The Magicians, S1E9: A real feel-good tale

Buckle up, people. In addition to some very unsavory events (child snuff and pedophilia, to name two), there’s a lot of important information in this episode, and it’s flying at you fast and furious. This is one you’ll feel like you need to watch twice in order to pick up on all the hints dropped about Fillory, but the story’s such a downer you many not want to relive it. That’s why there are recaps!

First off, there’s some important stuff in the “previously on The Magicians…” intro: there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of The Beast’s hand, which has an extra finger. (Like seriously blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. It took me 4 tries with the remote to hit the pause button in time to capture that shot on my screen.) They show Eliza/Jane telling Quentin The Beast wants control of Fillory and all the doors leading there. They also remind us that The Beast (in the body of Mike) called Eliza/Jane little Jane Chatwin”. Funnily, though, they forgot to alter Mike’s voice to that of The Beast, so now it just sounds like regular old Mike saying it. Oops!

Let’s start with Julia’s story. Her “amends” letter that she was writing to Quentin in rehab has reached Quentin. Basically, she apologizes for Inceptioning Quentin and expresses her regret for how their lifelong friendship has dissolved into nothing. She also puts some blame on Quentin (rightly), and Quentin responds with a somewhat lame apology email of his own.

Meanwhile, though, Julia is still having a hard time. She’s out of rehab now (that’s a really fast rehab stay!), but she’s struggling, because she can’t stop her brain from thinking about… magic? what she did to Quentin? her hand in Hannah’s death?. It’s unclear exactly what. But Richard (Mackenzie Astin), the magician/chaplain from rehab, suggests she do an act of penance to relieve herself of the burden she’s been carrying around.

Richard knows a magician, Kyra (Yaani King), who’s wheelchair-bound and unable to move or talk at all. (It’s not mentioned, but it looks like ALS.) He wants Julia to use the same Inception-type spell she used on Quentin to enter Kyra’s mind so that Kyra can communicate her thoughts to someone. When Richard and Julia do the spell, Julia is mentally projected into Kyra’s mind—where she finds herself trapped in a pitch-dark wooden coffin.

Julia mentions casually that she’s immune to fire and then promptly lights one and burns her way out of the box. Suddenly she’s sitting on a park bench next to Kyra, who tells her the coffin thing was a test to see if Julia was any good. (Julia passed.)

A pad and pen appear in Julia’s hands. Suddenly the pad is filled with page upon page of calculations for a very complicated spell. Kyra explains that she was on the cusp of figuring out how to get the spell to work when her body turned on her a year ago. She has spent the time in her wheelchair mentally completing her work, and now she needs to communicate it. She’ll dictate, Julia will write, and then Julia has to remember it when she gets out of Kyra’s mind and write it all down again.

Julia and Kyra, inside Kyra’s mind.

After they’ve been at it for a while, Kyra asks if Richard found Julia through Brakebills. (Richard is an alumnus.) Julia lets on that she’s bitter about Brakebills (having failed to pass the entrance exam she wrote with Quentin). Kyra tells her she didn’t go to school for magic either; she went to MIT. “Magic is a science,” she tells Julia. Hard to master on your own, but not impossible, especially if you have natural ability. Julia questions whether she does.

“What if this is all one big party trick that never adds up to anything?” Julia asks.

Kyra replies, “So what?” Kyra then explains why her mind chose this park for their meeting: the park is Kyra’s favorite place, where she and a friend once spent the day doing the same simple spell over and over—a spell to make a rainbow appear for 10 seconds. It was the best day in her life.

She asks Julia to show her Julia’s best day. Suddenly they are lying under the dining room table in Julia’s childhood home. Julia explains that she and Quentin used to lie here for hours reading and talking about Fillory. One day when they were 10, they drew a map of Fillory on the underside of the table, as if they planned to really go there. Julia mentions that even though they were “playing”, it felt very real. Touching the map, Kyra tells her to “chase this”. Sounds like Julia and Quentin will be reunited soon—when they both end up in Fillory.

Back at the park, Julia and Kyra are finishing up the spell-dictation task. Julia offers to come back and take more of Kyra’s dictation, but Kyra says no, this was “the Big One” that she needed to get off her chest. She does have one other request though: she wants Julia to kill her.

Coming out of Kyra’s mind, Julia is upset with Richard for putting her in this position. She worries about whether Kyra is wrong, and there might be a cure tomorrow. She worries about whether she’ll go to Hell for helping someone end her life. Richard tells her that “burning the tumors off your soul” isn’t a walk in the park. You have to do the work to earn your redemption.

