Tonight’s episode of The Magicians has several literal homecomings, but really, the homecomings were more about the journeys than the destinations. We got a glimpse into how demand for attention affected relationships, both good and bad. Of course, spoilers, and over-analysis to follow (although not as much over-analysis as last week – I tried to be a little more balanced this week with my observations).
And while I called Episode 7 “The Joy of Magical Sex…Lots and Lots of Sex,” it had nothing on this episode. When producers warned on social media that things were about to get weird, I doubted it could get much weirder than human-fox transformative sex and eyeball smiley sculptures, but it did. It got so 1970s porn star weird. So let’s dig in.
Julia has joined an online group called Free Trader Beowulf, which Richard heads up. His online name is Failstaff, while hers is Vicious Circe. The group gets together to meet in person at Julia’s apartment, and we learn as they come in that some of them are facing significant personal challenges, including Menolley who is suffering from cancer, and Bender, who is suicidal and unable to be helped with medication. The final person who shows up in the group is Kady, although Richard didn’t know from her user name (Asmodeus) that she and Julia knew one another, or that they had a history together, particularly in regards to Hannah.
While the rest of the group uses Julia’s guest room to work on a magical project, Julia and Kady are tasked with learning 12 spells to level up so they can assist with the project. The spells are in the Spellbinder (as Richard, he of little humor, points out “It’s a binder with spells in it”) and while Kady and Julia initially argue about whose fault it was that Hannah was killed, they eventually come to a tentative understanding about what happened.
Later in the day, after they have made their way through the Spellbinder, Julia orders pizza for them, and oddly, a moment later, the clock shifts back by a couple of minutes. The pizza is delivered again, and Julia pays for it again, as if the previous few minutes never happened. A cheer arises from the guest room, and Julia and Kady figure out that the group is trying to do something with time magic, which is way beyond the capacity of normal magicians.
When they confront Richard about it, he admits that it is impossible by normal standards. But together, their group is strong enough to try to summon a god, and if they can, they will try to turn back time to prevent some of the group members’ challenges (like cancer, and always being on the verge of suicide), and what Richard himself did as a drug addict 8 years earlier, which was leave his 8 month old son in a hot car. The outcome for that didn’t need to be spoken.
This whole project of Richard’s seems totally like a “good intentions pave the road to Hell” sort of thing, so we will see how this plays out in future episodes. I thought Julia might have been making better choices after last week, and maybe this will turn out alright, but I can’t see how at this point.
Last week, Penny touched the button everyone told him not to touch, and ended up in a fountain in the Neitherlands, the space between points A and B that connects all worlds. As he tries to figure out where he is, he meets some of the locals who seem friendly at first, but have ulterior motives and are after the button. Penny travels away from them to another place in the Neitherlands, but now he is really far away from his own fountain, which is among a sea of thousands of fountains.
He contacts Quentin in a similar fashion to how Quentin contacted him in “The World in the Walls” in what has to be one of the funniest dream sequences ever. Let’s just say it involved Julia and Alice as Leia and Khaleesi, with Quentin as a cowboy (perhaps wearing his Junior Cowboy camp outfit?) trying to move in for a three way, but not before Alice tells him to shut up, as they are close to seeing if this dream passes the Bechdel test. When Penny can drag Quentin away within the dream, he finds out he’s been gone for 6 weeks, although to him in the Neitherlands, it’s only been 6 hours.
As his friends try to help him get back home, Penny tries to find somewhere safe to hide from the locals who are still after him. On the move, he falls through a door onto a large pile of books, which made my daughter giggle incessantly, because she works in a library, and to her, it was like someone dropped Penny through the returns slot with the other heaps of books. In any case, the librarian there shares with him that this particular library contains all of the books every made, all those to come, and every person’s life book. He asks for a map of the fountains to try to find his way home, but that’s only available on interlibrary loan and would take 2-4 years to arrive in Penny’s time.
