Thursday, September 21, 2023

Do You Believe in Magicians

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We’re still short one magic Key, and time is running short. Will Quentin and Poppy be able to track down the next Key to the Underworld?


Fairy eggs in hand, Margot and Eliot beat a hasty retreat out of Fillory, meeting up with Quentin and Poppy before making their entrance back on Earth. Just in time to find Alice ODing on her new magic. A visit from Dean Fogg tells us that Alice is basically rejecting her magic transfer from Juliet as though it was an organ transplant. Her body is shutting down. Quentin leaves Julia to deal with the Alice problem to continue on the quest.

Returned from their NYC trip with everybody’s Brakebills favorite, Tod, Fen and Fray are rejoined with Eliot. Margot tasks Tod with keeping the fairy eggs safe. And with instruction to burn the motherfucking things in a day’s time, unless the Fairy Queen complies with their deal. They nearly have it all sealed and done, with Fray finds the eggs in Brakebills and goes running to the Queen.

The Fairy Queen threatens to kill Fray if her eggs are not returned to her. Betrayed, Fray spills the beans. She’s not Eliot and Fen’s daughter. Fen’s daughter died in childbirth. Her leverage gone, the Fairy Queen agrees to their terms. The spell which made the fairies invisible to the Fillorians will be broken, revealing their puppet scheme. But it’s all too late. Just as the deal is made final, Eliot and Margot are attacked by highwaymen in their carriage. The Fairy Queen set them up.

Quentin has a conundrum. The next Key is in the Underworld. But as he knows, from experience, you have to be dead to get in. He barely got in the last time, and that was partly because he had a soulless Julia as his companion. Turns out, he can do one better. Astral Projection-Penny is fully dead, not that he likes to be reminded of this. It takes some convincing but eventually Penny agrees to help fetch it. Even if it might mean never returning from the Underworld again.

There’s still another hiccup. Getting there. Last time, Quentin and Julia bartered with the Hudson River dragon to get a one-way ticket to hell. With Poppy’s help, the gang discovers there’s another dragon who might be willing to serve as their portal. The “Bookworm”, the Library of the Neitherlands’ dragon. Except, he’s a little on the teensy-weensy side. So Penny will need to project himself into an object to make the journey. And somehow project himself into the Key to send it back topside. Which means they’re going to need another Traveller for the job. One that isn’t strapped to the astral plane.

Remember Victoria? The Traveller the Beast had trapped in his weird creepy dungeon back in Season One? After the gang freed her in Fillory, she split and Travelled her way back to Earth. Seeing as they were once classmates along with Josh, Poppy tracks her down. Except Victoria isn’t exactly pleased to be reunited. Penny is able to win her over, though, seeing as how he was the one who really pushed to save Victoria in the first place.

But her help still comes at a price. Helping Harriet. The Hedge Witch with an agenda against the Library. Can you guess what she wants in return? Without much of a choice, Quentin, Poppy, and Penny all team up to spring Kady from the psych ward to help pull this off.

Julia and Fogg know that Alice won’t last much longer. They need to transfer the magic back. Except, rather than try and convince Alice to make the switch, Julia just assumes she’ll need to steal it back. Which would require more magic. Again. The only way to get some? Striking a deal with Irene McAllister, the board lady who bought Brakebills up from Fogg, in exchange for some magic cocaine. Desperate to hold onto her magic, Alice searches for a way to stabilize herself. Which brings her right back to square one; bargaining with vampires.

Except this time, she’s ready to turn. Julia gets to her just in time, pulling Alice away from the vamp. In rage, Alice lashes out at Julia with her magic, nearly killing her. Seeing the damage she’s done, Alice does the transfer herself, restoring it all back to Jules. There has to be a reason Julia has this gift, and why she can hold it. And maybe it has something to do with bringing magic back.


Not going to lie, Fen broke my heart this episode. It was fitting to have Eliot embrace her in her grief over her lost child, to apologize, to wholeheartedly support her decision to leave Fillory in the wake of this revelation. It doesn’t change how unfortunate it was to have Fen’s dementia surrounding her stillbirth be treated like a cheap joke. But at least it was a fitting ending? From the get-go, Fen has been a fantastic character in this series. It just kills me to see her character arc get kicked to the street and curb stomped to serve as the butt of a joke.

Plot bunnies? Oh they abound this episode. Nearly as much as the new talking, interdimensional Fillory bunnies do. The need to have Penny go to the Underworld? Flimsy. Victoria being connected with Harriet, and her Library-hating compatriots? Convenient. This whole storyline with Julia and Alice and the swapping of magic? Talk about anticlimactic and seemingly just pointless.

While I enjoyed getting to see some of their on-screen friendship this episode — and female friendship has been lacking on this show, especially of late — it feels too much like two steps forward, one step back. I am glad, though, that we’re seeing a little less Emo Alice. Finally. This isn’t a criticism of Alice’s motivation, post-Niffin cleansing. I get where they were going with the arc. How this new, post-Niffin Alice would feel starved and betrayed, now that she’s been cut off from magic. But there’s a lot of nuance to an arc like that, and with so much other craziness going on, most of it is lost.

We’re coming up on the end now, but, was this not the Quest of the Seven Keys? What are we at now? 3ish? Quentin and gang better get a move on. The clock is ticking. I think this show could use a little magic right about now.

Images courtesy of SyFy


  • Shailyn

    Shailyn Cotten is a New York-based novelist, screenwriter, and undergraduate studying film at the School of Visual Arts. If you can’t find her perusing used bookstores, or buying up games in a Steam sale that she likely won’t ever play, you might be able to find her doing something productive, like writing articles for The Fandomentals, creating content for her YouTube channel Shai, or writing blog posts for her website,

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