This episode was a good mix of strong emotional moments—wherein the characters let down their self-protective walls and show their true feelings to us and to each other—and fun, dork-centric comedic moments. We’re still not in Fillory, where we certainly thought we’d go sooner than this, given that the not-really-key-to-Fillory button showed up two episodes ago. But with this episode, we see that these characters are not nearly ready for Fillory. They’d get their asses handed to them by The Beast. They need some lessons in “Remedial Battle Magic.”
Which brings us to…
The Cottage. Team Q-MEAP (which stands for Quentin, Margo, Eliot, Alice and Penny; I’m just too lazy to type them all the time, especially Quentin, which my fingers keep buggering up, causing me to overuse the delete key) is sitting around brainstorming what to do about The Beast and the button. Those photocopied pages Penny brought back from the Neitherlands library say that Plover had learned to transform himself, and would soon be able to follow Martin into Fillory. Martin, not wanting his rapist to be able to follow him into his escapist Wonderland, got a line on a knife called the Leo (similar to the Virgo blade, which Mike used to stab Penny a few episodes ago).
How did Martin do this, though? He was locked out of Fillory by this time, and he never found the button. How did he finally get back in, to hunt down this knife?
Anyway, this knife was said to be able to “kill a god,” so they figure it’ll work on The Beast. Martin never actually got the knife, though, so Quentin figures it’s still in Fillory, waiting to be found. But that would mean going to Fillory, where The Beast is waiting to kill them.
This is sounding very similar to the button plotline: Martin has a button that leads to Fillory. He loses it, and spends a long time hunting for it, but never finds it. Thus, it’s still in the Plover house, waiting to be found by Team Q-EAP (Margo was in Ibiza at the time). Now instead of a button, it’s this knife. Martin is seeming like an implausibly inept detective.
Margo floats the suggestion that they just give the button to The Beast. After all, if he’s trying to lock down all routes into Fillory, giving him the button means Team Q-MEAP is no longer a threat to him, since they won’t be able to get in anymore. Penny points out that as a Traveler, he’s still a threat, since, in theory, he could Travel to Fillory at any time, no button required. They take a vote. Eliot, Margo, and Alice vote to give The Beast the button. Penny and Quentin vote no, but they’re overruled.
The next scene shows Alice and Quentin arguing over the decision as they hurry off to a class they’re late for. When they arrive at the classroom, they find everyone dead. Margo is wailing over Eliot’s dead body and says with her dying breath, “We should have listened to you, Q.” They hear The Beast coming down the hall, whistling “The Farmer in the Dell.” He comes in and kills Alice and Quentin too. Show’s over! The End.
No wait! Turns out it was all just a vision. We’re back at the Cottage, and Team Q-MEAP is discussing the “Probability Spell” they just cast. They’ve done it 8 times, and in 7 of the scenarios, The Beast comes next week and everyone dies. In the one scenario in which they went to Fillory, everything went white, so they don’t know whether that’s them dying or what. Quentin prefers that scenario, since it’s the only one where there’s at least some sort of chance of survival.
Penny storms out. As he’s walking across campus, The Beast talks to him in his head. He tells Penny to deliver himself to The Beast, or else he’s going to make the noise inside Penny’s head unbearable. He then generates a sound like microphone feedback and turns the volume up to eleven.
At Julia’s apartment, Richard’s internet forum group is meeting (Richard, Julia, Kady, and three other magicians). Richard elaborates on his plan to petition a god. They’ve been working the local “magical creatures” (vampires, pixies, etc.) to try to find one who remembers when humans and gods coexisted, so s/he can tell them how to get in touch with a god. It’s been a lot of dead ends up until now, but he thinks having Julia on board will make a difference. It turns out that the spell Richard gave Julia in rehab was a test. She’s been the only one to have it work to connect with a god.
Back at Brakebills, Alice gets word that Joe the Traveler (the guy with the “sex magic” spell last episode) has killed himself. She is concerned for Penny and goes to talk to him. Penny tells her he knows why Joe killed himself: The Beast was torturing his mind. He goes to talk to his mentor, Stanley. Stanley tell Penny he’s got the perfect plan for dealing with The Beast. He promptly grabs a shotgun and shoots himself in the head with it.