Back in Kyra’s mind, in the park, Kyra says goodbye to Julia and blackness envelopes the scene.

. . .

At Brakebills, Quentin is lamenting the loss of the Fillory manuscript (the sixth, unpublished book) Eliza/Jane Chatwin gave him. Quentin thinks he hasn’t found it because he’s not deserving of it. He explains that Fillory is always deciding when the Chatwins can get in, and when it will kick them out. Apparently, Ember and Umber, the twin gods of Fillory “get mean and take everything away,” but they have their reasons. Quentin thinks they had their reasons for taking the book away from him.

Alice thinks that’s BS and suggests a spell to find it. The spell turns out to be a fire-enabled game of Hot-and-Cold. As they wander about campus, the flame burns blue when they’re headed in the wrong direction and red when they’re getting closer. The flame leads them to Penny, who, their first morning at Brakebills, denied he’d taken it when questioned by Quentin.

Penny says he was bored and read it and then threw it out. (What a dick move!!!) Since he’s the only one who’s read it, though, Quentin has to pry out of him what was in the book. He asks, “What did Plover say?” referring to Christopher Plover, the author of the Fillory and Further series. Penny tells him Plover didn’t write Book 6; Jane Chatwin did. She said in the intro that she wanted to clear up some things that were wrong in the previous books.

Now, this part doesn’t jibe with what we saw in Episode 1 or with who Quentin is as a person. When Quentin first got the manuscript, he immediately took it out of its manila envelope and started to read it—while walking home in a strong breeze. The wind picked up and blew one of the pages away, leading Quentin to chase it and in the process get magically transported to Brakebills, where he saw Julia and they both sat the entrance exam. So we know Quentin has read at least the first little bit. So he should already know that Plover didn’t write Book 6. Plus, Quentin is literally The Biggest Fillory Fanboy on the Planet, so there’s no way he wouldn’t have been up all night that first day reading his new treasure. (Remember how you were when each new Potter book came out?) I’d buy Penny stealing it after Quentin finished some of it, but there’s no way Quentin would have slept without reading a significant chunk of that book.

Anyway, glossing over that huge plot hole…

Quentin prods Penny to remember what he read. He remembers that the summer Jane and Martin Chatwin were staying at Plover’s house, Jane was able to go in and out of Fillory, but Martin wasn’t. Fillory kept “forgetting” him. Jane promised Martin she’d find a way for him to get back there. She found a “Question Creature” in Fillory (if you catch one it has to grant your wish) and demanded a key to unlock any door to Fillory. The creature gave her a button in a little glass box.

Quentin interjects and says this is huge news, because the 5th book had Martin looking all over the house for a “magic button” that he never found. The book never said exactly what the button did, so fanboy message boards are full of speculation about what significance the button holds. Quentin suggests that since Martin never found the button, it might still be hiding in Plover’s house somewhere. Now that they know it’s a key to a Fillory door, Quentin thinks it’s better off in their hands than in The Beast’s.

Just as Quentin asks what the quickest way to England is, Penny vanishes.

This leaves Quentin and Alice going back to the Cottage to pack for England and discuss booking flights. Eliot overhears and asks where they’re going. When they tell him, he informs them that they don’t need flights; Margo and Eliot created a door directly to their favorite pub in England. He’ll show them where it is if they take him along. (Despite trying to appear normal, he’s not doing well emotionally since the whole thing with Mike and having to kill him because he was possessed by The Beast.)

At the Plover Estate, Quentin, Alice, Eliot and Penny join a tour group. We get some backstory from the tour guide (Oliver Rice): Jane and Martin Chatwin lived next door to Christopher Plover and his sister, Prudence. (There’s also a Rupert Chatwin, who sounds like a brother to Jane and Martin, but he don’t see him in this episode, nor do we learn anything about him other than that he was injured at some point.) Plover was said to “have a way with children.” He gave charitably to area families and paid for the education of his housekeeper’s kids, George and Beatrix. One summer, after their mother died, Jane and Martin stayed with the Plovers in their house, and Jane got to Fillory via a closet door in this house. Plover’s “untimely death” occurred in 1952.

The tour moves to the Writing Room. Quentin is seriously fanboying hard. The obligatory selfie is taken. Penny is embarrassed to be around him.

Fanboy Quentin, in Christopher Plover’s writing room.

