The latest episode of Syfy’s hit fantasy series The Magicians picks up right where the previous one left off: with Quentin discovering that Penny traveled to Fillory. Except, the Fillory that Penny experiences is much different from the Fillory that Quentin clings to in his books. Penny’s Fillory is dark and dangerous instead of frivolous and whimsical, a realization that Quentin finds difficult to stomach. In many ways, it’s like the final nail in the coffin of Quentin’s childhood fantasies of magic, something that he can no longer deny.
Nevertheless, this development is more than just a rude awakening for Quentin; it also forces him and Penny to work together for the second time on the show. In order to prepare himself for any future excursions into Fillory, Penny has to rely on the expertise and tutelage of Quentin, an arrangement that can’t be easy for either of them.
Before the tutoring can begin, however, Quentin, Penny, Alice and Kady are whisked away by Eliot and Margot and subjected to a bizarre hazing ritual to test their versatility and team working skills. For the most part, these tests are straightforward and the lessons that are meant to be imparted in each of them are fairly predictable. The first one, however, is quite an anomaly, as it requires participants to cheat in order to advance. Looking back, this really shouldn’t have come as such as surprise; a lack of morality has underscored the show ever since Dean Fogg declared that the point of being a magician was to accrue power and that Brakebills neither supported nor objected to their students using their skills for selfish ends. With this in mind, why shouldn’t the willingness to cheat be a virtue at such a school?
Or maybe it’s not so much the willingness to cheat as it is the recognition that you can’t overcome obstacles on your own; you have to utilize the skills of those around you in order to advance. This is certainly true of the first trial, in which Quentin has to rely on Alice’s brilliance and Penny’s astral projection powers to get to the next round. And it’s also true of the second trial, which requires Quentin, Penny, Alice and Kady to work together and delegate roles in order to complete a series of tasks. Moving forward, I have no doubt that this lesson—that they can accomplish more as a team than alone—will prove to be the most useful.
But what about that final test, which requires each aspiring magician to bare all (literally and figuratively) to one another? As far as storytelling tactics go, this is definitely one of the more ingenious ones, providing a great opportunity to dive into each character’s psyche while also propelling multiple storylines forward. For Quentin, we learn that despite being at Brakebills and being on his way to becoming an accomplished magician, he is still not happy with who he is. For Alice, we learn that her magical genius leaves her feeling isolated from others. And for Penny? For Penny, we learn that he’s in love with Kady and is afraid that his feelings with make him vulnerable. But it’s Kady who gains the most character depth. Prior to this episode, the most that we knew about her was that she was Penny’s girlfriend and that she was stealing for Marina, so it was nice to finally learn more about her backstory. As it turns out, Kady was forced into servitude to Marina by her own mother, but the circumstances surrounding this betrayal are still unclear. Hopefully, future episodes will deliver additional insights into how and why Kady is in her current situation.
Now that she has confessed to Penny about her double-dealings, I expect that she’ll be more involved in the story from here on out. Personally, I want to see her tell Marina to stick her demands where the sun doesn’t shine and make amends with Penny and the others. While reconciliation with Penny might take some work, I have high hopes for those two to emerge from this stronger than ever.
Last but not least, let’s talk about Julia. Unsurprisingly, Julia remains determined to find a way to increase her magical skills. She runs into Hannah, Kady’s mother, who insists that she can help Julia steal knowledge from Marina’s coven. Julia, however, has reservations about Hannah, especially after she finds out that Hannah sold Kady out to Marina, proving that, in spite of her reckless tactics of late, Julie still maintains a shred of moral integrity. Nevertheless, this shred isn’t enough to curb her desire for vengeance; Julia agrees to work with Hannah, and the two of them begin weaving a spell to summon Marina’s filing cabinet to their current abode. At first, it seems like they are victorious—but then everything comes tumbling down. Marina catches onto their plan and curses the paperwork in the cabinet and Hannah, who is the first person to handle it, falls victim to the curse and dies bloody. Will this deter Julia from continuing on her path, or will this galvanize her desire to take down Marina? We’ll have to keep tuning in to find out!
New episodes of The Magicians air on Monday nights at 9:00 pm ET/PT on Syfy.