FanBros, I promise that I am not usually this enthused about every television show I watch. Actually, I tend to annoy myself a lot of the time when I’m watching/reviewing something because I feel like my opinions are maybe too negative (nobody wants to be a contrarian). Yet, I feel like every time I sit down to write these recaps week after week I just come off as extremely impressed by The Magicians. Granted, I am impressed, very much so with this current season especially. It’s not perfect, and my biggest gripes with this show have been well documented, but I think watching this week’s episode, ‘Six Short Stories About Magic’ I’ve figured out what I like so much about this show as a whole — it’s got guts. Sometimes the chances the show takes sinks(the Margo forced marriage plot line is problematic af, it just is) and sometimes it swims, but something should be said about the fact that the show doesn’t just set out to tell their stories in a paint by numbers sort of way. Last week I said that episode was good, but it wouldn’t be my favorite of the season when it comes time to re-watch, but this one might be.
The episode starts with Penny arriving to the underworld branch of the library through the book chute. From there he sneaks out to find Benedict and he does find him in a sort of refugee camp type set up of underworld temporary housing (another glimpse of how the loss of magic is impacting another facet of the world the show has built). Benedict is beyond stoked to have Penny there, but Penny is only interested in the key. After Benedict tells him that the library confiscated the key when he arrived, Penny ditches him, which makes me feel bad for him in the same way I felt bad for Frodo when James and Alyssa ditched him in The End of The F***ing World (which is also a really excellent show, check it out if you haven’t already).
Penny heads back to the library to presumably start his search for the key, and Sylvia, the fellow librarian he met in season 2 shows up intent on helping him out. Not gonna lie, Fanbros, I was not excited about seeing Sylvia back. She was annoying in the way younger characters tend to be in tv shows (think Dawn from Buffy), but really, the thing for me about Sylvia was that her arrival on the scene is interconnected with all of the ‘super cancer’ stuff, and I really didn’t want to see that make another appearance. She wasn’t a total home run for me this time around either, the deadpan snarky teen thing has been done to death, but in small doses, why not? Her presence didn’t irk me or anything.
Regardless, Sylvia tells Penny that she read in the pages of his book (when the library was introduced in season 1 we learned that every magician has a book of their life; past, present, and future) so she knew that he’d be there and that she was there to help him. She takes Penny to see Cassandra, the sole person who writes all of the books. Cassandra freaks out when she sees him because she doesn’t like talking to the people she’s writing about, and Penny freaks because Cassandra looks exactly like Alice, albeit an older, crazier version of Alice. Cassandra is not Alice though, and it’s her writing that moves the episode forward, providing a vehicle for the titular ‘six short stories’.
While Penny is the focus of the first vignette, setting everything up for us, Poppy is the focus of the second. At one point in the last episode, she slept with Quentin just to get him to chill out — it did not work. They’re still in bed and Q talks to her about how worried he is that their plan to retrieve the key won’t work. Poppy’s advice to Quentin boils down to ‘chill and do you’, which isn’t all that effective on Quentin in terms of receiving a pep talk, but she says it works for her even though she’s well aware that she’s not the greatest person in the world. Regardless, Poppy signs herself up for the quest for the long haul, citing that she’s a self-serving person and that she really wants magic back.
When Poppy leaves Q’s room, she’s wearing nothing but one of Quentin’s shirts and runs into Alice. She doesn’t give a crap about the two of them hooking up, but she thinks their plan to use a mirror bridge in order to get to the library is beyond their abilities and if done wrong Victoria and everyone else could die. Poppy asks Alice to help them so they get it right, since her time as a niffin made her even smarter with magic than she already was, but she declines. When Victoria hears about how delicate the mirror bridge process is, she tells all involved that unless Alice comes on board she’s out.
After Harriet leaves to talk to Victoria, a suspicious asks Poppy what Harriet is after. Kady tells her that Harriet’s people have seen librarians doing big magic and that Harriet is after a giant magical battery that’s rumored to have been built by ancient Egyptian magicians.
