“A Flock of Lost Birds” (Episode 401)
January 23, 2019
The Magicians is back! Well, the show is back but most of our magicians are still stuck in other identities. You can catch up on where we left off last season with our deep dive recap and review here.
In short, magic is back in the world but it’s being rationed by The Library overlords. The magicians, other than Alice who is in Library prison, have been mind scrambled by a Dean Fogg spell. Oh, and the Monster that lived in the castle at the end of the world is inhabiting Eliot’s body. No bigs.
On to the Season 4 premiere of The Magicians, “A Flock of Lost Birds” … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
Season 4 begins with a young woman, Kimber D’Antoni, receiving a Welcome Letter from Brakebills. Consistent with how this show began so many years ago, the letter “leads” her over a locked fence in NYC and into the sprawling Brakebills University lawn located in upstate New York (and only about 45 minutes from your friendly neighborhood recapper!). Todd is there, smoking and waiting for her … and doing his best impression of Eliot from when he met Quentin a long time ago.
[Eagle Eye viewers will notice that the newspapers in the opening scene mention Irene McAllistair’s announcement that she is running for office.]
Back to Brakebills. Todd informs Kimber that she’s late and when she asks if she’s hallucinating … he’s really not any help in dissuading her of that notion. Some things to note, The Library now has Librarians on campus; Todd advises Kim to keep on their good side as they control the “good stuff.” As he walks Kim to the test hall, Todd remarks that in some ways, the “New World Order” is definitely better than it was but also, kinda worse.
Kim, flustered and confused, enters the placement exam and Dean Fogg proclaims her “late” very loudly. I’m still getting used to Dean Fogg with vision and no sun glasses.
Kim takes a seat and the magic school entrance exam begins. Kim is just rolling with it but also, getting every question wrong … which seems like a statistical impossibility. In the back of the room, Professor Lipson is complaining to Henry about the rationed magic and also, she’s tracking the real time progress of all the test takers. Kim’s line is just filling with red X after red X as she gets all the questions wrong. Henry asks about her and they agree, it’s odd. Lipson says she’ll pull her and wipe her memory when the written part of the test is done. Henry pulls out his globe and it cracks when he goes to look at Kim’s magic aura.
Henry immediately changes his mind about Kim and tells Lipson to keep her on; this Kim is a curious case and he wants to give her some rope. As the scene pulls out, we see Kim through the cracked amber of Henry’s globe … it’s Julia in her bewitched form!!
We come back to The Library and overhear Librarians Shayna (Jackie Blackmore) and Bruce (Dion Riley) discusses a cockroach situation that is infesting The Library. The Librarians may have all the power of magic but apparently, are slobs. We join Alice in her cell.
Alice is cheery as ever as evidenced by her, “go fuck yourself” to the cellmate next door who remarks on the depressed sound of her breathing. Their banter is interrupted by Zelda. She is here personally, to see that Alice begins eating again. Zelda knows what’s up and has brought a platter of crispy bacon. Alice realizes that this means Zelda read her book and needles Zelda about reading the passages where she and Quentin fucked and ate bacon.
Side Note: I get to write amazing sentences when I recap The Magicians.
Zelda rewards Alice’s eating with reading privileges and drops of The Metamorphosis, a famous novel by Franz Kafka. Interestingly, The Metamorphosis is a story about a man, Gregor Samsa, that wakes one morning to find himself having turned into a giant bug … or cockroach perhaps?!? Alice begins to ask Zelda a question but, knowing what the question will be, Zelda cuts her off and says that Dean Fogg will not be visiting today …
Which isn’t exactly true as the Dean is at The Library, he’s just not going to be visiting Alice. The Library has mandated that Brakebills hand over files on all the accepted students. Zelda questions the Kim pick and Henry says she shows great promise … though he can’t exactly say in what way just yet. Zelda accepts his decision and the matter is closed. Kimber is officially a student at Brakebills now.
Henry continues sitting and the talk turns to Alice and how she remains fixated on the Monster escaping and her friends being in jeopardy for the role they played in their attempted murder of said Monster. Zelda scoffs, no one is better protected that Alice’s friends, she replies.
