This was a difficult episode to watch, as I struggled to make light of anything that was happening. The show handled some complex story lines in a very sensitive manner, and there was a little humor, but not quite as much as normal – there were more “oh shit!” moments and poignancy than ever. There was also much to be said about whether or not magic was more useful or harmful, which parallels the fifth episode of season 1 as well, “Mendings Major and Minor.” Perhaps this episode was The Magicians “cheat day” in how they weave everything together – they let themselves dive deeper into these more philosophical issues a little more than they have in the past.
But let’s dive in too, in my typical tl;dr fashion, because I’m a wee bit obsessed. As always, spoilers if you haven’t yet watched the episode.
Heading Down South
We open with Penny in Dean Fogg’s office – he has his hands back from the White Lady but they don’t really work at all. Apparently “I want my hands back that can cast spells” would have been the proper request, so I wasn’t entirely wrong last week about magical creatures being way too literal and something going wrong with Penny’s hand restoration.
After Penny expresses his normal anger at Brakebills, Fogg offers to send him to see Mayakovsky, who may be able to…give him a hand (hehe…cut me some slack – I haven’t done a good hand pun for weeks). It’s either that, or he could send him to work at Plaxco with Quentin, who Fogg placed after his return to New York by the White Lady.
Penny instead chooses to travel to Brakebills South, where he is promptly trapped as a potential intruder, despite his testament to Mayakovsky that he’s a student.
Mayakovsky is at first reluctant to help, since that’s his normal MO, but he agrees to see what he can do if Penny assists him with a project he is working on. Prior to starting work on that, however, he examines Penny’s hands. Apparently they are useless for magic, but quite capable of holding things or masturbating, which arguably, could be more important than casting spells.
He asks Penny about his ability to travel, which hasn’t been affected by the loss of his hands; his challenge is that he can’t take anyone with him, since he can’t hold onto them. Frustrated, Penny again asks for his help, to which Mayakovsky responds by leading him to the first of the tasks he needs help with in order to hold up his end of the bargain. Penny is faced with a huge, floor to ceiling, pile of rope, and Mayakovsky needs all of the knots untied. After that, he’s tasked with filing down a table into sawdust.
Once Penny has finished the table, the two discuss the fact that Penny really only came to Brakebills to learn how to stop the voices in his head. He suggests that maybe Penny doesn’t care about magic as much as he thinks he does, given that nothing they have done so far has fixed his hands. Mayakovsky shows him a wave pattern tracking the energy spikes in magic that have been happening since Ember shit in the Wellspring, and that if something isn’t done soon to resolve it, magic will cease to exist, and it will be a very bad time in history to be a magician.
Penny challenges Mayakovsky, asking him why he’s encouraging him to leave and give up magic, when the professor himself has never left Brakebills South. Turns out he is trapped there under an Incorporate Bond for sleeping with a student – it was either go to Brakebills South or give up magic. He gave up the girl in order to remain a magician, because, as he put it, he “made love to lots of students, but then he fucked the wrong one.”
After their night of drunken philosophizing, Penny is eager to keep working towards fixing his hands, but Mayakovsky points out that any sort of cure would be useless without restoring magic to its full potential. He shows Penny the “battery” he’s created for storing magic – Penny untying all of the knots in the magical rope, and shaving down the magical table, released a great deal of magical energy that is now stored for a rainy day.
Penny, however, could give a rat’s ass about all that, and whines about (what else?) his hands. Instead of answering him, Mayakovsky rips out a picture of moss from a nearby book and tells Penny to retrieve it for him from FIllory, since it is great for carrying the current of energy. Penny, super frustrated at this point, decides to indulge his old professor if it will get him closer to getting his hands fully restored.
A Whole World Away
In Fillory, despite the whole “ruling a kingdom” thing, High King Eliot is still focused on having his people create a drinkable wine. They are still failing miserably; however, Fen arrives to share some exciting news that Eliot toasts to, even with the shitty wine.
Turns out that Fen is pregnant, at least according to the Pregnancy Bunny, who spits out the word “pregnant” in a demonic voice every time it comes up in conversation.
