TV Recap: The Magicians – The Mosaic

The Magicians
“A Life in the Day”
February 7, 2018

For three seasons, The Magicians has been this little show that could; turning out great stories with interesting characters and whimsical plots but tonight, “A Life in the Day” pushes The Magicians into the pantheon of great television.

There is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Inner Light.” Its widely considered one of the best episodes TNG ever made and in it, the Enterprise’s captain, Jean Luc Picard, is knocked unconscious on the bridge and awakes on a planet. And, over the course of the episode, he lives a full life on that planet with a wife, children, grandchildren. He experiences highs and lows and all the pain and joy of living.  And when he wakes back on the Enterprise, he retains all of those memories and it changes him ever after. Changes him in ways that are tangible and intangible.

“A Life in the Day” is The Magicians‘ “Inner Light” and we have all been changed … changed for the better.

Read on for Deep Dive Recap … After the Jump!

The Cottage.  Q stops Alice to let her know that eviction isn’t on the menu as the Cottage has been magically moved so many times, no one can produce a valid deed to ownership so.  It devolves into one of those terribly awkward silences that these two have become famous for because, as Alice says, “I’m not trying to make it weird, its just weird now, it just is. Its just weird. Sorry.” Which itself is delightfully weird and awkward. Also, don’t talk shit on Penny, he’s there with them and she’s taking him and the Truth Key with her to see …

The Asylum.  Kady! Who has been admitted to the loony bin as a form of poor people rehab. Which is horrible but Kady is tough.  And sure, she can handle being locked up with the crazies for a bit but what she can’t handle? Seeing Penny when Alice hands her the Truth Key. Which, totally understandable given the whole, she watched him die and then tried to burn his body which he ended up burning himself as a way to avoid being eaten by a corpse eater and bound to the Library for a Billion Years.  She’s been through some stuff, man.  [Note:  I feel like Alice could have braced her a bit before just stone cold handing her the key with no context.]

No, Kady doesn’t handle this great. Actually, she flips the fuck out on Penny and the whole situation.     To summarize, she gave literally all she had inside of her trying to save him (see, all of last episode) and it nearly broke her.  Penny is all “cup half full” about this situation; at least he’s not dead, dead, and at least he’s not stuck in the Underworld. “Let me help you,” he implores.  She shuts him down fast, telling him He is the exact reason she’s in the loony bin right now and if he declares his love for her, she will find a way to kill him.

I totally get her feeling here but of course, she’s missing the other part of the story – the Penny part where he had to watch her helplessly wrestle with life decisions that no one should have to make. Its a testament to their feelings for each other that they both feel so shitty. And, if that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.   In the end, they’re both right, not that really helps anyone. At all. In any way.

After she throws the Truth Key down and storms off, Alice returns and Penny lets her know that he won’t be following any more of her advice. Thank you very much.  Whelp.

Cottage.  Eliot and Quentin catch up, Fray and Fen are in the city with Todd (what could go wrong) and maybe if they can solve the Quest, Alice will resemble someone that Q recognizes.  Focus boys. No time for boohooing!  Eliot, getting his first look at the Tales of the Seven Keys has the same reaction of frustration that everyone has – the book only reveals itself one step/chapter at a time (You KNOW Eliot is the kind of person who reads the last pages of a novel to see how it ends before he’s anywhere close to being done).

The Third Key: You need to solve the “Mosaic” which Quentin says in such a way as to make you think Eliot should understand what that means but he … he has no idea what Q is talking about. The interaction of these 2 is the very best thing about The Magicians and that says a lot because there are some amazing character interactions and relationships on this show. But these two are the King and well, King of relationship chemistry. Love them.  Anyway, the mosaic – you use tiles to make a design reflecting the beauty of all life. The prize for completing it? A Key to greater Magic!

Great, let’s go, Eliot says but the Mosaic? its in Fillory. Whelp.

Fillory, Castle Whitespire.  High Queen Margo is checking in with Tick on his “poison the Faerie Queen’s bath with wall scrapings” project. He’s done well, collecting about half a jar’s worth of scrapings after 7 hours of work. Seven more hours and he should have enough, Margo commands – they only get one shot to take down the Faerie Queen. Which is of course when said Faerie Queen appears to request Margo’s presence.  She is everywhere!

Seems like there is going to be a wedding and Margo is going to be the bride. As the threesome (Tick is following behind despite having the poison jar in his hands) watch the minions prepare for the grand event, Faerie Queen presents Margo with a special eyepatch to coordinate with her wedding dress … I’m guessing this is the “something new” from the traditional saying of what a bride wears?  That Faerie Queen can be very thoughtful.