They try to pursue other resources, looking through the books, and Penny comes across his own book, or life story, as well as seeing Alice’s, Quentin’s, and Eliot’s. The librarian warns him that often times, readers don’t like the main characters of their own books, as well as dislike the endings. If that isn’t ever the truth…
Penny decides to not read the ending of his own book, and as he is putting it back on the shelf, the librarian pulls out Martin Chatwin’s book, and in typical librarian fashion, doesn’t let Penny borrow it because he doesn’t have a library card. Even if he did have a card, I think it would still end up being a reference book, given the nature of The Beast in Fillory, and it still wouldn’t be available for loan. Heading off a potential fight and a destroyed book, she makes Penny copies of the pages she believes he will need and sends him on his way, where he does eventually get back to Earth’s fountain and back to his companions.
While Penny got some time to interact with other characters on his own, I really hope Arjun Gupta gets a chance to shine as Penny with some of that extra otherworldly knowledge he’s now received from the library in future episodes; he is outstanding in the role, but in this episode, it didn’t feel like the stakes were high enough in the Neitherlands for us to really empathize with his plight, and feel that he wasn’t going to get back home. Gupta didn’t have a significant challenge to work against in the Neitherlands this week to show Penny in a really difficult situation, so I hope he gets that chance in the next few episodes.
Quentin and Alice
To help out Penny, Alice heads home to to the ‘burbs of Chicago with Quentin to seek help from her parents, as her mother is friends with a Traveler. We see, though, from the selfishness of her parents, where Alice’s pain comes from for doing magic. Her father, disciplined in historical magic, has turned the house into an authentic Roman orgy. Her mother, who insists on Alice calling her Stephanie, is a classic narcissistic mother, and their relationship is like a case study for psychology students, from Stephanie’s lack of sexual boundaries, to the way she manipulates Alice into believing that her daughter invalidates her own feelings by having different opinions. Olivia Taylor Dudley does a great job with portraying Alice here, as all of her neurosis, perceptions of her parents, and embarrassments come spilling out in a very different way than how she normally is at Brakebills. This is a direct reaction to her mother’s narcissism. Her father does nothing to stop it, and Alice even tells Quentin about her father’s reaction to her mother’s affair with the Traveler they need information from to save Penny.
Alice’s father threatened to commit suicide when he found out about the affair, so now, Joe, the Traveler, is their number 3 in a polyamorous relationship, rather than her parents have secrets from one another. OK, though, what kind of father threatens suicide with two children at home (Charlie and Alice) in an attempt to punish his wife? And I think after Charlie disappeared, Stephanie definitely had something to do with Alice not being invited to test at Brakebills, for the same reason she refuses to hear about what really happened to Charlie: her daughter growing up and moving on, and getting closure regarding Charlie’s death, would rob her of the opportunities to get attention from others for the drama she would have with her children. It is no wonder that Alice is a super badass magician from the amount of psychological bullshit these two have inflicted on her, although it is also incredibly sad.
Quentin actually shows some real growth in this episode, and we get to see Jason Ralph relax into this character a little more. Quentin is more open and confident with Alice, taking charge of the situation when Alice can’t because of her childhood hang ups, and it feels like Ralph embodies the character on a deeper level than he has in the past.
In any case-back to Joe the Traveler. Joe has a spell that can create a beacon of light in the fountain here on Earth that corresponds with the one Penny needs to use to come back home. But of course, it involves sex magic, because…why not. Things aren’t f-ed up enough in the Quinn household, let’s add Mom and Dad’s mancubine to the mix, with him offering to help them save their friend from the Neitherlands by getting into their nether regions.
While they do not take Joe up on his offer, the rest of the episode is spent with Alice and Quentin arguing over their sex life and how they haven’t been honest with one another about the best ways to satisfy each other sexually. Here’s where things went beyond episode 7 for us in terms of the sex, although to the show’s credit, it did have a “viewer discretion is advised” segment after returning from each commercial break. However, I’m advocating for one that says this:
This show contains scenes of a strong sexual nature that may be disturbing to your significant other and teenage children if they are watching this together. It is intended for mature audiences only. You know, ones that can watch without blushing, holding their hands over their faces, and yelping “no, no, no, no, you’re still the little kid I used to dress in overalls.” Viewer discretion is advised.
