At last, Poppy from the books makes an appearance! But her arrival might spell more trouble than Quentin could guess.
Alice still really wants magic, so she and Julia try to reverse engineer a Hedge witch spell to transfer Julia’s magic to Alice. Astral-projection Penny drops in to give the bad news that they’re not the first to try the spell since magic went bankrupt. And those guys? They died. It was very explosive. Turns out that before it was a “Hedge witch” spell, it was Dean Fogg’s spell. Marina just stole it from him. A little chat with Fogg reveals that the spell requires the “flesh” of an succubus to conduct it. Luckily for Julia and Alice, that doesn’t mean some magic penis. But it does mean a severed succubus tail. So there’s that.
The Floater Queen corners Margot, attempting to convince her that the Fairy Queen is in fact a mutual enemy. She claims to have a plan underway to kill the Fairy Queen, and expects Margot to believe her. Right before she tricks Margot into a locked bedroom with her 15-year old son. She throws away the key, until Margot “consummates” her new marriage. The Fairy Queen recruits Eliot to help talk Margot into sealing the deal.
With everyone else on their own little side quests, Quentin takes it upon himself to hunt down the next key. The next chapter has revealed itself, and sets the scene for the “Abyss”: a part of the Fillorian Ocean which only ever sees night. Piece of cake. Quentin actually takes the quest well in stride. He finds the open water refreshing, even when they reach the Abyss. But then they pick up a straggler from a wreck. It’s Poppy, one of the Brakebills students that went missing along with Josh Hoberman all those years ago. She was the only among their classmates to survive after their shipwreck. Oh, and she has the next key. Poppy just so happened to find it on an island full of dragon treasure before she wrecked. Quentin and Poppy celebrate her rescue, and when Q is passed out drunk, Poppy puts the key in his hand.
With the addition of the tail, the magic transfer spell works. Alice has magic again. But all isn’t well. Julia sets off to live her new “normal” life, but she is still plagued by visions of Reynard the Fox. Back at Brakebills, Alice embarks on a mission to build a new body for Penny to inhabit. Just as she’s getting started, Alice starts to seize, foaming at the mouth. Unable to communicate from the astral plane, Penny fights to get someone’s attention.
Eliot comes up with a clever plan. He talks the Fairy Queen into letting Margot and her new “hubby” go on honeymoon. The real destination? The Fillory orchards which the fairies have been terraforming magic mushrooms for the last few months.
Except they’re not just mushrooms. They’re fairy eggs. The Fairies are planting an entire army. Panicked, Eliot and Margot grab a few of the mushroom embryos and hit the road.
Quentin wakes up to a surprise: himself. It appears this Key makes a “worse” version of yourself appear, one which is consistently attempting to talk you into committing suicide. Even before she wrecked, this was what really killed most of the Brakebills students. By passing it off to Quentin, Poppy rid herself of the spell. Quentin struggles to hold onto the key until they make it back to Whitespire, plagued by his new inner demon. He resolves eventually to have the mapmaker, Benedict, tie him to the mast.
Except, when Poppy learns that the keys can open doors to other dimensions, she snatches it off him. Stuck to the mass, Quentin yells for Benedict to get it from her. Benedict returns, triumphant…but for one small problem. As was established only minutes ago, Benedict struggles a bit with depression himself. Weaker willed than Quentin, apparently, Benedict throws himself off the boat with the key in hand. And promptly is eaten by a sea dragon. Cool.
Poppy turns back up to release Quentin and give him the good news: dragons don’t shit. Because dragons are basically portals or whatever, once the key works its way through its digestive tract, it will wind up somewhere else. The Underworld.
I’m not the books’ biggest fan, but I do think the writers for Magicians made a mistake in how they are adapting the Quest for the Seven Keys. Season 3 thus far as been too episodic, and its resulting in pacing that’s jarring and disjointed. An overextension seems to have been made in order to accomplish a similar rhythm as was seen in previous seasons. By this I mean, the writers appear to be trying too hard to create situations that require more locations and POVs to be seen on screen.
Originally, of course, the quest is also split between Fillory and Earth. But there isn’t nearly so much jumping back and forth in the original material, and clearly for good reason. Quentin and Julia’s trip to Earth, in The Magician King, is actually more of an obstacle to be overcome. Once they find their way back to Fillory, they’re in Fillory for the long haul. Until magic goes caput at the end of the book. In the interest of adapting material for television, I’m sure it seemed like the smart choice to split each key up into individual “quests” that could be roughly cordoned off to one per episode.
The problem with this, though, is that by jumping back and forth between Earth and Fillory consistently between “quests”, we don’t get a sense of journey. Instead, it begins to feel redundant.
It’s a tough call. I can see how putting the whole gang on a ship for over one half of a television season could potentially kill pacing, and ruin the current structure of many POVs that Magicians had running. But this middle ground they found, in my opinion, just isn’t working. Each quest feels like an elevator episode. A character trapped in one kooky situation for the next 40 minutes, only for that problem to get hastily resolved. Very little carries over in between episodes. Ironically, the writers made a cute little jab this episode, by having Eliot and Margot break the fourth wall, claiming now they have “depth”. On the contrary, we really haven’t seen much character development stick this season. Lots of things have happened, sure. But has anyone changed?
No. Still, I’m interested to see how this will wrap up in the finale. Since Magicians has flipped the end results for the Quest of the Seven Keys from turning off magic to restoring magic, I’m curious how they will adapt the consequences. Spoilers, but The Magician King sees a conclusion where Quentin gets booted out of Fillory all Narnia-style. For good, supposedly. Will we see more of the same?