Reliving the Magic: The Magicians – Season 2 Ep 2 Hotel Spa Potions (Recap)
The Magicians Season 2 Ep 2 Recap
Hotel Spa Potions probably won’t go down in anybody’s history book as the most action packed episode of The Magicians that we’ve been gifted with. On the surface it seems almost pointless; Literally, once the credits rolled I actually asked myself what the point was of what I just watched. Sure, it felt like an episode of The Magicians, complete with nonsensical characters, snappy one liners, and questionable decisions being made by one or more characters, but it was just so…seemingly drawn out with no real point to be seen.
The narrative this episode is split into four parts — the core four’s quest for the Rhinemann Ultra, (a particular piece of battle magic housed somewhere within the walls of Brakebills), Penny’s side quest to regain control of his hands, Julia and Martin’s continued endeavor of capturing and killing Reynard, and finally, Eliot’s attempt to be a good king to the Fillorian people through regular, non-magical agriculture. It turns out, in an ironic twist that the latter, which sounds the least interesting on paper was the key to me actually appreciating the episode for what it is — shit. Literal shit, as in storytelling fertilizer to help grow the seeds of plot that were planted in the series premiere. In other words, Hotel Spa Potions had to happen for the madness of season 2 to even come about.
The episode starts with the core four heading back to Brakebills through the earth fountain in the Neitherlands. It’s worth mentioning that there are scavengers in the distance who should, based on past experience should be trying to kill them, but instead just watch as the children of earth leave. They find it strange, but considering they have bigger issues, it doesn’t come up again in the episode. They talk to Dean Fogg and explain that they weren’t the first kids from Brakebills to assume the throne in Fillory. He doesn’t seem all that impressed with the revelation and is more concerned about the fact that if The Beast is able to suck all the magic from Fillory like he wants to, then that would also mean that magic is lost on earth. Even with a cool as ice, Mahershala Ali level of chill, he takes the possibility seriously and doesn’t hesitate to help point them in the right direction — only problem is the person who the book that contained the spell belonged to is a former professor at the school, former because the battle magic class she taught was disbanded.
Professor Bigby, a 500 year old pixie with an affinity for riddles knew that sooner or later the battle magic that was outlawed at the school would be needed and so she hid the spells, among then the Rhinemann Ultra throughout the school; this one in particular somewhere in the library and Fogg recruits professor Sunderland since the library is apparently her domain and nobody knows the ins and out of the place the way she does. The best part of this interaction is when Fogg just lays it out on the table that Fillory is real with no Vaseline and she’s just like ‘okay cool, you telling me this because it’s gonna be on the syllabus or what?’ She’s more shocked when Fogg tells her that she wants to teach the kids battle magic, Karen who wants to speak to your manager levels of outrage. The faculty at this school is truly wild.
Meanwhile, the kids make a trip to the physical kids cottage where of course, a party is going on which is all well and good, but living there must be terrible. Imagine trying to take a nap in that place — Yeah, no thanks, the psychic kids hangout seemed a lot more chill. I digress, they go there so Margo can whip up a concoction to help Penny control his hands, but it’s more like a band-aid than a solution and since beggars can’t be choosers, he’s all about the temporary fix.
On Julia’s side of New York, she’s holed up in her apartment with Martin (aka The Beast) trying to construct a spell to act as bait to lure Reynard in. Martin leaves the task up to Julia because his casting is too sophisticated and Reynard would suspect something is up, but he also criticizes that Julia’s casting would probably blow their cover on the chance Reynard recognizes it. He offers an alternative in them kidnapping Marina and making her cast a net, but Julia is against the idea completely. Against Julia’s wishes, Martin kidnaps her anyway and Julia asks Marina if she would help, which she doesn’t want to do and she leaves. Marina can be cold but she recognizes a legitimate threat when she sees one and though she leaves Julia and Martin to their own devices, she makes a call to the HBIC hedge witch on the west coast and tells her that they need to put their truce to stay out of each other’s way to the side to put Reynard down. Being a woman about her business, Marina is already on her way to California before she even hangs up the phone, but when she gets there she finds the hedge witch dead with her heart ripped out of her chest — Reynard’s calling card.
Finally, at Fillory, Eliot is trying to enjoy the spoils of being the king of a magical land, but Fillory is in bad shape economically thanks to The Beast, which he learns from Fen. Eliot is a hedonist, not a monster and he wants to be a good king so he wants to do something to turn around the state of his kingdom. Their most pressing issue is that people are starving due to failing crops, which they grew with magic before the supply depleted. Turns out, Fillorians are so dependent on magic that they don’t know a lot of what seems like the basics such as fertilizer being crucial in plant growth. To his chagrin, Eliot is more equipped than his kingdom knows because he grew up on a farm, which he treats like his secret shame but uses his unwanted farming skills to teach Fillorian farmers the finer points of agriculture.
Back to the pursuit of the Rhinemann Ultra: The physical kids, plus Fogg and Sunderland all work on figuring out Bigby’s riddles and eventually finds the book, “Hotel Spa Potions’ that doesn’t contain the spell itself, but another riddle that they decode and find her address so they head to Rhode Island to meet her and obtain the spell.
