The Magicians S3E1 – The Tales of the Seven Keys (RECAP)
Tales of the Seven Keys
After recapping the first season of The Magicians for the last few months I came to see a certain pattern in which most, if not all of the episodes had a theme running through the narrative, something that serves as connective tissue between the various characters and storylines. Because of that, I found myself subconsciously trying to find that connective tissue in ‘The Tales of the Seven Keys’, the premiere episode of the show’s third season. I’m sure if I really tried I could get all fake deep about it and make up something more profound that what I actually noticed, but I think while the connective tissue isn’t rocket science or going to blow anyone’s mind, what it does, however is serve as a pretty decent means to begin the ‘epic quest’ the show’s promos have been promising for the last few weeks. So here’s what I’ve got – how much are you willing to go through for the thing you love?
This show has never been one filled with characters that are likeable because they’re such great people; actually they’re all kind of the worst in their own ways, all of them pretty damn selfish, especially in the beginning of the series. Since then, they’ve all grown and changed to various degrees, some more than others, (honestly, did you really expect Eliot and Margo to be the ones holding down the kingdom of Fillory?) but the one constant for every one of them had been magic. That’s not to say they cherished and appreciated magic for the gift that it was. Really, it’s the opposite. For the better part of 2 seasons all we’ve seen is them complaining about what magic couldn’t do and couldn’t fix or in general just being really irresponsible with their abilities. Now that old gods decided to cut every magician off from magic, pretty much everyone laments over not truly appreciating what they had until it was gone. There is a spark though, that spark being Julia, who still has magic, but it’s not much. Not to get on my ‘Julia Wicker is the best thing to ever happen to The Magicians’ soap box, but I mean, I don’t see anyone else having the only bit of magic left for magicians in at least two universes.
One would think that having that magic would make Julia the one person who still held on to any hope, but really it’s the opposite. When we start the episode, clearly some time has passed, and as that time passes it seems that Julia starts to believe more and more that the magic she does have is some kind of fluke. It’s Quentin who encourages her to not give up and that her having it means something. It is sort of interesting to see Quentin refer to himself as Julia’s sidekick without even a hint of animosity. Before he had thought of himself as a loser tag along for her, and after that, the perceived savior of Fillory. It’s too early to tell, say anything definitively, but Q is at his most tolerable when he’s not trying so hard, hell, I’ll go so far as to say I enjoyed him in this episode. See what I mean about growth? Season 1 Quentin could never.
In the next scene, we get Penny looking sharp in a suit handcuffed to a pipe in a dingy basement. He’s on assignment from the library to collect an overdue book and he got bested by some crazy magician raving about Mayakovsky being behind magic being gone. Rumor has it that he had been working on magical batteries, and this guy thinks this is a direct result of that. Penny does what Penny does best, and tells the guy how wrong and dumb he is, then travels out of his bondage, grabs the book and leaves in the blink of an eye. He ends up meeting Kady in an alley. It seems they’re going great, but Kady is concerned about Penny’s ‘super cancer’ so their time together is fleeting before she makes him go back to the library in the Neitherlands. Remember how I said Penny was looking sharp? Well the moment he’s back in the library that is no longer the case. The longer he’s on earth, the more his condition progresses, but the effects are only felt once he’s back in the Neitherlands where time stops.
The Fillorian kingdom is not only broke, but being occupied (in secret, as only Eliot and Margo can see them) by Faeries and their queen seems to be getting a kick out of making Margo satisfy her every whim, such as picking out all of the earthworms around the castle. Margo, of course tries to pawn the task off, but somehow the queen keeps finding out everything she does no matter how careful she is, which leads her to believe there’s a mole somewhere in the castle.
Brakebills sort of faded into the background more and more in season 2, but it is still around, and while there, Dean Fogg gets a visit from a friend on the board of trustees. Apparently, the crazy hermit Penny had to collect the book from wasn’t the only one who had heard about Skovsky’s magical batteries and they want him to put more resources into that, and if there’s nothing to find then Brakebills will be shut down. I’m pretty sure I know where this storyline is headed; I’m betting money now that they’re gonna have a talent show in the finale to save Brakebills. Quentin can do some card tricks, Julia can do a dance routine or something, it’ll be great. Okay, obviously I’m joking and I know education of any sort is important long term, but considering everything else going on? A school closing seems pretty low stakes for me, so I’m gonna go ahead and nominate this for the least interesting of the storylines thus far.
Quentin’s plan is to find an old god and try to convince them to restore magic, but Julia is rightfully cautious about the idea, not wanting anyone to be fooled the way that she was by Reynard. Josh, of all people is the one who helps Q and Julia because he just so happens to know a God, Baccus, the Roman god of agriculture, wine, and fertility; basically, a party god who dresses like a character in a straight to video American Pie movie.
Harriet, the magician introduced in season 2 who runs a uber popular, uber clickbait heavy website, FuzzBeat.com (try to guess what inspired that) comes to Kady and gives her a book that might help her save magic, and thus Penny.
One of their royal advisors lets Eliot know that there is a place within the castle that faeries will cannot and will not enter because it contains a substance that they are highly allergic to, so it gives El and Margo a place to speak freely. The Faerie situation is pretty dire considering that they’ve gotten rid of all of the books in Fillory that contain any mention of their weaknesses, but Eliot gets the idea to send his fiancee in Loria a message. Unfortunately, the faerie queen is one step ahead of them and they’re back to square one.