We begin a montage of our mixed up Magicians and we realize that not only do they think they are someone else, they actually LOOK like different people. Josh is now Isaac the Uber driver; Margo is now Janet (played by Agam Darshi), editor at HipBone fashion magazine; Penny is now DJ Hansel (played by Tarun Keram), famous EDM DJ; and Kady is now Sam Cunningham (Leanne Lapp), a red headed undercover Seattle police officer.
Missing from this montage is Quentin’s new persona but we know from last year that he is “Brian” in Seattle; and Julia we have seen, Kim D’Antoni – architect turned magic student at Brakebills.
“Let’s be frank, Zelda. My students saved magic. The world may through flowers at the feet of the Order and Irene McAllistair but, you and I both know the Goddamned truth.”
Zelda clarifies for Henry (and us) the position everyone is in. If the students’ true selves resurface, the Library can’t stop Irene and her goons from doing what they will to ensure their silence (i.e., murder them). The Library has agreements of a sort in place with Irene and so, they cannot interfere. Henry is hanging on to what shred of solace …
“When my attempts to protect them inevitably fail, their blood will be on your hands.”
The montage ends and Henry takes his leave.
Seattle PD. Kady Sam is all pissed off because one her arrests, Mark (Max Montesi), walked again. She’s complaining and her partner notes that somebody are just really lucky. She should let it go. So, of course, the next day, she is staking out this Mark and he totally makes her surveillance. He runs! She chases! Right into an electronics store. Which is empty save for the old guy behind the counter. He didn’t notice anyone come in and Sam has a confused. She does note a star tattoo on his wrist.
[Eagle Eye Viewers will note the blood on the mirror in the back room and understand how Mark got away – he used a hedge witch mirror bridge.]
Back at the office, Kady Sam is Googling around about star tattoos. This leads her to recall the star art work on the door of the electronic store and she also finds some star-related graffiti. This leads her to an article about Hedge witches and their hideouts. She feels like she is getting somewhere which is when a loud piercing buzz cues up on the soundtrack and her computer totally shits the bed. There will be no more star tattoo research tonight! She heads to an evidence lock up to continue her research and lights the overhead lights blow out. Using her phone flashlight, she finds some similar “Hedge Witch” hideout spots.
The next day, Kady Sam is checking out one of the hideouts as Mark spies on her from a distance. He is texting someone about Sam Kady’s inquiries and whether she might be more than just a cop. He begins a spell to look at Sam Kady magically and is blown backwards as if he was repulsed by magic.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Having struck out at the locations she checked, she takes the direct approach and confronts Mark at his car. Mark, who is all bandaged up now, is throwing some bags in the car, homie is getting out of dodge. Kady Sam tells Mark she knows what he is.
As Kady Sam says the phrase, “hedge witch,” a satellite dish falls off a nearby building and almost crushes them to death. Mark is all, I am just a side hustler and I have no interest in your “witness protection identity spell” you’ve got going. He holds up his hands and tells her the spell tried to kill him just for peeking at it.
Kady Sam is all, “?!?!” and Mark, realizing she’s telling the truth, laughs at her misfortune, she doesn’t even know who or what she really is. Kady Sam spies the medallion Mark’s wearing and rips it off of him. He explains that it’s a protective amulet. Protection from what, she asks? “From you!” Mark takes off running … and is promptly hit by a bus. RIP Mark and thanks for the protection amulet!
HipBone! Margo Janet is asleep at her desk when a “You hoo” call wakes her up. She follows the sound and finds herself in a lair with Ember … and his many cats. He refers to her as High King and tells her she can approach him.
“Hiiiii. What the fuck is going on?!?”
Oh, Margo Janet is the same sassy pants no matter what her identity. Love her!
Margo Janet has no idea what’s happening which Ember finds a bit distressing seeing as she is the High King and all. He tells her that he is an “energetic emanation” placed by the real Ember and has been activated so that he could contact her.
Sure, that clears everything right up.
He explains that he is an alarm system of sorts. And “great ill is afoot.” She needs Ember to back up because really, she’s confused. Ember’s Emanation is troubled by her confusion and also, that the High King looks like a female. But, moving on, he explains that emanations can only be troubled by big problems. Things like “world war, pandemic, arrival of hostile or uninvited gods onto Fillorian soil, revolt of Dwarves, or mass uprising of the dead.”
Margo Janet refuses the call. She’s a fashion editor and Ember isn’t wearing pants. Ember’s Emanation gets in her face and sets her straight, she does what he says as he is a god.
