The Magicians, S1E10: Definitely not Fillory

The key-to-Fillory button turns out to be a key not to Fillory, but to the Neitherlands. (Neither Here nor There, get it?) Not cool, little wish-granting ferret! Jane Chatwin asks you for a key to Fillory, and you give her a key to some other place entirely? Sneaky little bastard!

The Neitherlands is an endless sprawl of fountain plazas connected by landscaped pathways. (In other words, it’s the University of British Columbia botanical gardens duplicated with the help of CGI.) Each fountain has a different statue at its center, and each pool leads to a different world. Coming out of the Earth fountain, Penny (Arjun Gupta) encounters a denizen of the Neitherlands, Eve (Katie Findlay) whose mind he tries to probe. (She shuts that down quickly.) She asks how he got there, and he shows her the button. This causes an immediate hostile reaction, complete with back-up security forces, and Penny has to make a quick Traveler escape. He finds himself in another fountain plaza, only now he has no idea where he is nor how to get back to the Earth fountain.

“Hey, nice button you have there! I must kill you now.”

He draws an astral projection circle in the gravel and projects himself to Quentin’s mind. Quentin’s in the middle of an embarrassingly nerdy sex dream, where Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and Julia (Stella Maeve) are cosplaying as Danaerys and Slave-Leia, respectively. Quentin (Jason Ralph) is Indiana Jones. After laughing at Quentin’s nerdgasm dream, Penny tells him where he’s stuck, and that he can’t attempt to Travel back to Earth, because he can’t aim. Quentin tells Penny he’s been gone not for 6 hours, as Penny believed, but for 6 weeks!

It’s a little unclear why this is. Penny had some aiming issues last episode when he Traveled out of the Quiet Room to escape Prudence Plover. But he Traveled from Brakebills to England just fine. Here in the Neitherlands, the problem would seem to be that if he doesn’t know which direction Earth is, how would he know where to aim himself? But that doesn’t really make sense either, because we saw Penny Traveling from Antarctica to all sorts of places (including a random volcano) and back again with no trouble. Did he know exactly which volcano he leaped into, and where it was on the globe relative to the castle in Antarctica?

At the Cottage, Quentin and Alice explain Penny’s predicament to Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil). Hey, Margo’s finally back from Ibiza! Where’s her new BFF, Todd? Eliot’s tripping balls in Wonderland. Like, high as a kite. Margo’s useless as ever. Something glass explodes next to Eliot and someone suggests Margo take him to the infirmary.

At Chez Julia, she’s been on an online forum binge. Her magic forum-buddies are coming over for an IRL meet-‘n’-greet and some co-op magic. Richard’s the group leader and he arrives first. Julia’s apartment is an unholy mess. He suggests she tidy up in the couple hours before the rest of the group comes.

Later on, the forum buddies arrive via a portal Richard opens directly into Julia’s living room. There’s the chemo-patient, someone else, some other person, and Hey look! It’s Kady! Awkward!

Back to Quentin and Alice. The Neitherlands aren’t really mentioned in the books. Alice maybe knows someone who can help. Suddenly they’re in Chicago. (How? I don’t know.) They enter a tiny, unassuming little house and Surprise! It’s bigger on the inside! “Like the Tardis,” as Quentin points out. And what’s happening at this house An orgy, that’s what! A toga orgy. Oh, it’s Alice’s DAD’s toga orgy. Are her parents cosplay swingers? More cosplay in this episode?

Toga orgy at the Quinn residence

At the infirmary, it turns out Eliot’s fine, except for a massive drug habit. (No biggie.) Margo, on the other hand, may be pregnant with devil spawn from “unprotected rituals” in Ibiza.

Back at Julia’s, Kady (Jade Tailor) is as glum as ever. She’s in no mood to forgive Julia for being involved in her mom’s death, but they have to work together, so….

Back in the Neitherlands, Penny is being hunted by the security forces. At a not-Earth fountain, he steps on a rock, which opens a trap door down to The Neitherlands Library: the Greatest Repository of Knowledge. Period. Penny requests a map of the fountain labyrinth from the librarian (Mageina Tovah), who talks to him as if they’ve met before. He says he’s never been here before, and she replies that he’s just forgotten, as he always does. She says there’s no map, but they could get one via inter-library loan. Penny doesn’t have time for that crap.

