Remedial Battle Magic – RECAP
Think about a show that you like. Got it? Good, now think about introducing that show to someone. You only get one shot to make a good impression and it’s a pretty lofty task sometimes to find the perfect episode to introduce someone to. For most shows a lot of people have a go to ‘this is why this show is so awesome in a nutshell’ episode, and for me personally, ‘Remedial Battle Magic’ is that episode of The Magicians. I’m not sure if it’s the very best episode of the series, but it hits all of main reasons why this show managed to solidify me as a fan. All of the shows most noteworthy attributes are on display here, Amazing chemistry between characters? Check. Hilarious dialogue? Double check. Fantastical elements blended seamlessly to contribute to the world building of the show? You bet. There’s a lot to go over in the episode, so let me stop fangirling and start recapping.
The Brakebills crew are sitting around with the pages that the liberian had given to Penny in regards to The Beast while he was still in the Neitherlands. They discuss how they should deal with the situation, they know that their time is running out, and sooner or later The Beast is gonna strike. They’re split on what to do as Eliot, Margo, and Alice want to strike a deal with The Beast and give him the button in exchange for being left alone. Quentin and Penny, however think it’s a terrible idea albeit for different reasons. Quentin thinks it’s an awful idea just because of who The Beast is and what he’s done. Penny on the other hand is against it because since he’s a traveler, giving the button up doesn’t protect him if The Beast’s goal is to eliminate any means of travel to Fillory. Still, the boys are outvoted. Some time later, Quentin is still pressed about the group’s decision to give the button to The Beast, but he and Alice are both stopped in their tracks when they see nearly everyone slaughtered. Margo, with her dying breath tells Quentin that they should have listened to him and after a feeble attempt to hide, both Alice and Quentin are murdered. And that’s just the cold open so you know this episode is lit.
Considering we’re maybe a smooth five minutes into the episode it shouldn’t be a surprise that a good portion of our main characters are not actually dead. Instead, they were under a probability spell that they’ve apparently done a few times and in every instance they’ve died, except that might not be entirely true. There was one instance of the spell in which they went to Fillory and they didn’t actually see themselves perish, but instead everything just went white, so they’re not sure of their fates in that particular instance. Quentin points out that it’s the best chance they have and champions them going to Fillory to fight The Beast head on. Penny is having none of that plan and leaves, telling the group that they’re on their own. Almost as soon as he leaves, The Beast starts talking to Penny telling him to bring himself to him and if he doesn’t he’ll drive him crazy.
On the free trader side of things, because she is what Richard calls ‘god touched’, Julia is tasked with finding a way to contact a god by tracking down leads from other species. This is where the world building comes into play because humans (magicians or otherwise) are not the only creatures that have inhabited the earth. Long ago there were many who served the gods directly, but now there are only a handful and they live nothing like they used to, typically in secrecy, squalor, or both. Still, they’re much older and at the very least Richard figures that one of them can point them in the right direction in order to petition a god.
Because they’ve resolved to go to Fillory to fight The Beast head on, Quentin tells the group that they need to obtain and learn some battle magic. The rest of the crew (minus Penny) is all in, mostly because at this point what chance do they really have? Their battle magic discussion is interrupted when Alice gets a message from her mom. Apparently her boyfriend, Joe (the traveler who helped them get Penny back from the Neitherlands with sex magic) killed himself. He’d been hearing voices that got worse and worse until he couldn’t take it. Because Penny is a traveler, Alice goes to check on him. He tells her that he knows exactly what happened to Joe because it’s happening to him. The Beast is targeting every traveler, threatening them constantly until they either succumb to him or kill themselves. Because of this, Penny goes to see his mentor from episode 5 who confirms he’s also been hearing The Beast. The scene doesn’t last too long, but man brace yourself for it because it’s more than a little abrupt as Penny’s mentor tells him that he knows exactly what to do to get the best of The Beast, pulls out a sawed off shotgun, sticks it in his mouth and pulls the trigger before Penny can even get a ‘no’ out of his mouth. I know I’ve spent some time in these recaps talking about Julia’s trauma but man at this point the two of them are pretty neck in neck. Someone give that man a hug.
Eliot steals a book of battle magic, and they don’t waste time opening it up to get to practice, at some point it’s said that The Beast comes for them in about a week. None of them can do anything though, not even Alice, and being that they’d seen Kady use battle magic in episode 1. Quentin gets the idea that they need to find her so she can teach them. In order to find her though, they need Penny, who at this point is visibly in pretty bad shape, The Beast told him that he’d drive him insane, and so far he’s doing a pretty good job of it, torturing him with the screams of the traveler girl he’d seen locked in the dungeon in Fillory. Penny helps him perform a mirror spell, but doesn’t go with them when they find her location, which of course if Julia’s apartment.
It’s about here that I get a little giddy because this is the closest we’ve gotten so far to all of the main cast being together. It was obvious the moment Julia joined up with the hedge witches and the narrative split that eventually, their paths would cross for more than just a brief rendezvous, and now we’re here with the Brakebills gang in Julia’s apartment and Kady being in a scene with them for the first time since she took off at the end of episode 7. Kady doesn’t hesitate to let them know that their plan is idiotic at best and that she knows how to do battle magic because she’s been practicing for literal years. By it’s nature, battle magic requires a chill beyond belief and if we know anything about our gang of leads is that none of them have any chill. She does, however help them with a spell hedge witches use as a shortcut when they want to use battle magic, one that literally bottles up their emotions. Even though Julia isn’t there, Quentin and Kady have a profound little moment where Q asks how Julia is and Kady asks about Penny. The Magicians isn’t filled with a plethora of scenes between these two, but it’s actually interesting to see them having a conversation in the midst of all of the madness. They’re about as different as two characters can be, but at the moment they both share the commonality of being estranged from people they care deeply for. Kady keeps in vague, but tells Q that Julia is working on something good and Quentin tells Kady ‘Penny is like a cockroach, worse for wear, but he’s surviving and alright’. Quentin is both right and wrong in his assessment because while Penny is a survivor, alright is the last thing he is when the next scene rolls around.