Later that night, the four of them break into the house and start searching the Writing Room. Quentin is in awe of Plover’s desk, saying it “saved my life.” He explains to Alice that as kids, he and Julia used to play Fillory all the time, with her as Jane and him as Martin. Then, when he was first hospitalized for mental illness at age 16, the Fillory books got him through the experience. Alice asks if he still feels broken. He replies that he’s never been happier in his entire life.

They find some old letters in a safe, one of which is a letter from Plover’s sister, Prudence, to their lawyer. Plover supposedly died in 1952, but the letter is about how he’s missing (not dead), and Prudence wants a death certificate issued. Quentin says that around the time of Plover’s death, some kids who knew Plover went missing, and the longer they were gone, the more people started connecting Plover to the missing kids in a bad way. Alice says the missing kids probably went to Fillory. And it was easier to say the missing Plover was dead than to address nasty rumors about what may have happened to them. So it looks like Plover’s NOT dead after all.

The (unfortunately) very much not-dead Christopher Plover.

So where is he? Penny finds magic textbooks on Plover’s shelf. He also finds traveler textbooks. He surmises that Plover wanted to go to Fillory, so he was studying Traveling 101 in order to get there.

Something dark passes across the doorway to the hall. Alice senses it and goes to investigate. Down the hall, behind a door that says “No Admittance,” she hears voices. She goes to turn the doorknob, but before she can, the tour guide catches them and orders them to leave. He’s clearly panicked at being in the house at night. They refuse to leave and demand to know what happened to Plover. The tour guide says Plover was into some very dark stuff, and that Prudence didn’t want people to know “the unnatural things” her brother was doing. The tour guide mentions there’s a book hidden in the Writing Room, but before he can explain more, the lights flicker and he freaks out. A woman appears briefly in front of the tour guide, and then they both disappear.

The Brakebills Four start looking for them and when they turn a corner, they find the tour guide dead, his throat slashed and his lips sewn shut.

When next we see them, Penny and Quentin have become separated somehow from Alice and Eliot. They hear the sound of kids’ voices and footsteps running along the floor above their heads. The house is haunted. A (dead-looking) boy (Oliver Bell) pokes his head in a doorway nearby and says “Tag. You’re It,” and then runs away. They feel resigned to follow him.

Suddenly, they are back in time. The lights are all on, like people are still living in the house, and the boy they just saw is looking alive and well. It’s George, the Plovers’ housekeeper’s son. They continue following him.

Meanwhile, Alice and Eliot wake up tied to child-size chairs in a play room (also back in time). There’s a play tea set on the child-size table between them. A little girl (Sibyl Gregory) comes in. It’s Beatrix, the housekeeper’s daughter. She starts playing tea, and offers them cookies. Eliot obliges and lets her feed him one. (His hands are tied.) He asks Alice if she knows the spell for untying knots. Beatrix interjects: “No magic in the house!” and warns them to be good or they’ll be taken to “the Quiet Place.”

The Magicians - Season 1
Tea and bondage with a dead girl.

Prudence Plover (Rebecca Tilney) comes in and ties the little girl to her chair over Alice’s objections. She then makes tea, but adds drops of some drug to each cup. Beatrix flashes Eliot a look that warns him not to drink it, but at Prudence’s insistence, Alice and Beatrix take sips and promptly lose consciousness.

Penny and Quentin are still following the kid, and now they see Christopher Plover (Charles Shaughnessy) wandering the house deep in thought. Then they see Jane and Martin Chatwin. Penny says they’re in a “time slip,” which is a little ghost movie looping over and over in a haunted house, showing you how things really happened. Quentin says they must be seeing the summer Jane and Martin stayed with the Plovers. They follow the Chatwins upstairs.

Jane opens a closet door and disappears to Fillory. Martin yells after her to wait for him, but by the time he reaches the closet door, she’s gone and it’s just a closet again. He yells into the closet to Ember and Umber (the gods of Fillory), begging to know why they won’t let him in. Plover comes by and basically just says, “Life’s not fair,” and offers Martin a cuppa. “Us left-behinds have to stick together,” he says.

George appears again, warns that Prudence is coming, and as he grabs Quentin’s hand, he and Quentin disappear. This leaves Penny alone, in the present, to face Ghost Prudence, who attacks him.

He wakes up with his arms chained to the wall. He’s in the Quiet Place, and Ghost Prudence is there telling him to be quiet or she’ll sew his mouth shut. (She’s got the sinister curved needle and thread all ready.) Penny’s outta there, Traveler-style.