Wait a second. A few lines of dialogue back, the librarian declared the Neitherlands library “The Greatest Repository of Knowledge” and now she’s saying they don’t even have a map of the land they are located in? Didn’t the writer read what he wrote 2 pages ago?

Back in Chicago, Alice talks to her mom (Judith Hoag). There’s 6-month-old baggage between them: Mom doesn’t want to know exactly what happened to Charlie, and Alice thinks that’s fucked up. Mom pisses Alice off so much that Alice doesn’t get around to asking about what she came there for.

In Alice’s room, we get the scoop: Alice’s mom has apparently no redeeming qualities. Despite her parents’ sexually open relationship, Mom is having an affair with her Traveler friend, Joe, behind Dad’s back. She’s done this in the past: when Alice was a kid, her Dad found out about another clandestine affair Mom was having and threatened suicide unless she stopped. Apparently, it takes something as over-the-top as a suicide threat for Mom to stop her narcissistic ways.

Julia and Kady start learning spells together. Seems they have to master a binder full of spells in order to join the rest of the group. I suspect this whole thing is a set-up by Richard to get Kady and Julia together and friendly. I have no doubt he knew they were already acquainted before Kady walked in the door.

On a shelf at the library, Penny spots the “books” of Quentin, Alice, Eliot, and Pat O’Brien (the sportscaster?). Eliot gets two volumes, both of which are fatter than Quentin’s or Alice’s. What does that signify? Is it just a joke? (I laughed.) Where’s the dividing line between Vol. I and Vol. II?

Penny sees his own book and bemoans the fact that the cover is decorated with “flowers and shit.” Here’s where a nice cut-away of the book cover would have been appreciated. But no. Either the cover design didn’t turn out good enough for a close-up, or the director didn’t get a nice close-up, or the editor left that shot on the cutting-room floor. Regardless, someone fucked up.

Penny starts to open his book, but the librarian warns him that’s not a good idea. “People who read their books often discover they don’t like the main character and are rarely happy with how it ends.” Deep!

A scene in need of some close-ups.

She pulls another book off the shelf. And AGAIN, there’s no shot of the book’s cover. We only know it’s Martin Chatwin’s book because Penny says, “Martin! That’s one of the Fillory kids.” But she won’t lend him this book without a library card. (Why can’t she just let him pull it off the shelf and read it while in the library? That’s how the reference section works.) She photocopies a handful of pages for him.

I wish I could read the writing on the sign over the photocopier. It says something about accepted methods of payment for the copier, but other than the word “Neitherlands”, everything’s too blurry to make out. Again, a direction or editing problem. For the tight shot on the librarian, they needed to move the camera closer to her in order to get more depth of field. Instead, they zoomed in for that tight shot of her, causing everything in the background to go fuzzy. Or maybe that better-depth-of-field shot did exist, but wasn’t used in the final edit. Either way, a whole day’s work by the set design team goes right down the toilet. I’m sure that sign would’ve been pretty amusing. Alas, we shall never know.

Anyway, she boots him from the library, and he’s back in the fountain labyrinth.

Back at Alice’s parents’ place. OMG, this book series was written by a raging-hormone man-child. Sex AGAIN! I swear, every single episode has involved people getting naked or having sex. This time it’s “sex magic.” That’s a thing now. (Of course it is.) Joe the Traveler (Jonathan Scarfe) gives Alice and Quentin a spell to cast a beacon in this world that will light up the Earth fountain in the Neitherlands so Penny can find it. But here’s the catch: Alice and Quentin have to climax at the exact same time. Cue Quentin’s sad realization that Alice has been faking it up until now. (Of course she has! It’s Quentin, for crying out loud. Could you climax to that?)

What follows is essentially a montage of “Clitoral Stimulation 101” as taught by Joe to Quentin, while across the room, Alice and her mom watch, and Mom tells Alice that Quentin looks like “a lot of work.” Truer words were never spoken, Mom.

Back to Eliot and Margo, at the home of her Ibiza fling. Turns out Margo’s not preggers after all. Her Ibiza fling (Marco Grazzini) used some of her life force to make a gollum (essentially a mute clone) of Margo to replace the real Margo, who ditched him to go back to Brakebills. The “Margollum” is what was sucking her life force. Margo’s pissed. He made a realistic sex doll of her, after all. His creepy defense? “I love you. And sometimes the only thing that we do is spoon.” EEEEEWW!!!!

