There’s two major events happening in this week’s episode, ‘A Life in a Day’; First, there’s Quentin and Eliot’s quest to find the third key by constructing a mosaic, and then there’s Margo’s wedding to the prince of a clan of mountain dwellers with a large army. Q and Eliot’s task sends them to the past while Margo’s is set firmly in the present, but by the end of the episode, both storylines converge in a pretty clever way utilizing alternate universes and time travel. Both devices can get daunting fast, but used correctly can make for a pretty entertaining story, and I’d say that the latter applies more to this episode. I’m not quite sure if I like it more than last week’s just yet, but it was pretty good in its own right.
At the start of the episode, Alice and Quentin run into each other at the physical kids cottage, and after awkwardness ensues (in Alice’s words, ‘It’s just weird now. It just is) she tells him that she’s leaving and taking both the truth key and Penny with her. They go to a mental hospital where Kady is being held after her overdose. Rehab would have been a better option, but she doesn’t have insurance so that’s where she ends up. Alice gives Kady the key, and of course when she holds it, she sees Penny. The reunion however isn’t a happy one and for Kady, Penny being dead but not dead is the last straw for her. Trying to save him, in her words broke her, and because of that she wants nothing to do with him.
Back at the physical kids college, (which they get to keep because it’s been moved so much magically that Brakebills doesn’t actually hold the deed to it) Eliot and Quentin are all about the quest and finding the third key. Fen and Frey are quickly erased out of the episode with an exposition wand that explains that Eliot sent them into the city for the day with Todd. Using the ‘Tale of the Seven Keys’ book, they surmise that to obtain the third key they need to figure out the puzzle of the mosaic, which is also mentioned in one of the Fillory books. Their task is to use the mosaic tiles to create a design that reflects the beauty of all life. Eliot thinks it’s just vague enough to be near impossible, but he’s up for the challenge anyway, and step one is to figure out a means to get them to Fillory where the mosaic is located.
In Fillory, Margo was all gassed up from last week to kill the faerie queen, but of course, there’s a wrench thrown into that plan by way of marriage. The queen instructs Margo that she is to marry the prince of the tribe of the floating mountain. Once magic was lost, the mountain no longer floated, and while they don’t have resources that she’ll gain, they have a dope army so the faerie queen wants the marriage to build an alliance between them.
Margo truly shines in this episode. One of my favorite things to see in a television show is to see a side character fully realized, and I am calling it that this is the season where Margo as a character is fully realized and appreciated. There’s tons of low and high key feminist undertones thrown into the show, and it’s typically with Margo that they’re more on the high key scale, which makes sense considering there is very little about Margo that’s understated, especially her opinions. After she meets her betrothed and he explains to her that his people operate under a matriarchy, she is visibly ecstatic about it. That, combined with the fact that the prince is also gorgeous has Margo sold on the wedding. There’s even moment where as they got ready for the ceremony, they locked eyes and Margo looked away, bashful.
There’s an assassination attempt on Prince Micah, via an arrow, and Margo thinks Prince Ess of Loria (remember him?) is behind it and has him locked away in the dungeons as a result. Later, at the ceremony, the moment I do’s are exchanged, Micah’s head is cut off, and his younger brother steps in to marry Margo instead. It’s obvious he killed his brother, but per tradition, Margo has no choice but to marry him. Like I said before, the feminist undertones are hard to miss when they involve Margo, so it’s not a good look to see her forced into a marriage she obviously doesn’t consent to.
Jumping back to Quentin and Eliot, they get a bunny message from Margo asking for help, which spurs Eliot to want to hurry up and get to Fillory. They use the clock to create a door to Fillory, but when they go through they find out they’re in past. Eliot and Quentin find the mosaic, and find that despite there being magic in Fillory (considering they’re in the past) it doesn’t work on the tiles and that they have to construct the picture manually.
It literally takes a lifetime.
Quentin and Eliot spend that life time fighting like a married couple, they hook up at least once (but let’s be real, probably more) Quentin falls for a woman, they get married, have a kid, she dies, the kid grows up and leaves. Quentin has grandkids, and all the while they work on the mosaic up until Eliot dies. As Quentin digs a grave for El, he finds a golden tile and places it in the middle of the mosaic. This completes the puzzle and the key is produced. Just as he completes it, a young Jane Chatwin comes up and finds him, and for the second time, Quentin is a figure in his favorite book series, only this time, the prospect has lost its luster for him. Jane tells Q about how she has a stopwatch, but it’s the key that powers it. Q needs the key for the quest, but he’s also aware that Jane needs the key to create her constant time loops so he gives it to her.