Mini-rant: Why do we now have to watch people blow their brains out on TV? Is it really necessary to the story for me to see the contents of Stanley’s brain cavity be blown onto the wall behind him? No. It’s just graphic violence for the sake of graphic violence. It’s the equivalent of showing actual penetration in a sex scene, but The Magicians would NEVER do that, even though every single episode must contain sex of some sort. How did our society get to the point where very graphic violence is A-okay, yet they bleep out all the “fuck”s and the many, many sex scenes are shot in such a way as to be “TV-tasteful”? If you’re prudish enough to censor the word “fuck,” then censor the graphic violence, too.
Team Q-MEAP get ahold of a “battle magic” textbook and start trying to learn. But none of the spells are working for them. Alice thinks they need to consult Kady. (Because she has experience with battle magic??? I don’t remember that about Kady, but whatever; I’ll go along like I know what they’re talking about.) They do a “mirror spell,” which allows you to use a mirror to look into the room of the person you’re trying to talk to. (An exact rip-off of Siruis Black’s two-way mirror in Harry Potter.)
They see Kady at Julia’s apartment. Quentin, Alice, Margo, and Eliot go there (minus Penny, because he wants nothing to do with Kady) for some pointers. Kady says she can only do battle magic because she studied it for years; she can’t teach it to them. But there is this one thing they could try. It’s really not recommended.
Penny, meanwhile, is sinking fast. He’s OD-ing on pills, alcohol, and loud heavy metal music, all in an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the voice of The Beast, who keeps threatening to kill the girl he’s keeping in the dungeon in Fillory, if Penny doesn’t come to him tonight (or kill himself, which is essentially the same thing). He lands himself in the hospital.
When he wakes up, Professor Sunderland is in his hospital room, but instead of a lecture, she gives him a sort of patch that goes on the back of his neck, preventing The Beast’s broadcast frequency from reaching the brain. It’s only a temporary fix, though, because it wears down the mind’s own ability to defend itself the longer you use it.
Kady’s suggestion turns out to be bottling emotions. Because they get in the way of battle magic? Wuuuuut??? This makes no sense, given that every use of battle magic we’ve seen successfully executed in this show so far has been under extreme emotional duress. Eliot killing Mike. Quentin defending Penny against Mike. There are more. We’ve even been told that magical ability increases with the amount of pain someone has lived through. Seriously, don’t the writers watch their own show?
Anyway, there’s a warning accompanying this emotion-bottling plan: Don’t do it for more than three hours, because the longer you do it, the more of a shock to the system it is when the emotions come rushing back in. Imagine yourself at the height of a night of reckless drinking: every emotional thing you’ve been keeping bottled up in your sober self comes bubbling to the surface until you’re hugging everyone in sight or crying over the tiniest perceived transgression or hopping into bed with Ted Cruz. No wait, scratch that last one. Nobody would get that drunk.
Penny, out of the hospital now, joins the gang. He agrees to go to Fillory if they agree to rescue the girl he saw in the dungeon there. They do the spell and the result is hilarious! When their emotions exit their bodies and enter the little vials they all have in their hands, they all become like Spock, devoid of emotion. Penny even calmly compliments Quentin on his sweater – and he’s being completely unsarcastic! Quentin dispassionately asks, “Shall we go fuck some shit up?”
“Yes, definitely,” they all murmur and head outside.
Julia and Kady begin their hunt for a magical being who’s old enough to tell them how to connect with a god. Their first stop is to a vampire’s divey apartment. He doesn’t have the info they want, but he gives them a name: another magical being that might know more. When they go see her, she has taken on the appearance of Hannah, Kady’s mother. (She can read minds.) She tells them the gods are all dead. Back at Julia’s apartment, the internet forum group listens to Julia and Kady’s report, and they’re not ready to accept that the gods are dead.
