The Ardent Eccentric – The Magicians S2 E9 – Lesser Evils

This week, many members of the gang had to choose between the lesser of two evils, which of course, ties in perfectly with the episode’s title, “Lesser Evils.” Some were conflicted by this choice, others not so much.

As always, spoilers.  And I promise by next week I’ll have these done a little earlier in the week – I finally figured out the best way to recap while watching (only took me 22 episodes), and work should slow down a bit, so at least for the last 3 episodes of season 2 (sob that there are only that many episodes left), the recap/reviews should be up a little sooner.


Drama at Brakebills

Quentin has been put in a cage by Dean Fogg & Professor Lipson after Penny and Kady came to them for help.  You know, because Alice the niffin tried to kill Penny last week, as well as destroying Q from within.

Just a typical day at Brakebills…

Quentin thinks it’s a little redundant to be shackled while he is also in the cage, but it’s for his own safety. In the cage next to him, Josh (of last season’s Victoria and Josh, soon to be a sitcom on Disney Channel!) has contracted sexually transmitted lyncathropy, which, like Q if he continues to hold on Alice, will be something that’s not curable but only treatable.  To Quentin’s dismay (reminiscent of how I used to feel when I caught my older cousin snooping through my shit), Penny and Kady go through his bag in order to get the button back to Fillory.

Ember help them if any of them ever lose this…

Professor Lipson reminds him that, you know, he’s dying and probably should worry about something other than his damn bag. However, to Q’s credit, I also would have accepted death over my cousin reading about the way I used to fawn over Anthony Keidis.  So…yeah…I’m with you on priorities, Q.

Later, Quentin is struggling with a very disgusted Alice, as Josh marks his territory in exactly the way you think he does.

The shit niffins have to put up with, honestly

Not aware that Alice is also talking to Quentin, Josh reminds his cage mate that being a lyncanthrope isn’t pretty, and they aren’t all the same.  Alice pounces on that concept to try to get Q to set her free, saying that all niffins aren’t the same – he shouldn’t assume that she would go on a killing spree, the same way they shouldn’t assume Josh would kill because he was pre-werewolf. Q refuses to release her even though all she wants to do is produce beautiful, high-level magic – he can’t imagine a world without Alice and he can’t imagine boxing her either. Josh, meanwhile, thinks Q is talking to him (admittedly about some weird shit) because he doesn’t understand that Quentin literally has the weight of the world on his back…and that it talks…and makes threats.

Later, Alice tries to gain leverage by talking to Julia, trying to get the other woman to release her.  She focuses on the cold clarity in which Julia can now see the world, seeing as she no longer has her shade to hold her back.

Sometimes you can be a little too close to your loved ones

Alice shares that she has the needed energy to help with Reynard, but Julia may still have a bit of Shade in her, since she denies the niffin’s request, given that she’s causing Q to bleed out from his brain and collapse in his cage.

Q is having the shittiest first year of grad school ever

Later, after Julia nearly sacrifices him to Reynard to try to force him to release Alice, Q realizes how futile it has been to keep niffin Alice with him.  He can’t bring himself to box her either, so he sets her free with the warning that he hopes she just does beautiful magic, and you know, not murder people.  After a meaningful look between them, and an ambiguous giggle from Alice, she shoots up into the air like a blue streaking star, leaving Q alone to figure out what the hell to do next.

The new comet, Illuminati Alais


This Fillory Story Isn’t Just Filler

Margo and El are talking to their advisers about the fact that they are the least popular and trusted monarchs in history in Fillory.  Julia’s tree genocide (or “aborcide” as amazing Tick Pickwick suggests, for a kinder, gentler, alternative) has caused the military to desert their posts, and the other trees are readying for civil war.  Additionally, Ember’s bowel movement in the Wellspring is causing magical brownouts with increasing frequency.

Abigail the Sloth (or “Her Slowness”), in her super creepy, “I-should-have-a-tracheotomy” voice” tells Eliot and Margo that there is another alternative to war – High King Eliot can challenge King Idri (Prince Ess’s father) of Loria to a duel.  The reason that Abigail and the other advisors haven’t brought it up before now, though, is that it is a nearly impossible task – no king has every volunteered to participate in a duel, and the ones who were forced into it were easily killed. Eliot, however, thinks he has a good chance, given that King Idri has to be at least 50, and he can use magic during the duel against the older king.  Eliot’s also already seeing the statues Fillorians will build for him when he succeeds, since his advisers assure him that if he wins, he will be the greatest leader Fillory has ever known.


