In Fillory things are still all kind of falling apart - the Floaters seem to think that marriage to the Fillorians means they can now loot and pillage as they choose. Something Margot and Elliot have to tell Tick to handle while they focus on their main mission - get rid of the fairies. Once they’re done then they can address the other problems addressing the kingdom.
They return to Brakebills with Quentin and Poppy to find Alice passed out and Penny desperately using the very annoying fish to try and call for help
Thankfully Alice isn’t dead but she isn’t well. There are a few theories as to why: Alice downplays it all as magical surges. While Henry thinks it’s more likely the magical equivalent of organ rejection. He’s dissing everything and the gang is all down on him for being negative but he just asks why should he lie to them, they’ll do what they do regardless
Since Brakebills was sold, Henry has reached new epic levels of not giving a fuck.
While Quentin wants to hover, his unresolved issues with Alice aren’t helping and Julia sends him and the rest back to questing for the keys. We also have Fen and Fray return after their little trip round New York and the Square of Time with Todd. Fray still hates everything and is terrible
Margot recruits Todd to guard the fairy eggs. Which he instantly fails at since Fray finds them ans is all fairy loyalist and thinks it’s a terrible evil thing humans do (completely ignoring that the fairies used sneaky means to steal her as well). They try to convince Fray that the fairies will never see them as one of them - they did name her “Fragile Human” after all. They try to impress her the values of family and loyalty. This will backfire exactly as badly as you think it will.
In Fillory, and around a whole lot of feathers due to Tick’s convoluted plan to convince everyone they had plague, Elliot and Margot find bodies of floaters have been impaled by the side of the road. Things are getting… fraught.
But it’s time to confront the fairy queen and make a deal - she gets her babies back and in exchange she gives Fillory her bathtub. She thinks this is odd but Margot archly points out the fae collect toes and eyeballs and think this is weird? Honestly negotiating with Margot when she’s Fucking Done is never going to end well. Oh and the deal is with all of Fillory. Which means everyone in Fillory will be able to see the fae and see what bullshit they’re trying to pull.
She has a day to decide to Margot’s going to “boil and dye them like it’s motherfucking Easter”
Because Margot is everything.
Elliot is still fretting over all of this, the stakes, what can go wrong and considers just abandoning Fillory. Margot is not accepting this. Elliot got his crown simply by blood, but Margot fought for hers and has done way more to keep that throne -including sacrificing her eye. With respect, Elliot has no idea what she has done for the kingdom and has no understanding of how much she’s fought. She has earned this crown and it’s her’s
Predictably, when they go for the big confrontation, Fray has betrayed them. Of course she didn’t really have much useful to reveal to the fairy queen, but what she does is take Fray captive - she’s captured Elliot and Fen’s child in exchange for her children. Fray is shocked that, yes, she is viewed as a disposable human by the fae (and the fairy queen is equally unimpressed that she will betray her parents) and Elliot wavers. Margot does not -one child vs the entire kingdom. There’s no choice
But the betrayed Fray reacts and reveals that she isn’t actually Elliot and Fen’s child (because they believed that one waaay too easily), their real child died in childbirth. As Margot puts it “that is the sound of your leverage dying”.
This leaves Elliot to comfort Fenn as she is utterly devastated that she isn’t a mother and he confesses he hasn’t been the greatest father or husband - while she says she needs time out of Fillory
Of course, with the fairies, there’s a catch. First she says something ominous about having deeper plans, but then she reveals, no exposed to all Fillorians, the fae are leaving. And they’re leaving the king and queen exposed to the wrath of their people - because with all the chaos the fairies wrought coupled with magic failing, the kings and queens are NOT popular
Elliot and Margot are dragged from their carriage by an enraged mob. Damn it, they can never win this. I wanted this to be a victory, especially for Margot
Back on Earth the quest for the key continues and they need to go to the Underworld. Which involves Penny on account of him being sort of dead. Penny objects, Quentin points out his body is actually ash at the moment so the denial is looking a little strong here. Of course they still need a portal - which means using the dragon (dragons are portals) which the Library has
This needs a long convoluted plan which needs another traveller - Victoria, who Penny rescued. Which is nice but she’s working for Harriet (the Deaf lady who opposes the Library) and they need to make her co-operate even though she hates Penny
Yes, it’s complicated, very very very complicated
So to get Harriet to co-operate they need Kady who is locked in a mental institution. Thankfully both Poppy and Quentin, due to their own experiences, have considerable knowledge about how the law works around involuntary detention for mental health reasons. They come up with a plan
It’s not a bad plan. But it still all falls apart and they end up fighting their way out, using fire alarms and general less smooth shenanigans. Kady and Penny’s relationship continues to be fraught with Kady annoyed at Penny for again sacrificing himself with little regard. And no-one really calls out that they’ve only really turned to Kady because they need her.
