Tensions are still high between Alice and Quentin - she is super angry that Quentin doesn’t trust her - especially since he trusts Kady (which comes with a swipe at Kady’s drug use); Quentin argues that he doesn’t know what Alice actually wants because she’s been so changeable
And Alice has an epic, awesome rant about how she is also a complex, emotionally hurting person like Quentin - and excuse her if she hasn’t been all focused and consistent after losing her father (to say nothing of rebuilding herself after the niffin-ness): this is especially on point because this kind of emotional collapse and self-loathing and ambivalence is something Quentin has had from the very beginning. Her rant here is a demand that Quentin allow her the same level of emotional complexity that he himself has. And it’s perfect.
Julia also has her reservations about Alice but, ultimately, Quentin points out they need her (probably emphasised by the musical unity key last episode). So he’s off questing - but Julia isn’t. She can’t leave the fairies yet
So she recruits Fenn who is learning the universal awesome language of emojis and still really pissed off at the fairies and not really eager to help. But as Julia asks - how does she feel about slavery?
This is another powerful moment on Magicians, you can hate someone, even have a very real genuine grudge against them, but still find the abuse they suffer to be unacceptable and not celebrate their inexcusable suffering
The problem is they still don’t know how to remove the collars from the fairies. They confront Irene and tell her all about the fairies and that they know they’re there - but craftily present the idea that they have a fairy problem and need help subduing them. Fenn’s hatred of fairies helps sell this. Irene thought they had the last of the fairies and is super excited at the thought of more. She introduces them to evil Uncle Edwin. And we know he’s evil, he’s played by Michael Hogan. He is always evil - always always a sinister older man. It’s a rule.
He has a collar for them but won’t tell them how it works - he does show off the fairy he’s owned since he was 16: a fairy that has been enslaved to the family for 400 years. He also says the way to remove the collars is with a machine they have,
Freeing the fairies isn’t easy since Skye can’t show her magic to the others and they don’t believe her when she describes her power. So Fenn has an idea - let’s show the fairies someone scarier
The fairy queen. Who reveals their history - fairies used to live on Earth but were hunted to extinction by human magicians (she never knew there were still fairies left on earth). Julia says she never knew and the fairy queen has the truly amazing, I’m-gonna-frame-it come back “short memory is the privilege of the oppressor”.
She’s worried about being lured to Earth but Fenn snarls about all the shit the fairies did to her and how obviously she wouldn’t be here by choice. Honestly I would take this as meaning she has a very good reason to lure her to Earth but the fairy queen finds this convincing. Especially when Fenn makes an awesome appeal as a mother on the part of the fairies. She even agrees to wear the collar so they can sneak in: reassured that Julia the God-touched can protect her. She also asks what julia gets out of all this, why help the fairies and Julia has an excellent speech about doing something good with her power.
With the fairy queen on display and the story of a whole town infested with fairies, they happily ingratiate themselves with the McCallisters - and the whole clan has gathered to talk business (which seems to involved a huge number of smushed up fairies). There the queen is put in a cage with the other fairies - and is duly horrified at the condition they’re in: she has an excellent speech about how fairies are the inspiration of the gods and is deeply upset to see fairies lower their head before them. Oh and she also promises a horrible death for the McAllisters once they have the collars off
Except they don’t come off - the “machine” that removes them beheads the fairies.
They confront Dust, the oldest fairy about this and he explains that the magic of the collars is a fairy deal - and unbreakable. To save the fairies from extinction and give the last queen (the current queen’s mother) chance to escape to Fillory they made a deal with the Mcallisters to leave some fae behind to serve them. A sacrifice of the few for the many though in the centuries since then Dust has been horribly traumatised with each new generation born into the same brutal servitude. The Queen is super respectful of this sacrifice - and really this whole scene is just full of power and sadness and so deeply moving
But she says fairy deals can’t be broken… except it’s less can’t and more won’t because she insists that fairies need their word to be considered inviolate in order to keep themselves safe; despite Julia and Fenn’s protests. But when the Mcallisters come to prepare a slaughter she cracks - breaks the deal which renders all the fairies free from their collars and invisible. And free the brutally slaughter the Mcallister clan - except Irene who seems to escape.
