‘The Magicians’ Recap 2×12: Illusions and Allusions

In the poison room… SyFy

I am thrilled that The Magicians has been renewed for a third season because this show has been aging like a fine wine. From a first season that felt uneven and not entirely sure of its tone, season two has been episode after episode of consistently entertaining, entirely unpredictable, well, magic.

Last week, Quentin and Julia went to the bureaucratic country club that is the Underworld to retrieve Julia’s shade. Instead, Julia proved being without a shade didn’t mean she wasn’t without a heart and brought back Alice’s shade in her place. But putting a shade back into a niffin’s body isn’t as easy as sneaking into Persephone’s home (apparently) and so Julia and Q go to Mayakovsky, who has the ego, the battery, and the Quinn-family-associated guilt to make the attempt. Lo and behold, Alice is back, but she’s fragile and needs some time to adjust. (Sure she’s been a niffin, but Alice’s plotlines have been the thinnest, and dullest, of this season. The actress has had little more to do than alternatively shivering and screaming at Quentin. It’s all been a bit Eddie-Redmayne-in-Jupiter-Ascending.)

Meanwhile, Librarian Dream Team Penny and “Mob Baby” Sylvia are spelunking into the Poison Room fountain so he can retrieve a book on how to kill a god and she can read her own book and figure out what’s going on with the weird missing pages at the back of everyone’s story. Mob Baby has replaced Margo as sassy-one-liner-lady and I am here for it. Her death then, (turns out the poison room is…poisonous) comes across as incredibly bleak and arbitrary—sure, she’s not in the book, but she was so great! We barely knew ye!

High King, or rather, former High King Eliot is on earth after being banished by Ember, presumably for trying to introduce democracy into FIllory. Eliot kills it both in terms of his suit (damn) and his references to Homestar Runner. His banishment is a good and proper one because Quentin gave their button-of-transportation to Smaug last week in exchange for passage to the underworld. Now, this pairing of two (this episode is all about team pairings) has to go find the original entrance to FIllory to get back: the clock that the Chatwins used, purchased by a Fillory super fan in Vancouver who turns out to be… Umber, the other goat-god (okay, fine, ram-god), who faked his own death and left Fillory under the control of his more mercurial brother and Martin Chatwin. The reveal is two-fold: Umber is alive, and Fillory is dying because Ember is bored. The world was always just meant as a way to entertain him and now he’s throwing rocks into the water because it’s fun to watch the ripples before he decides to totally destroy that world and move on. Earth children, as leaders, was a classic reality-show tactic (we’re all drama queens), and Fillory is a big, twisted, meta metaphor.

(Since Josh is the only child of earth left in Fillory, he’s now the High King by default, and he celebrates by smoking a lot of weed until Margo shows up looking like a Star Wars ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi and tries to Margo him into action.)

The last team pairing of this episode is Julia and Kady, working with John Gaines, U.S. Senator and guilty son of Reynard. The trickster god, who established himself as the Bannon of the Gaines administration, presents John with his wife’s ear in a box to keep him in line, and then delivers perhaps the most twistedly sinister line this season: “I saved you the biggest piece.” John proves to the be the most heroic government representative in history and uses his mind-control powers to force Kady to kill him and use the discharged power to build a bullet that will be able to kill Reynard.

Julia and Kady create a lightning storm to bait Reynard out (it’s a sign that the Mother Goddess—remember, the one Julia had been trying to summon? Who turns out to have been Persephone? Who we now think Reynard is in love with?—is returning to earth. And like Chatwin clock-work, the trickster god appears, calling out to the Goddess. Kady, a true Gryffindor, goes out to distract him so Julia can get a good shot, and the setting is perfect for a showdown: dark sky, lightning, a woman scorned with a gun to the man who violated her—and then the sky clears. The Goddess, the real Goddess, actually appears. In the second god-related reveal of the episode, the Goddess is actually Reynard’s mother, not former lover (which makes some of the things he was saying about her a little weird in retrospect), and, to Kady’s fury, she talks Julia into mercy. In a slightly more-heavier-handed-than-normal metaphor for healing and moving on, Julia does not kill Reynard, and in return, the goddess leaves Julia her shade.

Did you catch all that? This episode was insane and complicated (I didn’t even mention the actually terrifying sequence in which Lorian guards kill Josh’s palace guards and take over Whitespire) and I feel a little detached from reality for having written this recap, but it was also highly entertaining, and even after reading all of Lev Grossman’s books, I have absolutely no idea what will come next.

Favorite lines:

  • “My pregnant wife is locked up in Fairy Gitmo, I’m bethrothed to a rat, my pinot noir grapes are nearly ripe—my adventure’s just begun.”
  • “You gave our only means of traveling to Fillory… to fucking Trogdor?”
  • “The talking beavers are in revolt: they’re demanding dental coverage”
  • “I know it’s hard for men to imagine women having their own reasons for doing anything…”
  • “I started reading Kanye’s book—by the way, he’s really misunderstood.”
  • “If time loops exist, then I’m Team Sarah Connor: ‘no fate but what we make.’”
  • “If I had to leave Fillory, Canada was the obvious second choice.”
  • “Nothing entertains Ember more than a whimsical death.”
‘The Magicians’ Recap 2×12: Illusions and Allusions