Reliving the Magic: The Magicians – Season 2 Ep 1 Knight of Crowns (Recap)
As of right now, there are 3 seasons of The Magicians, and in any given one of them there’s a lot going on. In season 1, not only was the world of Brakebills, hedge witches, and Fillory introduced, but countless concepts and people that enrich, enhance, and even terrify these worlds were as well. Still, in season 1, if I were told to recall beat by beat what happened, the task wouldn’t be all that difficult; mapping the cause and effect would be fairly easy and following the breadcrumbs to the end of the line to the finale wouldn’t get too confusing. In my mind though, the same cannot be said for season 2.
This lack of mental cohesiveness in my mind isn’t a result of a bad season, (though we’ll see if I still feel that way by the time I recap the last episode), I remember enjoying the season from week to week and there being some really stellar episodes and concepts introduced. So why is it that if asked what happened this season on the show all I remember is fractured bits and pieces of plots? I remember a heist, being shook to my core when a major character died early on, and yes, how the season ends for our protagonists. But mapping out the in between off the top of my head now isn’t gonna happen, which is I’m excited to revisit and recap season 2 of the show starting now with episode 1, Knight of Crowns.
The episode is not concerned with easing anybody back in as we start with Quentin running through the dark (magical) forest of Fillory, screaming for help moments after the events of the finale. He comes across a really random Hansel and Gretel style witch’s house whose willing to help for a price. I get the feeling that Quentin Coldwater is in a perpetual state of broke so he for sure doesn’t have any gold to offer the Fillorian citizen. He pulls a wild flex though and mentions that he’s the next high king of Fillory and the witch agrees to help for a vial of his blood. Back at the wellspring, Alice finds Quentin, and in case you didn’t have the luxury of a ‘last season on The Magicians’ like I did watching this on Netflix, then now is about the time that we’re reminded that season 1 ended with the absolute slaughter of…well everyone except Kady, who was spared by the virtue of just not being there and Quentin by virtue of Julia who joined up with The Beast, more interested in killing her rapist, Reynard the fox — a literal god. Since Alice still had god powers flowing through her, she wasn’t so easy to kill and was able to revive everyone. They scramble for a new plan, knowing that The Beast could come back for them any minute so they go back to the wellspring of magic, figuring it’s their best bet of survival. Tampering with it though is likely to decimate Fillory entirely due to The Beast draining it to next to nothing everyday for years so for the second time in about a 10 minute span, they’re scrambling for another plan.
The Beast aka Martin Chatwin takes Julia to a Chuck E. Cheese style establishment, which juxtaposed against what he is and the terrible things he’s done is easily unsettling, but also is just sad when you remember he’s a man who as a child, when he should have been enjoying places like this where a kid could be a kid, he was being sexually abused by a man who was meant to be his caretaker. Over some pizza, Julia and Martin discuss the terms of their agreement — in exchange for the only blade capable of killing him, Martin will help Julia kill Reynard and she throws in the extra stipulation of Martin not being able to hurt her or any of the Brakebills crew until the job is done. Martin agrees to the terms, seemingly impressed with Julia because he might be evil, but he’s not blind.
Despite Julia betraying them and Quentin trying to defend her reasoning (to no avail, Margo especially is not trying to hear that noise), our heroes still need to kill Martin before Martin kills them so they regroup and try to formulate a new plan with the help of the Fillory and Further books. It’s a nice touch to see the writers of the show still incorporating the books into the narrative since even though Quentin does his fair share of failing upwards, his being such a rabid fanboy of the books is one of his greatest strengths.
It’s a Mr. Fantastic level of a reach, but they formulate a plan on there being a piece of battle magic powerful enough in the armory of Fillory that would defeat Martin based on a passage in F&F involving Rupert Chatwin and World War 2. Which brings us to the heart of this episode: our heroes and their journey to be coronated as the official kings and queens of Fillory in order to gain access to castle whitespire where the armory is housed and thus the spell.
On this episode of ‘exactly how dirty can this show do Penny this week?’ there is a side quest to be had in the form of Margo and Penny needing to find a healing river — Penny for his hands and Margo because they’ll probably need it after taking on The Beast again. In case you forgot, in the last moments of season 1 when The Beast absolutely bodied the Brakebills crew without breaking a sweat, he sliced Penny’s hands clean off, and now those hands are being carried in a box with that river being his best bet for reattachment. Not sure why Alice couldn’t use a little of her god-level magic to stitch our boy up, but that’s none of my business.