“I’m sorry, did you say greatest leader Fillory has ever known?”

Eliot’s preparing for his duel, with the false impression that sword fighting is just like attacking someone with a giant butter knife.

This would be the best food fight ever

Margo, the master Welters strategist, points out that there are numerous variables he’s overlooking that could affect the outcome of the duel. Eliot thinks he’ll be fine since he’s a Magician, but his High Queen reminds him that there’s only a couple of spells that can enchant a sword to that extent, and those spells take months to learn.  She asks him if he’s ever touched a sword before today, and of course my mind, immediately goes into the gutter.

Uh, yeah, Margo, definitely looks like he’s totally a master at holding his sword

Fen thinks she has a solution to the whole “needing-a-magical-sword” thing – her grandfather, a master bladesmith enchanted a sword for Fillorian royalty to use. Eliot tries the incantation, which brings forth the power and magic of all the masters that have come before him, and starts to have some hope, given the power of the sword.  He even admits to liking Fen even more at this point, and she humbly points out that she puts her family first, and now Eliot and their baby are family.  He’s so grateful, he even promises her that he’ll try not to die again.

Not so shitty having a wife now, is it?

While Eliot is training for the duel, Margo has a one-on-one (or is it one-on-two with her translator?) with Her Slowness Abigail about what they can do to fix the Wellspring, since there can’t be any brownouts or interruptions to the magic during Eliot’s duel.  Margo goes to Abigail since she’s the only one in the kingdom that won’t bullshit her. The royal sloth suggests that they contact the fairies to fix the Wellspring – apparently these creatures have been able to fix it the whole time they’ve been struggling to find a solution.

Well maybe if someone got her a throat lozenge, she’d be more forthcoming with information

High Queen Margo is rightfully pissed that they didn’t tell her this right away; however, no one mentioned the fairies before now because the fairies are kind of assholes, their price for assistance is usually exceedingly high, and they can only be contacted through a human ambassador, who could take days or weeks to arrive in Fillory.  She demands that they send for him.

While having his grandfather-in-law’s sword has certainly made him feel more confident in his ability to win the duel, Eliot’s still pretty scared. He knows that if he’s not quite good enough everyone else will be killed or imprisoned.

You’re adorable when you’re worried about everyone else, El

Margo reminds him that before major battles, armies would sing to keep their confidence up.  And she remembers a certain someone who did a fab job as Jean Valjean in his high school production of Les Miserables.

While Eliot appreciates her recognizing his immense talent as arguably the most challenged hero in musical history, he fails to see what that has to do with the situation at hand.  Margo tells them they are going to keep his confidence up by recreating one of the songs from the show, and as a Magician, she’s enchanted the lyrics and given the royal staff the ability to serve as the chorus.  With Eliot serving as Marius, Margo as Cosette, Fen as Eponine and the other advisers as back up, they plan for battle to the tune of “One Day More.” Which is quite possibly the best parody of this song ever.

They better succeed, or the people of Fillory will be Looking Down…

They are finishing their rendition when they show up for battle, much to the confusion of King Idri and Prince Ess, who wonder if the duel was scheduled to take place that day, or if there was a production even they missed.  Instead, Eliot invokes the guidance of the sword masters before him and brandishes his weapon at King Idri.

Not sure if this is a proper stance, but El looks sexy as hell

The two men spar, with Idri slashing Eliot’s left arm.  Eliot, however, powered by magic, manages to become ambidextrous and battles on with his right hand, which scares Idri a bit.  The Lorian king runs off into the woods, and since they can’t stop until one of them is dead, Eliot follows him.

“Idri” – Lorian for “Asshole”

In the woods, Eliot manages to hold his own, until a poorly timed magical brownout causes Eliot to be the one on the run.  And the magical brownout isn’t just a brownout, it’s a blackout – the Wellspring has gone completely dry.