Baccus isn’t feeling Quentin and Julia’s vibes so he doesn’t let them into the party, telling them to come back when they’re fun. What happens next would have easily been my favorite moment of the episode if not for Eliot and Margo doing what they do best, and stealing the show later on down the line. Q and Julia get drunk at the bottom of the stairs then do a terrible dance routine they made up in 10th grade to 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Ayo Technology’. Honestly, it’s a sight to see to say the least, and one that grants them access to Baccus’ party, which honestly looks exactly like what I can only assume Coachella is like at night.
They want to talk, but Baccus just wants to party and he gives Quentin some psychedelic drugs that has him hallucinating Alice. We get a flashback of Alice leaving. She says she thought she could forgive Quentin but she can’t and she left. It’s not clear how long ago this was, but it makes sense as to why we haven’t seen her in the episode thus far. Julia is also tripping and she sees Reynard briefly, which would ruin anyone’s high so she keeps moving and finds Josh. They have a heart to heart where Josh tells her how without magic he doesn’t really know what anything is about anymore. He’s hopeless in a way that’s instantly reminiscent of Quentin in season 1, especially in episode 4 where Julia casts the spell to make Quentin think that he was crazy and magic wasn’t actually real. In juxtaposition to that though, Julia takes what little magic she has and shows him, giving him hope. It’s understated, but speaks volumes. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again; Julia is the spark. Of what? I don’t exactly know yet, but she is it.
Quentin pulls Julia away, telling her she can’t just go around showing everyone that she has magic, and Julia tells him that she can’t just spend the rest of her life not trusting people. In season one, when she joined up with the free traders, it was out of a legitimate desire to do some good in the world. Despite so much having happened to her then, a lot of which she still has PTSD from, it’s pretty cool that she’s still interested in doing good in the world, even if that good is instilling hope that they can bring magic back to one guy.
No doubt the best scene in the episode comes when Eliot drags Margo into the middle of a forest in Fillory where they speak in pop culture reference code so the faerie queen can’t understand them. It’s Margo’s eye, (which the queen keeps with her at all times) that is the spy and they decide to look to Fillory and Further to figure out a way to kill the faerie queen. What Eliot comes up with is to hunt for the white lady in order to get her to grant him a wish (something Quentin did in season 2) to get rid of the faeries.
Quentin finds Baccus again, and pretty much gets on his nerves, first by going overboard pretending to be a party animal offering to take shots, then by asking him to let him talk to his parents. Baccus isn’t about that, saying that his parents are distant dicks, but there was another god he met, Prometheus, who was all about helping magicians. The lead dries up before it actually becomes a lead because Prometheus is apparently dead, but Baccus does tell Q about how Prometheus spoke of a ‘backdoor to magic’.
In the forest, Eliot doesn’t find the white lady, but arguably something better, who he literally compliments to come out of hiding; the great cock of the darkling woods. The cock and Eliot have a lot in common in terms of aesthetics, and he doesn’t grant El a wish, but instead offers to send him on an epic quest. Eliot is thinking short term while the cock is thinking long term, but Eliot is convinced that he’d screw it up regardless. The cock tells him to enlist the help of his friends, so he and Margo get a message to Quentin via a bunny (because they move easily between worlds and have no loyalties) to find a book with no author, that is in a public library in New Jersey.
He and Julia find the book, The Tales of the Seven Keys, and Quentin figures that the quest has already begun. They believe whatever the keys unlock will help restore magic, and the first key is in Fillory in a place beyond Fillorian boarders, the after islands. The sail is a hard one to swing, and the last king who tried to do it dies, but Fen, who has spent the whole episode treating different objects and animals as if they were her and Eliot’s actual baby says she knows exactly the boat Eliot needs.
The first glimpse of Alice out of flashback is with her in an alley being fed off of by a vampire. She’s looking for information about the lamprey, who she was warned at the end of the last season was looking for her because of something she did when she was still a Niffin. The vampire is less than helpful though, and the episode ends on a shot straight out of Riverdale of Alice eating the world’s most offensive looking bacon in a diner. Not the most epic way to end an episode, let alone the season opener, but there was enough good in the episode to give it a pass.
So it looks like we have a quest on our hands, Fanbros. Even with juggling 5 different plots at once, the writing already seems so much tighter in this season, and the actors have had enough time with their characters by now that they seem more comfortable than ever being them. Josh is a cool character who was introduced in the latter half of season 1, ran away, then came back in season 2. He seems to be moving towards semi-regular if not regular status on the show, so hopefully we get more character development from him moving forward. I’m not really feeling the Brakebills plot or anything involving Mayakovsky and his magic batteries, so hopefully that doesn’t play a huge roll in this season, or Alice’s plot for that matter, but the episode’s high points outweighs it’s low points by far, and for an episode where pretty much everyone is either depressed or in dire straits, it was surprisingly as hilarious.
What did you think, Fanbros? What was your best and worst moments from The Tales of the Seven Keys? How many pop culture references did you actually catch in Eliot and Margo’s exchange? Has there ever been a song worse than ‘Ayo Technology’? Let me know in the comments below!
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