TV Recaps: The Magicians – The Return of Mothra …

The Magicians
“Twenty-Three”
March 21, 2018

This week, we take a bit of a breather after a series of emotional and impactful episodes that have really moved the plot along.  Not that tonight doesn’t have some emotional resonance, but we’re not terribly closer to solving the problem of the Fairy Realm Key after tonight’s episode.  You’ll notice this episode is very self-contained in a few familiar spots – its because tonight’s ep is a classic “Bottle Episode”; a trick of producers to save cash on new sets and props and dressing which is necessary in order to pay for larger expenditures during the rest of the season (looking at you music licensing rights for “All About Josh“). The upside of these types of episodes is that you tend to get great dialogue and character beats – very much like good stage plays because its basically characters on screen not moving around much.  Tonight doesn’t disappoint.

Let’s jump right in to Julia and Josh’s excellent adventure to another timeline, Timeline twenty-Three. Our deep Dive Recap and review (spoilers ahead!!) … after the jump!

 Before we get into tonight’s episode, you really need to pay attention to the “Previously on” because tonight is heavy on call backs to prior season episodes.  First thing, Jane Chatwin, when she was trying to defeat the Beast (which turned out to be her brother, Martin Chatwin), kept making time loops everytime the Brakebills Gang failed to kill the Beast and were all killed.  The final timeline was the 40th which saw the death of Jane, the destruction of the watch she used to reset time (i.e., create the time loops) and the death of Alice (well, the conversion of Alice into a Niffin). So, the show we know as The Magicians takes place in the 40th timeline. As noted above, the 39 previous versions  have all featured Quentin (and everyone else) dying at the hands of the Beast.

Previously, when our gang was trying to defeat the Beast, Quentin entered a “Tesla Flexion” – a device that allows you to communicate across timelines – where he was able to speak to Alice from the 23rd Timeline; the lone survivor of previous Beast attacks.  During the 2 minutes provided by the Tesla Flexion, 23rd Alice was very broken down at having watched her love been torn limb from limb, shade and all, by the Beast.

Also previously, Julia, while she was trying to bring down Reynard the Fox, sacrificed her Hedge Witch Bestie, Marina, as bait.

Got all of that? Good, then let’s get on to tonight’s episode.

Fillory. The Muntjac. We open on Eliot and Margo reviewing their very own Wanted Posters (which also feature Quentin and Alice) and remarking at how 1,000 Fillorian Gold Crescents won’t be enough to bring them in.  Alice and Q enter with news from Julia about her and the Fairy Queen having made peace (Margo, unsurprisingly, is NOT okay with this).  Even after hearing how the Earth Fairies are slaves, no one in this room is really interested in working or trusting the Fairy Queen so Q suggests someone go speak to Julia in person and work it out. Unfortunately, the 4 of them are too wanted by Tick to be seen in public and the patrols around the Portal Tree have been increased.  This leaves Josh (not really wanted by Tick because he was more of a substitute teacher-type King of Fillory), who happens to enter the room at that exact moment really enjoying some good Fillorian Salami.

Brakebills.  Dean Fogg meets Julia in the now clean massacre dining room of McCallister Manor.  She’s caught him up on the whole fairy slave trafficking thing and the mass murder thing and the Irene still got away thing.  Henry notes that they can count on her trying to return to reclaim her property but Julia notes, not without some well earned pride, that she single-handedly replaced all of the wards and charms around Brakebills.  That demi-God magic mojo is really starting to flow for her.  The Dean admits to be in new territory, even for him and in a nice moment, she tells him to sober up because Brakebills is his, once again, to run.  Enter Josh!

We cut to Julia telling Josh about the whole “Fairies have the Sixth Key but it powers their entire realm so we can’t have it” thing but we’ve really crossed over the bounds of Josh’s instructions.  All of a sudden, the J’s are thrust into a Tesla Flexion but this time featuring 23rd Timeline Josh (instead of Alice).  “Thank God, it Worked.” Smash to Title Card!