In the play room, Eliot’s the only one conscious. He uses a spell to untie his bonds, and then goes to wake and untie Alice. It dawns on Alice that this is what Prudence really did to the children: tied them up and drugged them so that they wouldn’t disturb her brother while he was working. They wonder whether Beatrix might know where the button is. They wake her up only to hear her say her tummy aches before she spits up blood and dies. Alice is horrified and wants to try to help. Eliot doesn’t think they can; these events have been over for a long time.

“Not for her,” Alice says. “She just keeps reliving it over and over.”

Meanwhile, George has taken Quentin to the room on the other side of the wall from the Writing Room. They are peeking through an air vent between the two rooms, spying on Martin and Plover. Plover asks Martin if he wants to “work.” This makes Martin uncomfortable. Just then, Jane returns from Fillory, saying that she brought Martin what he asked for. Martin makes an excuse to remove Jane from Plover’s company before she can show him the button. Jane wants to show it to Plover, but Martin insists that she not.

Martin then catches George (and by extension, Quentin) spying on them, and tells George they’re playing a game: How Well Can You Hide the Button? He gives the button to George, who then pockets it. But rather than hide it right away, George returns to spy on Jane, Martin, and Plover in the Writing Room.

Jane has been served spiked tea by Prudence, and quickly loses consciousness in her armchair. This leaves Martin effectively alone with Plover, who, it quickly becomes apparent, is a pedophile who has Martin strip naked for his camera. His method of persuasion is: “Remember when I took you and Jane into town? To the cinema? Bought her that dress she wanted?” Given that the tour guide told us that Plover “aided many area families,” it’s a good bet he’s used this “you owe me” tactic on many victims.

Plover proudly tells Martin he’s nearly figured out a spell he’s been working on. It’s too much “for human hands”; he’ll have to grow another finger. He informs Martin that, while he knows Fillory’s been “for you kids” up until now, he feels he needs to go there with them. “We could be together!” he tells a horrified Martin.

In the room next door, George tells Quentin, “They play like this all the time.” He mentions that all the photos Plover takes are hidden in the dictionary.

In bursts Prudence, who catches George spying and throws him against the wall so hard that she gives him a fatal head injury. She carries him off to the Quiet Place.

Quentin gets outside and finds Alice and Eliot. He tells him what he saw inside (apparently Plover didn’t just take pictures of Martin; he also raped him). Quentin’s furious that he and millions of other Fillory fans have been worshipping Plover all these years—a man who was learning magic to get stronger, a man who was trying to grow extra fingers to do spells…. Then it dawns on Quentin: what if Plover is The Beast? After all, he had access to Fillory via these kids he told stories to.

Penny shows up, to everyone’s surprise. (They thought he had ditched them.) He tells them he traveled to escape the Quiet Place, which is really the storm cellar in the back of the house. Quentin realizes that’s where the button is, because it was still in George’s pocket when Prudence buried him there. He tells them to give him a 10-minute head start before heading to the Quiet Place.

When they get there, Ghost Prudence is there, guarding it. Quentin shows up and tells her he heard a nasty rumor about her brother. He shows her one of the lurid photos hidden in the dictionary. She angrily rips it up, but he informs her that 48 more of them are hidden all around the house, and that he’s going to make sure the world knows what Christopher Plover did. She disappears to hunt down the photos.

They dig up George’s corpse and find the button right where he left it.

As they’re leaving the estate grounds, Alice insists they need to go back and help those poor trapped kids, reliving their deaths ad nauseum. This is the sort of thing magic should be good for, Alice says. Eliot rather bluntly tells her that thinking that she can alter death is arrogant, and she should just get over the fact that they are powerless. As they leave, we can see George and Beatrix watching them forlornly from an upstairs window.

Back at the Cottage, they’re all having a drink to calm their nerves when Penny says, “Alright, let’s see this button.” Quentin takes out the little box and sets it on the coffee table. Penny says he feels something coming off of it. He opens the lid. As he goes to reach for the button itself, Quentin says that he doesn’t think that’s a good idea. Penny, offended, tells Quentin, “Mayakovsky trained me himself. I stay put until I want to go. Period”

He slowly reaches for the button. The instant he touches it, he disappears.


The Bottom Line:

 I don’t have much to snark on with this episode! Finally! This was very solid, with a lot of information to chew on. Quentin didn’t really get on my nerves much, and I actually liked Alice for the first time ever. She finally had something to say in this episode—something to take a stand on. She wanted desperately to help those ghost kids, and I can believe that she’ll one day figure out how to free them from their eternal hell.