Not long after, Poppy’s dubious ethics is an advantage to the team as she steals Alice’s niffin notes. Despite not having Alice, they have her knowledge, and the plan moves forward. Everyone in on the plan (minus Victoria, who as the traveller has to say and keep feeding the sigils with her blood to keep the bridge between the two worlds open) goes through the mirror and into the library and split up — Kady with Harriet and Quentin with Poppy. They find the book chute where the dragon would spit out the key, but the key isn’t there and Poppy implores Q to just cut their losses and leave. As they’re leaving, they run into Alice and Quentin wants to stay. Poppy bails anyway and tries to get Victoria to do the same, but she refuses to leave the others trapped to die. Poppy tells her to do what she’s gotta do and leaves.
Next up is Alice, and we go back a bit in the story. After a futile attempt by Kady and Harriet to bribe her into helping them with the mirror bridge, Alice is alone in the cottage until Fen comes in through the clock from Fillory. Fen gets drunk and tells Alice about how her real daughter is dead, and Alice tells her that she can relate given how much she’s lost in the past few months of her life. Fen sets her straight pretty quickly though, and tells Alice that their situations aren’t the same because what Alice lost can be found again. It has to strike a chord with Alice because she gets an underworld librarian to take her to the library so she can talk to the head librarian. Alice offers her all of her knowledge gained as a niffin, but it’s a no for the head librarian. She does propose a counter deal that somehow involves the quest for the seven keys, which Alice accepts.
The head librarian gets called away, and it’s here that Quentin sees Alice (the same point in Poppy’s vignette. ) Quentin wants to know what she’s doing there and if she’s been working for the library, but Alice begs him to just leave, which he eventually does.
Eliot is next up, and I’m going to tell you now, there isn’t much to say about his story. He and Margo are locked up, and he tells the people that while he hates Fillory, it saved him when he was in a bad place in his life. Because of that he feels a duty to now save Fillory and he asks the leader of the uprising, a wombat, to let him go. That’s pretty much it, we don’t get an answer from the wombat or hear from Eliot or Margo again, but I’ve been watching this show long enough to know that this particular plot won’t be dropped or neglected, so let’s all just sit tight Fanbros.
Fen’s vignette is next, and while it isn’t my favorite sequence, it is my favorite storyline of the episode. It starts with a knock on the door at the physical kids cottage, and Julia answers. Irene walks in ready to call in the favor Julia owes her after giving her the magical powder. A side effect of prolonged use is some really gnarly looking Freddy Kruger-esq scars and Irene gives Julia a spell to treat it. Fen, who has been watching from the couch tells Julia about how she saw a faerie standing next to Irene and she wastes no time throwing out some pretty anti-faerie sentiments. Based on the actions Fen describes to her, Julia proposes that the faerie sounded more like a servant to her, and suggests it might be Irene’s slave. Fen still doesn’t care, but Julia, feeling a pull to help, convinces Fen to come with her to Irene’s so that she can talk to the faerie while Julia heals Irene.
The faerie’s name is Sky and from the way she acts, Fen figures that she is a slave, but Sky tells her that she’s not and that Irene protects her and her fellow faeries from bad magicians. Sky asks how it is that Fen can see her at all and she tells her that a pact was made on her behalf with faeries, which confuses Sky who tells Fen there are no other faeries. Sky asks Fen to come back tomorrow to talk when Irene will be gone and Fen agrees.
Fen and Julia come back the next day, and Fen is horrified to find Sky on something like a surgical table straight out of a Hostel movie with her leg cut and they realize what the powder Irene gave Julia is; not the excretion of a magical creature, but the creature itself. Did The Magicians just teach me a lesson about not demonizing and making assumptions about a single culture based on the actions of a few? Oh I think they did. I’m shook.
