The Magicians S4E3 – The Bad News Bear (Recap)
Sometimes I recap this show and there’s just so much to unpack that I don’t even know where to begin. Not every episode recap reads like a game of Cards Against Humanity, but other times, like this episode, ‘The Bad News Bear’ I have to take a step back and think ‘what the hell did I just watch’? Make no mistake, I’m not saying this as a bad thing at all, I love the insanity, and furthermore I loved this episode that in under an hour managed to fit in white collar crime, threats of mass poisoning, prison breaks with Santa Claus, sleight of hand tricks, pick pocketing, and teddy bears. This episode is as heartbreaking as it is random, and the best part is that all of these elements come together and work beautifully in what I’m calling my favorite episode of the season so far. Don’t believe me? Read on and decide for yourself.
The episode starts where we left off last week, except instead of inside of Marina’s apartment with the majority of the questors, we’re downstairs where Marina knows enough to know something bad is going down, is getting the hell out of dodge, and she implores Margo to just walk away and do the same. Margo refuses to leave her friends hanging though, so Marina throws her a bone and tells her she has her apartment rigged to handle a god since the other version of her was killed by one. She has ambrosia hidden in a gold chair, which will get a god high enough to knock it on its ass. Before she can execute the plan though, the monster starts to kill Josh so she bargains with him to let her friends live if she tells him where Bacchus is hiding out and helps him kill the god. She agrees and Josh has no choice but to go along to assist since Bacchus is a friend of his and he can get close enough to use the ambrosia to incapacitate him, so the three of them pop over to Fillory not long after the deal is made.
On earth, and post getting their old selves back, Julia wants to know where her friends are so she can warn them to protect themselves. Dean Fogg insists that he doesn’t know and that even if he did, contacting them wasn’t a smart idea. If you’ve watched even one episode of this show previously, I don’t think I have to tell you that Julia doesn’t care. I wouldn’t have guessed that interactions between Julia and the Dean would be something that was as entertaining as it is, but they’re both strong willed in their own ways. Julia isn’t afraid to show her compassion and willingness to protect, while Fogg (who after his conversation last week with his tailor, it’s confirmed that he does possess compassion for the people around him, especially his students) stifles it and opts for the safer route over the right one necessarily. Regardless, Julia bosses up and makes him cast a locator spell for her since despite being herself again and still possessing some degree of godhood, she still can’t perform any magic, I assume as a result of her making the keys last season depowering her.
Following his conversation with Julia, Fogg goes to see Alice and tells her that the great blank spot is over and that everyone is themselves again which she believes is him giving her a message. After he’s gone, Alice tells Santa Claus (who had no idea everyone had a book chronicling their lives) that it’s time for them to make an escape plan, grab their books so the library won’t know how to find them, and bust out. Will that be the most insane sentence I write all day? There’s a good chance it will be, will it be the most insane one I write recapping the show this season? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Most weeks it’s pretty easy to decipher which plot is the A plot, but for this one I’ll admit it was a tough one for me to call between the happenings in Fillory and what’s going down on earth. If we’re going by what I’m assuming will be more important to the plot of the season in the long run I’d have to give it to Margo, the monster, and Josh’s mission to kill Bacchus, but if I’m going by most enjoyed I’m giving it to what we’re about to get into with Kady, Quentin, Penny, and Julia because their whole storyline was more lighthearted and a nice break from the bleaker, darker tones from the season so far.
Marina tells the aforementioned questors (except Julia who doesn’t show up until a little later) that the new order has a bounty on their heads and introduces the concept of deweys. Since magic is rationed, the deweys are a new form of magic currency as they are coins that like magical batteries store magic for a magician to use as they choose; and like currency the more you have of it, the more you can do. The bounty being offered for them is 3 deweys and Quentin agrees to pay that to her if she doesn’t turn them in. Marina being Marina ups it to 5 deweys and agrees then tells them not to try and screw her over because she’s tagged all of them with trackers.
Julia shows up not too long after, reuniting with Quentin and everyone else. After they fill each other in on what’s been going on, and mention that none of them has heard from Alice, they brainstorm how to get the deweys they need to keep Marina off of their backs. Penny brings up a friend of his from his original timeline, Frankie, who was a counterfeiter. They plan on making a black card, which only the 1% of magicians have, which grants them an unlimited amount of coins. Frankie agrees to counterfeit a fake, but needs a few things to pull off the job, which includes a few minutes with a real black card to make the dupe and at least a third of a dewey. In order to acquire the latter, they decide to enter an underground card game.