Fortunately, the arrival of the ambassador to the fairies is conveniently timed, as he arrives right after the blackout. Margo, who has been watching the duel in the woods through a scrying, Pensieve style bowl, has to leave her High King behind.

I feel like this is a Fillorian security measure that could come in handy

Apparently the fairies can fix the Wellspring; in return, however, they demand the High King’s growing baby as payment. With the ambassador listening behind the wall, Margo tells Fen that without magic, Eliot will most certainly die in the duel.  Fen immediately agrees to do whatever is needed to help him, and Margo carefully tells her that she needs to agree to whatever she is asked to do.  Fen again says that she will do whatever is necessary, and the ambassador, hearing the promise of the mother-to-be, brings the fairies to restore the Wellspring.

“Hear that? I’m convincing my best friend’s wife to sell her baby to you without actually telling her – happy?”

Eliot, meanwhile, has retreated into a tree, but this has only bought him a limited amount of time – Idri finds him rather quickly and starts to chop down the tree with his sword.

Sometimes kings have to get back to basics

When the Lorian king takes a break, Eliot uses the opportunity to try to talk to his colleague.  The two kings lament about the fact that their people cling to drama and difficulty, even though they are both good enough as leaders to help solve some of the problems.  He tries to convince Idri that he should be spared, since he is going to be a father, but unfortunately, the rules of the duel preside.  Both kings are annoyed about this, because if they are being perfectly honest, Eliot finds Idri to be a total DILF (Google it if you don’t know what it means), and Idri finds the Fillorian king rather attractive as well.

Remember, sometimes kings have to get back to banging…basics! I mean basics!

Idri laments that he could not take a husband because of his love for his late wife, and if Eliot had had wine in the tree, he would have done a spit take.

Why El should always have wine nearby

Turns out royalty are allowed to have a husband and a wife, of which his advisers failed to inform him. The kings, rather than dueling, invoke their privilege as kings, and instead decide to join their kingdoms by marrying.  They all seem to be one polyamorous happy family – Idri, Eliot, and Fen.

Can there possibly be a more socially progressive land than Fillory?

But when the High King asks about how the Wellspring was fixed, since Loria is going to have access to half of it, Margo is floored for a multitude of reasons.  She sees the fairies out of the corner of her eye before answering him, but they are gone before she can explain.  Margo seems to be at a loss, having bargained away her best friend’s firstborn in a slightly rash decision to restore the Wellspring at the hands of the fairies.

Don’t worry, Margo, we’re all creeped out by them too


Wednesday To Do List:

1) Break out an tree genocidist 2) Terrorize a US Senator 3) Have cocktails 4) Throw friends to the wolves

Once Kady and Penny take the button from Q’s bag, they head to Fillory to free Julia from the dungeon, where she is being held prisoner after, you know, wiping out a species of sentient trees who refused to play nice with Fillory.

This is Kady’s first trip to Fillory, and she’s pretty appalled by the ostentatiousness of it all, given that her best home up to that point was a BMW with an “uncle” (creepy).  They’re breaking Julia out to go find Reynard’s son, who it turns out, is US Senator John Gaines.

This will totally end well

Julia, Kady and Penny decide that the best way to proceed is to break into the senator’s office and put on a bit of a show, but it’s not quite a David Blaine-Cris Angel sort of event, since those don’t usually involve attempted murder of the audience.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

They are not going to sell many tickets in Vegas for this show

Their “show” of teleporting, conjuring fire, and destroying his desk with magic are intended to intimidate him, but he’s either on a lot of Xanax, is used to multiple weird threats on a regular basis, or is a demigod, because he simply threatens to call security and doesn’t cower in fear as the three Magicians argue about how to deal with him.   He actually thinks initially that it’s some sort of publicity stunt for a show (ha! How great would it for this group to pounce on Congress to promote The Magicians!), but unfortunately it’s all too real.

“Don’t force me to make s’mores in your office”

The three magicians start arguing, since Julia says that they’re just after his energy, and they just need that, rather than his meat suit – if they kill the senator, they would get the maximum amount.  Kady and Penny are not keen on murder, however, and they try to tell her there would be no point, since there’s nothing in which to store said energy.  Julia has thought ahead though, and brought a small lead ball to contain it, which prompts Kady and Penny to realize that this was her intention all along.