Eliot tries to appear thrilled after Fen calls him out for not being delighted at the news, and he offers the toast to what will be their “violently attractive progeny” but the words don’t quite carry up to his eyes.
Eliot tries to reassure Fen that he’s excited, but it doesn’t quite carry through, and he admits that his own father was not the model parent, and so he fears that he is ill equipped to handle the job himself.
As he is sharing this with Fen, a servant comes up behind Eliot with a tray. When Eliot returns the chalice he was toasting from to the tray, the servant seizes the opportunity to try to strangle the High King with a cord.
Eliot manages to choke out “knife” to Fen, who scrambles to grab one from a nearby table, but hesitates to do anything once she has it in hand. Luckily High Queen Margo hears the ruckus and steps in (well, more like separates the two with a fierce level of magic, screaming the High King’s name as she does so), throwing the assassin off of Eliot.
Once the man is caught, Eliot directs his guards to take the usurper to the dungeon, but not before he backhands him for continuing to threaten him. Once the man is dragged away, Eliot laments that the world is against him when he tries to express his feelings, so he won’t be doing that again any time soon.
Margo and Eliot reprimand their security detail, while trying to determine what to do with this native Fillorian, whom Eliot initially assumes is from Loria. His advisers suggest a variety of different ways to execute the prisoner with eerily calm clarity, including via strangulation for the symbolism, a bed of spikes, or being drawn, quartered and sodomized by centaurs.
Eliot and Margo go to speak to the prisoner, rather than decide on immediate death, and we find out that he is Bayler, one of the Fillorian United Fighters (or FU Fighters), who will not rest until a native Fillorian, rather than a Child of Earth, is upon the throne. Eliot notes that the group should really take that sort of thing up with Ember, since it was the god’s decree that one from Earth should serve as royalty, while Margo can’t get past the fact that Bayler is a FU Fighter.
The two discuss what to do with the martyr Bayler, and how to deal with political insurgency in general, since they themselves haven’t had to deal with it (other than Eliot getting kicked out of a fivesome, which probably doesn’t count), and there’s not a lot of historical precedence for them to go on. Margo offers to go do some research in the Brakebills library on it, which Eliot agrees to only if she brings back some Adderall to the kingdom.
When she returns, they contemplate various government overthrows/executions in order to determine whether or not to execute Baylor. They finally determine that they will have to execute him, and will tell the council in the morning. Eliot insists that he will do it, as the man’s life was his burden to bear. Margo scoffs at him for being all Game of Thrones, which prompts them to add the execution of Ned Stark to their list.
That night, as Eliot watches Fen sleep, he is overcome with a sense of duty and visits Bayler, asking him what the FU Fighters would do to save Fillory if they had the opportunity.
Whatever Bayler’s response was (we don’t see it) prompts Eliot to announce the next day that they will not be executing the prisoner. This surprises all of the advisers, particularly Abigail and Margo.
After an uncomfortably restrained argument in front of his advisers with Margo, Eliot provides his reasoning for not killing the prisoner, which is that he is going to be a father (although he falters a bit on the word “father”) and that he wants to raise his child in a world where one does not kill their problems away. Margo, after failing to sway him given that the High King’s ruling overrides the High Queen’s, storms off, but not before pointing out that people are going to die anyway – she’s just trying to make sure that it isn’t him who dies first.
Following this declaration, we see Fen going to visit the prisoner, and thus is one of our “oh shit” moments of the night.
Turns out Fen was a FU Fighter herself, infiltrating the monarchy on behalf of the group and her lover Bayler.
However, given that Eliot isn’t a total douche, and the fact that she’s pregnant, she tells Bayler that she won’t betray her husband to the group. Bayler, however, threatens to tell Eliot about her past, and Fen responds that she will share that information with the king first. Bayler continues to threaten her if she does, insisting that the underground network of fighters is broad enough to find out when Eliot is at his most vulnerable, and use it to take him down. She storms out, but not before threatening to kill Baylor herself if the FU Fighters make another move to come after the High King.
In his effort to completely give up magic, Quentin has secured a position at Plaxco in New York, courtesy of Dean Fogg.