I will admit that the Bigsby scenes are probably the most entertaining of the episode, including the riddle decoding montages in the library and that has everything to do with Bigsby herself, who is more interested in reminiscing about the sex she’s had with Dean Fogg (sex in general really) but gives Alice the spell eventually, warning her that anybody within 20 feet of the blast will die. After getting the Rhinemann ultra, Alice’s focus becomes being able to power it up in time and not freezing up like she did the last time she faced Martin, but time is also not on her side as the effects of Ember’s essence in her body have been gradually fading.
There’s also a continuation of Penny and Professor Sunderland’s sexual tension filled micro-story line where she performs some kind of spell to fix his hands, which like Margo’s fix is only a band-aid, albeit a bigger band-aid rather than an actual solution. Their will they or won’t they thing that hasn’t gone anywhere so far and we’re nearing season 4 so I can’t bring myself to care much about it. Props for her not going the dubious route of sleeping with her student though. Credit where credit is due.
Speaking of dubious, Eliot invites a literal small army’s worth of people to his and Fen’s bedroom to participate in an orgy that Eliot says is of their own free will, but Fen points out that as their king, they wouldn’t actually refuse him even if they want to. El agrees that it probably isn’t the best idea after that, even if he really wants to and relents to getting down the old fashioned way with Fen. I know there’s a lot of discourse in The Magicians community about this plot of Eliot having sex with Fen in particular because it’s assumed he’s just gay, but I don’t recall that ever being explicitly mentioned (I can’t speak for Eliot in the books, which I have not read) and he included women in his orgy roster, so I personally don’t have an issue with the whole Eliot/Fen marriage story line in that respect.
Quentin, meets up with Julia in secret and he tells her that she needs to not be within 20 feet of Martin when they make their move. Julia tells him that they better not make a move at all before Martin helps him get Reynard. Obviously, that’s a no go, so once again they are at an impasse, but before she leaves, Julia does warn Q about Martin putting a curse on the throne room even if she doesn’t have a whole lot of details to offer. I can fully admit that in season 1 I was hating from outside of the club when it came to the Quentin/Julia friendship until the latter half of the season, but I will be the first to admit that I was absolutely wrong because I love their friendship and I absolutely believe that it’s the cornerstone of the show. I still have my own gripes about how Quentin empathized with Julia after her rape but there’s no denying that their bond is one that for better or worse is a big part of who the other is; that’s evident in even when they disagree and are at odds, they still warn each other in an effort to get each other out of harm’s way if they can help it.
Since Alice isn’t as powerful as when she first received Ember’s essence and needs time to power up the spell, Dean Fogg puts Margo, Quentin, and Penny through the painful process of giving them a keiko demon (think a scary Pokemon they can use in battle except the poke’ ball is their body) which involves getting a painful tattoo followed by an overgrown, flaming hot worm-like demon burrowing into said tattoo. It would seem worth it to get these things done, except it’s specifically stated that these demons are a one off kind of situation so if it’s squandered and used at the wrong time then that was a whole lot of pain for a whole lot of nothing (hint hint). The goal is for the magicians to release the demons as a distraction to keep The Beast occupied until Alice can hit him with the Avada Kedavra at full blast.
Dean Fogg gets called away during the ink session and is told someone has breached the barrier of Brakebills. Turns out, that someone is Marina who is shook and comes to him looking for asylum. Fogg is cold though, and instead of helping her, wishes her good luck and turns her away telling her he should have never regarded her the way he had back when she was a student because she’s the worst. I get it, Marina is winning nobody’s prize when it comes to morals (let us not forget she was cool with Quentin being a vegetable and spending the rest of his life going insane back in season 1), but there’s something unjustifiable about the way he didn’t even consider helping Marina out.
Gearing up for the final battle, the core four head back to Fillory to catch Eliot up and with nowhere else to turn, Marina goes back to Julia and Reynard, agreeing to be the bait to help kill him.
And there it is, Hotel Spa Potions ends on a silly note with The Beast singing and dancing which isn’t exactly the mood the final moments of the episode sets up right before the impromptu number. Like I said in the beginning, this episode is absolutely setting up something big, something that, as someone who’s watched this season in its entirety already can confirm is a pretty big payoff. It’s not a balls to the wall edge of your seat thrill ride, but well worth it in the grand scheme of the season’s arc. Going back through the episode while writing this recap I realized that there’s nothing particularly weak in the episode besides maybe the Penny/Sunderland business, but even that could have it’s merits if you feel like reaching. I mean I don’t, but if you do, go off, I suppose. The episode is just astoundingly average when pitted against other episodes of the show; not really great, but not terrible either. It is for sure an exercise in patience, but well worth getting through to move forward with the season.
What did you think about Hotel Spa Potions? Are you trash at riddles like I am? How would you deal with a singing psychopath taking up residence in your NYC apartment that he is not paying bills in? How do you think Julia is paying her bills these days? Let me know in the comments down below, and keep it right here on Forallnerds.com for more recaps!