We know that alternate timelines are a thing in the world of Magicians, but what happens when the Quest for the Seven Keys gets Julia and Josh stuck in one?
In Fillory, Quentin, Alice, Eliot, and Margot get the news about the Sixth Key being trapped in fairyland. They send Josh back to Earth to learn about the how and the why. But when Josh is talking it out with Jules, they both get teleported to another timeline by way of Tesla Flexion. Who summoned them? Josh.
In this timeline, magic is also caput. And there’s still the Beast. To give things an extra little kick, the Beast is the only one who still has magic. Alternate-timeline Josh isn’t exactly sure how, but he figures it has something to do with the key that’s around his neck. The Seventh Key.
Their two minutes in the Tesla Flexion are up. Not wanting to leave the others hanging, Julia and Josh head for the Fillory clock. Only, when they step through, they’re not in Fillory. They’re in the alternate Brakebills. Josh and Marina—who happens to be alive during this timeline—rope and dope the two. Turns out this timeline’s Beast has been searching for Julia, despite the fact that she’s dead in this timeline. Desperate, Josh and Marina made contact with our pair so that they could basically bait the Beast.
Except, of course, our Julia and Josh lived through the Beast, and now how to stop him. Plus, now that Julia has god-powers, the spell to end him won’t require anyone going Niffin.
There’s a few steps to getting there. With some help from Dean Fogg, Julia learns that the Beast-killing spell was in the possession of this timeline’s Eliot/Margot wombo-combo, before they died horrifically. Luckily for Jules and Josh, their ghosts still haunt the Brakebills library, and they’re able to find the spell somewhere in their endless death loop. As Julia is trying to master it, the Beast himself shows up. He slaughters this timeline’s Josh just before Julia can fire off the spell at him. But it has no effect. Apart from the Beast revealing his identity. Quentin.
Penny travels them away just in time. Jules and the (new) gang are floored. But this timeline’s Alice, the one Quentin and Julia talked to in the Tesla Flexion in Season Two, might have the answers. They find her in Fillory, working on some magic boat. It turns out that after Quentin was killed by the Beast in this timeline, Alice made a deal with some Fillorian monster to get Quentin back. Except, he came back without his Shade. Only a shadow of his former self, he took Fillory for himself, slaying the Beast along with Ember. Hence the now godlike powers.
The good news is that Alice has that dagger which was gifted to Q and gang in Season One. And, once again, become Julia is now God-Julia, she can wield it. The teleport to Castle Whitespire to confront Quentin. While Alice tries to run distraction however, he kills her on the spot. Julia rips her Shade out of her and puts it in Quentin. Horrified, and realizing what he’s done and become, he reveals why he did it all. The Seventh Key gave him a vision of the future. One of Julia unlocking a door at the end of the world, to bring back magic. Only, by doing so, she brings back something far worse.
Unable to live with himself, Quentin gores himself with the godkilling blade, and Julia takes back her Shade.
With the Seventh Key in hand, Josh opens up a door back onto their timeline. Josh and Julia don’t go back alone, though. They walk through with this timeline’s Marina and Penny in tow.
Yeah, you heard that right. They retconned Penny. Why? Because fucking plot bunnies.
Literal plot bunnies. Like, if the infinite amount of interdimensional bunnies strewn about this season isn’t an intentional bit of symbolism, it might just be a calling for divine intervention.
We’ve gotten our first hint at how this season plans on adapting the Seven Keys quest into the show. Yes, Julia will be the one to open the door at the end of the world. But rather than it being Julia’s rightful salvation and Quentin’s unfortunate doom, it looks like unlocking that door will only bring through the next big baddie.
Which, I get. It’s television, right? If they wanted this show to last longer than three season, they needed to start padding things out somewhere along the line. And that’s just assuming that they would be adapting one book storyline per season. It’s pretty formulaic, but that doesn’t bug me.
My worry lies in the writers having gone so far off track with character arcs – Julia’s especially – just within source material.
What happens when they go off-script?
I’ll give them one thing, they proved me wrong. They brought back the alternate timelines. Figures they would only do it because they wrote beloved characters into a corner. But hey, we have the convenience of time-wimey interdimensional magic shit, right? Fuck it. Just invent a whole new Penny who is soulfully in love with Julia now. Why not?
What’s it called? Lampshading. You know, that desperate shit writers in film and TV are throwing at us willy-nilly now that they think they gotta be “PC”? This show does this all the fucking time. Not to mask bigoted tropes – that I can think of – but to cover for their own laziness. This episode we saw Julia and Josh directly call out the seeming randomness that allows the Fillory clock to bring them to an alternate dimension instead of… oh, I don’t know, Fillory? Great, glad to see you’re self-aware guys. That doesn’t make it NOT what it is. Lazy writing.
My predictions remain the same. If I thought Julia’s arc got screwed last season, I only have to wait a little longer to see how much worse it can get.