This was a doozy of an episode, wasn’t it? With “Divine Elimination,” The Magicians seemed to be attempting to pull off a difficult two-episodes-in-one. On one hand, they gave us typical “third episode of the season fare:” hijinks and a bit of violence in the form of a tangent plot (cursed thrones that turn Fillory’s rulers into backstabbing paranoid Nixon-esque monarchs). But this episode also acted as a delayed finale, giving us the climax that occurred at the end of Lev Grossman’s first novel and which I (and presumably many others) had expected at the end of season one.
We begin with a typically great Eliot zinger. Upon hearing that the name of the battle magic spell they’ll be using to kill the beast is called the “Reinamon Ultra,” our high king retorts, “Sounds like a not-so-great beer.” (Another favorite Eliot line? When he asks the cartographer about procuring him a dagger: “Surely someone has snuck into your office and dramatically stabbed a knife into a map to make a point, no?” I could make this entire review just the incredible lines delivered by Eliot and Margo.)
Anyway, last week, we learned that the “Reinamon Ultra” was the spell that Rupert Chatwin used to win the Battle of the Bulge, and Alice will be using it to finally defeat the beast, with the help of cacodemons implanted in our heroes’ backs which will provide distraction during the fight while she powers the spell up.
The only point of that tangent plot I mentioned above (paranoid, cursed rulers trying to kill each other) seems to be to waste said cacodemons—both Margo and Penny release theirs while she’s attempting to stage a palace coup (Alice, in adorable Alice fashion, set hers free because she didn’t like it to be trapped under her skin). With our four rulers cursed up and attempting to kill each other, Penny gets a bunch of syringes with potassium chloride and a bunch of syringes with adrenaline so he can kill them all, thus fulfilling the quota of the curse, and then bring them back to life. Where he gets the syringes or their contents is one of those TV show mysteries we’re just supposed to go with, but lo and behold, the plan works and we’re left with five Brakebills alums and one remaining cacodemon, Quentin’s, that they’ll be able to use to fight the Beast later.
The Beast, as you may remember, is now Julia’s singing buddy-cop partner on her mission to kill Reynard, the trickster god who raped her and murdered her friends. They use Marina, the queen hedge-bitch, to help summon him.
That scene, Reynard and Marina bantering as we watch the power shift between them, is one of my favorites of the entire show so far. Marina, snarky and barely letting the fear play across her face, emerges as basically the coolest, and it’s a shame we’ve seen so little of her. Reynard turning her cat inside out (!) and biting her fingers off is the visceral terror that I’ve been missing from Martin Chatwin—the terrifying, unexpected, gleeful evil that came across so clearly in the book.
But, because this is The Magicians, when Julia and the Beast show up to save Marina and kill Reynard, Penny appears with the worst possible timing to whisk the Beast and Julia back to Fillory. Why was that the plan? Why did Penny take Julia? When did he get so good at traveling with other people? Why didn’t Julia say, “Hang on, just gonna stab this guy really quickly”? I have no idea, but there you have it.
Instead of summoning his cacodemon like he was supposed to, Quentin acts like a big dumb idiot and pulls Julia out of what he thinks is the line of fire of Alice’s spell to kill the Beast, and even though this was supposed to be a spell that kills everyone within a 20 meter radius, even though this was a spell that shifted the course of World War II, Alice misses slightly and the Beast is left with only a slightly burned arm. Like the villain in a video game, he disappears so he can reappear later in the episode for another fight.
That fight does happen, after we find out that Ember randomly took a shit in the wellspring of all magic, which seems like it’s going to be a hilariously major plot point, and a genuinely sweet scene between Quentin and Alice which reminds the audience why we’re supposed to root for them. By the time she’s telling Quentin all about the ice cream sundae she wants when this is all over, the audience knows she’s not making it home. That’s classic movie law: you can’t talk about anything you’re dreaming of doing after the battle if you want to survive. No sweethearts you want to kiss, no retirements you want to enjoy, no ice cream sundaes. Sorry, Alice.
And, of course, she doesn’t make it. Or, the Alice we know and love doesn’t make it. Like her brother before her, Alice goes “full Harry Potter part seven-slash-eight” and niffins out, turning her into a blue demon of pure magic and flashes of bomb-ass highlighter on her cheek. Sorry Quentin: niffins are enlightened magical beings and they have no need for softboys, even if they are adorable and willing to take a magical shoulder-swiping bullet for you.
NOTE: This episode brings the count to about 11 times Penny’s hands have alternatively not worked, and then worked, and then not worked again.
Current Penny hand status: Attached, but not working (magic silver chains taken off by Julia)