How convenient

In the meantime, Senator Gaines decides to take advantage of the infighting – he inadvertently uses his magic to stop them, but faints immediately afterward.  Julia, having no shade to stop her, goes to kill him, but is stopped by Penny (kind of seems like he’s had a lot of practice in stopping murder this way given the quickness of his reflexes). He forbids her from killing him, because, you know, felony – but he is open to the equally shitty idea of kidnapping the senator.

“That’s enough, Mom! Uh…I mean Julia. Yeah, Julia.”

Taking him back to Brakebills, they lock him in a closet in the Physical Kids cottage, and Todd stumbles upon them as John is kicking the door.

F’in Todd

But before Todd can question them too much, Julia demands that he get her a drink, because you know, lack of Shade makes you not give a shit what anyone thinks of you, so you go full on bitch.  Penny tells Julia to stay away from the senator, but of course, she’s not at all threatened, and wanders off to go to see Quentin.  Kady asks Penny to stop picking on Julia, but Penny points out that both he and Julia can see she’s becoming pretty psychotic – the only one who seems to be in denial is Kady.

“I’m like the honey badger…I just don’t care.”


Daddy’s Home

Brakebills has more to worry about though, than dealing with a kidnapped senator.  John’s magical outburst tipped off Reynard as to his son’s location, and he’s sniffing around the wards to try to find a way in.  Luckily for him, at the same time the magical blackout is affecting Fillory, it’s also affecting magic on Earth, and causes the wards around the college to break down.  Reynard strolls right in to fuck things up, even though he’s wearing a dad sweater, so it’s really hard to take him seriously as a threat.

“John? It’s my weekend-let’s go get some ice cream, bud.”

Both John and Q have been taken to the infirmary at this point, Q for collapsing, and John because he’s going a bit ape shit since he can hear Reynard in his head.  Once they manage to psychically block him out, Kady convinces him that he is, in fact a demigod, given that he’s never really lost anything, including putting forth the most boring farm bill ever in Congress, and getting it approved.

“Damn it, I thought it was my squeaky clean good looks & diplomatic skills all this time”

The breaking of the wards, however, has them running from the infirmary to a safe room powered by a magical generator, but Reynard has still managed to reach out psychically to his son.  In the meantime, Julia has used the chaos of the break-in to bring a weakened Q to meet Reynard in one of Brakebills’ courtyards, although she acts like she’s trying to get him to the safe room.

“Seriously, Q, let that freak flag fly, you know you want to”

As they walk behind a ward, she’s trying to gently coax him into releasing Alice, since the niffin can take out Reynard, but Q is too weak and confused to comprehend what she’s asking.  Realizing that she’s going to have to do something more drastic to get the results she wants, Julia shoves Q through the ward, leaving him to Reynard, and hoping it will prompt him to release Alice out of fear.

Unfortunately, though, Q is still too weak, and now freaked out about being potentially killed by a god, so he freezes up.  Reynard takes advantage of this and paralyzes him, similar to what happened in episode 1 with the Beast.

Hopefully Reynard paralyzed his bladder as well

Penny and Kady have noticed that Julia and Q haven’t made it to the safe room at this point, and in a panic, run to the courtyard and are behind the ward as they confront Reynard.  In a great Penny – Q moment, Penny travels through the ward when he sees Quentin being paralyzed.  Unfortunately, it paralyzes him in mid travel as well.

Happily minding my Ps and Qs – love them together

Kady and Penny now realize that Julia offered up Quentin willingly, without regard for his safety.  When all looks lost, though, John warily shows up to confront his father.  The manipulative god tells his son that he froze the magicians so that they wouldn’t hurt themselves – he certainly wasn’t trying to hurt them.  He reaches out his hand to John, and John, only being a demigod, manages to walk through ward.  He reaches out his hand for Reynard, because, you know, daddy issues, and once they touch, he teleport kidnaps his son away from Brakebills.  The whisking away also causes the paralysis to break on Penny and Quentin.