Since the show started it’s been established that to deal with the voices in his head, Penny has always self-medicated. So with The Beast working overtime to send him to his breaking point, Penny is too in order to stave his voice off. He goes overboard and ends up overdosing. Alice finds him and gets him to the infirmary where Professor Sunderland gives him the exact kind of harsh pep talk he needed along with a temporary fix to hearing The Beast’s voice in his head in the form a small device that Penny plunges into his neck.
After he leaves the infirmary, Penny changes his mind and tells the gang that he’ll go to Fillory with on the condition that they save the girl in the dungeon, and with that, they go to work.
Julia and Kady visit a vampire hangout and after a very healthy dose of Julia Wicker sass (and blood), he points them in the direction of a creature that used to directly serve a goddess. The creature is a shape-shifter and takes the form of Kady’s mother, and though they’re both stunned, they see right through it. The creature is no help and tells them that the gods are dead, which means that the free traders have hit a wall, though none of them intend to give up their search. While she isn’t by any means the leader of free trader Beowulf, it’s obvious that Julia is an integral member of the group and honestly, it’s her time with this group that Julia has been the happiest we’ve seen her. Even in a moment of defeat, she’s able to still crack a witty joke and lighten the somber mood that falls on them, I can understand why the portions of the books that involve free trader Beowulf is so popular.
As with all magic on this show in particular, there are caveats that come with literally bottling up your emotions. They can only keep them bottled for 3 hours at a time, and when they do regain them back it’s like they’re hit with an extreme wave of emotions that overwhelms them all to say the least. The emotional hangover is deemed worth it by most of the magicians, but Alice thinks that they should try to master battle magic without bottling their them after her first experience with the spell. Still reeling from having his emotions bottled up, Quentin sort of snaps on Alice and tells her that while he’s sure she could master it without the assistance of the bottling, she’s obtuse in just assuming everyone else who isn’t as good of a magician as her could too.
Julia locks herself in a room and prays to a goddess, and after a while, the goddess presents herself, encouraging her to find the means to summon her. The goddess tells her to find someone who has served her for a thousand years who can show her how.
Penny seems to be on the same page as Alice, as he is also not a fan of bottling his emotions again. When Alice goes to practice, she finds him already on the mock battle field meditating. They practice together and I want to stop here to talk a moment about Penny and Alice. I don’t know what their relationship is like in the books, but the two of them work off of each other really well. They are another pair that couldn’t be more different, but at the same time, they’re a lot alike in certain aspects. Neither of them wanted to be part of a group but found themselves in one anyway, they both have no issue telling people off, and in terms of their abilities, the both of them are rare talents. Penny in particular couldn’t stand Quentin from the get go, but it was pretty early on that he was already looking out for Alice. If there is one thing I’m hoping for in season 3 it’s an exploration of their relationship. I don’t even need it to be romantic, they just fit well together in an unexpected way. This may or may not be an unpopular opinion, but I think the two of them have better chemistry than they have with their significant others.
Eliot, Margo, and Quentin join the two of them in practicing, and once again bottle their emotions. It takes them much longer than the aforementioned three, but eventually Penny and Alice make progress with their battle magic. At some point, they lose track of time, and when the three who bottled their emotions drink them back in, they’re over the 3 hour limit and the effects hit them hard. They spend the night drinking while Penny and Alice continue to practice.
Some time, and who knows how many bottles later, Margo and Quentin take Eliot to bed. It’s not long before he passes out and Margo confides in Quentin about how worried she is about him. Quentin comforts her when she cries then they kiss.
The scene almost immediately cuts to the next morning where they do a really slow tracking shot starting from Quentin’s face as he wakes up, and moves downward. As it progresses we see that he’s naked in bed with an equally naked Margo and Eliot. Every so often there are quick splices of the night before, where it’s revealed that the three of them had a threesome, no doubt as a result of not only the copious amounts of alcohol, but the emotional hangover they were all experiencing. The scene (and episode) ends when the shot tracks over and upward to Alice, sitting on the edge of the bed.
Didn’t I say this episode was a great one? Looking back, it doesn’t have a whole lot of action, but with the Brakebills crew spending most of the episode practicing battle magic, and Julia on the brink of summoning a god, it promises a whole lot of it sooner rather than later. This late into the season, the actors have had ample enough time to have a good grasp on who their characters are and it shows. One thing I mentioned at the top of this recap was how good the dialogue is, but a quick mention doesn’t even do it justice. The Magicians is one of those shows that are just riddled with snappy one liners, and this particular episode has it in droves. Writing wise, this episode is one of the tightest and most cohesive in that it delivers a good balance of comedy, drama, suspense, and even gets scandalous at the end. If I were rating this episode I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a 10 out of 10, and if you weren’t a Magicians stan before, this would be the one to change that.
So what did you think about ‘Remedial Battle Magic’, Fanbros? Who do you think has the most chemistry on the show? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by emotions that you found yourself in a threesome? Do you agree that Quentin Coldwater remains the worst? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve missed out on any of my past recaps, fix that and check them out right here on Fanbros.com.