Title Card.

When we return, Margo and the Faerie Queen are doing a good old-fashioned, West Wing-style walk and talk, discussing the Groom the mystery Margo is due to marry and how she hasn’t actually met him yet.  He’s from the “Tribe of the Floating Mountain” … which unfortunately, due to the loss of magic, no longer Floats but rather sits. Off of the Fillorian coast. If Margo marries into the tribe, she gets use of their 4,000 spears and that’s good politics.  Faerie Queen continues her lessons in basic geo Fillorian politics and explains that being queen sometimes requires personal sacrifice in exchange for bettering the lives of your people.

I know Faerie Queen is evil beyond compare but she’s also … not wrong a lot of the time.  Her political lessons to Margo are fairly often right on the nose and some hard truths that Margo needs to hear.  She just delivers the message in like, the worst way possible.

But I digress. This conversation is interrupted by the return of Lorian Prince Ess (Arlen Escarpeta returning to the role) who is curious to see Margo getting married so soon after their little marriage debacle. “They have a real big army” she says in that sexy, bloodthirsty affected voice she puts on when she’s trying hard to convince someone of something she, herself, doesn’t quite believe.  Hmmm, Ess ponders, I hope this new man power doesn’t force them on to opposite sides of things.  Margo reminds him of the alliance between Eliot and King Idri and how nothing has changed (except, you know, Eliot isn’t currently in Fillory with no clear way to get back).  Margo gets to brass tacks: she thinks Ess’s real problem is that they “banged” and then she bounced on marrying him.  “You’re insecurity is showing, bae,” she purrs.  Moving on from this conversation, she runs into Tick who informs her “Queenliness” that her Groom’s traveling party has set up camp in the hallway of Faerie death and so … Margo shelves this since they’ll need another weapon but in the meantime, get her the fastest Bunnies you’ve got!!

Cottage.  The Kings stand in front of the Chatwin’s Grandfather Clock Fillory Portal discussing the finer points of horomancy when a Bunny Text appears, “At Castle, Getting Married” it hoarsely intones.  “Does that sound like Margo to you,” Eliot asks? “Need help. Now, Dickwads!” says a second bunny. “Definitely, Bambi” Eliot confirms.   Putting two and two together, they stick the Truth Key in the Clock Portal and voila, the clock comes alive and begins to glow – welcome to your gateway to Fillory! “Go time,” Eliot says.

Now, I am going to take the rest of the episode out of order because the Eliot/Quentin storyline needs to be told uninterrupted. It won’t affect your viewing pleasure because the rest of the episode occurs separate from then until the very end when it dovetails together.

Fillory, Castle Whitespire. Time for Margo to meet her future mother-in-law, this should go well.  This scene is worth just to hear Tick introduce the Lady Stone Queen (Dina Meyer) as hailing from the “The Tribe of the Floating Mountain that is No Longer Floating.” Hee Hee. He says it a couple of times tonight and it makes me laugh every time.   Margo is happy to see the Stone Queen, she was hoping to convince her to postpone the nuptials.  The Stone Queen says a pale mutual royal friend indicated this marriage was urgent so she is confused.   Margo tries to put her off but Stone Queen says why not at least meet my son, your betrothed, and see how that goes.  Out comes a tiny teenager, Prince Fomar (Nicholas Coombe), and no no nope,no,  that’s too freaky, even for Margo.  But relax, this is the wrong Prince, Stone Queen says, and proceeds to introduce Margo to her much hunkier older son, Prince Micah (Markian Tarasiuk).  By way of greeting, he hopes that his mountain can move through Margo’s fertile valley. Oh, I bet he does!! Margo is warming rapidly to this whole marriage thing …

Stone Queen clears the room so the young couple can have some alone time.  Margo sets him straight, letting him know that he best not be one of those sick freak princes that shoot girls with arrows or chain them to walls … Micah is aghast, women are leaders and should be protected so they can you know, lead.  Margo is digging his pro-matriarchal vibe (not that he understands what the word, matriarchy means but he doesn’t need brains does he?).