When we return, our Josh can’t get over staring at a cooler looking version of 23TL Josh but no time for that, they only have 2 minutes.  The Beast – its still killing people in the 23TL, including the 23TL Julia who was the greatest Magician they had.  Also, Magic is turned off in this timeline too but the Beast still has magic, probably owing to a Key he wears around his neck (which allows him to see the future).  As time runs out on the Tesla Flexion, 23TL Josh paraphrases Princess Leia and implores the J’s that they are the 23TL’s only hope.

Back in their timeline, Josh is all about going on this Key quest, he raises the good question of whether they need to find the Keys in order, but Julia shuts him down. This Quest is really Q’s thing so she convinces him that their play is to talk it over with him before they decide to do anything.  They enter the Grandfather Clock Portal but the Time Key has different plans for them …

The 23rd Timeline.  The J’s emerge into the Brakebills lab but a post-apocalyptic version of it where everything has been tossed, broken and destroyed.  Julia realizes they have entered the 23TL. “Act out,” Josh says for all of us as we cut to commercials.

When we return, Julia expresses her confusion, “what ever are the rules” as the Time Key seems to be expressing its own will on where the Questers will/should go.  What ever are the rules, indeed.  At 23TL announcing their arrival, Marina (she lives though she’s sporting a nasty scar on her cheek) enters the scene.  She knows who Julia is but is confused as to why the great and powerful “Julia” would know her?  Julia explains that in her timeline, she didn’t go to Brakebills and she and Marina were hedge friends.  Backstory: once the Beast decimated everyone, the surviving Hedges and surviving Brakebills Magicians teamed up to survive and moved into Brakebills seeing as the Beast had already ransacked the place.  In addition to being a great HQ, its also where they discovered how to do the Tesla Flexion, a battery to power it and the dope jacket Josh is sporting.

Julia shuts down our Josh when he goes to tell them about her magic casting abilities (I mentioned in twitter, Julia has a great habit of shushing her colleagues before they say something they shouldn’t in mixed company).  The Timeline Teams make a pact that if Julia and Our Josh agree to help them kill the Beast, the Key around its neck is theirs to have.  Great! Pop the champagne!

As the parties reacquaint themselves, we learn 23TL Josh got Lasik (no glasses) and when he was trapped in the Neitherlands during Spring Break, no one came to rescue him like they did Our Josh; nope, he had to figure out his own way back and returned determined to be a lone wolf.  Our Josh tries to make a connection with him but 23TL is grizzled and angry and not looking for empathy.  Also, he and Marina have totally roofied the J’s.  Whelp!

When the J’s come to, they are bound up and Marina explains that they are handing over Julia as an exchange for the Beast to stop killing them. Our Josh? He’s just collateral damage, not unlike a less hot version of Cedric Diggory from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (spoilers).  Julia tries to convince them that they can’t trust the Beast and also, they were able to kill the Beast with the Rhinemann Ultra Spell. (leaving out the part where Alice was turned into a Niffin).  Marina has heard of it but, without magic and God level power to cast it, not happening.  Knowing how to really make an entrance, Julia chooses now to easily snap herself out of her bonds and is basically, “Boom, God Level Magic Bitch.”   Not done, Julia heals Marina’s face scar, cures her of migraines and her smoking addiction.  Julia is really turning hard into the helping people” curve.  23TL Josh tries to “act out” at this magic but, nope, only our Josh has that power.  Julia asks after Dean Fogg, he’ll be able to help with the Rhinemann Ultra. Marina warns Julia that he’s not the magnificent educator he once was.  Yeah, same on their timeline too, Julia doesn’t say.  Commercials.

When we return, Marina is filling in some more Dean Fogg background, including the fact that he evicted her from Brakebills and that they’ve told slept together. Gross.   Speaking of awkward relationships, Marina presses Julia on the state of their friendship in Julia’s timeline.  Julia skirts the issue of causing her horrible death which Marina doesn’t seem to completely buy but, time to talk to the Dean.

