This is an odd episode in that is takes stories of several characters telling the same story from different viewpoints all with a mixing time line… and it works.
Yes I’m shocked too. Honestly I hate shenanigans with narrative. Take a story, tell it in chronological order, try to be consistent with viewpoints in any one scene and generally don’t leap around and throw in random camera angles and whatever else some newly-art-school-minted director decides to throw into a show for whatever random reason
But this worked - we got to see some less usual POVs and allowed us to see a very complicated multi-sided plot from different angles because one POV simply could not adequately cover it.
So, Penny is heading to the Underworld to try and get the key from there - only he finds that the Underworld is Broken. I’m guessing this is because there’s no magic anymore and the Underworld probably runs a lot on magic. So we have “temporary” housing where numerous dead are now living in tents. Finding one person among them would be difficult so he needs to bribe an official
With the plot line of Game of Thrones. Hey if you died mid-series you’d want to know what happened! Of course, Penny has never watched an episode of Game of Thrones in his life and has to bullshit some nonsense instead, but it works and he finds Benedict
Who doesn’t have the key…. And is super sad that Penny, who he considered a friend (despite Penny hardly knowing him) has not actually come for him. He’s sad and pitiable and rather huggy and clingy in a slightly more than a little stalkerish way. Benedict claims the Librarians took the key and he totally wants to go with Penny on a buddy adventure to get it back.
Penny ditches him. And I understand that - I mean I get that Benedict is super sad and vulnerable and I kind of want to hug him and ask him about maps; but at the same time his clinginess kind of makes Penny obviously uncomfortable and one’s need for companionship does not mean others are required to provide it.
The Library does still work, which implies some level of magic. He tries to break in and runs into Sylvia - his former supervisor at the Library is super dead. Penny feels kinda guilty about this since he kind of left her in the poison room to die. But Sylvia is both cool and sensible and quickly tells him she isn’t mad because of course he ditched her - all he could have done would be to die next to her. And she’s here to help him find the key
They follow a trail of white powder to a room containing a woman who looks exactly like Alice. She’s actually Cassandra. Yes, that Cassandra, the prophet who was cursed with magical Sight. The Library has used her for a long time to use her magical vision to write the biographies of all living people: managing it with magic. Now, without magic, Cassandra can only write one book at a time - which also explains the Blank Spot - the terrible apocalyptic future that the Librarians were so worried about. All the biographies stop because Cassandra can’t write them any more.
Cassandra isn’t exactly coherent, but her writing is what led Sylvia to Penny.
And now she passes crumpled pages to Penny to help guide him. Page 1 is Poppy and Quentin having sex which Penny quickly puts down because he really really really doesn’t want to read that
Quentin is still all fretting about Harriet’s plan and doesn’t want to risk Poppy’s life on the plan because he’s become post-sex clingy rather than remembering she’s not a friend. She points out that bringing magic back is kind of something every magician has a stake in; and he totally misses this point to instead talk about quests. This is his quest and the whole point of a quest is to change the questor and make him something he’s not: specifically making the not!hero Quentin into a hero
And wow, Quentin has totally made this whole thing entirely about him. And didn’t Elliot (who is now on trial in Fillory telling everyone who much he fecking hates Fillory but how he also owes it so would like to save it, while Margo tries to kill everyone with her stare) also get this quest?
Poppy has an entirely different take - changing yourself always falls apart, so she’s resolved to be herself fully and totally but also accept the consequences of what that means.
This sounds deep and interesting but far from “accept the consequences” seems to be more than a little bit of a general excuse to do whatever the hell she wants...
Poppy leaving the sex bed and run into Alice could be super awkward but, as she points out, she’s not really interested in Quentin’s cock any more - she’s more worried about the impending doom of them trying to rob the Library, especially since their plan for using Victoria the traveller to make a mirror bridge is simply not going to work and probably get at least Victoria killed. Which is something of a deal breaker for Victoria who would rather not be dead and she won’t sign off unless Alice is involved.
Poppy is also suspicious as to exactly what Harriet wants from the Library and Harriet reveals that the Library was looking for a HUGE magical battery -and since the Librarians still have magic it seems likely they have it. Poppy is sees this as a pretty good motive so signs on, stealing Alice’s niffin notes and using them to convince Victoria she totally won’t die.
The mirror bridge is kind of cool, even if it does mean Victoria bleeding a lot.