Speaking of team ups of unlikely pairings, Julia and Martin sign their contract then start following Reynard’s trial. It’s Julia who is more helpful than Martin in this instance as while he’s trying to figure out Reynard’s motivations in how he kills people in an effort to suss out what his next move might be, Julia uses a police scanner Twitter account and comes across a crime scene in Florida matching Reynard’s M.O. The sequence is reminiscent to that really good episode of Jessica Jones in season 1 where Jessica tries to help Killgrave be good and help people. From their investigation of the crime scene, they figure out that Reynard is attracted by people performing the ritual to summon Our Lady Underground, so at least now they have a trail to follow and Martin tells Julia that he intends to cast a magical net to catch the trickster god.
On their side quest at the river, Penny and Margo meet a Fillorian helps Penny sew his hands back on and instructs him to submerge himself in the river. It’s all well and good until after Penny’s hands are re-attached he asks them for money. Penny, being his typical surley self not only refuses to pay him, but insults the guy so thoroughly that even Margo tells him to chill. As a result, the guy curses Penny’s hands when his back is turned and from here on out Penny doesn’t have any real control in what his hands do, including casting, and that for sure comes into play a few times over the course of the season.
The highlight of this episode hands down is when the magicians on Fillory arrive at the rainbow bridge to get coronated. Before they they can be officially declared the kings and queens they have to take a test to make sure they are in fact children of earth. The questions are from the 90s (it’s been that long since Fillory has had a king) and though they all come through with a right answer, Eliot brings it home with a glorious Patrick Schwayze in Dirty Dancing impersonation, which a quick Google search tells me came out in ‘87, but you know, go off.
As the show does so well, the tone switches from comical to touching as they crown one another, clearing the air and making amends finally after the threesome debacle that fractured the team on the back end of season 1. I honestly don’t think any recap can do the scene the justice it deserves because all actors involved acted their butts off and it’s maybe here when it’s the most apparent so far that they’ve fully realized who the characters they play are. They all have beef with one another for whatever reason and they’ve all shared this burden of trying to save not only themselves but an entire world from the clutches of real evil and they get over themselves enough to work towards the greater good. The only downside of this whole exchange is the fact that Penny is there on the sidelines, more of a spectator than a participant when he’s been there all along just like the others.
Quentin and Alice have a heart to heart as their air needs a little bit more clearing than the rest. Quentin gives her the confidence boost she needs to be willing to believe she can take on Martin in another showdown when the time comes. They also hook up again after she pulls off a spell that grows a tree, but she’s quick to make it known that they’re not getting back together again, and he’s quicker to agree.
The episode wraps up with the newly crowned Fillorian royalty entering castle whitespire, meeting their new council of advisors and going straight to the armory, only to find it devoid of any actual spells for battle magic, meaning that Martin was a step ahead of them on that front. They do find a book that was written at Brakebills that could have helped had the pages not been ripped out, so they all agree to go back, except Eliot who, because he is high king by blood can never go back to earth.
Earlier in the episode, Martin deduced that Reynard raped Julia, and because he can relate and sees something he admires in her, offers to take her shade away, which he explains is like a soul, but even more than that, and without it she wouldn’t have to deal with the trauma of the assault. For anybody familiar at all with The Vampire Diaries series, I’d equate it to when a vampire chooses to shut off their emotions. It’s what Martin did and how he managed to become The Beast, citing that his lack of a shade enabled him to do what had to be done. For the rest of the episode, Julia considers his offer and by the end she lets him show her what it feels like but she tells him to put it back after a few seconds, which he does and the episode ends with Julia shaken from whatever she felt or didn’t feel when she no longer had her shade.
As far as opening episodes go, I found myself stopping and starting a few times to get through it. It wasn’t an action packed episode in the slightest but it did deliver on the kind of tone, humor, and dialogue you’d come to expect after season 1. Like I said before, the actors are clearly more comfortable in their characters, which makes little things like the way they look at one another at any given time more meaningful than just reading the words on a script could. Julia and Martin teaming up to kill Reynard is a clear and concise motivator for the progression of Julia’s story line, but team Brakebills has a narrative split in having to both rule a whole magical kingdom and trying to figure out how to kill a foe who isn’t even trying to kill them at the moment, which spreads things a bit thin and frankly could get old fast. All in all, if you’ve seen season 1 then the episode is about a step above serviceable with a lot of pieces being put into place for the rest of the season, but Knight of Crowns wouldn’t be the most ideal episode to jump into if you’re venturing into the world of The Magicians for the first time.
What did you think of Knight of Crowns? Out of all of the characters, who would your top 4 picks be for the kings and queens of Fillory? Are you still team Julia? Would you get rid of your shade if given the chance? Let me know in the comments down below, and check back next week for a recap of season 2 episode 2, right here on ForAllNerds.com!