After the fact the Queen thanks Julia despite her misgiving about breaking her word and wishes all humans were like her so they could co-exist. Julia wants that and they may all need it - because the 7th key is what sustains fairyland… and the Queen doesn’t want to give it up.
This is going to be a problem.
Speaking off - the quest to get the 6th key has the rest meeting up in the Munjack, the flying ship. They think the key is in the throne room at Fillory which is a problem given that Elliot and Margot have been deposed. But Alice, Quentin and Josh think they can sneak in because Trick is leading the army fighting the invading forces of the Floaters and Loria…
...to which Elliot and Margot declare a resounding “hell no” because this is still their kingdom (much to Quentin and Alice’s confusion) and they’re not letting it be invaded, even if they are deposed. That leaves Quentin, Alice and Josh to go hunting for keys and to snipe and snarl at each other
Elliot and Margot are determined to contact the Stone Queen and King Idri. Neither monarch is especially impressed, deposed monarchs rarely get their thrones back and both of them are willing to consider the engagements of their family over - and even propose an alliance between themselves. But Elliot and Margot have their own tricks: Margot threatens the Stone Queen, because they’re on a quest to restore magic. And when that happens the Magicians of Fillory will completely massacre the warriors of the Floaters
Elliot takes a gentler touch with Idri - and they touch! They actually touch! He offers to teach magic to the people of Loria so they can match Fillory with magic. It gets him on side and it’s nice to see them actually touching but also… a predominantly white kingdom offering to educate the ignorant Black kingdom? Yeaaaaah the imagery isn’t good with this.
The imagery also isn’t good for Penny, a MOC, to be shackled in the Library - as he points out to Howard one of the Librarians who wants him to join a book club (and is assured the Library shackles everyone). Penny is not amused - also not amused with Sylvia who explains she gave up Penny in exchange for a million years off her billion year contract: her magical mob boss family have all died and moved on quickly (her dad pulled strings). She explains that the Underworld is a temporary way-station before people pass on to wherever that is - but the Library contracts stop that. So she needs out of the contract to rejoin her people
She also explains the room marked “secrets Taken to the Grave”. Apparently people waiting to go to wherever it is they go next first spill their secrets in this room (and always leave sobbing and broken which is… unnerving). After which they get a literal metro card to the afterlife.
Penny, cunning as ever, cons someone coming out of the room that they’re going to hell so he can steal their card - only to be stopped for a chat by Hades. God of the Underworld with excellent insight on why Penny keeps on sacrificing himself for others (childhood mother issues).
Hades has a whole new take for Penny: everything he knows is irrelevant. He has a literal billion years in the largest Library the world has ever known: infinite potential to learn. And as for magic - it’ll be back, it’s always back. The gods use magic as a carrot for humans all the time even if it may take a thousand years. And what does a thousand years matter when you have a billion? That billion years puts everything into perspective, his life before death is just so short, so utterly irrelevant compared to his near infinite existence now: he just has to embrace it and participate to get some big, epic destiny.
Penny gives the card he stole to Sylvia so she can leave and rejoin her family… and he joins Howard’s book club: unshackled because he’s participating.
This episode brought some truly excellent lines and moments: the fairy queen to Julia, Fen and her complex feelings towards the fae and injustice. Alice calling out Quentin on his treatment and mistrust of her and how he doesn’t allow her the luxury of the same emotional complexity and weakness as he allows himself. I especially like this as it’s something that rather underpins the whole concept of Manpain: whose pain matters more, who is allowed to feel pain, who is allowed to have pain consume them and whose pain is seem as a distraction or self indulgent
And the fairies, their hostility to humans and their desire to colonise Fillory now looks very very very different.
I also really love the growth of Margot and Elliot from the rather amusing but problematic trainwrecks of previous seasons have really grown. I love how Quentin and Alice are all heading for the quest and forgetting Fillory (despite Fillory being Quentin’s overwhelming obsession in previous seasons) while Margot and Elliot are firm - they are monarchs, they have responsibilities and they’re not letting a war that may slaughter their people be used as a distraction.
Last episode, I thought we were bringing all the characters together with the unity key - but we seem to be separating them all again this episode.