The Ardent Eccentric – The Magicians S2E4 – The Flying Forest

The Flying Forest lived up to its name this week – we were flying through all sorts of emotions and activities, some more convincingly than others.  I do love this show’s proclivity for taking you from laughing out loud one moment, to weeping the next – as Dean Fogg pointed out this week, “comedy and drama can exist in the same goddamn sentence.”

I also apologize for the delay this week – Katsucon 2017 was happening this weekend, so hopefully I will some info on that anime convention to share soon as well.  Plus, getting the review and recap two days before the next episode means you can relive and contemplate it vicariously though this article and get super excited for Wednesday!

As always, spoilers if you haven’t seen this week’s episode (which by now, I really hope you have).


The High King and Queen Experiences the Highs of Adulthood

We pick up this week right after the fight with the Beast, with Quentin being healed by a group of centaurs.  Margo points out that one has the biggest dick (what is with her and horse dick?) before she tells Eliot they need to return to White Spire to, you know…be king and queen.  Eliot, however, is still deeply perturbed at the state Quentin is in and leaves him a note before distractedly returning to the castle with Margo.

Their advisors share with them new problems that are troubling the land since their defeat of the Beast – Ember’s befouling of the Wellspring is not that easy to clean out, and it’s affecting magic, both in Fillory and on Earth.  There are also factions in the Southern Isles, as well as those in the Outer Lands, who refuse to pay taxes, given that most of the royal Children of Earth will be dead or go mad soon, as had happened in the past.  Abigail the Advising Sloth notes that money cannot fill the Wellspring, through her translator.

Thanks Abigail…helpful.

While Margo tries to take charge of the situation, Eliot, who has been staring off in the distance while they have been receiving their update, instead insists that they will build a 100-foot tall statue in honor of Alice, regardless of the cost.  Margo, recognizing that this does not reflect well on the new king and queen’s abilities to rule, kicks all the advisors out of the throne room so that she can talk to Eliot alone.

She points out that they can’t bankrupt the entire kingdom for a statue, because Alice wasn’t their friend (she was a package deal with Quentin, according to Margo), and they have to be responsible to the kingdom.

“Get your shit together, El.”

Eliot whines a bit about never being able to leave Fillory and comments that he wasn’t ready to be king, that he wasn’t done being him (says every young parent in the world…).  They now face the horrible possibility of being (gasp!) grownups, but Margo thinks she has found a loophole that could help him.  And yet, ironically she has to leave him and Fillory to do so.

What I want to get for both of them, although neither would ever be caught dead in a t-shirt

While Margo is away, Eliot is lamenting the fact that the citizens want something all the time (right? Like enough already, citizens…), and Fen uses that as her opener to talk about what she wants, since really, what the hell, let’s add on another petition. This one is for sex, because Eliot is so amazing at it and huge (not surprising on either front) but before he can respond to her bit of desperation, Margo appears with an update from Earth.

Oh hai Margo!

It seems she stole some living clay from Brakebills, as well as went back to see the dude who initially made the Margolem back in Season 1, and forced him to give up the golem spell so that they could make another Eliot (a Golemiot? Meh, probably not).  She notes that if Eliot sleeps there in Fillory, he can mind control the golem to head back to Earth, thus getting around the fine print that he can never leave Fillory.

They both have that dead eyed stare so common in the golem

That night, Eliot the Golem (with Eliot the Human’s mind) and Margo return to the Physical Kids cottage, only to find that Todd, the dude who went on magical spring break with Margo last year, is now king of the house, rather than Eliot.  He even has a crown, which is just some grade A silly irony.

“You have a better crown than me? Well, where is it?”

Todd tries to tell them that when he thought they were dead, he threw a rager in their honor, and from there the rest of the house just kind of put him in charge of partying.

Todd knows better than to call it a rager…

Eliot notices that Todd is wearing one of his vests, and he sulks in a corner over a drink with Margo, saying his new goal is to leave Fillory and destroy Todd for being a usurper – his Physical Kids Cottage kingdom is at stake.  Margo wisely points out that his real kingdom of Fillory is actually at stake, and then says that she doesn’t think this is really about Todd.  Eliot sarcastically wanders off and she reminds him that there will be no killing of Todd this evening.

My new catch phrase for anything that goes wrong

Eliot is trying to make his signature cocktail to win back his role as king of the Physical Kids cottage when he meets Javier, a Welters player and second year student from a Spanish university, staying at Brakebills for a tournament.  They both end up in bed together, and a very odd and sad golem to human sex scene takes place, Golem Eliot with Javier, and real Eliot with Fen.  I say sad because El is constantly going to have to try to keep Fen happy by doing things like this, but may never experience a truly happy relationship again.  Still, despite the poignancy of it, this scene was shot incredibly well.