Yeah, this doesn’t have a Cindy Lou Who – Grinch vibe at all

Kady and Penny put Julia under a sleeping spell in order to lock her away in Brakebills’ clean room (the one Martin was trapped in before he killed Jane), where she can’t do magic, and before she puts anyone else in danger.  She tries to convince Kady to let her out, but Kady is pretty pissed – she understands that the lack of Shade is making it difficult for her friend to make good decisions in trying to exact her revenge on Reynard, but she won’t tolerate Julia completely disregarding people who care about her.

“Hos before bros only to a certain extent, girl”


Q & As about Q & A and Everyone Else

  • Tick Pickwick, as usual, is awesome. From his positivity that could rival Tony Robbins to his beautiful singing voice, I am so, so happy he’s a part of the Fillorian advisory group.
  • Eliot looks a little taken aback about Fen’s comments regarding family – is it because he’s never experienced the real love of a family, and isn’t sure what to do with it, or is he still freaking out about the idea of becoming a father? And will he see the baby-magic swap as a blessing or a curse?

“Baby…yes…still a totally great thing…yep.”

  • Reynard told Julia that she, Penny and Kady were caught on the security camera footage in John’s office-how is that going to play out in the coming weeks? Because they still committed a felony, and the senator is now missing and at the mercy of a god.  Not like the police will buy any of that, but still…
  • Speaking of police, does Fogg help to place Magicians in places other than offices? Like, banks are run by Magicians – are there Magicians who have infiltrated the police force and other societal forces?
  • Jason Ralph does a phenomenal job being Quentin embodied by Alice.  When Alice is trying to convince Julia to release her, Quentin disappears rather effectively, and you can actually picture Olivia Taylor Dudley’s niffin Alice as he speaks.


  • You can definitely tell with this episode that the writing staff previously worked on Supernatural (well, Sera Gamble ran that show too, actually) – Senator Gaines and his “skin sack,” and Julia trapped in the clean room was very reminiscent of Sam trying to wean himself off demon blood.
  • That Muppet-y fur coat King Idri wears in this episode is amazing.  I predict a long and stylish future between our newly married kings.

Looks like someone had a run-in with Falkor

  • That Les Miserables “One Day More” parody was absolutely brilliant, and we got to hear the beautiful hidden singing talents of many members of the cast, including Summer Bishil, Brittany Curran, Hale Appleman, and Rizwan Manji.  You can watch the whole number at the link below the pic.  Hopefully this is a trend that will continue – a little bit of singing every few episodes helps us remember that sometimes all you need is a song.


Elie’s Exquisite Exposures

So I am so super jazzed about Director of Photography Elie Smolkin’s cinematography that I had to add an alliterative subheading to highlight his work each week.  Here are some of the examples of his gorgeous work on this past week’s episode – I apologize for them being tiny, but it would take up waaaaay too much room in this already long article:


Magical Moments of Memorization:

“Less words” – Margo to Her Slowness’s translator as he tries to articulate why High King Eliot may not want to pursue the one on one duel.

“Well…you might die…” – Tick Pickwick with a huge smile on his face, telling Eliot why the duel may not be the best idea.


“There’s talking trees here?” – Kady to Julia. “Not anymore.” – Julia referring to her tree genocide.

“Eh? You see what I did there?”

“I’m an obsessive fan.” – Margo to Eliot on how she knows he’s still freaked out about the outcome of the duel just by looking at him.

“Are they going to eat it?” – Margo to the fairy ambassador when he demands a baby on behalf of the fairies.

“Is that Senator Gaines?” – Professor Lipson to Dean Fogg.  “Probably…I mean, why not” – Fogg in reply.

Seriously, Fogg’s response should be the motto for this show


Next Week (Well, this Week at this Point)

Tonight Julia’s shade makes an appearance again, but the Shade is stuck in pre-pubescence.  Q and Julia go looking for it, but someone else is also interested in securing Shades-looks like they may be in for a fight (what else is new, though, for this show?).  Hopefully, we’ll find out if this person is on the up and up, or if they are a bit…shady on Wednesday.

Also, this chick to the left of El looks EXACTLY like my sister-in-law, so we need to find out who she is too


All photos courtesy of unless otherwise noted.