Panic! Eliot is dying and Julia’s gone rogue, so Quentin is doing his fair share of panicking in “Word as Bond” (02×08). Will Eliot survive? Has Julia transformed into Fillory’s next Beast? Quentin fears that the lives of his friends hang in the balance, but it might just be his life at stake this episode.
Content Warning: This Review discusses sexual assault, as depicted on the show.
What’s done is done. Following the events of last week’s bank heist, Quentin is forced to sign a contract allowing Niffin Alice to drive his body for one hour per day.
Looks like Julia lost her Shade. You know, that thing the Beast was rattling on about for episodes before Niffin Alice blew him up? The thing he promised Julia he could cut out of her? The thing he claimed was not only holding her back, but weighing her down since her assault at the hands of Reynard?
Turns out Quentin and Kady have less reason to be concerned than one would think. Julia wakes from her post-demigod abortion dysphoria only to emerge the most chipper and alarmingly optimistic son-of-a-bitch among them. Complete with a new ready-to-take-on-the-world outlook on life, Julia is convinced that there’s nothing that can get in the way of her taking down Reynard. She wants to create a new banishing spell, but they need a power source equal to the one her demigod birth would have afforded her. What’s better than a baby demigod? A full-grown demigod. Dana’s son is still somewhere out there, and now Julia is intent on finding him.
The Eliot situation isn’t going well. He’s still catatonic since his Golem bit the dust during the bank heist fight with the Battle Magician, but Margo is optimistic. An enchantment just has to be woven to transfer his soul from the dead Golem back to Eliot’s real body, Margo explains to Quentin, and then he’ll be right as rain. Quentin wants to help, but Margo insists he go back to look after Julia on Earth. It’s actually a super touching moment. Margo might hold a grudge against Jules, but we see her love for Quentin front and center. She might not show it often, but there’s a heart of gold under there.
Turns out Quentin was sorely needed, too. He arrives just in time to watch new, fearless Julia open a portal up to the outside world, convinced Reynard won’t give a shit. It takes like .2 seconds for Reynard to show up. He wants to know where Dana’s demigod kid is. Quentin arrives in the knick of time to whisk Julia away to Fillory via the magical Button. He leaves her there with Margo for the time being, where he knows Reynard won’t ever find her.
Alice gets her first turn at possessing Quentin’s body. He wakes to find himself in the library, sleeping on books about how to transform Niffins back into their human counterparts. Is Alice trying to save… herself?
Meanwhile in Fillory, the war with Loria situation is only escalating. Looks like Prince S has this whole forest of talking trees on his side, and they’re using them to conceal their numbers. Julia goes with Margo to talk to the One-Way Forest’s dryad ambassador, but turns out he’s a sexist prick. He only wants to talk to Eliot. Fed up, Margo leaves it at that, but Julia returns shortly after.
She kidnaps a Lorian sorcerer hiding within — the same one who made Castle Whitespire go “poof” — and demands his freedom in return for an invisibility spell strong enough to evade a god. After the sorcerer’s on his merry way, Julia calls out to the dryad. She pleads with him to take a token to his superiors, a small wooden chest. As she’s on her way home, the forest explodes behind her, burning fiercely in the aftermath of the chest’s detonation. Queen Margo is P-I-S-S-E-D. Maybe putting Julia in time-out in the Fillorian dungeon will put her back in line.
Margo and the enchantress give the revival spell one Eliot one last try. Right as it seems that they’ve truly failed, Eliot wakes up! It’s a happy family reunion.
Things are great in Quentin-land. He’s woken up from another body-possession session lying inches away from the bloody corpse of a little girl. Well, technically it was an angler beast disguised as a girl, but it’s still pretty gruesome. Niffin Alice tortured it for the whereabouts of a certain somebody.
Next thing Quentin knows, he’s in Dublin, thanks to Alice, and meeting none other than Friar Joseph. A centuries old Niffin, who’s never been boxed. Alice wants to know his secret, but the Friar doesn’t really see what’s in it for him. He tells Alice to come back to him once she’s broken out of Quentin’s body on her own. Alice is furious, and it affects Quentin pretty badly. His nose starts to bleed, and it seems his body is weakening under the burden of keeping a Niffin trapped inside of him.