But they are a couple.
But now to get Harriet on side they have to agree to steal a book from the Library, which Penny opposes especially since it puts Kady at risk - but as she puts it, she has to watch him do it quite regularly
So now we have a whole convoluted plan which has lots of people travelling to the library with a whole lot risk involved. So to deal with the stress, Poppy decides to have sex with Quentin.
Time to go back to Julia and Alice - and Henry is extremely scathing of Julia giving her magic away when, previously, she was willing to break a memory spell to get magic. He calls this “Entitled Millennial bullshit”. Which I’ll agree with because that phrase usually means “old people dismissing important and complex issues they don’t understand because they don’t have the respect or the awareness to actually try”. He emphasises again that the magic is killing Alice because it doesn’t fit her -it fits Julia. They need to take it back but Alice won’t agree and she’s the only one with magic
Which means Julia making a deal with the new owner of Brakebills for some of her stored magic - which you have to snort because of course you do - to find Alice and make the transfer. This also means owing this woman an ill-defined future favour which will be bad.
Alice is not making good choices. She tries to raid the Brakebills supply of medications and runs into Professor Lipson. She’s now “the sanest woman in America” with all her pills which make her feel nothing - which is better for her. Again we’re reminded of just how much despair there is in a magicless worlds - and basically says Alice’s cures aren’t going to work but she perfectly understands the desperation of clinging to any solution
Alice’s solution is a vampire - magical creatures hold on to their magic so she pays to get turned. The vampire is actually a little wary about it since she’s clearly not that interested in becoming a vampire but is using vampirisim as a means to an end
Which is when Julia arrives, with magic - and the vampire leaves because he’s totally not paid enough to deal with hedgewitch Buffy. Alice and Julia argue, Alice tries to leave and Julia uses magic to stop her…. And then Alice lashes out and knocks Julia out
When Julia wakes up she has her magic back and Alice is super super contrite. They talk and they both make the revelation that they’ve been using magic to try and solve their own traumatised issues
Alice is fighting a desperate identity crisis from having magic then becoming a niffin then becoming human - it’s all messy. She thought magic was a quick fix. It isn’t
Julia is obviously trying to deal with her trauma at the hands of Renard by trying to get rid of magic and anything connected to him - which obviously isn’t working. Alice reassures her that the magic may have been Renard’s once but now feels like Julia’s
I like this and wondered how they were going to navigate it. I like that we both respected Julia’s agency and revulsion in not wanting the magic while at the same time not depowering her (again) and making that magic truly her’s. Alice’s word makes that magic Julia’s and allows it to be more than just the aftereffects of her abuse. Similarly I like that the clear traumatised issues both Alice and Julia are dealing with do not magically disappear . What they’re dealing with is just too complex for a quick fix. It’s nice the layers are examined here.
While I like Henry’s supreme levels of Not Giving a Fuck, I also feel this character and his vast experience and knowledge are being supremely underutilised
I’m… disquieted by Quentin and Poppy along with Elliot and Fen getting close again. Not so much because of Magicians per se, but because of this trope in media in general: take a character (especially a male character) and have them have a same-sex experience. Then quickly plunge into lots of opposite sex scenes, partnerings etc and you can almost hear them desperately sending messages to the straight audience “we’re not doing this! It was a one offer! We promise!”. Da Vinci’s Demons did it, Lucifer did it, Librarians did it - the only thing more common is to establish a same-sex relationship then kill one or both. So I’m not all thrilled to see Elliot and Quentin apparently live a whole life as a loving, deeply connected couple - and then quickly split up and reinforce or build relationships with women elsewhere. Especially when their reunion was decidedly unmarked.
Kady and Penny - I’m glad they’re both here after being absent for so much of the series - but they’re still very much in utility roles. Did anyone even remember Kady before they needed her? Are we going to address her pain beyond relationship issues? We need to build these characters more
And Margot really needs a win.