Sexy time with Eliot

The next day, Eliot goes to see Dean Fogg because he’s totally freaked out about being a king, and that his mind is half here and half there.  Previously in the episode, Dean Fogg had been having issues casting – he thought it was his hands, but it kept getting worse, not better.  He discussed it with Professor Lipson, (the one who diagnosed Eliot and Margo last season), who was also having brownouts (heh), which at first she thought were from Xanax, but then realized they weren’t after talking to Fogg.

Now speaking to Eliot about Ember’s shitting in the Wellspring, things start to make a little more sense.  He notes that while he cannot relieve Eliot of this duties, he can help him rule Fillory from Earth by consulting with politicians, leaders, and other historians.  Although, this is kind of to his and every other magician’s benefit too.

This should be the motto of this whole show

Eliot returns his mind to Fillory, and Margo catches up with him at White Spire (after her own confrontation at Brakebills, which we’ll get into) and insists that they build the statue for Alice precisely because they weren’t her friends.  He reiterates that there is no funding, and she points out that they are magicians and can just build it themselves.

If we build it, Q will come…


Quentin & Penny Experience the Highs of Adrenaline…and, Well, Other Shit

Quentin, meanwhile, finally wakes up in the centaur hospital after three weeks – he now has a prosthetic wooden left shoulder from the wound he received from the Beast.  Then the show breaks my heart by having Quentin read the letter Eliot left for him when he and Margo had to return to White Spire.  They left him a box of Alice’s personal effects, and while Eliot’s note is tender, of course he has to sign it “your high benevolent overlord Eliot” because we know he can’t be too raw with his emotions.

No, YOU’RE crying

Penny shows up at the infirmary – Margo sent him there to have them look at his hands. When she was at Brakebills obtaining the living clay for Eliot’s golem, Penny crash traveled into the classroom in which she was searching.  His traveling aim was off, having apparently gone through three different worlds before getting back to Brakebills, one of which lacked oxygen. So he’s had a hell of a morning.  Margo makes his morning worse – when he asks if they managed to kill the Beast, she has to break the news that while they did defeat him, Quentin was pretty mangled, and Alice was dead.

“Well, I guess I’ll go back to not caring about anyone ever”

Now at the centaur hospital, he tries to express sympathy to Quentin, but Quentin, being heartbroken, lashes out, trying to blame Penny for Alice’s death.  It’s not really clear how he comes to this conclusion, it’s more just “defensive pain arguing,” and the two go their separate ways in the hospital to try to heal.

“Just go Penny…I need to be irrational and angsty on my own.”

Later that night, Quentin is looking through Alice’s personal effects, and he glances up to see an odd white creature standing at the edge of the woods.  His nurse interrupts his thoughts to apply simulated skin over the wooden shoulder, and he asks her about the creature.  We learn that she is the White Lady, one of the seven Questing creatures of Fillory, and Quentin apparently happened to catch her presenting herself to a centaur for fucking (according to the nurse).

“Oh yes…she comes by every Thursday for a good time from our surgeon”

By nightfall, Penny has seen a centaur surgeon named Sawbones, who refused to treat him after learning that his hands were cursed after offending the River Watcher.  He punctuates his conversation by shitting on the floor (as one does), but tells Penny he can’t help him.

Yep Penny, we had the same reaction

Penny’s situation gets worse while he is sleeping, as his crazy hands attempt to strangle him. Penny wakes up Quentin for help after having to break his own arms to stop them.

“The Bronies can’t fix me.” I love you, Penny.

After getting shitfaced off centaur wine to dull the pain, he provokes Quentin into cutting off his hands with an axe. Just asking doesn’t work since Quentin is hesitant to do the chopping, for obvious reasons.  Calling him a floppy haired, limp dicked dork, who couldn’t get Alice off if he tried, though, motivates Quentin to cut off one hand; however, Penny’s plan to use centaur wine to not feel the pain was ill advised.  The two of them both start screaming as Quentin whacks off the other hand.  Slapstick at its finest.  It felt like we were in some Will Ferrell sketch on SNL.

And much screaming and cursing ensued…

The next day, Quentin is trying to practice archery as his physical therapy, but well, he’s Q, so of course he is terrible at it.