Across the room, Eliot’s doing lines of coke with the Margollum. Margo’s pissed that he’s not supporting her, and she sends him home. Margo tells her fling that she’s taking Margollum and will get dispose of her.

Then we’re back to more incredibly awkward sex with Quentin and Alice. This time, it’s embarrassingly awful foreplay by Quentin, as he attempts to put into practice Joe’s advice that “women like it when you compliment them.” Ugh, I can’t take this. Make it stop.

Hey, my wish is granted! They get in a tiff basically revolving around Quentin whining about being led astray by Alice’s orgasmic fakery. Quentin sums up the argument with, “Well, there goes the mood,” and then he gets out of bed. He still has his (black) socks on! Quentin, dude, the mood was spoiled long before the spat. You look like my dad.

Julia and Kady finish their last spell: putting a Jenga tower back together. Oh wait, it’s supposedly more impressive than that. It’s “reverse entropy”. Why didn’t Richard use this on Julia’s messy apartment earlier? That would’ve been a nice gesture. Instead, he made her clean it up herself, sans magic. Not cool, man.

The doorbell rings. Pizza man is here! Julia pays him and gets out a couple plates. She sees her wall clock acting strangely and points it out to Kady.

The doorbell rings. (Again.) Pizza man is here! (Again.) Julia pays him and they wonder wtf is going on. What are those forum weirdos up to behind that closed door?

Richard fills them in. They’re trying to turn back time to alter all the fucked-up stuff in their lives. To do this, they need a lot of power. Who has this power? The divine “Source”. In short, they’re trying to summon a god.

Okay, let’s look at this logically. One of the members of the forum has incurable cancer. How, exactly, is turning back time going to change things for her? Is she just going to keep reliving her past, pre-cancer days over and over until she’s sick of it? And then what? Time moves on. She’s going to get cancer all over again. Another member of the group is suicidal and his meds no longer help him. I don’t know what time control’s going to do for him either. Richard was a drug addict who left his infant son in a hot car with predictable results. Okay, so maybe he can go back and change that one event, but he’d still be a drug addict in that time line, wouldn’t he? Mightn’t the same thing happen all over again? Maybe that event is what turned his life around, and without it, he’d have gone completely off the rails. This whole plan of theirs seems VERY poorly thought out. And Richard seemed like such a level-headed guy….. This can only end in tears.

Back at the Cottage, Eliot apologizes to Margo and haltingly confesses that he thinks something inside him might be broken. Margo responds by sliding over to him and kissing him. He pulls away, confused. Then the REAL Margo comes in, and it’s clear he just bared his soul to Margollum. (Margo hasn’t destroyed her yet.) When Margo sits down between them and asks what they were talking about, Eliot retreats behind his mask of “Everything’s fine.”

The Magicians - Season 1
Eliot bares his soul to an empty shell.

Poor Eliot. He needs someone to understand how tortured he’s feeling inside, and his best friend just doesn’t. We predicted this Eliot/Margo emotional divide, but that doesn’t make it any less affecting. Hale Appleman is SUCH a good actor! I totally underestimated him through the first bunch of episodes.

It’s weird, though, because it’s been 6 weeks since the events of the last episode (and more than that since the whole Mike situation), and Margo still doesn’t get that Eliot’s needs psychological support? They’ve been faking it like this for a month and a half? It looks as though the foundation for their friendship did not run very deep.

Alice and Quentin again. Alice says what every woman at some point in her life will say or think, at least once: “You’re not bad at sex. I’m just bad at asking for what I want. It’s embarrassing.” Quentin drops the “L” word, and they’re off to the races. Alice speaks up and tells him what she wants. (She’d like him to bite her. Huh. To each her own, I guess.)

In the Neitherlands, a beacon appears above the Earth fountain. Penny Travels there and jumps in before the security forces can grab him. Unfortunately for him, he Travels straight into Alice’s bedroom for a front row seat to simultaneous climaxing. Good. If I’m going to have to watch this, someone else should have to, too.


The Bottom Line:

  • Not enough Julia.
  • Richard’s looking like a complete loon, which annoys me, because I liked him.
  • The library stuff was frustrating to watch, partly because it was shot and/or edited counterintuitively, and partly because it didn’t make sense that The Great Repository of Knowledge doesn’t have a fucking map of its own surroundings.
  • Enough with the sex already! We get it! You’re obsessed with sex, Lev Grossman. Get some help.
  • Eliot and Margo may never recover.


Grade: B-


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