Content Warning: This Review Discusses Spoilers And Themes Of Sexual Assault As Depicted On The Show
Quentin and Julia are on a quest to rescue Julia’s lost soul. But where do the severed Shades of the traumatized go? Where all lost souls can be found: the land of the dead.
Quentin and Julia are off on their Percy Jackson-like quest to sneak into the Underworld and rescue Julia’s Shade. Pop open a sewer grate in a New York City backalley, and what should they find? The Ancient One, gatekeeper to the land of the dead, aka a dragon. Or should I say the gratekeeper?
Sorry, yeah, moving along.
Dragons are nothing if not greedy, and the Ancient One is no exception. She’ll allow them temporary passage into the Underworld only in exchange for the Button, Q’s only ticket to interdimensional Fillory travel. Plus, this season pass to Hell has a tight expiration date. They have 24 hours to grab the Shade and get gone before the Ancient One has them for a midnight snack.
Over the pond in Fillory, things have escalated quickly since Fen’s disappearance. The entire castle staff has turned into rats, including King Idris, Eliot’s Prince-Charming-to-be. Considering everything, it’s probably the fairies, but when Margo phones down their ambassador, he has a different tune to sing. They snatched Fen, as Margo had promised them. But the “Rattening” as Eliot has taken to calling it, is the work of a force far less spiteful but far more powerful than the fairies. What are they dealing with here?
Quentin and Julia have to take a number before they’re allowed full access to the Underground. Meanwhile, Julia has an idea for how to pass the time waiting. The two of them seek out none other than her friends from the Freetraders, who are whiling away their afterlife in a bowling alley together. Oh yeah, and Richard is there too. Good old chipper, non-possessed by a predator trickster god Richard. It’s a hard reunion, and it helps just a smidgen that Julia’s Shade isn’t there to take the blow. Julia asks for their help in locating her Shade.
Of course Richard, ever the planner, has a map of the whole Underground. Take a wild stab at where Julia’s Shade is hiding? In the castle turned Shade orphanage of Hades and Persephone themselves: Elysium.
Penny and Kady are going hard at finding the key to the Poison Room (and each other). There’s a hefty chance the secret to getting inside, or what’s even inside in the first place, is contained within the Head Librarian’s “book”. Every person who’s ever existed as a book in the Library, with their life story – past, present, future – contained within. But the catch is Penny would have to know the Head Librarian’s name to look her book up. Penny and Kady find an unexpected ally in Sylvia, a teen girl interred at the library to hide her from any enemies of her dad, the businessman. Hmmmm.
Speaking of which, Reynard’s fully inserted himself into Senator Gaines life, and Gaines is none too happy. Learning that you’ve been mind controlling pretty much everyone you’ve ever respected, loved, and cared for is a rough blow to take. When Gaines doesn’t take to the evil trickster god life, Reynard goes nuclear. That’s all it takes to convince Gaines that Reynard is not so nice a fellow, and maybe not the right “dad” for him. He teams up with Kady to help take Reynard down. Which is good, considering that the Head Librarian’s book, like any god-killing info out there, is also stashed in the Poison Room.
Fillory’s going to shit. It’s not just rats, the whole kingdom is going batshit. People are going missing, the weather has gone nutsy, and all Fillory’s chickens have developed laryngitis. To get to bottom of the problem, Eliot laces the goblets of his top advisors and Margo with truth serum. The fairies. The deal. Fen. It all comes vomiting up out of Margo. It’s too much for Eliot to take. Unable to trust her, he has his remaining guards take her down to his most comfortable dungeon, while he tries to sort out this mess.
Easier said than done. Josh is still around to help out, but they’re both keenly feeling the absence of other helpers. Then Josh gets an idea. Why not have the people elect some Fillorian dukes and duchesses to help get things running? Fucking democracy bitch! Before they can even get a high-five in, Eliot’s been whisked away back to – you guessed it – Earth. Where previously he was explicitly banned from. Looks like Fillory doesn’t like the taste of Eliot’s democratic ways.
Quentin and Julia find the Shade orphanage, and get this – turns out Persephone? She’s actually Our Lady Underground. You know, the goddess the Freetraders called down? The one who let Reynard be summoned in her place? The two sneak right on ahead, only to find not just Julia’s Shade, but Alice’s too. Turns out that was why Niffin Alice couldn’t be fixed. Her Shade had been severed from her once she went full-nuke. It’s a tearful reunion for both Julia and Quentin, but they can’t stay. And they can’t take both of them.