Harriet’s sequence is by far my favorite. In it, we see Harriet growing up through the years in the library. We find out that the head librarian is actually Harriet’s mother (remember, time moves differently in the library). Their relationship gets more and more strained over the years, as the librarian wants to keep Harriet in the confines of the library, but Harriet wants to see as much of as many worlds as possible as she is hungry for knowledge and experiences. As she grows older she wants it not only for herself, but for the rest of magician-kind well. Eventually, Harriet is banned for increasing willingness to break the rules of the library, then we get back to the present.
Harriet and Kady sneak around the library trying to find the battery, but they discover the real way the librarians are using magic as they find a ton of tiny vials of fairy dust after they knock out a librarian and take his suitcase. They don’t know what the dust is, but they do figure out that it gives them magic. They try to make their escape and come face to face with Harriet’s mom. Harriet tells Kady to go, which she does. She and the head librarian talk, but the librarian they knocked out wakes up and she makes a mad dash for the mirror to leave with the suitcase. She almost makes it, but he manages to get the suitcase back, and shatter the glass of the mirror.
That all sounds pretty straight forward, and good, but not great right? Well the gutsy part, and the thing that endears me to this sequence is that almost all of it is dead silent. There’s no music, no dialogue; just signing. Every once in a while there’s a small noise, like a finger snapping, but the sound effect of hearing the glass of the mirror shattering after such a long stretch of no sound pretty much sold me on this episode in general. Kudos to whoever came up with the concept because it was dope, and in a season that made a reference to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode ‘Hush’, it’s that much cooler, because there’s no way that wasn’t a direct influence.
Penny has pretty much had it after reading the pages with Harriet, but Cassandra gives him one last page, and after reading it he realizes that Benedict lied about not having the key anymore. Benedict comes clean, and Penny acknowledges that he did him dirty earlier in the last episode. He makes sure that Benedict won’t be lonely in the afterlife and tells him that after he gives him the key, they’ll take him to the map branch of the library where he’ll be very popular.
Penny gets the key and drops it through the dragon chute, but doesn’t leave as Sylvia double crossed him and snitched to the library that he’s there.
We go back to Quentin, more specifically to when he left after Alice told him to, and he runs into Kady after Harriet told her to leave. He hears the dragon barf something up and gets the key. They both go through the mirror bridge and the last shot is of Penny getting hauled away by a couple of librarians.
What an awesome episode. Last week’s was pretty good, and packed a lot of action, but was also pretty convoluted as it laid out the groundwork for the plan to secure the key to be executed. ‘Six Stories About Magic’ had it’s convuluted moments as well, but the logic of their actions were easier to follow. Not to mention, I’m kind of in love with the framing device of vignettes centered around different characters in general. This key was by far the most complicated to acquire, which is kind of clever considering it’s introduction was by far the easiest as Poppy just so happened to have had it. Gotta love a little dramatic irony.
The episode did a great job at giving us a more in depth look at both Poppy and Fen. Poppy’s motivations are both told and shown in her actions, while Fen is more shown than anything. As a character, I’m giving her the MVP award this week, because seeing her go from hating all faeries to distraught that one of them was hurt and used is great. Fen was a freedom fighter in Fillory before she was queen and to see her put aside her bias and see the humanity (faerie-manity?) in someone from a species she blames for her daughter’s death? Call me cheesy, but it’s beautiful. Aside from that, the episode showed Julia finally starting to understand and embrace her magic and find her purpose. New problems on the horizon were teased like ‘the great blank spot’ The Librarian is so afraid of, and clearly something has to be done about shady faerie murdering Irene, not to mention Alice is now in service of the library, and there’s got to be an explanation on how it is Cassandra and Alice look exactly alike coming. When it comes down to it, I’m a sucker for a great story, Fanbros, and this episode gave us six.
What did you think Fanbros? Was this your favorite episode yet? Which story did you like the most? What about the least? Are you as shocked as I am that I loved an episode that didn’t have a single line for Margo? Let me know in the comments below, and check out my recaps for past episodes right here on Fanbros.com!