He makes small talk with one of his coworkers before trying his hand at creating breakfast with the magical Keurig and mysterious toaster. He does slip up, however, using magic to open a jar of jam, and is spotted by another one of his coworkers, although she doesn’t acknowledge it at the time.
But then Quentin gets an invitation to lunch from none other than that female coworker…Emily Greenstreet!
The two go out to a nearby restaurant, in which they kvetch about how much magic fucks up your life, from it causing one to drink more once it is given up (since it takes far more booze to combat the dullness of being a Muggle), to it causing a multitude of other problems, rather than solving them, for the magician. Emily realizes she’s going to be late for a meeting if they stay at the restaurant much longer, and in taking one large final swig of red wine, she manages to dump a large amount of it on the front of her white blouse. Quentin, without thinking, immediately tuts a removal spell to clean her shirt, and besides going against everything they just talked about, it comes across as creepily invasive.
Back at the office, Quentin attempts to awkwardly apologize to Emily, who kind of accepts his apology, but not really. Personally, given her proclivity for drinking, I’m pretty sure she’s six sheets to the wind at this point, and her response to him is the half-hearted honesty that comes from being drunk.
Quentin takes his leave and returns to his desk to do a super adult, but super painful, activity – composing an email informing the Quinns that the second of their children has passed away.
It has taken him so long to compose the email, that by nightfall one of his coworkers still there jokingly accuses him of staying late in order to jerk off in the privacy of his office, but with the thrill of, you know, jerking off in his office.
After the coworker leaves, Emily barges in as well without knocking. When Quentin asks her to do so in the future, she also accuses him of masturbating, but with no judgement, since she does it in her office too.
She apologizes for not letting him apologize earlier and then offers him some of her vodka-in-a-mug, before dragging him off to do something more fun than potentially getting himself off in his office.
The two of them are drunkenly walking home, playing truth or dare as they go. Emily picks truth, so Quentin goes right for it and asks her if she still blames herself for what happened to Charlie. She doesn’t answer at first, but makes sure he understands what happened, and then asks about Alice, only to find out she’s dead.
The two make their way to the water front to sit, where she finally tells him that she blames herself only when she wakes up, when she goes to bed, and every time in between.
It’s then his turn in their game, and Quentin chooses dare. To which Emily gleefully slides a joint from her bra and has him partake in it with her. She then asks him if he knows Weizenham’s Third, which is a tiny weather suspension spell she does sometimes when getting high to make patterns with the smoke, but one must enchant their lips to make it work correctly.
The two flirt with their smoke, with her creating a “Q” in the air, and him re-creating the Dodge Neon ad campaign for her. She calls him an “f-ing dork” for the “hi,” as did my husband when I came home with that car years ago based simply on those advertisements.
She follows it up by making the glass horse out of smoke that was Charlie and Alice’s favorite, which prompts them to return to her apartment for intimacy time. I’d say sexy time, because they were both pretty drunk, but there was an underlying level of urgency to simply be with another person that came across stronger between the two of them than just wanting to have sex.
She convinces him to do a spell with her in the shower (because it only works when your skin is wet), which prompts another “oh shit” moment of the night for my family and myself – literally, my husband and I, in unison, yelped “oh shit” seconds before Quentin did as he looked in the mirror.
Emily begs him not to judge her as Quentin starts to put the pieces together of Emily and Mayakovsky’s past, and she asks him to just go with it, and maybe try a Russian accent…
When they are done, and Quentin is Quentin again, they snuggle with Emily pointing out that this is what she misses the most, before offering to allow him to cast the spell on her.
Within moments of entering the shower, Emily has transformed into Alice, breaking our hearts and Quentin’s. Despite his sorrow, he lets her lead him back into the water and he gives in to how much he misses his lost love.
The next morning, Emily tries to coax him into doing it again, but Quentin points out that it would involve magic again, and everyday can’t be cheat day. He declines to do again what they did the night before , and she gets angry, thinking they were helping each other. Quentin acknowledges that it was great, and probably exactly what he needed, but it was also really weird and really sad and he now feels awful, worse than before. So not really doing him any favors with that spell. He tells her that he just doesn’t want to use magic that way, and leaves, saying that he would see her at work.