“You did i – oh…oh dear…”

Penny, who is now handless but moving around after the centaurs stopped the bleeding from the two students’ previous evening cutscapades, offers Quentin some advice about using a variation of Popper 31 to help him aim true.  It’s also because he can’t shut out Q’s low self-esteem thoughts, which is annoying the shit out of him.  Quentin demands Penny show him the hand motion variation, to which Penny rightfully tells him that had he had HANDS, he would flipping him off, rather than teaching him tutting techniques.

“Asshat…remember these?”

When Quentin does the variation correctly, and his archery improves, he suggests that they go after the White Lady, since if they catch her she is obliged to give them anything they want, which could mean new hands for Penny, and Alice brought back to life.

The two take off for the Flying Forest to search for the White Lady, and after only a few moments, they are definitely flying…high as kites.  The forest tries to disorient them, with Penny getting his mouth grabbed by a confused “Quincy,” and then being horrified because he doesn’t know what happened to his “stuff touchers.”

This seems to be a common theme for him this episode…

Soon neither Quentin nor Penny can remember who they are or why they are in in the forest. They end up going around the same path repeatedly without realizing it, but Quentin is finally pulled out of their pattern when he spots Alice’s necklace on the ground. He can’t recall if he is supposed to be rescuing this girl, but his need to know pushes him and Penny to take a different path, and they manage to make it out of the forest.

“Right seems to be the popular selection…”

Once the effects of the forest wear off, Quentin breaks down, realizing again that Alice is gone.  Penny encourages him to keep going despite the pain, noting that although Alice is gone, other people need him, including him.

“I need you man”

That evening, they come upon the White Lady, and using the tutting Penny showed him, Quentin’s arrow flies true and strikes her in the shoulder.  Penny almost gets himself in trouble again by initially being disrespectful, but she approaches them after pulling the arrow out of her shoulder.

“You could have just snuck up and yelled out, ‘haha!’ like Jane Chatwin did with the questing pig, but nooooo”

When Q requests that she bring Alice back to life, she points out that wish is beyond her capabilities – she can however, grow back Penny’s hands.  Since the White Lady can do nothing to soothe Quentin’s Shade, and because she can’t nap until she fulfills his wish (because that’s the most important reason for fulfilling her obligation…), she offers to take away his memories of Alice, but he refuses.  Instead, Quentin asks to go home to New York, so that he doesn’t end up like Martin Chatwin, always running from sadness and trying to stay there in Fillory forever.  Within the blink of an eye, the White Lady sends Quentin back to Earth, where he throws away his bow and arrow and heads home.

And again, no one in New York notices anything out of the ordinary


Best Bitches Experience the High of Friendship, as Opposed to, You Know…Meth…

Regrouping from last week, Julia acts on rumors she has heard about a woman fulfilling miracles among addicts, or “turning tricks,” by visiting a meth house to find Kady (Penny’s old girlfriend and the one who escaped Reynard’s clutches from Julia’s sacrifice) passed out with a needle still in her arm.

“The shit I have to go through for magic…”

Julia takes Kady back to her apartment, and after a hot shower, a nap and some methadone, Kady is feeling up to talking.  Kady regrets just running when Reynard attacked, rather than running for help, but Julia shares that she can help her now.

Julia pulls out an enchanted preserved Marina from the freezer, much to Kady’s dismay, to show the other woman a code or message carved into Marina’s forearm.  Kady recognizes the number as a locator code for a book in the Brakebills Library.


The girls make a plan to obtain the book using Richard’s alumni key to get into Brakebills, but because Kady was expelled, she can’t even step foot onto campus without setting off alarms.  While Julia can use the key, she has no idea where to go to even find the book, since she doesn’t know Brakebills’ layout.  The women enchant a “best bitches” broken heart charm necklace so that Kady can follow Julia in a mirror off site and guide her towards the book they need.

They need to start selling these at Claire’s

They find the book, but it is charmed with a magical library lo jack, which will cause it to set off alarms if they try to remove it from Brakebills.  Since Julia will need to hand copy the book, Kady suggests that she hide in the Physical Kids cottage, sneaking in under the cover of the constant parties that are always happening there.

Unfortunately, Julia has snuck into the cottage on the night Margo and the Eliot golem visit.  The next morning, Julia is still copying the book when Margo stumbles upon her and confronts her about her traveling to Fillory with Martin, since it caused Penny to lose his hands, for Alice to die, and for Quentin, her childhood friend, to be almost ripped in half and die.  Defensively, Julia points out that had they let her follow through with her plan, both the Beast and Reynard would be dead.  The two women continue to fling insults at each other, with Margo belittling her for being a hedge witch, and Julia pointing out that a dozen more women have died at Reynard’s hands because Margo was probably too concerned about her hair or social life to care.  Margo retaliates by noting that at least she didn’t get her friends killed, and Julia cuts deep, telling her she doesn’t have friends, just people who are so afraid of her that they would rather be on her side.  Clearly having struck a nerve about Margo’s loyalty to her friends, Margo offers a blank book and a mating box without further insults, which will produce a baby book that is a copy of the one Julia has spent all night trying to hand copy.