So once I got my family to shut up, we saw Quentin and Alice come to a new understanding about satisfying one another, since they both had to climax at the same time for the spell to work. So…like magical sex therapy. When it happens, it lights up the fountain for Penny, allowing him to travel back home. Or should I say come back…directly into the room with Quentin and Alice as they are finishing up. As awkward as this situation could be, with the amount of loving Penny had been getting from Kady, this shouldn’t really phase him at all.
Eliot and Margo
Hooray! Margo is back! We’ve missed you, Summer Bishil!
But Eliot. Sick, spiraling waaaay out of control, Eliot. In last week’s review and recap, I wished for more pain for this character so I could see Hale Appleman be even more amazing in his portrayal, but now I am not so sure. Appleman is so good at what he does with Eliot that it becomes almost too difficult to watch with a critical eye; your heart breaks for this character. Rather than stick with his never-emptying flask, Eliot has moved onto hallucinogenic drugs and cocaine. Of everyone, only Margo can see that something is seriously wrong, and she’s only been home from Ibiza for a short amount of time. But it should have been obvious to all of them since it has been about 6 weeks since Mike’s death at this point, and Eliot, who was pretty fastidious and had his shit together before now, is blatantly admitting to taking drugs (“Took some pink ones, some green ones, and something called ‘chocolate sunrise,’ that sounds nice, doesn’t it?”). It is clearly a cry for help in the only way he knows how, since despite his sauciness and acting like he doesn’t care about anything beyond wine types and fabric choices, Eliot is one of the most selfless, loyal characters on the show.
Margo tries to help him by taking him to the infirmary, but the professor/doctor merely confirms that Eliot has a massive drug problem, and we find out that it’s Margo who is in trouble after having had “unprotected rituals” during her time away, and it’s draining her of her life force.
The two set off on a Margo and Eliot adventure to confront the Ibiza hook up who has been taking her life force, but there is a taint of sadness to the whole affair. The guy has created a golem of Margo because he missed her so much, which Eliot deems the Margolem, and then he proceeds to do lines of coke with it on the other side of the room while Margo confronts the weird obsessive dude. She can’t even stand up at this point because the golem has taken so much of her life force, but she’s not letting this guy getting away with it.
However, after the coke snorting, she realizes things have gone too far, and Margo pulls Eliot aside to call him out about his lack of support for her on this trip. He fires back, saying he thought that this was how they supported each other. When Margo asks him if there is something he needs to say to her, he shuts down, telling her that no, he likes her golem, and that “life is a unicorn shitting a rainbow of candy.” Realizing that he’s not at a place to help her, and that he will simply keep doing things to try to get her attention (like doing lines of cocaine while she takes care of business), she quietly tells him she’ll deal with the golem herself and to go home.
The final interaction between them was the worst, because we see Eliot start to open up, and it’s ruined in an instant. Back at the Physical Kids house, Eliot, his hair disheveled and in his eyes, offers Margo, who is sitting at the other end of the couch, her favorite candy and apologizes, with his voice breaking. He asks her if they can really talk, calling her baby. He tells her that he thinks Professor Lipson, the magician from the infirmary who said he had a massive drug problem, could have been wrong-he thinks something might really be broken. It is a super poignant and raw moment, and Appleman plays it beautifully with his shoulders slightly hunched in a protective fashion, his hands clutched together on his lap, his eyes half downcast under his hair in that gesture you do when you don’t want to look up at someone fully for fear of seeing the look on the other person’s face.
Margo’s response? She moves to his side of the sofa and kisses him. Naturally, his response is one of shock and surprise, and then we see the real Margo come into the room.
Apparently, Margo didn’t destroy the golem, thinking that it may come in handy sometime in the future. When she asks Eliot what they were talking about, the mask is back on, and Eliot denies it was anything important, giving her the candy, and the two of them start affectionately calling each other bitch again, but you can tell it’s all still just tearing him up inside. I think Margo sensed he wanted to say more, but that the moment was gone.
Based on the first reaction and eye contact Eliot and the Margolem had with one another when he and the real Margo went to confront the ex-hook up, as well as the kiss on the sofa (despite the surprise, he didn’t immediately pull away), I get the sense that the life force that was transferred to the golem was the part of Margo that has the sexual chemistry with Eliot. If Margo keeps the golem around, this could definitely set up a wonderfully weird dynamic between the three of them, with real Margo trying to save him from himself, and Margolem trying to bang him. At least it might keep him distracted enough to stop self-medicating.