Quentin goes with Penny accompanying him as a sort of plan in case he loses and they just have to swipe the dewey. At the buy in, Quentin doesn’t have anything deemed valuable to put down, so he wagers Penny’s indentured servitude as a traveler for a week no questions asked. I’ll give you three guesses as to how pleased that makes Penny.
The game they play is called ‘push’ and it’s extremely simple with each player pulling a card and the point going to the player with the higher card. The skill isn’t in the game, but who can cheat the best. The whole sequence is used as a cool opportunity to see more magic without it being a life or death situation, and while the stakes are still high, the tricks being pulled to cheat are pretty lighthearted. Quentin makes it to the third and final round, and of course it comes down a tie breaker. He smartly uses magic to effect the weather, which uses up all of the magical supply in the room and means they have to play the last round without it. Quentin wins, using a mortal card trick and not only was it clever, but it’s a nice callback to the fact that his love of card tricks was one of the first things we learned about Quentin at the start of the series.
With having an actual dewey taken care of, the heist narrative switches over to Kady and Penny to acquire a black card. Kady has some apprehensions about doing any of it, since Marina (albeit a different version of her) killed her mother. She confides in Penny that she’s tired of being the voice in the background everyone just ignores. Penny talks her down, and together they pull a con after finding a woman who possesses one of the cards; Penny charms and distracts her while Kady lifts it off of the woman. After the few minutes needed with the card, Kady puts it back without the woman ever realizing it was gone in the first place.
In every scene Frankie appears in, he’s been randomly gifted things for no real reason, and completely unaffected by it as if it were no big deal. It’s absolutely played for laughs, but it also works double time as an actual factor in this storyline. He explained that every counterfeiter has their own signature, something that sets them apart, and he reveals that his is that he’s really lucky (think Domino from X-men). While his counterfeits are good, it’s the fact that he has luck on his side that makes them work so well. There is a caveat in the fact that for all of his good energy, bad luck energy has to go somewhere, and Frankie channels it all into a teddy bear. In order for them to pull off getting the deweys they need they’re going to need a lot of good luck and someone has to yield the bad luck by yielding the bear (hence the episode title). Julia volunteers since if something really bad happens like death, she can resurrect but Frankie tells her that it’s a no go due to her godhood for some reason (though Julia doesn’t tell him it’s that specifically), so for the second time, Quentin is up to bat and it’s his job to hold on to the bear while Penny and Kady head to the bank to make their withdrawal.
Switching gears back to the Fillory plot, Margo, the monster, and Josh find where Bacchus is camped out and the two magicians argue because Josh is pissed that she didn’t just kill the monster and Margo refuses to do so if there’s even a chance that they could get Eliot back. It’s heated and Josh is more self-righteous than he has any right to be considering she literally saved his life. Josh leaves to see if he can get an audience with Bacchus, and when he does, the monster tells Margo that he relates to her and hates being alone. He tells her that he needs friends and he wants her to be it, but she tells him that’ll never happen unless the monster lets her talk to Eliot. He refuses, and after Margo suggests he finds a new body to inhabit, he refuses that too saying Eliot has friends who care about him so much and because of that he likes the way they all look at him.
Getting an audience with Bacchus is a breeze for Josh, and he offers to make the party god his favorite drink. Bacchus agrees, and when he does, Josh slips some of the ambrosia inside of it. The two have a similar heart to heart, where Bacchus tells Josh why he came to Fillory (because he’s on the run from the monster and remembered Quentin telling him last season that he’d killed Ember) and that he and Josh are alike, so before Bacchus can drink, Josh gets cold feet and knocks the drink out of his hand.
The moment Josh returns with the rest of the ambrosia, Margo knows that he didn’t go through with drugging Bacchus. She takes the rest and tells him that she’ll do it, but if she poisons the god, then she’ll poison the water supply and kill all of his followers. Queen Margo the destroyer is in full effect, and Josh decides not to call her bluff and goes back to Bacchus to finish the job, this time actually letting him drink a new ambrosia laced drink he prepared. The monster comes face to face with Bacchus, and before he kills him we get a little bit more of an explanation of what he’s after while at the same time things still being pretty vague because whatever got taken away from him, he doesn’t know how to describe it exactly. Regardless, whatever it is turns out to be literal and instead of Bacchus giving it back, the monster rips him open and takes it out of him while Margo and Josh look on. Neither know what the weird egg shaped thing is, but Margo says looking at it with her fairy eye is like looking straight into the sun.
