julia? Or will she self-destruct since she helped break Marina’s wards in the first place, as well as what she’s done to Penny?
What’s next for Penny given that he is not very good at making himself vulnerable, and the one time he did, it backfired on him? And was Kady that good at closing off her mind? He’s psychic – couldn’t he hear her thinking things like “haha, asshole, I’m really putting one over on you?”
Where the hell is Julia going to go now? And why did the spell only affect Hannah, and not both of them?
What were Eliot and Margo’s truths that they had to bare in their first year? And who were their magical partners for that spell?
Are Eliot and Margo in that flock of geese, wherever they are going next, just because I need them in every episode?
This episode looked a lot at deception and truth, in terms of what we tell ourselves and share with others. The world isn’t always as we see it, and people aren’t always as we perceive them to be. Part of becoming a magician is learning that distinction between illusion and fact.
Next week’s episode, The Mayakovsky Circumstance, heads to Brakebills South. Alice and Quentin share a kiss in the preview, but is it real, an illusion, or a drunken fantasy? Let’s hope drunken fantasy because I’m still Team Quargo.
Picture credits are all courtest of Syfy