And as much as I need Margo to support Eliot during this shitty time, I really hope Summer Bishil gets to work with a storyline of her own too, where she isn’t just the foil to Appleman’s Eliot. These two are great together, with comedy or drama, but I want to know more about just Margo and how she functions without Eliot, now that we’ve seen how he functions without her.
Q & A & Thoughts about Q & A…& Everyone Else
- If that library in the Neitherlands was the “be all, end all” of libraries, why would it need to borrow the fountain maps from another library? On a second viewing, I think Penny landed in the main branch of the Neitherlands libraries, but you would think that the maps to the fountains would be kept at the central location.
- When Penny was looking at the books in the library, there are two volumes for Eliot, one for Alice, one for Quentin, and none for Margo. However, we also didn’t see Penny’s and it looked like he pulled his off of a shelf above theirs, so maybe Margo’s was near his. But why 2 volumes for Eliot? When I asked show runner Sera Gamble about this on Twitter, she did confirm there is significance to it, but didn’t elaborate as to whether we would find out about it in season 1 or season 2.
- The librarian says something interesting to Penny in that he always asks the same questions and never remembers meeting her. So has Penny been to the Neitherlands before, further back in time? Is she a constant in the time stream? Is he traveling between time and worlds?
- There was an interesting connection tonight between extreme behaviors to get attention from loved ones: Alice’s father threatening suicide when she was a child in order to get her mother’s attention, and acknowledging that he had to do something extreme to get his wife to notice his unhappiness, and Eliot’s blatant drug use in front of everyone. Given Alice’s experience with her father, it does make me wonder why she in particular wouldn’t have asked Eliot what was going on while Margo was away, particularly since it has been six weeks since they visited Plover’s home, and you’d think she would past him yelling at her by now. She Everyone has issues (speaking from experience), and usually your issues make you more perceptive to other people’s issues, not less. We saw tonight from growing up in that household Alice definitely has issues, but I am surprised the writers are having her be so harsh with Eliot – she seems almost disgusted with him when he’s high in the common room and they are trying to figure out what to do to help Penny. She had to see him getting progressively worse, doing more and more self-destructive things for attention, similar to what her father did to her mother. However, at the same time, she may have been so pissed at her dad for what he did, she might be transferring some of that onto Eliot. Meh, enough psychoanalysis-overall, I’m curious to see how their relationship plays out, because I really liked how close these two were getting sibling style, and will be sad if they can’t get back to that somehow.
- When Eliot tells Margolem that he thinks something is really broken, I wonder if it’s that he’s feeling so much pain that he’s not able to control his magic. Given that magic comes from pain, he might really be self-medicating to keep the pain at a manageable level, and keep him from accidentally harming himself or someone else from an out of control spell. “Broken” is an interesting word choice; whether it is Eliot simply being dramatic, or it really is something related to the forces behind individual magic, hopefully we will find out in the next few episodes.
- One of the best lines of the episodes? Alice’s dad serving the authentic Roman food, filleted goat penis, to Quentin, and when Quentin wants to read Mr. Quinn’s historical manuscripts before he finishes his food, Quinn replies with, “Why, you haven’t even touched your penis, Quentin.” I love this show.
I think the universe is literally trying to kill me with the amount of shit that can happen to Eliot in one season, as next week’s preview of “Remedial Battle Magic” showed his twisted, unconscious body with a bloodied hand, and a bloody faced Margo leaning over him, on the floor of what looks like a destroyed classroom. And then The Beast shows up. Again. And probably has something to do with the blood coated Eliot and Margo, and with Quentin and Alice hiding under a table looking utterly freaked out. I am also curious as to what part, if any, Penny will play in all of this, since he has additional information about The Beast from the Neitherlands. Hopefully if they are going up against The Beast again, they will use something a little more substantial than remedial battle magic, but who am I to say? We will see who gets the upper hand as we move towards the last two episodes of Season 1 (booooo) of The Magicians.
Photos (unless otherwise noted): Syfy.com