On his way back to his apartment, he pulls up the email he was composing to the Quinns on his phone while waiting to cross the street, and reluctantly hits send. However, when he looks up, for a moment he sees a very sickly looking Alice standing across the street from him.
She mouths “help me” to Quentin, her mouth twisted with fury and pain, before disappearing.
Quentin, meanwhile steps out onto the street without looking to try to get to her, only to almost get hit by a bus. He doesn’t though, and he is left staring at the space Alice occupied only moments ago.
Staying in Place
On the direction of dead Marina last week, Julia and Kady are in her apartment, sifting through newspaper articles from July 1976 to try to find something that would tip them off about the girl who banished Reynard 40 years prior. Because banishing Reynard would have taken an enormous amount of energy to cast, they are hoping to find something that shows up as weirder than normal in the papers.
As the two are looking through the stories, Kady needs a food break, but the slice of pizza she brings over to their table prompts Julia to vomit in the sink for the third time that day.
In a surprise to no one, but still worthy of an “oh shit” moment, we find out that Julia is pregnant.
Frustrated that she may never be able to put the rape behind her, Julia wants to terminate the pregnancy by any means necessary, even by using the weird dark magic they had before modern medicine. Kady points out that they could do that, but it would probably destroy most of her internal organs along with the fetus, and tries to reassure her that an abortion is a simple mundane procedure that will take care of it. Julia, however, is terrified that the embryo might not be a simple human that can undergo that type of mundane procedure. Kady encourages her to take a deep breath for the time being and they make an appointment for the next day at the local clinic.
The following day, Julia meets with the doctor at the clinic, who confirms the pregnancy. Julia immediately says she wants an abortion, and the physician shares with her that there is a waiting list of a couple of days. Julia begs for them to do it sooner, and the clinician immediately suspects abuse or rape, giving Julia a safe space to share the reason for her urgency. Julia, however, rightfully assumes that “a god I accidentally summoned from another world raped me and no amount of reassurance from you about getting justice, however, well-intentioned, is going to stop him” would not be easily entered on a police report, and the two women come to an unspoken understanding as to why she is in need of the procedure so quickly.
Back at the apartment, Julia admits that she is nervous about the abortion, even though she recognizes that this is probably the easiest thing she’s had to deal with in months. Kady then shares with her that she herself had an abortion – he was a drummer who told her that he couldn’t get an erection while wearing a condom. Kady mentions how alone she felt the night before the procedure, but reminds Julia that she isn’t alone since she has her best bitch close by.
Bright and early the next morning, the two arrive at the clinic, and Julia attempts to check in for her follow up appointment. Something, or someone, however, compels the receptionist to delete her appointment and behave as if she didn’t just confirm Julia was in their system 30 seconds ago. Julia, however, has the receptionist call the doctor, who invites Julia back to the procedure room, despite the clerical error. Kady stays in the waiting room, although I am not really clear as to why, since you can usually have someone come back with you.
Back in the room, everything seems to be going smoothly, until, you know, the doctor starts having trouble threading her instruments. The doctor brushes it off as just being a little sleepy early in the morning, but something, or someone, has a hold of her too, similar to what happened to the receptionist. Unable to stop herself, the doctor takes a very sharp instrument and drives it into her eye (oh shit…), with Julia screaming for Kady.
The receptionist, meanwhile, is oblivious as to what is going on as Kady rushes back – she’s either compelled into doing nothing by a godly force or she’s received some sort of magical headphones that block out all sounds of someone committing suicide with medical instruments.
Julia, clearly not thinking about the fact that there is now a dead body on the floor near them, hysterically demands that Kady put up her wards and do the procedure herself. Kady nixes that idea in favor of getting rid of the deceased doctor’s body, and that they will find another way to get rid of the thing growing inside her (I say thing because it’s clearly not a full on human at this point).
