One thing I appreciate about The Magicians is that it’s never been interested in holding the viewer’s hand. From the get go we as an audience are simply dropped into this insane world of magic and the show has had enough trust to not have spoon fed every bit of exposition. That sort of decision in storytelling can be a risky one, but for me at least, I think the gamble paid off in a big way, especially in this episode, ‘The World Within the Walls’.
The episode starts with Quentin waking up in the same mental hospital that he discharged himself from in the pilot episode. At first, Quentin thinks he’s dreaming, since familiar faces like Alice, Elliot, and Penny are there, but when he finds that he can’t do magic he concludes that he’s in a spell. There’s still a lot we don’t know at this point and because there isn’t a scene that takes place outside of the hospital until the halfway point, even if we as an audience know that something is up, you still get that same feeling of frustration and confusion Quentin has.
Julia comes to visit him and when he pleads with her to believe him. He even tries to do magic to prove to her he’s not crazy, but It doesn’t work. Before she leaves, she tells him that she wanted to see the fireworks, and Quentin calls her out because he’d never said that the spell he castes was to make fireworks, proving that he is capable of magic and that she saw him do it. Basically, she played herself.
That night, Jane Chatwin comes to Quentin to confirm that he’s trapped in a powerful spell and that the Fillory books are his key to getting out of it. Because of the pills he’s been forced to take, Q has a hard time remembering details of the book and when he wakes up he finds his roommate ripping their pages to shreds.
Quentin goes to musical therapy and starts signing Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’, which everyone in the room joins in on. It was a purposeful tactic for Quentin to piss off dream Penny and a nice callback to the last episode where Penny could hear Quentin singing the song in his head, and threatened him so he’d stop. Quentin only sang the song to be petty, but it ends up being his saving grace because it’s the reason Penny gets into his head later.
The ‘Shake It Off’ sequence is one of the only high moments in the episode, and is immediately followed by one of the lowest when Quentin’s father comes to visit him. He learns that he attacked his dad thinking that he was The Beast and that Quentin’s being in the hospital was no longer voluntary, but court ordered. It’s a pretty emotional scene and the revelation crushes Quentin. After that, he pretty much resigns to his being there, and is nearly catatonic. Julia comes to see him again and is freaked out by it so she tells him it’ll all be over soon and leaves as Penny is entering.
He comes to make good on his threat to Quentin and tell him to shut his mind up, but it’s his threatening that snaps Q out of it. Convinced again that none of this is real, Quentin tells Penny that he’s in trouble and to find him in the real world and wake him up.
So let’s talk about what’s really happening here: Quentin is stuck in a spell casted by Julia and Marina. Marina describes it as co-opted magic and Julia is doing it because not only is it a more powerful spell, but also as a sort of revenge after the conversation she and Quentin had last episode. Marina has ulterior motives for casting the spell on Q, but we’re not there yet. So let me get on my soap box and say this: Julia Wicker, I have nothing for you this episode. I can play devil’s advocate and say the entire scenario is Quentin’s creation.The spell basically traps a person in their greatest fear so the mental hospital wasn’t her design, but it’s profoundly messed up regardless. Up until that point she was under the impression that the spell was temporary for Quentin, but Marina tells her that he won’t be waking up from it. She’s been pretty cold and unfeeling, giving off great HBIC vibes since she came on the show, but how casual she is in this scene is straight savage.
Quentin steals scotch tape and spends his whole night taping pages of his books back together in order to figure out how to get out of the spell. This isn’t actually important, but something I realized while watching him steal the tape is that so far Quentin has stole something in every episode. It’s a cool little character trait that makes sense for him since he’s a guy who’s been doing sleight of hand tricks almost his entire life so kudos to whoever came up with including that little running gag.
Q finds the pages he was needing and he reads the story of the madness maker. He was a magician who specialized in game magic, he’s a character in one of the Fillory books and who he is isn’t as important as what he represents.
So far, the best part about re-watching the series is seeing how intertwined Julia and Quentin’s stories actually are. It’s obvious that the description of the magic maker and his actions are reminiscent of Quentin himself, but after seeing this episode a second time I realized it’s also a pretty accurate description of Julia. I remember the first time watching the series and thinking of Julia as almost a side character, but every episode so far is reinforcing the idea that this story is as much hers as it is Quentin’s.
Kady helps Penny and Elliot find Quentin and they take him to dean Fogg. In order to help Quentin break the spell, the wards surrounding Brakebills need to be lowered so something called a matarese can be brought in, and this was Marina’s endgame the entire time. So when the wards are down, Marina and Julia just walk in. Turns out Marina used to be a student at Brakebills, but got kicked out a lot of her learned magical knowledge removed. Her goal is to regain the knowledge of magic that Brakebills took away from her when she was expelled by stealing it back.
Penny tries to help Quentin escape, but ultimately it’s Q who has to get himself out. After Kady tells her that Q isn’t going to wake up, Julia comes clean to Dean Fogg, which accomplishes nothing because if Quentin can’t get himself out no one can. He does eventually, beating the madness maker by not playing his game at all, and Marina gets Julia out of Brakebills once the wards start going up again.
The last scene in this episode is beautifully savage, so of course it involves Marina. Back at the hedge witch safehouse Julia is banished for snitching and it’s a quick scene, but Marina just shines in this episode. Julia is transported to some dark empty street while Marina taunts her, and her voice is heard even when she’s no longer on screen,“You think Brakebills cut you off from magic? You don’t know cut off. But baby, you will.”
Once again, the roles are reversed for our leads by the end of the episode; Quentin is more resolved than ever that Brakebills is where he belongs and that he’s going to learn all he can while he’s there. After a very rough episode, he ends on a high note. Julia, on the other hand has taken a huge L and now belongs nowhere, not even with the hedge witches..
Apparently, ‘The World Within the Walls’ was the show’s first stab at doing something completely independent of the books and I’d say the gamble paid off. As an episode, it stands apart from the rest of the season, while at the same time, at it’s end sets up a crucial chain of events for one of the main characters for the rest of the series.
What did you think about ‘The World Within the Walls’, Fanbros? Did you want to Tyra Banks yell at Julia this episode like I wanted to? What do you think were the high and low points? Let me know in the comments and if you need to catch up, check out the rest of my recaps on any episodes you may have missed right here on FanBros.com!