Margo Janet wakes with a start, still at her desk. “Fuck me.”
Back in Seattle, Kady Sam puts on Mark’s amulet and sets to Googling again. Or Mirado’ing as it were. Like we’ve all done, she searches her name, “Jesamin Lili Cunningham.” The first hits are at about Kady Sam as her work as a detective, arrests she’s made and what not. Scrolling down, however, she finds a peculiar entry:
“A Flock of Lost Birds: A Detective Sam Cunningham Story. Written By: James Tiberius R. Martin – Det. Jesamin Lili Cunningham a hard-nosed, determined straight arrow with a penchant for corgis and men’s cologne”
What the actual fuck?!? When she clicks on the comic book, she sees the cover which features characters including “Isaac Karamov” and “Kim D’Antoni.” If it’s an Easter egg worth noting, Francesco Tomm is credited as a creator along with James Tiberius R. Martin.
Kady Sam is VERY confused.
Back to HipBone. Margo Janet is having a hissy fit because her eye is being weird and colors all look weird to her. Her long suffering assistant, Sophie, brings her an eye patch prescribed by her doctor until he can see her next week. Also, Sophie tells her boss that the books she wanted, the Fillory and Further series, are proving hard to locate but Sophie promises to keep looking. Margo Janet puts on her eye patch, which she accessorizes with a broach, and man, it’s like Season 3 Margo all over again.
In the hallway, Kady Sam flying tackles Margo Janet into a closet. After flashing her badge, she explains to Margo Janet that the medal she’s wearing is a magical amulet and bad shit is about to start happening to them. Margo Janet is looking at her all, “suuuure crazy lady, please don’t kill me.”
Kady Sam pulls out the Lost Birds comic book and explains that her name is Sam Cunningham, just like the protagonist in the comic. And there is a chapter on “Janet Plutchinsky” (the Chapter is called “Janet Plutchinsky’s Wild Ride”). The buzzing noise begins and a mirror cracks as Kady Sam explains that this book is THEIR life. As Kady Sam explains about Mark and hedge witches and how the comic book has all of the details of her life, the buzzing noise rises and falls.
Margo Janet thinks Kady Sam sounds insane but Kady Sam responds with specific, detailed questions on Margo Janet’s life, details that are in the book (a dedicated closet for wigs and fetish underwear?!?). Lights begin to explode as Kady Sam hits on the very specific fact that they are not who they think they are, something was done to them. The girls flee the room as the lights continue to explode, almost following them. Kady Sam says there are others mentioned in the book, they need to go find them.
The Library. Alice just wants to be left alone but her cell neighbor is feeling chatty. He tells Alice that he knows what she’s feeling. He explains how he wound up there. He became obsessed with finishing the work of the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, who spent his life in search one honest man.
After a while, he realized he needed to focus on children as some of them weren’t rotten to the core. Refining his spell, he began to reward the good children he found. Eventually he realized he needed a book from The Library poison room (Alice knows all about that room) and some “elf gentlemen” that he was working with died from exposure. The Library came after the man on charges that included murder.
“Are you Santa Claus?!?”
Her cell neighbor rejects that name as it’s become very “commercial,” very “shopping mall” but for all intents and purposes, yes. He is Santa.
“Just call me Nick, asshole.”
Nick explains that he tried to escape, but was caught, and then tried to kill himself. He clarifies for Alice that the cell wall paint prevents the use of magic so he tried to kill himself the old fashioned way, using a sharpened edge of the food tray. His point, he finishes, is that neither of them are going to die in this prison.
“We’re both smart. We’ll figure it out.”
Alice asks Nick why even he cares and he explains that he’s known Alice all her life. He knows that, despite everything she’s done and the people she’s hurt, that in the end, Alice is a nice person. He makes her promise that she’ll hang in and she does. The look on her face isn’t as convincing.
We come back with Nick raising a racket, calling Alice’s name and screaming for help. We pan from Nick’s cell into Alice’s and she’s slit her wrists, blood pooled all around her. Zelda comes in and calls for help as she cradles Alice.
Cut to the infirmary where Alice is chained to a bed with an IV drip running into her and oven mitt contraptions covering her hands and wrists. Alone, she pounces on to the floor, capturing the cockroach mentioned at the beginning of the episode and stuff it in her mouth as Zelda enters the ward.