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

As Margo gets primped for the wedding, she initially balks at sharing a dressing room with her Man but as her hairdresser points out, there are benefits.  We see Margo taking in an eyeful as Micah’s body is silhouetted through  a thin screen  She is full on making googly eyes at him when an arrow shoots across the room, grazing Micah’s neck but otherwise doing no damage.  After assuring Micah that she’s good and making sure he’s fine, she notices the offending arrow was tailed in the black and white feather of Loria … and she is hella-pissed! Commercials.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

When we return from commercials, Margo has confronted Ess about the attempted murder and he assures her that if he had wanted “that walking jawline” dead, he’d be dead.  He counters that maybe she plotted the murder attempt or maybe she is starting to miss Ess. “Baby, you ain’t even top 50.” God, she gives the sickest burns and she delivers them so sexily.  She has Ess arrested and tells the guards to be a little rough about it.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Brakebills.  Alice gives Jules the Truth Key and asks what she’s doing with the religion text books … we’re into “that territory” Julia intones solemnly.  Just then, Alice’s eyes roll up in that familiar way and the voice from beyond tells Julia that Alice needs her help … help her Julia.  She tries to get some answers on who or what the great possessor is but as she goes to touch Alice’s face, Alice comes back to and wonders what the fuck happened.  “Let’s go get a drink, yeah?” Julia suggests.

Fillory, Castle Whitespire.  The Wedding is going but just as Micah says “I do”, a medieval ax separates his head from his shoulders, spraying  Margo and everyone else in a 5 foot radius with lots of Micah blood and gore.  “When the rock crumbles in our hand, we must reach for the next” says Prince Fomar as he enters stage left, ready to step into his brother’s place.  “Como se dice?!?!” Margo wonders, and Tick explains to her that the tradition is for a Brother to step into his Brother’s marriage shoes in the event of death.  The fact that Fomar actually killed Micah does not affect his duty, Fomar promises.  Margo whimpers that they are all crazy just as Faerie Queen appears and commands her to marry him. For her part, Stone Queen at least looks disgusted and shocked at her youngest child’s actions … though she isn’t going to intervene.

Sometime later, Fomar comes to Margo to consummate the marriage but she reminds him of the Earth custom that she must open EVERY present before doing it … or else his manhood will rot off.  “Better not to chance it” he wisely agrees and leaves.  Among the gifts, she sees an envelope labelled “M from Q” and its got a Golden Key in it.  And a letter … but before you read the letter, you need to  learn about Quentin and Eliot’s adventure.

The Kings Adventure in Fillory …

Eliot and Quentin step through the portal to Fillory to discover that the sweet, sweet feeling of magic is back in the air. Overjoyed they embrace but its short lived because Quentin notices that the North Spire is being constructed on Castle Whitespire. Unfortunately, that Spire was built decades before even the Chatwins arrived in Fillory.  Right place but very very very wrong time.  Whelp.

Quentin drops some Fillorian history on Eliot and us: Jane Chatwin (who you’ll remember is also the Watcherwoman) attempted the Mosaic but arrived too late, some had already solved when she arrived.  “Who solved it,” Eliot naturally inquires but Q yo no se … maybe its them for all he knows.   The Dynamic Duo arrive at the Mosaic just in time to find an old man abandon his attempts at solving.   Hope ya’ll don’t mind “wasting your goddamn time.” Well, isn’t he a hoot.

Let’s give you some scope of what our boys are working with: 784 tiles in 15 colors which generates an official number of possible answer equal to a “shit load.”  Whelp.

When we see the Kings next, they’ve clearly been at it awhile and are starting to lose it a bit and worse, snipe at each other a bit.  Quentin is already over it, what’s the point of having returned to a time with magic if magic can’t help them solve this otherwise impossible task?!? Eliot keeps the cool head and the focus.  They’ll do it themselves … Its their Quest. As he talks Q down from his proverbial ledge, he acknowledges that it may take … awhile.

When we return to them, some more time has passed and now its Eliot who is “done” … but in an existential way, as the mosaic continues to elude them.  Q takes it well and will come record the pattern as soon as he’s done shaving.  They’re are settling into life here at the mosaic.  Q takes his crack and nothing and the frustrations are palpable. Eliot drops that 14 days have passed and hands over his Fillorian flask — the secret to him not getting overly frustrated.  A time montage passes as they try combination after combination after combination.  As we see them working, we catch snippets of their commentary and … I can’t put into words the ease and comfort these two have with each other. The give and take between them “What is that,” Eliot says … “You know, not everything has to look like something, Eliot,” Q snipes in response (its the “Eliot” that makes the response endearing). “Ah, its the eternal argument, realism versus abstract expressionism.” These two love each other so much, they are like the best married couple you’ll never see married.