“Stop being right and copy your damn book”

When Julia returns to her apartment, she and Kady realize it’s a necromancy book, which will bring Marina back for a short amount of time to elaborate on what she was trying to tell them.  After they cast the spell, the final item of which is to burn the book, Marina wakes up in one of the most horrific scenes ever.  She has been somewhere horrible in the great beyond and cries that she doesn’t want to go back, that she can’t go back.

There’s no spin to put on this-it was just awful

She tells Julia before dying AGAIN (bravo for that, Julia) that there was a girl 40 years ago who banished Reynard from Earth, and he was trapped in the other world until Julia called him forth again.  She needs to banish him back to that world in order to defeat him.

With both Kady and Julia shaken up by, you know, bringing back a clearly tortured woman who died in an unspeakable way just to get a few bits of information from her, they make a vow to work together to take out Reynard – after all, they are best bitches.


Q & A & Thoughts about Q & A & Everyone Else

  • Ellie Solkin’s cinematography is still amazing, from the incredibly lit sweeping shots he does to demonstrate how utterly alone and small the gang is in this world of Fillory, to the reverse shots that display a level of intimacy among the characters.  It continues to be a great contrast that parallels the story lines of the show, which is what good cinematography should do.  Here are some examples from this week’s episode (and yes, I realize they are small here, but there were too many good examples):

  • Welcome back Jade Tailor – we missed you! Hopefully Kady will be a part of the gang (well, at least on Julia’s side of the story) for the rest of the season.

Yay for Kady and her broodiness!

  • Kudos once again to Kacey Rohl for her phenomenal work as Marina – her desperation about not wanting to go back to whatever hell she had been sent to was palpable and disturbing.  I am hoping that she will make another appearance if the show follows the books and we make a trip to the Underworld at some point.

Again, this was just messed up

  • I wonder who the girl is who banished Reynard in the first place – maybe it was Kady’s mother? The nurse in the centaur hospital? Or someone else we haven’t met yet?
  • Why do Q and Penny have so many of their breakthrough, raw moments in an infirmary of some type?

This shouldn’t be where you have most of your guy bonding time

  • I like how by the end, Margo and Eliot’s roles were reversed a bit – she was the one insisting on the statue while Eliot was reminding her that they needed to do the adult thing.  They continue to complement each other beautifully, and I am eager to see them continue to “grow up” together.
  • When Dean Fogg offers to help Eliot in saving Fillory, he says it’s his “thesis project.” But isn’t that kind of like enabling Eliot to not take full responsibility for his position as High King? Like if you can see it just as a school project, what true stake does he have in saving it?
  • So, if there is an Eliot golem out there still, how long until it starts sapping his life force similar to what happened to Margo in season 1? Or does it only sap your life force if it was produced against your will?
  • While I usually love all of the work the actors do on this show, I do have one criticism this week, and perhaps I’m missing something subtle. When Penny and Quentin managed to exit the Flying Forest, Q was supposed to be holding back tears as he thought of Alice.  However, his expressions just reminded me of those moments in Tropic Thunder where Tug Speedman was trying to be emotional, and it wasn’t working.  Now, it’s not like we’ve never seen Quentin wear his heart on his sleeve, or freak out up till this point (i.e. moths in the psychiatrist’s office, or the video of him telling the psychiatrist he had to stop the beast, or almost getting a lobotomy).  But his expressions in this episode, particularly this scene, just didn’t work for me for being consistent with his character – it seemed so over the top that the sincerity wasn’t there and I expected a sweeping emotional track to play in the background like we were in a Hallmark Original Classic.  So unless this was a supposed to be a commentary on how Quentin lacks the maturity to have real control over his feelings, that he hasn’t learned the “adult” way to deal with grief, I have to say this was not Jason Ralph’s best work – I wasn’t convinced he was really trying to hold back tears for Alice.

  • It also didn’t work for me, unfortunately, when Ralph did a woobly gesture when they are first getting high in the Flying Forest.  While Ralph has incredible use of his body as an actor, that was the problem here – because Quentin is usually slouchy and concave to a certain point, and Ralph really embodies that, the fact that the tiniest bit of contact high, when we’ve seen him drinking like a fish before at parties, caused him to make that kind of movement took me out of the moment – I could see Ralph there, rather than Quentin.

