The Magicians S3E11– Twenty Three
Fanbros, I will be the first to admit that when it comes to time travel heavy stories I’m not too keen on them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great in small doses, and I used to be an avid fan of Doctor Who, so the timey wimey business was par for the course. The thing is, there comes a time with all of the time paradoxes, etc. just become too much for me and I check out. Watching the ‘previously on’ of this episode of The Magicians, ‘Twenty-Three’, I already knew what time it was because there were so many callbacks to past events (the most important being the callback to a device that facilitates a time travel spell), so I wasn’t all that stoked about it going in. I can’t say that ‘Twenty-Three’ was the most thought provoking or acclaimed episode of the season or anything, but it was plenty entertaining and what else can you ask for in your urban fantasy program?
If you haven’t watched the previous seasons of this series, this is probably not the one you want to jump into first because–time travel. Quentin, Alice, Margo, and Eliot are wanted in Fillory (literally, as in there’s hand drawn posters out for their capture), but they need to get to Julia because they need the sixth key, the one in the possession of the faeries, and Julia is the only one tight with them. As a solution, they task Josh with going back to Brakebills and to Julia who fills Dean Fogg in on what went down with Irene and the faeries, and she offers him the school back if he wants it.
While trying to figure out what to do next, Julia and Josh suddenly find themselves inside a Tesla flection, a device that allows magicians to communicate across timelines. Turns out that someone is Josh, specifically Josh from timeline 23. I won’t explain every single callback, but I’ll throw a bone to anyone who hasn’t seen the previous seasons. In season 1 we find out that Jane Chatwin would create a time loop every time team Brakebills was unsuccessful in killing The Beast up until she died, at the point when they found out there had been 39 other time loops. In season 2, something called the aforementioned Tesla flection was introduced and we found out that the only person to survive The Beast’s massacre up until that point had been the Alice from the 23rd time loop. Got it? Good, back to our regularly scheduled recap.
Josh-23 wants their help with killing The Beast, who is the only person who still has magic which they assume derives from the key he keeps around his neck, and rumor has it that the key gives him visions of the future. The clock portal sends them back to timeline 23 where Josh is aligned with Marina from timeline 23. After The Beast wiped out Brakebills students he moved on to hedge witches, and in order to survive they joined forces.
There’s a lot of timeline exposition; in timeline 23 Julia got into Brakebills was basically the Hermonie of the place. Julia tells them some things like how she didn’t get into Brakebills and that she and Marina were sort of friends, while keeping other things to herself like the fact that she’s god-touched. Josh-23 and Marina-23 roofie Josh and Marina and tie them up to offer them to The Beast. Apparently Beastie-23 showed up asking for Julia even though she’s dead in their reality, so they plan to give him what they want in exchange for being left alone.
Julia keeps it cool and offers an alternative — casting the rhinemann ultra spell (the same spell that was used to kill The Beast originally) which you need god level powers to perform, so for Julia it ain’t no thing. After healing Marina of her scars and a few other things, they agree to stick with the winning team and double cross The Beast.
To get the spell, they go to their Dean Fogg, who glowed up from just a drinking addiction to a drinking and drug addiction. The friend that they got the spell from back in season 1 is dead, but it was given to Eliot-23 & Margo-23 who are dead, but their ghosts haunt the library. Marina-23 and Julia get spooked (understatement), but Julia manages to snag the spell before they run off. I’m glossing over it, but it’s less necessary to the plot as it is just a fun little callback to see the people El and Margo used to be. Would it take anything away from the episode if it wasn’t included though? Not even a little bit.
Something that does add to the episode though is the emergence of Penny-23, still alive and kicking, and who was apparently soul mates with Julia-23. Believe it or not, he’s even more hardened than Penny proper and he comes along with them back to the cottage. Sidebar: The scene is worth checking out for Marina’s commentary as Penny-23 kisses Julia, trust me.
The Beast shows up and kills Josh-23, and right after Julia hits him with the rhinemann ultra spell, but it doesn’t kill him, even more surprising, The Beast isn’t Martin Chatwin, but Quentin. They all travel out of the cottage and to the Neitherlands library where they figure out their next steps.
They go to see Alice-23, who told them back in season 2 that The Beast killed Quentin. She explained that he died and afterwards Alice-23 made a deal with a creature to bring Quentin-23 back, but without his shade (basically a soul in The Magicians-verse). Without his shade, Quentin-23 went beast mode, and after killing The Beast killed Ember, which of course made the old gods take magic away, except for Q-23 since he has the key.
Alice has the knife that was forged in season 1 to kill The Beast, so they plan to kill Q-23. Marina-23 wants to use Alice-23 as bait, but Julia refuses, and eventually tells her why. The why being that she did the same thing to Marina to lure Reynard and it got Marina killed. After hearing that, Marina-23 agrees not to use Alice-23. Instead, Julia wants to use her knowledge of Quentin against him.
They travel to Fillory-23 where Q-23 basically turned the palace into a Fillory & Further museum. After some villain exposition, he kills Alice, and makes way for the main event – Beast!Quentin vs. Julia. It’s not a battle magic fest, and instead Julia gives Quentin her shade. Back in season 2 Julia learned how to live without her shade, so she’s cool while Beast!Quentin loses it seeing what he’d done.
Because we didn’t have enough going on, Beast!Quentin tells Julia about how the key showed him a vision of the future where she opened a key at the end of the world to let magic in, but instead let in something worse. Right after his redemption arc exposition, he tells Julia to take her shade back and pulls a Romeo + Juliet, stabbing himself and dies next to Alice-23’s body, but hey, they got the 7th key.
Penny-23 decides to come back to their proper timeline with them considering Penny proper is out of commission in the underworld. Not sure if this is going to be a thing that comes back around, but Marina-23 runs through the door back to their proper timeline too. The episode ends on that somewhat comedic note, so I can only conclude that next week’s episode is going to be devastating, especially considering there’s only two episodes left in the season – home stretch, Fanbros.
I know I called this a time-travel heavy episode in the beginning of the article, but I’m gonna go ahead and correct myself and concede that it’s more of an alternate universe heavy episode, which can also get daunting, but Rick & Morty helped me gain a greater appreciation (and tolerance) of the genre. As an episode, ‘Twenty-three’ probably wouldn’t make too many favorites list, but is still a solid episode with solid acting. I don’t know if it can technically be qualified as a bottle episode, but if it doesn’t it comes close to being one considering the main cast was limited, as were the sets, and there were no B plots.
The prospect of ‘the quickening’ isn’t as fear inducing as it is mildly interesting, but with the introduction of Julia making it to the end, opening a door to restore magic but letting in something terrible I think sets up the last big dilemma of the season (and possibly the over arching set up for the next season) considering it puts into question if the key quest should even continue now. I can’t imagine everyone will be on board with just quitting and never getting magic back, so it should be interesting to see everyone’s reactions, especially Alice who developed a bond with Julia this season. There’s still so many plot lines to resolve and only two episodes left to do it, so all I can say as someone whose seen the other two seasons is buckle up, Fanbros.
What did you think of ‘Twenty-Three’? How do you feel about alternate universe stories? How do you feel about an evil Quentin? At this point can you love Julia Wicker anymore than you already do? Let me know in the comments below, and keep it here on Fanbros.com for more recaps on the Magicians!