Zelda sits and tells Alice that she should have seen this coming. She tries to make clear that Alice is in prison because she broke her contract with The Library, not for what happened to her friends. Zelda stresses that what happened to Alice’s friends is not Alice’s fault. Zelda tells Alice that she singled her out for rehabilitation because she believes Alice can be a master; go farther than anyone she knows.
“Fogg? Your father? Mayakovsky? That can happen here.”
Zelda continues that she understands that Alice may hate it here, may even hate magic given what she did to the seven keys but Zelda will wait until Alice is ready. Also, she’s not going to let Alice kill herself. “Don’t try that again.” Alice lays silently this entire time … because she’s got a cockroach in her mouth.
Back in her cell, Alice spits out the cockroach. She apologizes to Nick for scaring him.
“You didn’t scare me. You disappointed the shit out of me, you histrionic little idiot.”
She admits that she wasn’t trying to kill herself but rather, find a way out of prison. She puts the cockroach on a plate as she says she needs to think.
Brakebills. Julia Kim meets with Dean Foog. She tells him that everyone received their discipline except her. Not that this surprised her as she hasn’t been able to do any magic. At all. They’re calling her, “squib” around campus, even Professor Lipson, and she thinks they may be right. Henry tells her that the word is considered hate speech but more importantly, he explains why she’s still there. He once turned away a student, very similar to “Kim.” And, once outside of Brakebills, this student got hurt and Dean Fogg isn’t willing to risk repeating that again with “Kim.”
Side Note: For new viewers, Henry is, of course, telling Julia Kim the story of Julia and her time at Brakebills and afterwards.
HipBone. Kady Sam and Margo Janet have collected Josh Isaac and Penny Hansel at HipBone. Josh Isaac is star struck at hanging with the famous DJ while Penny Hansel is just stoked about magic being real. He’s super pumped about all of this … he’s the only one. Sophie comes in and we learn that the group is taking a trip to somewhere … probably New York.
The gang recaps the characters from the book. They haven’t been able to find “Kim the architect,” “Nigel, the bastard son of a British lord,” or “Brian, the English professor.” Nigel and Brian have both been reported as missing persons. Josh Isaac goes into a panic about how worrying everything is and Penny Hansel takes his hand.
“Whoa Whoa Whoa. Hey. You need breath work, man.”
Penny Hansel wants to talk about how they get back to being whomever they are supposed to be but Kady Sam cuts him off. Don’t say it, she implores him.
“Apparently, you have to poke the fake ID aspect of the situation pretty directly.”
Side Note: The a consistent detail in this episode is the rise and fall of the buzzing as a speaker gets close to the hot button topic of their identity. Think of it like a decibel meter, rising and falling with how close the speaker comes to “poking” the issue directly. GREAT DETAIL WORK!
They agree to just talk around the situation. Margo Janet suggests they try to find the writer of A Flock of Lost Birds. Josh Isaac raises the point that it was written 14 years ago which is troubling in and of itself because he has memories that predate then and … yeah, he said too much about the identity thing. Part of the ceiling collapses. SMH
Penny Hansel suggests that they find Mark and ask him some questions. Turns out, he’s not dead, just in the hospital.
Side Note: Remember, this is Timeline 23 Marina who escaped through the Magic Door at the end of “Twenty-Three,” which was the 11th episode of Season 3.
Marina tells the gang that A. Mark is a good friend and they almost killed him; B. the amulet Kady Sam stole from Mark actually belongs to Marina so they really stole from her; and C. she’s here to help, so relax.
We come back to Quentin Brian and Eliot Monster. As they wait for Eliot Monster’s ice cream cone, he tells Quentin Brian that they need to get going. They need to hurry to their next destination so there is no time to clean off any of the copious amounts of blood currently covering Quentin Brian’s face and clothes. Seems Eliot Monster found the waiter at the restaurant “boring.” For his part, Quentin Brian looks equal parts dead inside and also, trying not to puke.
The ice cream guy announces Eliot Monster’s cone, “Pistachio with Jimmies,” is ready but makes the mistake of calling his sprinkles, “Jimmies.” Quentin Brian tries to tell Eliot Monster that Jimmies are Sprinkles but too late. That’s a slit throat for ice cream guy. And that’s even more blood on Quentin Brian’s face and clothes. Eliot Monster is fairly doused with blood too — he doesn’t seem to mind much.