Dean Fogg’s Office. After initially balking at seeing Marina, Henry relents when he sees Julia (really sees, this Henry still has his vision). Inside, he complains about still having to live through another 17 timelines and chases some pills with liquor. Because she is a sunshine-y optimist, she asks if he really needs to imbibe and he’s basically, like, “Yep.”  Soooo, how about Rhinemann Ultra, Marina asks?  Oh, Bigby had that spell but she’s dead and its all horrible and everyone is dead and an emotionally distraught and drunk and high Dean Fogg, confesses to having killed a leprechaun once. Which is relevant to absolutely nothing but Rick Worthy is so fucking good in his scenes, I want you to experience all of them.

Henry gathers himself to relate a story of how he sent two students to Bigby to get the Rhinemann Ultra from Bigby but who were violently killed by the Beast. The upside is that their violent ends allowed them to return as ghosts in the library where they still haunt and maybe, still remember the Spell.

Back at the Lab, Our Josh is ripping 23TL Josh a new asshole for betraying them and being a general dick; even with the Lasik and cool jacket.  23TL drops a warning about “the quickening” and its coming and maybe its better he’s alone anyway.  Apparently, the quickening is so bad that he won’t tell his doppelganger about it, though it does involve having banged a werewolf (which Our Josh also did).  So, there’s that new mystery out there.  Great!

The Library.  Julia and Marina see our ghosts, Drunk Eliot and Two Eyed Margo.  We are pre-their fight with the Beast but afetr they’ve gotten the spell from Bigby. Bigby, apparently, has shaken Eliot’s confidence by calling him a fuck up and lush … which, wasn’t an inaccurate detail at this time in Eliot’s arc.  Margo is all positivity that they just won’t cast it wrong. But also, she bitch slaps him and tells him that she won’t allow him to cock out on her.  Margo! Amazing in all Timelines!

The lights flicker and now we are post fight with the Beast and Eliot is bloodied and mumbling about having screwed it up; Marina and Julia rush forward when he drops the spell so they can take pictures of it with their camera. Eliot spies them and demands to know where his Bambi is which is when half face eaten Margo arrives on the ghost scene.  A resigned, “Cocks,” is all she can say.  Preach girl.

The house of horrors isn’t done yet, though, because as they return from the Library, Marina and Julia realize they are being followed. When Julia turns to do some battle magic, we see its 23TL Penny who is … really grungy looking – like needs a shower grungy.  He’s super pumped to see “Julia” though and gives her a big old kiss.  Commercials!

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: (l-r) Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker, Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

When we return, Julia is all, “Hi! Yeah, not your Julia. Different timeline.” He says he thought it was crazy when he heard rumors the Beast was still looking for her even though she was dead so he popped in to have a look for himself. I’ll note he also refers to 23TL Julia as his soul mate which is an interesting Pairing that never gets shipped ever. And, one I think Kady (who we do not see tonight at all, again) would have a lot to say about.  Marina tells Julia its time to go and 23TL Penny invites himself along; he too wants to kill the Beast. I think we can assume everyone everywhere wants the Beast dead but I get his point.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: (l-r) Trevor Einhorn as Josh Hoberman, Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Reunited with the Josh’s, Julia starts doing some magic prep (or trying to) while 23TL Penny hits up Our Josh for the down low on 40TL Penny.  In the Underworld, “not good, 23TL Penny interjects” but maybe not dead, Our Josh explains.  “In the Underworld but not dead. That sounds … worse.” Fair 23TL Penny, very fair.  Our Josh salves the wound by saying Penny wound up in the Underworld because he did something heroic, unlike 23TL Josh who is a dick and maybe suffering from lycanthropy … which, when you say it like that, makes it a little easier to forgive him for being a dick. No?   Speak of devil, 23TL Josh comes ovwer and Our Josh hits him up for more info on this “quickening” but 23TL Josh still doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s also so snotty with Our Josh because he perceives that Our Josh has had a much better life. He bases this mostly on the fact that Our Josh gets to hang with Julia, who is amazing, and 23TL Josh is stuck with Marina, who is mean.  Again, fair.  With that logic out there, and Our Josh also not confessing to having banged a werewolf, they reach a sort of detente when 23TL Josh hands over his dope jacket to Our Josh. Oh. Hi there Beast! WHAT?!?!