He seemed way too easily under the influence

  • So why is it ok for Professor Lipson to take Xanax when Fogg made Quentin throw away his anti-anxiety medications in Season 1?
  • Fen is probably not going to be thrilled the first time she witnesses Margo kissing Eliot, like she did when she went back to Earth to try to find something to help him, even though it’s pretty platonic.  She certainly doesn’t look happy when Margo interrupted their potential sexy time, and when they are meeting with the advisors at the beginning of the episode, Fen makes a point to move to stand next to Eliot to assert herself.

  • Summer Bishil’s hair is gorgeous in these scenes – that is all, just a hair observation.

We need more of this

  • When Fogg and Eliot were talking, he asked Eliot what he thought would happen when he jumped into Fillory.  Eliot hesitantly admitted that he thought he would die.  So I still stick with my theory from last season that El was utterly suicidal in those last couple of episodes.  This is what I see as consistency in a character. And this isn’t one of my usual “OMG, I love Hale Appleman” moments.  OK, it is to a certain extent, because I love Appleman’s portrayal of this character, but Stella Maeve and Arjun Gupta were also really consistent with their characters in this episode.  It took a lot for Eliot to say out loud to Fogg that he thought he would die when he went to Fillory, and apparently didn’t have a problem with dying, and you can clearly see the struggle etched on Eliot’s face even now thinking back on that moment.

He really was ready to let that magician kill him.

  • Maeve also did a lovely job showing Julia’s pain in having to constantly try to go after Reynard, and the steps she has to go through to get there.  You could see that it hurt her deeply to see Marina so frightened, and she regretted having to bring her back, only to send her back to whatever terrible place she had been in.

  • Gupta continues to let out Penny’s vulnerability slowly but surely, and continued to do a phenomenal job demonstrating the frustration of not being able to control his hands.  It is an interesting parallel between the curse of uncontrollable hands, and seizures, which like the curse, are stigmatized in certain cultures.  I’m actually a little sad that he’s regrowing new hands, because Gupta really showed that delicate balance between frustration and shame that people with seizures sometimes experience. I was also a little surprised as to how much the forest affected him, seeing that he used a pretty significant amount of heroin last season before it finally made any sort of difference to his body.  I feel like the contact high wouldn’t have been quite as debilitating to him as it was; maybe because his body had been through a large amount of trauma recently, he was more susceptible to it?

  • What the hell is the deal with this River Watcher dude? It was obvious from the first episode that he was going to be a problem for the gang – I do wonder if perhaps he is Umber, Ember’s brother in disguise.   Probably not, but there’s something more to him than meets the eye. Plus I also wanted an excuse to throw in another Tropic Thunder moment.

  • So the Children of Earth all have cell phones, even though they move in and out of a magical world – if Kady could see the text from the book in the mirror, why didn’t she just take a picture of each page with her phone or Julia’s and save Julia a lot of effort?

Like, screenshot that shit.

  • So the White Lady or Winter’s Doe, can be found in the Darkling Woods, just past the Flying Forest.  I was waiting for Quentin to finish that with a bunch of other weird places, like “around the bend from Squishy Holes, across the Peckish Meadows, and a little bit east of Blossoming Pickles.”
  • When the White Lady first granted Penny’s wish, and Penny specifically requested “I want my hands back,” I was expecting her to just throw a pair of hands onto the forest floor, rather than actually grow them back.  Because magical creatures are usually so literal, and because this show has conditioned me to believe that story lines that are hopeful usually go horribly wrong.


Magical Moments for Memorization

  • “Since when are you Fillory Clinton?” – Eliot to Margo when she was trying to make him take responsibility as High King
  • “My crown is just as heavy as yours.” – Margo to Eliot when trying to make him understand that being High Queen isn’t any easier than being High King
  • “Fucking Todd.” – Margo upon seeing the new king of the Physical Kids cottage
  • “Do you know how much it takes to get a horse drunk? I can’t feel my face, much less my face.” – Penny to Q when getting ready for a handectomy by drinking centaur wine
  • “Let’s go hunt the White Lady? People like me get shot for saying shit like that.” – Penny to Q after Quentin suggests they go after the Questing Creature the White Lady


Next Week

Next week’s episode, Cheat Day, gives us Attempted Murder! Intrigue! Coups! and…Corporate America! The real question is – will the attempted murder happen at Quentin’s new accounting job? We can only hope.  Make sure to take a break from getting those figures to your High King (or boss) on Wednesday to watch and find out.


Photos from other than those credited below:

I Adulted Today t-shirt:

Tropic Thunder on Pinterest:

Tropic Thunder on Giphy:;