The Writing Room – Recap
The Magicians is most often categorized as an urban fantasy, but the hallmark of any good show is that it doesn’t have to be just one thing. In its two seasons, the show has been ballsy enough to try several different genres of film and television on for size with varying degrees of success. The ninth episode, ‘The Writing Room’ is one of those genre bending episodes as it is the most consistently horror movie-like episode in the entire show. The episode takes place in an old mansion in England, so as you might have guessed, the type of horror it evokes the most here is gothic horror, complete with spooky English ghost children, a headmistresses and a lot of creepy old timey English costumes. Past episodes have shown us in scenes here and there that the show is able to set up some pretty creepy shots, but the entirety of the Brakebills crew’s storyline is firmly rooted in the creepier side of things, which is ironic considering this is the episode that deals the most (thus far) with the whimsical and Narnia-like Fillory. So let’s get weird and jump into the recap.
Quentin receives the amends letter Julia had been working on last week before she was so rudely interrupted by Marina. She tells Quentin that she’s given up on her quest to become the biggest, baddest hedgewitch the world had ever seen, and that she’s sorry for her part in what transpired between them. She does make a point to let Q know, however, that they are both to blame for their friendship being broken and that she is still working on forgiving him. To his credit, Quentin writes her back, and also apologizes for his fault in the deterioration of their friendship; so while they both aren’t there yet, there’s at least some hope for a chance at reconciliation. In the meantime though, Julia continues to work with Richard, who offers her an opportunity to use magic for something good, a penance of sorts utilizing a similar spell to the one she used on Quentin in episode 4.
Convinced that the answer to how to defeat The Beast is in the manuscript that he’d lost in the first episode, Quentin casts a locator spell to find it. Turns out Penny actually did steal it, but he no longer had it because he trashed it after spilling a beer on it. He did read it though, and after some prodding from Quentin, he tells them what he remembered from it. From Penny’s recollection, he tells her that the book was written by Jane Chatwin and in a meta way the purpose of the book was to set the record straight about all of the wrong details in the previous Fillory and Further books. Fillory stopped allowing Jane’s brother, Martin Chatwin entry into the magical realm, so she promised to find a way to get him back in. To do that, she hunted an animal who granted her a wish, and as a result she received a magic button that would allow the holder to enter Fillory whenever they wanted. Quentin tells them they need to find it, and concludes it’s most likely somewhere in Christopher Plover’s (the author of the books) mansion because in the books, Martin never found it. Penny uses his traveller abilities to get to England where Plover’s mansion ( which is now is a Fillory museum) is located, but Quentin and Alice uses a portal Eliot and Margo made to get to their favorite pub with the condition that Eliot come along.
Richard takes Julia to meet a woman named Kira who is completely paralyzed and unable to communicate in the real world. Using the aforementioned spell from episode 4 to enter her mind, and after being tested, Julia talks to Kira who is a brilliant self-taught magician whose body gave out on her, unable to handle the complex magic she was experimenting with and performing. Julia’s job is to write down what Kira dictates to her in regards to casting so she can take it back out to the real world with her.
Quentin, Penny, Alice, and Eliot take the tour through Plover’s estate, and Quentin of course geeks out, correcting the tour guide and taking selfies. The interesting thing about the lore surrounding Plover and Fillory is that it so closely resembles the real world story of J.M Barrie, author of Peter Pan. There’s a lot of speculation regarding the nature of the author’s relationship with the kids that he based the story on, and if it was as innocent as it seemed. The same is true for Fillory and Further, and while it’s real world counterpart’s allegations will probably always remain just that, it’s confirmed for us that Christopher Plover was a straight up child predator.
The crew waits until night fall when the museum is closed to go find the button, and in doing so, they find out that the house is haunted with its former inhabitants, mostly children. Hauntings in the world of The Magicians play out in a pretty cool way too, like an interactive movie playing over and over again, and this is how they and we find out that Plover’s sister, previously thought to be loving and caring was abusive to the children Christopher took in, going as far as to tie them up and sew their mouths shut if they weren’t quiet. Worse still, Plover himself was a pedophile who preyed on Martin Chatwin specifically. Martin wanted to get into Fillory in order to escape Plover’s abuse, which makes it all the more tragic that according to the Fillory and Further books, Martin never found the button.
The darkness (both literal and tone wise) of the main plot in England is juxtaposed with the brightness of Julia’s, with most of her scenes in a brightly lit park, a construct of Kira’s mind. Kira who encourages Julia to not be afraid of magic or her potential. There’s a cute moment where they’re transported to the location of one of Julia’s happiest memories, and that place turns out to be under a table where she and Quentin drew a detailed map of Fillory. It’s a nice moment that serves as a reminder that it’s inevitable that their paths cross again, that Fillory has been in their both destinies all along, and that they’re both just taking two very different routes to get there.
The Brakebills crew manages to find the button hidden in the pocket on the corpse of a kid that Prudence, killed (only one of many), while Julia stays with Kira in her mind as Richard euthanizes her (her request). This episode has hands down one of the bleakest endings so far; Team Brakebills concludes that Plover must be The Beast based on the fact that he had several books about powerful magic and spoke of a spell he was trying to perfect to obtain six fingers so he could enter Fillory himself. While Kira leaves this world (and the show) with positivity and encouraging words, it still has a profound effect on Julia who I think saw a lot of herself in Kira, which is why after she’s dead she cries. In the final scene of the episode, the crew, all gather around the button in question, and the moment Penny touches it he vanishes before the credits roll.
The big take away from The Writing Room, is the very pessimistic notion that life isn’t far. In the park Kira tells Julia that ‘the world never did help a smart girl’ and at Plover’s mansion, after Alice insists that they go help the trapped spirits of all of the children who lived and died there Eliot explodes on her lamenting that there’s nothing they can do because that’s just the way it is. Something particularly effective in this episode is Quentin’s disenchantment with Plover. It’s been iterated over and over, and plainly stated in this episode that Quentin views The Fillory and Further series as something that saved his life. So naturally he would look at the man who created the series as a sort of hero, but when he finds out his hero is a monster it’s almost heartbreaking to see him bounce between anger, sadness, righteous indignation, and a sort of bleak acceptance. There are no winners in at the end of the episode, no high notes, only hollow victories and questions of what comes next. The end of this episode feels like the end of a sort of second act for the first season as a whole. With only four episodes left in this first season there’s still plenty of questions yet to be answered, not to mention a big bad to face off against. And while tone wise, it was a departure from the other episodes, I think The Writing Room was one of the most cohesive and well put together episodes in the series.
So what did you think, Fanbros? Let me know down in the comments below, and if you’ve missed any of my other recaps you can find them all right here on Fanbros.com.