Before we finish off what I now realize after writing so much about it probably is the A plot of this episode after all, let’s go back to Alice and Santa Claus. They get out of their cells and make it into the part of the library where the books are housed using a map Alice made from memory based on what she saw when she was using the cockroach avatar. Alice sets out to find her own book along with the rest of the ones belonging to the rest of the questors, and Santa goes to find his. Santa does, but Alice learns that hers and her friends’ have been removed and moved to the revision room. Santa tells her that they have to go after they hear someone coming but Alice decides to stay saying she can’t leave without their books. St. Nick doesn’t have to be told twice, and after a quick goodbye, he leaves. Their scenes in the first episode were great, but the gimmick of Alice and Santa got old pretty fast, and I know this is just the first leg of what I’m assuming is a redemption arc for Alice, but like last season, so far it’s the weakest part for me, at least in the past two episodes.
Now back to our regularly scheduled con job.
In disguises that need to be seen to comprehend how truly bad they are, Kady and Penny head to the bank to secure the dewies, armed with their counterfeit black card and a lot of luck on their side, while Quentin is back at Marina’s apartment with Julia watching over him while he holds the bad luck bear. Penny suggests to Kady that they take out more deweys than needed to keep for themselves, and Kady points out that it would require more luck on their side, which means more bad luck on Quentin’s, maybe even enough to kill him.
We get quick scenes of bad shit happening to Quentin as Penny and Kady progress in the transaction. Earlier, Quentin turned on his phone and saw that he had a voicemail from his mom. Since magic came back, he assumes the worst — that it’s his mom telling him that his dad died. His mom calls again while he has the bear and he’s so worked up that he lets it go and suddenly, Kady and Penny’s transaction gets flagged. The guy in charge of the follow-up is one of the librarians present when they turned magic back on and thus had absolutely seen them before. Their luck returns just in the nick of time as Quentin picks the bear back up and the request gets approved. Having almost died several times, the moment Q and Julia get word that the mission has been accomplished, he drops the bear.
Frankie tells them that someone needs to destroy the bad luck bear, and Kady volunteers to do it, obviously up to something. We see just what that something is after they give Marina her payment and we see one of the coins has the bear on its face. As soon as they part ways, a man with his back facing the camera tells Marina that he’s been looking for her.
After such a fun plot line, leave it to the last scene to promise to deliver the feels next episode. Quentin is sitting at a table, still afraid to listen to the voicemail his mom left him. Julia comes over to talk to him. After a conversation (and a damn fine performance by Jason Ralph) about how they gave up so much to restore magic and got nothing good back in return, he finally listens to the voicemail and the camera stays on his face as he listens. The episode ends on that before he can give a definitive verbal confirmation that his dad is in fact dead, but his face says all we need to know.
Despite it’s upbeat moments with the gambling and then the heist sequence, this episode was pretty dark and somber and full of top notch acting moments. A definite highlight was seeing the team work together again, and it very much reminded me of the bank heist episode in season 2. One of the best things about this show is how they can throw any combination of characters together and it’ll be fascinating to watch. I myself never gave any real thoughts to all the baggage and emotions that could come out of Dean Fogg and Julia together, not to mention Josh and Margo and yet scenes between both of them seemed weighted and heavy. Josh showed his whole ass tearing into Margo the way he did about striking a deal with the monster instead of killing him when she had the chance, but for me it was further proof of why Margo is in a leadership position — she’s loyal to her friends and those she feels she has a responsibility to and is willing to make the tough decisions even when they don’t prove popular.
Like last season when we saw the far reaching effects of a world without magic on both a large and small scale, it’s fascinating to see what life is like for a magician in this new world order, and the show seems to be pulling from a deep well of concepts from the underground markets and magic rations, to an entire system of currency being constructed. Also, I am a sucker for a show that is self-aware, and with Kady’s plot thread, it looks as if they’ll finally be giving her more agency and attention in the show again. Then again, I had my hopes up after ‘Be The Penny’ last season, and well…we see how that shook out for him.
But that’s my thoughts on this episode, what did you think about ‘The Bad News Bear’? Any theories on what the hell the monster ripped out of Bacchus’s chest? Would you have killed the monster or aligned with him like Margo? How do you think Alice is going to join up with the rest of her friends? Let me know in the comments and keep it here for more recaps of The Magicians at Forallnerds.com