Home / Featured / The Magicians S3E4 – Be The Penny (RECAP)

The Magicians S3E4 – Be The Penny (RECAP)

Magicians S3E4 – Be The Penny

Season 3, episode 4, ‘Be The Penny’ picks up exactly where the last episode left off and Penny finds that since his body died while his mind was astral projected, he can’t touch anything and no one can hear him. The whole episode moves differently than the ones before it as each scene change is propelled by Penny travelling between worlds. Even if it doesn’t feel like any of the previous episodes in the series, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it’s one of the more funnier episodes.


Penny, from the the very first episode of The Magicians has pretty much had the short end of the stick. He was introduced as being someone tortured by voices in his head who self-medicated with anything he could get his hands on to quiet them down and, in hindsight, those were pretty much the good old days. Since season 1, Penny has had someone blow their brains out in front of him, had his heart broken, been put into indentured servitude at a magical library, developed a wild form of “super-cancer”, and had his hands cut off amongst other things. I’m not saying anyone necessarily has it easy on this show (in fact no one does), but if there were a competition in comparing who gets the short end of the stick the most, Penny would be hard to beat.


At Brakebills, Penny is ticked off because in a room comprised of Kady, Julia, Quentin, and Dean Fogg no one cries when they hear the news, Quentin is especially disrespectful as he actually starts laughing (though he does admit it’s inappropriate and he can’t help it) and when he delivers an impromptu eulogy for Penny he can’t even pronounce his last name right. I haven’t had to do this for a while, but I’m adding this to my list of why Quentin Coldwater is the worst. Wanting to figure out a way to communicate with someone, Penny travels to the library in the Neitherlands, but finds that it’s been invaded by cannibal scavengers, presumably stuck there since magic disappeared. 

While in her room alone, Kady shoots up what I’m assuming is heroin (and I’m not sure if I’m forgetting a huge piece of information, but I don’t remember Kady every having a drug problem before this episode?). Of course she’s taking Penny’s loss the hardest, and it’s particularly heartbreaking watching Penny trying to talk her out of it even though he knows she can’t hear him. But when he’s talking he says that ‘he knows what she’s doing’, which implies that she’s done this before. Regardless, Penny says he’s going to find a way to fix things and leaves. Out in the common room of the physical kids cottage, a white eyed, possessed Todd tells Julia that Kady needs help and she’s the only one who can assist. This is the second time something like this has happened to Julia so I don’t anticipate it being too much longer before the show explains why Julia is always in the mix. Julia kicks down the door and finds Kady overdosing, and she uses magic to revive her enough to throw up. By then, Penny is back and in the room with him is a guy who is just as surprised that Penny can see him as Penny is surprised to be seen.

The guy is Hymen Cooper, the pervert ghost of Brakebills. He, like Penny was also a traveller, but he used his astral projecting abilities to become a peeping tom. While out of his body at one point, his schoolmates hid it–he never found it–so he just assumes at one point his physical body died without him in it. It’s here and through Penny that we’re reminded that they are not ghosts. Ghosts in The Magiciansverse are corporeal and essentially live in a time loop. Penny and Hymen are none of those things and are essentially floating consciousness.


Quentin tells Julia that he figured out through extensive research that the second key is somewhere on earth as Rupert Chatwin gave it to a friend of his who just so happens to have attended Brakebills. They let Dean Fogg in on the quest and find out that the one of the students, Lance, is related to Irene McCallister; the woman who came to see Dean Fogg on the Brakebills board of trustees.

Meanwhile, a representative of the library shows up because the contract Penny signed also contracts him to serve them in the underworld.  The rep tells Kady that the soul is still tethered to the body for seven days after a person’s death and that he wants to, essentially, get Penny’s soul consumed by a corpse eater so he can continue his billion years of servitude to the library. Sounds like a dream job! While Alice thinks it’s the best choice that they let the corpse eater have Penny’s body, Kady isn’t convinced considering he’d essentially be a slave. Later, Harriet agrees and tells them the best thing to do for Penny is to burn his body — neither option is great for him.


The clock is ticking for Penny, so he forces Hymen to help him figure out a way to communicate with the living. Hymen tells him that while they can’t move objects, they can become objects but it’s extremely hard. After about 3 hours, Penny is able to become an actual Penny and move, but not by much. Having no time to waste, Penny first tries to get inside of a bunny, and then the Margolem which Todd has kept since season 1. Although he’s successful, he can’t control it much so he’s back to square one.


Quentin and Julia, still tracking down the key go to some dorms that were closed down because there was a ghost haunting it. Penny follows, and tries to get the ghost to say his name, but he is too preoccupied in his loop. We get to see Rupert give him the key, which reveals the truth to whoever is holding it, and learn that they were in love with each other. Right after, Lance’s dad comes in and kills him for being gay. Before the dad can hurt Q and Julia, Penny saves them but he doesn’t get the dad to tell them that he’s in the room. Despite having the second key in their possession, (what they dub ‘the truth key’) Dean Fogg tells them that Brakebills is closing.


Kady takes Penny’s body out to burn it as it’s been 6 ½ days since he died and the corpse eater is on it’s way, but Alice tells Kady to let her take the burden of making the choice of turning his body over. Penny doesn’t want to live in servitude of the library, so in a last ditch effort, he gets inside of one of the candles Kady had lit around his body and tips himself over, making the choice for himself.

In the last scene of the episode, Eliot and his family used the first key to escape the cannibals and end up at the physical kids cottage. After a quick reunion, he holds the truth key and casually says hi to Penny who was sitting  in a corner. So it looks like Penny is dead, but far from gone.


‘Be The Penny’ is an episode that I don’t think any recap could do justice. In any other show, this episode would be a sad one, spending it’s 40+ minutes mourning the death of a core character, but instead it turned the idea of that completely on its head. Not only was there very little mourning, but it turned out to be one of the funniest episodes of the season so far, and a real contender for the funniest of the entire series. For a show that can be extremely self-aware, I always found it a bit odd how they didn’t seem too aware of how often Penny got shafted. But this episode shows that they’re well aware of the fact, and more importantly, that they do actually know and care about Penny as a character. Arjun Gupta absolutely gets episode MVP and pretty much makes every scene he’s in as Penny’s commentary on everything he witnesses is not only accurate but hilarious. The quest is a bit slow going as we’re on episode 4 and only have two keys have been obtained, but with episodes as entertaining as this one was, you hardly mind how long it takes to get to the destination as long as the journey is this fun.


What did you think of ‘Be The Penny’, Fanbros? Did it convert you to a Penny fan? Was it the funniest episode you’ve seen so far or do you want to nominate another one for that title? Let me know down below in the comments and check out past recaps right here on Fanbros.com!