One day, their monotony is interrupted when Arielle (Kylee Bush), the peach girl, comes by handing out, well, peaches. Along with her helper, Lunk (Darien Martin). Who is about 6’7 and pure muscle and whose mere presence, crushes Q’s spirit and short lived fantasy of getting with Arielle.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Another quick cut and the boys are celebrating their year anniversary at mosaic.  They celebrate with alcohol and kisses and some unseen anniversary sex. As married couples do.   The next morning, Eliot preemptively tells Q they should just save the over thinking for the puzzle. Quentin agrees. And they are off on a time passage montage. The Kings have adapted into total Fillorian wear. The montage only breaks to show us the rocky points, “if you’re going to live your life, live it here” a forlorn Eliot tells Quentin … and then, one day, Arielle returns. No Lunk though. He was caught … holding someone else’s peaches.

“Evolve” by Phoria kicks in and the most heart rending, and completely silent (other than the song), montage begins …

The time montage picks up again but now it includes Arielle has joined them and Eliot watches as they fall in love, but without resent in his eyes. And then Arielle is pregnant and then there is a little boy.  And Uncle Eliot tosses him in the air and they’re happy. And then Quentin sobs as Arielle passes away and Eliot comforts him as Q’s son plays.  And then Eliot is covering a sleeping Quentin and his son.  And then his Son is grown and my god, they found an actor who looks eerily like Jason Ralph, but his son is grown and he’s leaving for his own adventure.

The song fades and Quentin, sporting a massive gray beard, tells his son to come visit and begins to say what it means if they’re not here but, this is not the first time they have had this talk and Quentin’s son understands what them being gone means.

Fast forward again and now Eliot and Quentin are beyond old men … I cannot wait to see the behind the scenes on the make up job for this episode.  Eliot, working on the mosaic, stops to wonder if Quentin ever thinks about their friends … from their old life? “I dream about them sometimes,” Quentin says simply.

The instrumental of the track rears up as we speed through the old friends (pun intended) working on the mosaic and then Quentin, turns to find his dearest friend passed away in his sleep.  There are no tears for this fallen High King of Fillory, no need for they have lived the fullest of lives with each other.  After wrapping Eliot in a quilt, he begins to dig a burial hole. Its not long before  he hits upon something in the ground.  A golden tile. A Golden Tile in the ground, this whole time.  Curious, he places it at the center of the empty mosaic board and begins to work.  And finally, after a lifetime, the Mosaic unlocks itself.  After Quentin claims the Third Golden Key that they spent a literal lifetime pursuing, Jane Chatwin enters the clearing. “Did you solve the mosaic,” she asks? “With a friend, we solved it together.”  Love LOVE.  Jane dismays that she’s too late.   She needs the key, you see, to power the watch the Dwarves made for her so she can create time loops and stop her brother who has become dangerous.

“You have to take it,” Quentin says. Jane kisses him and continues on with her own quest.

Fillory, Present Day, Castle Whitespire.  Margo has opened her present from Q which contains a Golden Key and a Letter.  Quentin explains that he arranged for the delivery of this letter a long time in advance. He explains that the Quest sent him and Eliot long into the past and that by the time she is reading this they have been long dead.  But no worries they lived full and complete lives and took took the quest as far they could but now? Now, Margo needs to continue it.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

The Clock Barrens.  Margo enters a time bubble where adult Jane Chatwin lives, pruning her trees.  Margo explains that Quentin gave Jane a key and now Margo needs the key so give it up.  Love to help you but can’t give you the key, its what keeps the Clock Barrens running, Jane protests … Margo doesn’t give a fuck, she’s had a few shitty days and she needs the key.  She also would like her own Clock Barrens, for just like 5 minutes of peace when no one is trying to kiss, kill, marry, hump, or usurp her.  Jane drops some hard won wisdom and tells Margo that Margo’s s tale is hew own and she can assure Margo, it won’t be boring.  Jane has her moments of not being boring. As to helping, Jane says she can send Margo to Brakebills where the Golden Key lies with Jane’s Earthly body. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  You’re telling me to dig up your corpse, how can you be so chipper, Margo asks?  Well, Jane replies, it hasn’t happened yet AND she’s very English. Ha!

The Cottage.  Back where we started from, Eliot and Quentin (young Eliot and Quentin) move to place the Golden Key in the Grandfather Clock Portal when Margo busts in says, “Wait, you bitches looking for these?” She holds up 2 Golden Keys (Eliot’s hand, which just had a key is now empty).    She breaks down crying, finally, as Eliot moves to hug her, not quite understanding what is happening. A quick cut later and the three friends are sitting down relaxing, Q and Eliot having learned of their alternate timeline life where they lived … and died.  Margo saved their lives! Also, robbed a corpse.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Martini Bar.  Alice and Julia commiserate, Alice lost herself and when she got herself back, she lost magic.And Julia has magic so maybe she can help. Julia? She’s got magic and doesn’t really understand why but subscribes to the OLU theory.  Alice says Julia needs to understand where her magic comes from before she can move forward.  She suggests using the Truth Key and the handy mirror in the booth to help focus the Key’s energy.  She tries and sees herself with Godly eyes like Reynard the Fox.  She gasps and covers her eyes.  When she uncovers them, Julia is in the same Bar but now it is well lit and Our Lady Underground is there but no one else.  “Have a seat, Julia. Its time for us to talk,” OLU says.