Harriet guides them around the Library while they wait for the dragon, the bookwyrm, to transport books (and the key) from Penny in the Underworld to them. Nice plan… except there’s no key. Poppy, pretty sensibly, says they need to leave - the longer they stay risks Victoria while Quentin is in denial - she does leave; trying to get Victoria to drop the bridge as she does and not kill herself, but Victoria’s staying the course
Maybe I misjudged Poppy, there’s a practicality to her that belies her light and rather selfish demeanour - staying when they have no idea what to do next when Victoria is risking her life is a problem
Quentin runs into Alice in the library
Back to Penny reading more pages to still try and find the key - so he starts reading Alice’s story, and a leap backwards
Kady and Harriet confront her about talking Victoria out of risking herself but Alice isn’t impressed: would they rather be lost? Harriet gives her party line about how awful the Library is hoarding information but Alice isn’t really convinced this is a bad thing. She tries to tempt Alice with both the battery (to help Penny) and a pick of any shiny book. Alice is tempted but she’s not sure that a anyone should have the power of this battery.
She leaves them and instead is moping when a very drunk Fenn comes through the clock from Fillory. She tells Fenn her sob story about all the knowledge she lost but Fenn, still smarting from the loss of her daughter - isn’t impressed. All that knowledge is still out there, Alice can get it back
Of course where better to get that knowledge back than the Library? So she goes to be a nuisance until a Librarian - a Traveller (who tend to be surly) takes her to see The Librarian. She realises that for him to transport her means the Library does have magic. But her hope of being able to check out books is dashed by the Librarian no longer accepting new applicants. And they’re not interested in her niffin notes, having already documented her experiences. I’m curious here because when Alice suggests the Library doesn’t want her to finish her grand theory of magic book - the Librarian distracts her. Maybe she’s right?
Which is when she meets Quentin and brings their stories together and it’s back to Penny to read another page - about Fenn and Julia and Fenn’s drinking and terrible person Irene who wants to call in her debt owed by Julia for giving her magic to take her power back from Alice. She has a horrible black mark on her skin, apparently caused by over using the snorted magic excretion stuff. There’s always a downside.
While they tall, Fenn sees the fairy following her. She warns Julia because fairies are terrible and likely manipulating Irene because fairies are the worst of the worst. Julia isn’t as convinced - she thinks the fairies are acting like servants, maybe even slaves. Obviously Fenn hates fairies and is happy about this - but Julia is adamant: slavery is always wrong. She asks Fenn to confront the fairy and Fenn has to reluctantly agree that yes these fairies (who are all meek and mild and subservient) are slaves. Which is annoying because she can’t hurt them.
The fairy, Sky, believes Irene keeps them safe from “bad magicians” and that they are the only fairies in the world. They go to explore Irene’s house and find the fairy, with one leg cut off. We’ve found the source of that magical dust… ground up fairy parts. Because this is Magicians and everything is awful.
Next page! It’s Harriet. And this is all told with sound severely muffled because it’s from her point of view and Harriet is Deaf. We see her at different stages of her life: she’s the daughter of the Librarian. The Librarian tried to keep her sheltered and safe, isolated in the Library but Harriet was determined to get out there. Equally she is determined to share the knowledge of the Library - what’s the point of a Library that never shares knowledge? That’s the point of libraries! She leaves the Library to go to school at Brakebills
She returns as an adult, again to appeal to open the Library. It’s touching to see how much the Librarian cares for her, but she won’t shift that basic principle of the Library. They talk about the Great Blank Spot - which encourages the Librarian to be more conservative and pushes Harriet to make changes to stop it. They can’t agree….
Which brings us to the present and her and Kady finding the Library’s source of magic. It isn’t a battery - it’s the white fairy powder. They don’t have a battery - it’s a lie - and The Librarian is willing to use magic in order to stop harriet leaving with it. But the Librarian can’t bring herself to hurt Harriet… but her Traveller can. And when Harriet flees to the mirror bridge, he smashes the mirror
Which I’m going to guess is a monumentally bad thing
And we return to Penny who is getting all kinds of frustrated that these pages are not giving him the answer - until he returned to the sex scene between Quentin and Poppy he missed
And there Poppy describes more of her mental health issues, her need for company before she does something foolish. And then he realises that Benedict lied to him - he had the key all along but lied because he wanted Penny to take him on his quest. Penny goes back to Benedict and acknowledges that Benedict was the only one who cried when he died which was something. He takes the key and in exchange, Sylvia will introduce him to the Library’s map room where he will be very popular
The key is returned to Quentin - but not Penny. Sylvia pulls a double cross and he is taken by the Librarian’s guards.
I say again, it worked - even if it was a pain in the arse to write up and extremely confusing to get it all down. But it did manage to tell many fragments of this story well. I liked it