Q & A & Thoughts about Q & A & Everyone Else
- Again, first praise goes to director of photography Elie Smolkin, with his gorgeous shots that continue through this season:
- Praise is also in order for writer Mike Moore (and any of the other writers who contributed to this episode) in the way they handled Julia’s unexpected pregnancy and decision to get an abortion; at no point did they try to categorize it as something that it wasn’t or disguise it in euphemisms. Julia clearly tells the doctor at the clinic that she wants an abortion, and her and Kady’s conversations about their fears and experiences are sincere and resonate with the audience.
- Kudos also to the writers for making us recognize our intense need to not be alone – that even the most solitary among us need someone else in their lives. Mind you, “we-both-caused-loved-ones-to-over-magic-themselves-and-go-full-niffin” is a little bit specific in terms of circumstances that bring people together, but Kady and Julia, Eliot and Margo, Mayakovsky and Penny, and even Fen and Bayler showed us that we all long for someone to fully understand our experiences.
- Weirdly, Plaxco Corp is a bunch of different companies around the country, including an oil company in Texas, a suspended business in Arkansas, and a real estate agency in California. It also popped up in an accounting textbook, so I’m interested in the origin of Plaxco just because I am a total nerd.
- I also kind of want a plaxcocorp.com website where you can get portfolio assistance from Quentin. Like if he really wanted to, couldn’t he manipulate the stocks so that you got the best return on your investment, similar to how Julia manipulated that ATM machine in season one?
- When Penny yells for Mayakovsky to let him down from the ceiling since he is just a student, it’s a pretty harsh reminder that they really are still students – these “kids” (and I say “kids” with myself being Sunderland’s age, even though they are all technically adults) have been attacked, raped, forced into ruling an entire world, found out they are going to be parents, and suffered devastating losses in the past year. It makes it hard to remember that they are still learning about the world, albeit learning about it now in the harshest way possible.
- Where the hell did Julia and Kady get all of those newspapers to mark up from the past 40 years? My college only had microfiche because papers that old didn’t exist anymore.
- Stella Maeve and Jade Tailor killed it this week as best bitches; having had to go through this experience with someone myself, it is an incredibly difficult decision to make, regardless of the circumstances that caused the pregnancy, and is further complicated by one’s personal beliefs regarding freedom of choice for oneself and others. Maeve balanced Julia’s hesitancy, feelings of helplessness, and repulsion beautifully with this story line, and Tailor wove together Kady’s frustration at not being able to more for her, and her underlying guilt about the whole situation with Reynard and Julia’s sacrifice, with honesty and clarity.
- I wish that Pregnancy Bunny was an actual toy, like you could squeeze it and it would blurt out “pregnant” at any point in a conversation. Get on that, Syfy…
- Jason Ralph was so much more on this week as Quentin – I bitched last week about Q’s grief being a little over the top, but this week, from his physicality to his restrained emotionality, Ralph caused me to have genuine empathy for the character.
- Eliot is getting all sorts of new jobs he doesn’t really feel prepared for this season, from ruling a kingdom to being a parent. Unfortunately, I’m not sure Dean Fogg can really provide much help in terms of not repeating the mistakes Eliot’s own father made with him.
- It does always seem that when Eliot tries to get “real” with anyone, someone or something interrupts that moment for him. In Season 1, when he finally let himself be vulnerable with Mike, his lover ended up being possessed by the Beast, and Eliot had to kill him. When he spat out his frustrations at Plover’s home to Quentin and Alice about the world being cruel, and how naïve Alice was to think that she could do anything about it, Quentin took it as a personal attack on his girlfriend, rather than recognizing that there was something very wrong with Eliot’s behavior (seriously, his hands are completely balled up in fists, but hey, don’t notice, Q). When he tried to tell Margo that he thought something was broken inside of him, it turned out that he was talking to the Margolem, who kissed him, rather than listened to what he was saying. And now this season, when he tries to share his feelings about parenting with his wife, he gets interrupted by a would-be assassin. I was actually a little disappointed last season when Eliot found out he would be High King of Fillory, and sort of brusquely decided to put “childish things behind him” (like, you know, excessive amounts of unprocessed grief) – that we wouldn’t get to see it all come to a head, and watch Hale Appleman play that in all of its complex glory. However, I am hopeful now that we are eventually going to see something really snap in Eliot (wow, that sounds awful), BUT hopefully not to the detriment of his new little person – I’m not that sadistic.