In short, Our Lady Underground took a seed of power from Reynard the Fox and planted it in Julia (without her knowledge or consent). When Julia showed him mercy, she earned the right to magic she now has.  Julia says she doesn’t want anything of Reynard’s but OLU makes it clear, this power? Is no longer Reynard’s, its Julia’s.

The bar is back to its magic-less color and Alice is there again.  Having told Alice what just happened, she tells Julia that it doesn’t really matter where it came from, its magic and she’s got it.  Julia isn’t so sure and Alice says she’d do anything to have magic.  If Julia could give it to her, she would … OH RLY?!?! Alice is hatching a plan to do just that.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

The Asylum.  Kady wants out of the loony bin. She signed herself in and so she’s signing herself out. Nameless administrator doesn’t think that’s a great idea. She’s a danger to herself and others. Oh, brother, you don’t know danger.  His Exhibit A is the video of her talking to an invisible Penny threatening to kill him.  Sensing how this is going to go, she tries to make a break for it but she’s caught and given a sedative.

Fillory. The Kings have returned to Castle Whitespire with Margo. When was the last time Quentin was here?!?!   Anyway, she takes her leave to nap before Fomar wakes up with a boner.  Among the presents, Q begins to read his letter from long ago while Eliot munches down on some peaches and plums. The past, the past that never happened begins to flood into them.  They sit on the edge of throne  platform and remember … everything. The living, the aging, the dying. The family. The remember their lives that lived and didn’t live and don’t know why they remember but maybe that’s not important. They have been changed because of it.  And scene.

(Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Thoughts.   I don’t even know what to say.  This episode, when I saw it the first time, made me pause and literally have to collect myself at the end. I didn’t out and out tear but I had an emotional reaction that I seldom experience, especially over TV.  And isn’t that the best kind of TV – any art really, something that moves you, physically and emotionally moves you?

Well done The Magicians, you have made something here, smack in the middle of your third season that took your viewer through joy and sadness with a personal attachment that shouldn’t be possible and yet, is. This is season finale kind of emotions, not middle of the season which makes it all the more remarkable.

The fact is Hale Appleman and Jason Ralph are fantastic actors who are the very embodiment of their roles and their on screen chemistry and affection for each other is beyond believable, its tangible.  You feel it inside your own gut and soul.  The scoring of that final time montage in Fillory past, no words save the lyrics of “Evolve” by Phoria, wherein we get to experience the highest and lowest points of life, love, children, aging, death, the comfort of your friends and family when there is no one and nothing left, all in 2:30 minutes.  Its no small feat to pull that off and actually make it meaningful.

For The Magicians, they didn’t just make the lives of Eliot and Quentin meaningful, they made them everything.  And that? That is some real magic.

Lyrics to “Evolve,” by Phoria:

No, she will never know why
The sun in my eyes burns like hell
Being here is who you are
Found you
Being in the stars
Eating us alive, all these young bodies
Turned
Evolve our world
You found them???
Is all that I find
Here in the matter time
So many of us died now

I don’t wanna say what I want first
In the middle of the desert
Where I only made you rest
Was screwed up
I don’t know if you know
That it’s done

There’s a bottle full of water
I’ve been turning on the side
I don’t wanna fight them
Find where it’s been running all this time
I don’t run if I don’t see it,
I don’t mind if I don’t feel it,
I don’t mind this game,
I don’t know what to say

I’ve been here, soon he left
Saying loud, saying are you out?
If all this voice???
He will never know
I’m here, I
He will never know I
The sun in my eyes burns like hell.
Eating us alive,
All these young bodies
Turned
Evolve our world
You found them???
Is all that I find

I don’t wanna say what I want first
In the middle of the desert
Where I only made you rest
Was screwed up
I don’t know if you know
That it’s done

There’s a bottle full of water
I’ve been turning on the side
I don’t wanna fight them
Find where it’s been running all this time
I don’t run if I don’t see it,
I don’t mind if I don’t feel it,
I don’t mind this game,
I don’t know what to say

 

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