Yep, all Moth Face himself has materialized in the Brakebills lab and 23TL Josh raises the alarm.  The Beast begins force choking Our Josh but 23TL Josh intervenes saving Our Josh to “tell our story” and 23TL Josh dies from a casual flick of the Beast’s hand causing a gnarly gash across 23TL Josh’s torso. RIP 23TL Josh; maybe you weren’t such a dick.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: (l-r) Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi, Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker, Trevor Einhorn as Josh Hoberman — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Julia casts the Rhinemann Ultra at the Beast but all it does is kncok the moths away from the Beast’s face.  “Julia. Well ,the Key didn’t lie.” Oh hi, Quentin. So nice to see you! WHATTTTTT?!?!? Julia god magics 23TL Penny’s hands to proper working order and away the 4 survivors pop before Beast Quentin can get to them.  Commercials.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: (l-r) Trevor Einhorn as Josh Hoberman, Brittany Curran as Fen, Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker, Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

The 23TL Library.  When we return, 23TL Penny has traveled them to this timeline’s Library.  Our Josh (I guess I can just call him Josh again, huh?) can’t wrap his head around how Quentin, who was lulled to his death by the Beast is now the Beast. Julia is equally confused and Marina doesn’t even know who  Quentin is, which makes total sense having been a hedge witch and all.   Julia really is confused since 23TL Alice said she saw Quentin get torn apart by the Beast.  Alice, Julia realizes, is the answer. They need to speak to 23TL Alice.

The 23TL Fillory. Aboard a ship in 23TL Fillory (not clear if its the Muntjac though it is a sentient tree boat), we find 23TL Alice working as a stockgirl for a group of radish smuggling bunnies (they can’t stack boxes, she says).  Directed to the next cabin over by a bunny (Fun Fact: the bunnies are all voiced by Mike Moore who also wrote this episode and who has brought me immense joy this season with his rabbit voices), the gang finds 23TL Alice (with some wooden fingers just as Our Fen has wooden toes).

Missing Pieces to the Story:  She explains that after 23TL Quentin died, she was so distraught, especially after seeing Our Quentin in the Tesla Flexion, that she sought out a Magical Creature in the Northern Marsh that agreed to show her how to bring 23TL Quentin back to life (sans his shade) in exchange for her becoming the creature’s property when she dies (instead of going to the Underworld).   Except, when Shade-less Quentin returned, he wasn’t 23TL Quentin at all.  He wanted Fillory for himself so he killed the Beast. Then he killed Ember and stole his power (which is when the Gods turned off Magic). 23TL Quentin retained his magical power from Ember and now, lives in fear of a Magician showing up with magical power like him; maybe trying to take Fillory from him.  Also, he told 23TL Alice that Fillory was the only thing he ever loved which really made her sad.  23TL Quentin sounds like a dick.  Obviously.   23TL Alice concludes her story by saying that Beast Q told her he finally understood Martin Chatwin, that Martin was the only one that ever loved Fillory like him.  She apologizes which 23TL Penny is happy to accept but, less so Marina.  Naturally. She says because of what 23TL Alice did, all of her friends are dead but Julia pipes in that it was really her and Our Quentin’s fault; seeing as they began this inter-timeline shenanigans with the first Tesla Flexion.  Marina is still looking to place most of the blame at 23TL Alice’s feet but that’s not really helpful now.

