It’s time to steal a book from a Library. The Library of the Neitherlands to be exact. And inside that book, there’s the next Key. One of the seven that will bring back all magic. No pressure.
Alright, let’s break this down bit by bit.
Penny tumbles into the Underworld branch of the Neitherlands Library, making a quick, sneaky exit. The Underworld seems to have gotten a remodel. When Quentin was there last, it looked like a basketball court. Now it’s an open field lined with barbed wire and covered with refugee tents. Apparently, the “system” is on the fritz, and all the undead have been given temp housing.
On a mission to find Benedict, Penny trades an Underworld officer some Game of Thrones recaps in exchange for the mapmaker’s location. Benedict is a little too overjoyed to see Penny again. But bad news, he lost the Key to the Library. Penny loops back around the way he came, only to find Stephanie waiting for him. Remember her? The girl who died in the Poison Room? She claims not to hold a grudge about Penny leaving her behind. And she warns him that he’s about to make a colossal mistake. She has her hands on a couple of pages from Penny’s book, and leads him to Cassandra, the woman who writes the books.
Cassandra looks A LOT like Alice. But not. She’s just some lady who got cursed a while ago by a god to see into the future. Back when there was magic, the Librarians hijacked her ability so that all those futures were getting written down into books, the books which contain the lives of every person ever. Now that magic is caput, Cassandra is stuck with handwriting. Seeing as Q and gang are the one with the Quest, she’s been focusing on the seven of them. Right now, she’s writing about –
So yeah, Poppy hooked up with Quentin. He’s still pretty iffy on the whole breaking into the Library thing. The spell to get there needs to be very specific, and requires a hell of a lot of blood from Victoria to keep the portals open. They try to talk Alice into doing the math for them, since she knows so much on it from being a Niffin, but Alice wants no part. So, Poppy steals her Niffin notebooks instead.
The spell goes off without a hitch. Poppy and Quentin split off from Kady and Harriet to find the Key by the Bookwyrm. Only it isn’t there, and there’s still someone in the library. Worried about how long Victoria can keep the portal open, Poppy decides it’s time to cut and run. Only, Q and Poppy bump into Alice on their way to the exit. Poppy goes on ahead, leaving Quentin alone to confront –
Who, after being confronted by Kady and Harriet earlier for not helping out, bumped into Fen. She’s here on a little vacay away from Fillory, since getting the news about her stillbirth. After a few drinks, Fen talks Alice into going to the Library herself. Whatever knowledge Alice lost when she was transformed back from a Niffin might be stored there. She talks the Underworld Library guy into teleporting her to the Neitherlands, and once there, she makes a proposal to the Head Librarian. All her documented Niffin knowledge in exchange for a library card. But the Head Librarian has something different in mind.
That is, until Alice bumps back into Q.
Fen wakes up from a drunken stupor to find Julia returning to the Physics Kid’s house with Irene McAllister. And a fairy. Only Fen can see it, but once Julia finds out, she wants to look into why Irene seems to have a fairy servant. Swallowing her hatred for the fairies, Fen corner’s the fair servant. Not only does she seem genuinely terrified of Irene, she seems to believe there are no other fairies. She asks Fen to come visit her at the McAllister home. Julia comes along, only to find the fairy girl inside on a worktable, her leg sawn off. Little glass bottles are strewn about the place. Turns out the magic cocaine Julia snorted before? It’s literally fairy dust.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Harriet is in fact Zelda’s, the Head Librarian, daughter. Stifled by her mother, and wanting to share the knowledge of the Library with the rest of the magical world, Harriet left. But she’s back now to find the secret magic battery that is powering the Library.
Only, as Harriet and Kady explore the Library, they find it’s not a battery after all, but little glass vials of the same white dust. They run off with a case of the stuff, straight into Zelda. Kady runs off, just in time to find Quentin and, coincidentally, the Key. They make it through the portal, with Harriet following behind, her mother on her tail. Just as she climbs through the mirror, the case is yanked from her hands. The Underworld Librarian smashes the mirror behind her, trapping Harriet and Victoria on the limbo bridge.
Penny discovered that Benedict had the key all along. That’s how he was able to drop it into the book chute and get it to the Bookwyrm in time for Q to grab. Only, Stephanie closes the chute behind it, trapping Penny in the Underworld.
This was a very inventive episode. So often, The Magicians will take risks that seemingly don’t have any context. Sometimes it’s paid off. Other times, it made an episode feel forced. The style of having the character POVs presented in a series of short vignettes worked for this episode. I appreciated how it all tied into Cassandra, with each switch between characters occurring whenever Cassandra completed and handed off a new chapter to Penny. Why was Olivia Dudley playing Cassandra? I don’t know. I’m not sure the writers know either. Is it supposed to hint at some deeper plot which will be revealed later? Probably not.
Long ago, when Season One hit, I truly believed there was something going on in the writer’s room. The references which Zelda, the Head Librarian, made about knowing that Margot’s true character name was Janet seemed to tease at that. I was so excited for the possibility of a clever twist. Was this all an alternate timeline? Were we going to stumble upon another one soon, one where Janet was Queen of Fillory?
Nope. It’s like when Chuck just vanished in Season 5 of Supernatural, with the coy little hint to suggest that he’s “God.” It’s as though the writers are aiming for an “Inception” ending kind of moment without realizing that only works if you’re using it to close off a feature. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get some mention of Janet again come Season 11 of The Magicians.
Regardless, this episode was a lovely change of pace. The sequence for Harriet’s POV, muting out sound, was a great choice. It felt authentic to the character, and I appreciated having a little follow-through from the show on her backstory. For a change.
But now Penny’s fucked. Harriet’s fucked. Victoria’s fucked, though it’s not like we really ever card about her. Alice is working for the Library now? We’re coming on the close of the season, but we still have a whole lot of mess to tidy up.