Sad as it is, it took tragedy for Eliot to grow into a person I can relate to. He’s no longer shallow and purely there for comic relief. He’s hurting and lashing out, but he’s also finally interested in other people for reasons other than his own amusement. He’s become a much more complex character than he was just two weeks ago.

What does this mean for Eliot’s relationship with Margo, though? He’s had to go through the whole Mike nightmare alone (not to mention this week’s House of Horrors), while she’s been off partying in Ibiza. (That is a ridiculously long Spring Break trip she’s on.) She’ll come back the superficial, bitchy It Girl she’s always been, while he’ll have gone to hell and back. How will they relate to one another?

What happened to Martin Chatwin? Where is he now? Why couldn’t he get into Fillory with Jane? Why was he forced to remain alone with Plover to be victimized over and over, while Jane was off in Fillory, oblivious to his plight? Did he ever go back to Fillory, given that he lost the button almost immediately? When did Jane learn what was really happening? What else did Jane write in Book 6?

And who is Rupert Chatwin? That little piece of information annoyed me, because it was said like a throwaway line, never to be clarified or talked about again. Is he Jane and Martin’s brother? Where was he during the summer they stayed with the Plovers? How did he get injured? Was he a victim of Plover too? Or is Rupert their father? Is that why they needed to stay with the Plovers the summer after their mother’s death—because their father was temporarily incapacitated and unable to care for them?

How will Julia end up in Fillory? (Because you know she’s going eventually!)

Grade: A –


9 thoughts on “The Magicians, S1E9: A real feel-good tale

Add yours

  1. LOVED this review! And this episode was hands down my favourite so far – I wasn’t bored, nor annoyed by mopey Q (other than the obvious plot hole). I definitely liked the time slip and the bits and pieces of history we got from that.
    I also wonder about the Elliot-Margo dynamic. Elliot is a different person. I thought he was great from the beginning but now, his character has substance! I do wonder whether Margo and he will have a fallout.

    Oh and Rupert Chatwin is the third brother. Remember in the early episodes, there were two boys and a girl climbing inside the clock. At least, that’s what I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’d been so long since I saw any Chatwin other than Jane and Martin, I forgot he even existed! So what’s the story with him? Where is he? Is he important? I feel like there’s a chunk of info we’re missing. And it’s info we should have, because Quentin knows it. I can accept being in the dark about things as yet unknown to our characters, but if Quentin has pertinent knowledge, shouldn’t it have come out by now? Why mention it, if you’re not going to explain its significance?

    I feel like this episode had enough minutiae Fillory information flying at us that the Rupert thing could have been left out of this one and maybe brought up in a later episode where there’s more time to explain it.

    I was reading other recaps on this episode, and people were saying that Kyra’s Big Spell is how she became incapacitated. Apparently it backfired on her while it was in development. (These are obviously recappers who read the books, cuz there’s no way you could’ve gotten that from the show.) I’m glad that changed in translation from book to TV show. If Kyra’s this genius MIT woman, it seems wrong to make her illness her own fault. Having her get ALS makes way more sense. Yay, producers, for making that departure from the source material!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m honestly beginning to think that the show is a companion to the books. My friends who’ve read the books, all understand everything perfectly well and I’m confused half the time and we (fiancé and I) often blankly stare at each other like “wth just happened.”
    The producers kinda expects the audience to already know stuff.

    I haven’t a clue as to who Rupert is and so far, I’m not sure he is important. They only mention Jane and Martin so I kinda went ahead and assumed that Martin was probably the beast though I’m not certain.

    And idk how I got that from the show, but I do believe that Kyra told Julia that she was in this state as a result of trying to figure out her spell. I MAY BE WRONG because my brain assumes things to fill in the gaps sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Totally where my brain assumed things! Ahaha
    I really need to hurry and read the books. A lot of people do say that the books are fantastic compared to the show


  5. My husband also thought Martin was The Beast. I wonder if we’re being led astray with the whole Plover/Beast connection. But why would The Beast call Jane “LITTLE Jane Chatwin” if he were really her younger brother? Hmmm…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Martin Chatwin is the eldest sibling though so it sorta kinda makes sense. But I do get your point. So far, they are setting it up as though Plover could be the beast but I’m somehow convinced there is a plot twist. It seemed that Plover wasn’t even aware of the button, while Martin had the little boy (Was it George?) hide it. Martin knew that the button was hidden somewhere, if that’s truly what he was after!

    Time will tell.


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