Outside the Cottage, Team Q-MEAP practice battle magic. It all goes swimmingly. When they take a break and go back inside to reverse the effects of the emotion-bottling spell, Eliot remarks, “It’s a pity we have to put them back.”
“Agreed,” says Penny. “Feelings are bullshit.”
Nevertheless, they do retrieve their emotions. Alice immediately begins crying that she loves Quentin “like so much,” while Quentin curls up in a nervous breakdown-y ball. Margo, crying, begs Eliot to tell her why they’re not friends anymore. Eliot retreats into a cigarette and avoids the question, saying that everything will be back to normal after they go to Fillory and fix things.
In the morning, they wake up with massive hangovers. Quentin proclaims, “I hate everything. I hate air right now.” Quentin and Alice have a bit of a spat: Alice thinks they should try mastering the battle magic without the emotion-bottling, and Quentin gets snippy because he doesn’t think he can do that, and he’s envious of Alice’s superior magic skills.
At Julia’s apartment, Julia retreats to the bathroom to make a private entreaty to the goddess she connected with before. “I want to do good. Please,” she asks. Later, she’s having a nap and the goddess speaks her name and appears to her in her dream. The goddess tells Julia that “everything has served to bring you closer to me.” She gives Julia a map and tells her to find the man who has served her for a thousand years and bring him three gifts. If she does this, the goddess will appear to Julia for real.
It’s another night at Brakebills. Alice encounters Penny outside alone, practicing battle magic without the emotion spell. She joins him. “We can do this,” Penny tells her. When the rest of the gang shows up, Quentin offers her the emotion bottle, but she declines. Quentin, Eliot, and Margo perform the emotion-bottling spell and get to work practicing. Alice and Penny continue on their own, eventually making tiny baby steps.
Uh oh! It’s been 3 ½ hours since Quentin, Eliot, and Margo bottled their emotions! They’ve left it too long! I predict bad things. They replace their emotions and the comedown is hard. Eliot and Quentin get drunk by the fireside, and Eliot mentions a magical healing spring from the Fillory books. He asks Quentin if he thinks the spring really exists. Quentin says, “Some of the good stuff has to be real. At least I hope it is.” Eliot says he wants it to heal his liver damage, but we know from his conversation with the Margollum that what he really wants to heal is his soul.
Outside, Penny and Alice are still at it. When Alice manages to master the “magic missile” spell, they rejoice with a hug. They are building a kind of close friendship that we haven’t seen from Penny at all so far.
Inside, Quentin and Margo prop Eliot up to get him to his bed, and then all three of them collapse onto his bed together. Eliot is unconscious in seconds, leaving Quentin and Margo to have a heart-to-heart about him while he sleeps. Margo is worried about him. Quentin comforts her with a hug and his belief that maybe the magical spring in Fillory really can fix Eliot.
(Hey, we haven’t had any sex in this episode. What’s going on? There’s sex in every episode! Have they matured and moved beyond that requirement? Dare we hope? Ha ha ha! Just kidding! Of course we daren’t hope. That’s too much to ask of this show.)
It’s morning. Quentin wakes up naked in Eliot’s bed. In quick flashbacks (thank you, director Amanda Tapping, for making these very brief flashbacks), we learn that Quentin, Margo and Eliot had a wild drunken ménage-a-trois. As the camera dollies down the length of the bed, we see Margo’s arm around Eliot, whose arm is around Quentin. At the foot of the bed sits Alice, who has obviously just walked in on these three. On her hurt reaction, we fade out.
The Bottom Line:
The emotion-bottling conceit was a nice way to get under the façade of characters who have been hiding their true emotions for far too long. We knew Eliot was broken, but now we finally see how it’s really affecting Margo. She’s not bulletproof after all. And just as Quentin and Alice are starting to have difficulties, the relationship between Alice and Penny is blossoming. I really hope it doesn’t turn into a sexual relationship. I like their friendship vibe, and Penny needs someone in his life who understands him now that Kady is gone. (It looks like Alice is going to need that too, given Quentin’s betrayal here.)
Grade: A –