“Oh, Jimmies ARE Sprinkles.”
He’s horrible but I also kind of adore the Monster. Anyway, they are headed to a temple in Greece. There is someone there who’s skin they need to flay from his bones. Quentin Brian wonders if there is another game they can play that doesn’t involve so much flaying of skin but Eliot Monster assures the “sad little man we’re calling Brian,” this man in Greece really deserves it.
Quentin Brian is all, “?!?” and Eliot Monster says it’s better “Brian Not Brian” doesn’t know what he’s talking about because A. his “glamour” gets very upset if he even says his real name too many times and B. Eliot Monster says he’s going to kill Brian Not Brian’s friends in front of him so, it’s better if he doesn’t know who they are.
New York. Marina, using a Mirror Bridge, brings the gang to her luxurious, and very stolen, apartment. She throws a bunch of wards as protection from whatever heavy magic is coming off of the 4 impostors. She puts them back to back in a circle and tells them she is going to try and take a look under the hood to see what is really going on with their glamour. She promises a skeptical Kady Sam that she is very good at what she does.
“So, you’re like some powerful, benevolent White Witch?”
‘Uh huh,” is Marina’s simple reply. Oh Josh Isaac, you don’t know the half of who Marina is. Marina begins her spell and the fake faces of the group begin to distort and they all begin to choke. The gang all collapse to the floor unconscious and Margo Janet has another visit from Ember’s Emanation.
Ember is confused. Is this their game now, that Ember has to ask the High King to do things twice? Why hasn’t the problem in Fillory been fixed, he wants to know? Margot Janet is all, “fuck you” and also, “I’m not in Fillory” – that is a fictional place. Ember has had enough and banishes the High King a way with many blessings. Margot Penny wakes up on the forest floor of Fillory, all gasping and choking. She gets up and calls out the names of her new friends but it’s when she sees the two moons of Fillory that the panic really sets in …
“What the High Holy Jesus Freak?!?”
The episode ends as Margo Janet begins to wander through the woods, screaming help and crying and intermittently calling out, fuck.” Behind her, behind a tree, a white fleshy hand pops into view and the screen goes dark.
Welcome back, friends! How long I have missed this show and all of you. After the stellar work of Season 3, The Magicians has set a high bar for itself in Season 4. Not only do they need to keep the story train running in a way that continues to amaze us, they need to resolve a maddening plotline left over from last season and introduce us to the new big bad for this season.
I think a lot of fans were worried that this “witness protection” identity arc was going to take up all or at least a big portion of this season but, it seems like we will get resolution sooner rather than later. I mean, most of the gang figured out that they weren’t really who they thought they were in this season premiere alone.
That being said, it was fun tonight to watch these characters embody new people so completely and then wrestle with the realization that it was a lie. That, everything they knew to be true was fiction. Only Penny, as spiritual DJ Hansel, really took the news in easy stride.
The strength of The Magicians has always rested on both, the quirky yet sincere nuance of the story, as well as the strength of acting chops of their large ensemble casts. This is a deep bench of great actors and tonight, that strength carried the day.
Was this as good as last year’s premiere where the Great Cock set out an epic quest for Eliot? No, but man, it really made me excited for what is in store this season.
There are a ton of plot threads coming out of tonight, all of which I want to know more about immediately:
- Obviously, what role will Marina have, if any, in restoring the memories of Josh, Kady and Penny?
- What is wrong in Fillory that it’s so important to activate Ember’s Emanation and cast Margo back to the magical land to fix?
- Who does Eliot Monster need to see in Greece and what did this person do to deserve a good old fashioned skin flaying?!?
- How did Julia, as Kim, wind back up at Brakebills? The answer would seem that, as a goddess, her magic is strong that even with her identity stripped from her, Julia is still putting out enough magical juju as to get the invite to the magical school.
- Will Fogg betray The Library and help Julia get her memory back?
- How will Alice, and Santa Claus, get out of The Library Prison?
- What’s Zelda’s deal? Does she really care about Alice or is this guilt from how things ended with her daughter, Harriet? Or, is this just a long con to get Alice to be on her side?
So much to tackle and think about this season. I am here for it and I hope you will be too! Join me next week for more Live Tweeting and more recaps!