- I don’t think he is at all over having to kill Mike, particularly with his statement to Margo about Baylor’s execution being his burden to bear, and then the eventual stay he grants the Fillorian. I’m thinking all of his new responsibilities as High King have simply allowed him to push that pain further and further down, rather than actually deal with the fact that he had to murder someone he loved, and how it may manifest itself through the rest of the season.
- OK, my final Eliot observation – I wonder (well, not really – I’m going to assume it was his father) who backhanded him like that for him to be able to deliver one to Bayler that was equally as brutal.
- This right here is the embodiment of High Queen Margo – Summer Bishil is on fire when she’s protecting her bae. I’m thinking we are going to get lots of Badass Auntie Margo in the future, once she gets over the initial shock that Eliot is going to be a dad.
- Very glad to see Rizwan Manji back as Tick Pickwick, an adviser to the Fillorian royalty – Manji is hysterical in his deadpan portrayal and suggestions to Eliot and Margo.
- A big welcome back to Brian O’Byrne this week as Mayakovsky – he’s like the weird uncle who gives advice on random shit, but deep down knows what the hell he’s talking about. Hopefully we will get more time with him as the season goes on. What am I saying? Of course we will – Penny’s out moss hunting for him.
- Will Julia be using Mayakovsky’s wave patterns to figure out who the girl was 40 years ago who banished Reynard? It looks like there were a lot of charts on that desk. However, the professor hasn’t been at Brakebills South for 40 years, but who’s to say that he (or someone else) hasn’t been collecting that information for a while now?
- So on multiple viewings of this episode, it becomes painfully clear that Fen has some connection to Bayler. She hesitates in stabbing him while he’s strangling Eliot, and she flinched when Eliot smacked the other man. And like most good magicians, the show employs classic misdirection when the council is trying to decide on the man’s punishment – the viewer focuses on Pickwick’s face initially as he speaks, but it is Fen’s side eye at the possibility of Bayler’s death that is the real story of that shot.
- And one more thing related to Fen and Eliot – why the hell is Eliot trusting a talking bunny over, you know, a pregnancy test that Margo could easily secure from their local Earthly CVS? Eliot isn’t an idiot, and while he is still unaware of Fen’s double life, most dudes would trust peeing on a stick over an omnipotent rabbit, even if it is in a magical land.
- When Margo finds out about Fen’s past, will she respect the other woman for being more than just an adoring dish rag to Eliot, and for giving up the subterfuge, or will she have to resist the temptation to destroy the mother of his child as a potential threat?
- If Margo does go after Fen, can we please get a Marbigail pairing to take her down? I really need some marsupial – queen scheming.
- OK, I lied – one more Eliot observation. That must have been one hell of a strangulation mark, since he is wearing the shit out of those scarves.
- So is Alice now stuck in that outfit as a niffin for all of eternity? Like I don’t know about her, but the tights with the holes in them would drive me crazy after a while.
Magical Moments for Memorization
“The perv in the igloo? Pass.” – Penny on possibly being sent to see Mayakovsky
“My own people are trying to kill me? So French.” – Eliot after the assassination attempt
“A fifth centaur…sets the spike…if you will” – Abigail the Sloth on how to finish off the prisoner during his execution
“Why don’t we keep drinking and make some really, really bad decisions?” – Quentin to Emily in her apartment
“Then you are just fancy scarf wrapped around idiot.” – Mayakovsky telling Penny what he will end us if he gives up magic
Next week’s episode, “The Cock Barrens” notes that along with a Stinkmonster, another kingdom (I’m assuming Loria) threatens Fillory, and Julia makes more progress in her revenge plan against Reynard. Of course, given the events of this week, she can really only go up from here (I would argue that demanding that your medically unskilled best friend abort an unearthly creature from your body is pretty close to rock bottom). Until then, hug your loved ones, avoid Coptic spells to keep things from getting awkward with said loved ones, and try not to get hit by a bus.
Picture credits –
All pictures from Syfy.com unless noted below.
Plymouth Neon Hi Campaign: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/tag/dodge-neon/