Quentin clears the way back to the passage to the surface. Julia follows behind, but with only a Shade Alice in tow. It’s too late to go back. 24 hours is up, and Underworld security is on their ass. They make a swift elevator exit to the surface, leaving Julia’s Shade behind. This time, for good.
First of all, can I just say that the dragon was surprisingly fucking awesome? I wouldn’t have expected that level of quality out of a SyFy show, though I suppose I should not have been so surprised considering the kind of effects we’re looking at these days on shows like The Expanse. Not only did the CGI for the Ancient One look fluid, it was beautifully stylized, and the voice acting? Top notch. I didn’t know I needed a sassy ice queen dragon of the New York sewers until now. But I definitely want more, “No, I’ll eat you, I’m a fucking dragon, what did you expect?” dialogue.
And I’m not going to lie, I teared up a bit several times during this episode.
It was only a matter of time, but now the taut rubber band that is the weave of secrets Margo has been withholding from Eliot has snapped. As much as we all expected it, it was sad to see Margo and Eliot face to face with the knowledge that she allowed his wife and unborn kid to be stolen by the fairies. It’s sticky. There’s no win-win here. What Margo did was understandable, but in a lot of ways, Margo often operates like a part of her Shade were missing as well. She acts out of survival, and that purview of selfishness truly only extends to one other: Eliot.
No matter who it fucks, Margo would do anything to save him or herself. In a lot of ways, Margo’s panicked decision mirrors Julia’s choice to bait Reynard with a Niffin-possessed Quentin. With the addition of a bit more melodrama. Unlike Julia, Margo has a moral compass, but it doesn’t point true north. Sure, she likes Fen, but she likes Eliot more. So when presented with a choice of sacrifice, Margo leaps on it. It’s not an action taken lightly, or motivated purely from a cold, heartless place. As Margo says, it’s done out of love. But it’s a self-serving love.
Eliot knows this about Margo, and he still loves her. But he can no longer trust her. Margo is capable of doing anything she believes is in their best interest. Even if that means keeping those methods from Eliot. Will Margo succeed in bringing Fen back from the fairies? It seems unlikely, not without tremendous sacrifice. In fairy tales, those who travel to the world of the fairies to rescue loved ones often suffer immense trials. And even then, there is nothing to stop you suffering a Brothers Grimm ending.
Quentin and Julia’s adventures into the Underground were incredibly touching. It was a surprise to see Richard again, after all this time. You can see, even without a Shade, how much it weighs on Julia to embrace him after what Reynard did to her in Richard’s likeness. It is so peculiar to see just how different these two men – if Reynard the Fox could be called a man – are. Even though Julia did not have her Shade at the time, I hope finding Richard brought Julia some peace.
Vinegar comes with the honey. Still riding the trauma train, Julia finds that Persephone, wife of Hades and queen of the Underworld, is none other than Our Lady Underground. The very goddess Julia, Kady, and Richard’s group of recovering magicians sought after so desperately. So it turns out it’s not that Persephone wasn’t around to take the call. She just didn’t care. That… smarts. We’re really getting into some interesting territory when it comes to gods and goddesses here. I’ve been pitching this show as Harry Potter for adults in the past. Now we’re starting to get into Rick Riordan territory.
Nothing could have warmed my heart more than Quentin meeting Alice’s Shade. Because, of course. If a Niffin Alice exists out there, somewhere, she had to have been separated from her Shade. This was why both Niffin Alice and Quentin were stumped as to how to fix the “Niffin” problem. That human part of Alice wasn’t trapped inside the Niffin. It had been cut out altogether.
Julia’s decision to leave her Shade behind in favor of Alice is heartbreaking. Though the question is begging to be asked… couldn’t they have brought both the Shades? Julia has two hands. She could have dragged both of the brats along.
Regardless, it’s a touching gesture. The paths Julia and Margo set upon in this episode truly are parallels. Faced with the damage that their selfish choices have wrought, they choose to sacrifice themselves in order to right those wrongs. This is some fucking awesome character growth for both of them.
Is this the key? With Shade Alice in tow are we finally getting Real Alice back? Next week’s preview would seem to hint so.
Oh yeah, that and, full scale war. I’m sure that will go over well now that Quentin, Julia, Shade Alice, and oh yeah, Eliot are all Earth-stranded without the Button. Fun times ahead on The Magicians.