Now here’s where the real timey-wimey stuff comes in, Fanbros.
As Margo opens every single one of her wedding gifts in an effort to put off consummating her marriage with her young husband, she finds a gift from Q, who gifted her with the first key, a letter explaining what happened to he and Eliot, and that they’re dead. In the letter, Quentin makes a point to mention that he and Eliot led good, full lives, which makes me think that’s the beauty of all life, and it’s something he couldn’t discover until after Eliot was dead considering he found the tile as he was digging his grave. Regardless, that turns out to be not all that important. What is important is that Quentin tells Margo where to find Eliza/Jane in the clock barrens, a spot where all moments exist at the same time, a place outside of time. Margo needs the key, but Jane can’t give it to her, since it powers the clock barrens. Eliza is nothing if not consistent, and once again keeps things vague, but tells Margo that she’s going to be a very powerful magician and queen.
The show does that thing it does so well in being self-aware and Margo laments over the fact that she feels more like a middle man or a supporting player in somebody else’s story. Eliza tells her that she is an important player, even if she doesn’t get the appreciation she deserves, her tale is her own and that is a damn good tale. It almost feels vindicating, a lot like last week’s episode where the under appreciation of Penny was finally acknowledged, and it further solidifies the fact that this show completely subverted the narrative of ‘a chosen one picked from obscurity to save the world on the strength of their own specialness’, and it continues to subvert it in season 3.
On a more practical level, Jane tells Margo that on the linear plane, her body is buried at Brakebills and that she can get her there no problem to dig up her body and take the key from there — it’s not a great option, but it’s the only one Margo has.
We go back to the beginning of the episode, right before Eliot uses the key to open the portal to Fillory, and Margo stops him from doing so, showing them that she has the keys. Of course, she and Eliot have a poignant, but humor laced moment (it’s kind of their thing), then they sit around eating and drinking and catching each other up.
In between all of this action, there’s still a side plot involving Julia and Alice, where Julia is tasked by another possessed body to help Alice. At this point, Julia just obeys and they go for drinks to talk. Alice wishes she had the magic Julia has (so I guess her stance has changed since last week) and Julia isn’t that sure why she has it in the first place. Alice suggests she uses the truth key and a mirror to focus it so maybe then she could get some answers. When Julia does it and looks at herself in the mirror, she sees her eyes look like Reynard, and suddenly she’s in an empty room with Our Lady Underground. Our Lady tells Julia that the power she has (which she refers to as a seed she intended for Julia to grow) was plucked from Reynard and given to her. OLU’s stance is that it doesn’t matter where the power came from because it’s not his anymore, it’s hers. Julia, understandably isn’t exactly moved by the logic and still doesn’t want it if it’s from her rapist. When Julia gets back to her normal realm, she and Alice talk more and Alice agrees with OLU while Julia just wants nothing to do with it and tells her that if she could give the power to Alice she would. Alice offers that maybe there’s a way that she could.
Towards the end of the episode, we go back to Kady, who is told that she can’t leave as the hospital’s cameras caught her conversation with Penny (whom no one can see without the key) and they deem her a danger to herself and others. It doesn’t help her case that she gets violent and tries in vain to escape, so in an episode of not so great circumstances, I’m thinking she’s a solid nomination for the recipient of the shortest end of the stick award this week.
The episode ends back in Fillory where Margo has returned with both Eliot and Quentin (did El legit leave his wife and kid in New York?). They find a basket of peaches and a letter, which somehow allows the both of them to remember the life they’d lived despite this version of the two of them not actually living said life, and it’s one of the rarely somber closings, as the show usually opts for funny or a cliffhanger instead.
The performances in this episode are probably some of the best in the series; from Quentin and Eliot’s arguments, to Kady’s blow up at Penny, they were all top notch, and while this episode wasn’t heavy on the funny moments, there were still a few (very few) chuckle inducing lines sprinkled in here and there. Mostly though, this episode conveyed a lot of heart, with Quentin and Eliot’s scenes especially. We see an entire lifetime lived and I wonder if the show will bother in the weeks to come to examine the effects that the two of them remembering a life they technically hadn’t lived will cause.
So what did you think about this week’s episode, Fanbros? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to check out recaps of past episodes of both season 1 and 3 right here on Fanbros.com!