Josh asks why 23TL Alice is on the boat with the bunnies, is she trying to send lots of messages (I love that that sentence makes total sense to me)? No, she’s hiding from Beast Q. Earlier, Our Josh asked a good question about how Beast Q got the whole Moth face vibe going – Alice didn’t know but its a good question we’ll see answered later.

23TL Alice brings us to the end of this conversation by showing Julia a dagger powerful enough to kill the Beast and Julia just happens to have the God power mojo to wield it.  Knowing she needs to come along for this final ride, 23TL Alice announces that she’s going to tell “Captain Hops” that she’s leaving (which again, not relevant but Captain hops is a hysterical name and it needed to be said here).

Later on, 23TL Penny and Josh drink while Josh confesses he’s surmising the quickening is something akin to “murder herpes” contracted from sleeping with the werewolf.  He’s definitely going off of some incomplete information here but we’ll need to put a pin in this conversation.  Not before 23TL Penny warns “dick Josh” that he’ll kill him if he turns into a monster near Julia.  Good talk!

Marina is trying to convince Julia to use 23TL Alice as bait so she can kill Beast Q from behind.  No go, Julia says. After some back and forth, Julia finally comes clean to Marina about how she did that exact thing with her 40TL version and she’s not doing it again.  This finally gets Marina to calm the fuck down which is a nice change of pace and she asks Julia what her plan is, then?  He may be the Beast, but he’s also Quentin and Julia has known him her entire life.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: (l-r) Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker, Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi, Brittany Curran as Fen, Trevor Einhorn as Josh Hoberman, Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

23TL Fillory, Castle Whitespire.   The Gang travels in to the Castle and Beast Q has turned it into the largest collectibles room a Fillory and Further Fanboy could ever ask for.  23TL Alice, maybe as big a Fillory Nerd as Q, identifies a lot of the pieces and realizes Quentin has been hoarding the Fillory treasures.  Marina declares it trash and she may be right BUT, its also the hatching of a plan.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

In the throne room, Beast Q is setting down to have a nice lunch when Josh and Marina distract him misdirected noises but he smells 23TL Alice fast enough.  “Why don’t you come on out.”  23TL Penny can’t travel into the throne room because its warded so 23TL Alice will have to go as a distraction.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

“I’m here Quentin,” she says in the saddest, weakest, broken voice I could imagine. Three words and Olivia Dudley has just broken my heart for this sad version of our Alice.  beast Q return to his throne as 23TL Alice makes her distraction impassioned apology.  You’re not Martin Chatwin, you’re not the Beast. You HATE the Beast,” she says. true, but Beast Q compares it to the Princess Bride perfectly when he says he “Dread Pirate Roberts’d” the whole Beast vibe as to command instant fear and authority (hence, answering Josh’s question from earlier). Alice says she knows her Quentin is inside him and he casually remarks of course he is, “I ate him.” HA! Jason Ralph is selling the hell out of this Beast role.  He monologues that this is an obvious stalling tactic so he moves the game along by slashing 23TL Alice across the torso like he did 23TL Josh earlier … that must be his “go to” death.

“That’s a familiar scent.”  Turning, Beast Q sees Julia and reminds her that she’s already tried killing him.  Instead of killing him, she imbues him with her Shade. As he falls backward, the fear on his face is palpable.  He’s immediately overcome him with emotion and he begins to cry over dead 23TL Alice’s body. Julia asks him where he found the Key and he non-explains that he knew it could bring back Magic so he got to it first. She says she knows he was looking for her because the Key showed him visions of Julia killing him but she won’t do it. She places the dagger next to him.  She wants to help him, she says.  No, 23TL Quentin explains, the visions weren’t of her killing him, they were of her opening a Lock at the End of the World.  she was trying to let Magic in but she let in something much worse. “A monster. Much worse than me,” Quentin says.  He stabs himself in remorse, ending the reign of Beast Quentin the Horrible.  Retaking her Shade, Julia grabs the Key as well.  There is a nice overhead shot of Alice and Quentin laying side by side, very Romeo & Juliet-style.