Back at Brakebills, Kady and Penny are fighting. Kady doesn’t want his help, but Penny isn’t asking. Getting his magic back and obtaining new info on the demigod kid in one fell swoop, Penny signs his life away to the Order of the Librarians. And yeah, he did it all for Kady. Looks like she can’t push him away forever.
Quentin drags himself into the Physical Kid’s house, and straight away Penny can sense psychically that Quentin’s got some shit going on upstairs. Not to mention the gushing nosebleed. Suckerpunching Quentin, Kady insists Penny take the opportunity to incept Quentin while he’s still unconscious. Surprise, surprise. There’s a very angry Niffin Alice inside of Quentin’s head, and it tries to strangle Penny soon as he steps inside. Whoops. Looks like the cat’s out of the bag.
In my mind, this is all Quentin’s and Margo’s episode.
They knock it right out of the park with that scene where Quentin comes to check in on Eliot. We’ve seen this side of Margo revealed to Quentin before — the part of her that’s softer, which loves the Fillory and Further books just as much as he does. The part where she secretly admires him for his intense, if not sometimes foolish passion for magic. She knows that bringing up the Fillory and Further books is a bridge between the two of them, and she uses it to assure him. I’m so glad we got to see more of this Margo. As much as I love watching her be a badass, sometimes I want less Fillory Clinton and something more grounded.
Margo might feign at being selfish, but when shit’s really at stake, we see her come through. With Eliot’s life on the chopping block, we see her break down and finally fess up to the badass front. In the moments in which she is convinced that Eliot is beyond saving, she turns to Fey with complete genuineness and swears not only to take care of her, but their unborn baby. She promises to run herself ragged before she’ll see Fillory or those she loves come to harm. All along, we’ve witnessed that Margo sees detachment as her greatest asset. But now we see that Margo’s true strength comes from selflessness.
Let’s hop on over to the other side of the fucking universe, where it’s all topsy-turvy in Julia-land, and nothing makes any sense. Okay, so Martin suggested that cutting out Julia’s Shade would absolve her from the pain that the trauma of her rape is causing her. As a sexual assault survivor himself, he had his own Shade severed from him to alleviate the unbearable pain.
Is that what we’re looking at here? Beast 2.0?
I really hope not. This parallel between Martin Chatwin and Julia has been one of the most interesting parts of the show so far. Two sexual assault survivors, turning to magic to cope with their loss; to defend themselves from that unspeakable trauma. If Julia turns full Beast on us, we kinda lose that parallel. Martin let the trauma, the “monster”, that was his damaged spirit consume him until he became bloodthirsty. A predator himself. It likely all started with him severing his Shade. The heart of this story would be cut away if Julia fell down the same path. We would never get to see her truly come into herself. What becomes of this narrative then? Does the moral become that all sexual assault survivors are doomed to become consumed by their pain?
I sure hope not.
On the up side, there’s progress on the Niffin Alice front! Am I crazy, or did she seem to actually… give a crap about Quentin, this episode? Not to manipulate him either. Alice seemed to have a genuinely hurt reaction to seeing Quentin in pain. At first, it seems like she’s trying to un-Niffin herself. Then, she’s dragging Quentin halfway across the globe to beg a centuries-old Niffin for the secret to escaping her bondage.
Why? Is her end goal to get loose and wreak Niffin havoc? Or does it go beyond that? Does she need to be free from Quentin’s Cacodemon tattoo in order to enact any kind of un-Niffin transformation magic?
Either way, it looks like Quentin isn’t going to be able to survive containing Alice’s Niffin within him much longer. Besides the psychological backlash of being kept awake practically 24/7 between Alice’s nightly joyride and the pressure to help Julia track down Reynard is clearly getting to him. His body is starting to physically break down.
Penny’s Traveller “incepting” doesn’t seem to even scratch the surface of the Niffin problem, either. Will the gang be able to help Quentin before things go too far? Next episode’s sneak peek seems to be more Eliot and Margo-centric, as well as… musical inspired?
All doubts aside, this was a kickass episode. We got to some genuine character growth out of Margo, Quentin pushed even further past his limits, and a little glimmer of hope that real Alice might one day return to us. Maybe things are starting to look up in the land of all-things-magical?