THE MAGICIANS — “Twenty-Three” Episode 311 — Pictured: (l-r) Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice, Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker, Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)

Wrap Up. Back at 23TL Brakebills, Josh is trying to find the normal “Let’s Go Home” portal with the new Key while Marina makes fun of him. Because Marina? She’s mean.  23TL Penny sidles up next to Julia and asks if the Key gave her any visions. Nope, she says. Which is good, because then means he gets to surprise her with the news that he is coming back to the 40TL with her.  “I’m not her,” Julia says. “I know that,” he replies quickly but explains, there is nothing here for him and there (meaning the 40TL), “give it time.” Oooh doggie.

Josh comes in to let them know he found the door and teensy problem, Marina ran through it as soon as it opened so, that happened.  “Is that bad,” Josh asks, and Julia responds, “I honestly don’t know.”

And scene.

I love the framing of this photo so I have included it here at the end. No other reason. (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)   

Thoughts.  Even when there isn’t something big brewing, there are major things happening on The Magicians.  First, you have to appreciate the massive call backs to earlier season episodes and the conclusion of the Timeline 23 story which we didn’t even realize wasn’t concluded beforehand.  But, of course it wasn’t.  And of course, TL23 Alice and Quentin is a reverse of the TL40 Alice and Quentin story wherein he returned Alice from being a Niffin (though he did put a Shade back into her).  But TL40 Alice was hella-pissed at being returned from her Niffin state (still is), just as Quentin returned and became obsessed with his collection of power.  Its a very nice bookend and the exact kind of first rate storytelling that The Magicians does so well.

Julia and Josh were the perfect characters for this Quest as Julia has not only her god power mojo working which makes resolution of the TL23 Beast problem possible but she is doubled, maybe tripled down on her kind gestures increases her power frame of mind and its paying off for her.  And Josh, Josh is the one that speaks for the viewers – he is our avatar inside the show and we definitely want a voice to say out loud those things we’re thinking at home (Act. Out. – that was exactly a pitch perfect moment).  The introduction of this concept of “the quickening” will surely become a potent plot point though maybe not until next season I am thinking.  My initial guess its the process of turning into a werewolf but maybe its more complex or deadly than that. Like “Unhinged Lupin in the Harry Potter novels” level of dangerous?

How about that Beast Q vision.  The Lock at the End of the World is a concept from the Books and so I am curious to see how they incorporate it into the story here and what form the Monster which is much worse than Beast Quentin takes?  Its never easy with these guys.  The bright side is that it means they probably somehow figure out how to get the Last Key from the Fairies which I imagine will be the subject of next week’s episode.

And last, TL23 penny coming to our world makes so much sense. One, our Penny is on his own new Quest line with the encouragement of Hades and maybe some magic Cupcake drugs.  That being said, so many aspects of the Quest require a traveler’s powers that having this “new” Penny around will be super useful. Not useful? The clear romantic issues that are going to arise between him, Kady and Julia.

That’s all until next week friends. Thank you for reading – leave me some comments on where you think we’re going and how we are going to get there.

2 thoughts on “TV Recaps: The Magicians – The Return of Mothra …”

  1. In your post, you wrote: “Dean Fogg, confesses to having killed a leprechaun once. Which is relevant to absolutely nothing but Rick Worthy is so fucking good in his scenes, I want you to experience all of them.”

    I think it might actually be relevant to the actor himself, maybe as an inside joke. I went to college with Rick at the University of Michigan. Most Michigan alums are rabid about Notre Dame, one of our biggest rivals. I wonder whether it was a little anti-Notre Dame joke that Rick threw in there.

    For what it’s worth, Rick was an awesome classmate in television production classes. He was just as edgy and hilarious back then. I was proud to call him my friend for the short time I knew him.

    1. I cannot hope any more that this is true and at least in my mind, I’ll be treating it as true! Thanks so much for reading and for the Rick Worthy story – the man is amazing!

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