The Magicians S3E2 – Heroes and Morons (RECAP)
Heroes and Morons is the second episode of The Magicians’ third season, and…well it was a bit weird. There was an exploding kitten, a ship (the Muntjac) bitch slapped a guy, and there was an orgy in Central Park this week. But this is The Magicians so weird is relative. But was it weird in the sense that it felt out of place or awkward? Not at all.
Second episodes are weird to gauge, especially when coming off of a strong opening. It may just be me, but I go in never really knowing what to expect. I really hope that all of the third season’s writing is as tight as it is in these first two episodes. The season opener was not particularly bloated nor overly drawn out. Even the scenes in episode one that initially come off as disconnected from anyone’s story (or perhaps done for the sake of being quirky) are actually tied into a followable story line. Still, there remains imbalance of screen time for certain characters. However, with a cast as big as this one, it is to be expected. That’s not to say I’m not salty that this episode literally leaves queen Margo behind maybe for the entire season considering she’s holding Fillory down while Eliot goes off on his epic quest. Speaking of, the whole episode sees two quests being embarked on; one in Fillory and one across New York with the Brakebills 2.0 crew, so let’s jump into it.
We start off with Quentin reading The Tales of the Seven Keys book they tracked down last week.It’s pretty standard fairy tale stuff with a knight, his daughter, and a witch. The knight gets captured and it’s up to his daughter to save the knight by trying to find the seven keys to unlock him from his prison. Well now that I’m thinking about it, I guess standard would have the knight rescuing his daughter, so I guess it’s a feminist piece of literature too. Regardless, the pages of the book ends with the knight’s daughter sailing off to the outer islands to find the first key so Quentin, Julia, and Josh brainstorm what to do next. Eliot, like the knight’s daughter is embarking on the first quest, but the crew at Brakebills think they should be there with him. They have Eliza’s clock that the Chatwins used to get to Fillory, but it’s useless without magic. Julia doesn’t have enough to get them there, so they start looking to Mayakovsky’s magic batteries, which to everyone else is nothing more than a rumor, but they’d seen one themselves at Brakebills South. Like I said in my recap last week, the magic batteries subplot wasn’t one that I was particularly interested in because well, I mean it sounds kind of lame. But judging by the ‘previously on’ montage, I knew this was about to be more of a thing than I had hoped so okay, magic batteries, go off, I suppose. Nobody knows where Mayakovsky is, so to find them they use the next best thing to magic — Google.
Fillory is broke you guys. Like not only magically bankrupt, but thanks to the beatles who pooped out gold declaring themselves free, financially bankrupt as well (just little Fillory things). Despite this, Eliot still buys the Muntjac, the ship he needs to go on his quest, which Margo isn’t 100% on board with, but it’s not a huge point of contention either. The fairy queen is still hating on the sidelines, but she’s not as big of a nuisance as she was last episode at least.
After searching the web for who knows how long, Josh finds a lead on Mayakovsky from a Youtube video where a bear terrorizes a bar. Josh has been used as sort of comic relief thus far, but low key has been pretty integral in moving some plots along as well. Last week he was the one who brought Q and Julia to Baccus, a literal god, and this week he busts out some grade A detective skills like it just is what it is. Josh deduces that the bear is Mayakovsky and that the bar is a hedgewitch bar only they don’t know which one. Q and Josh are both Brakebills kids, while Julia got kicked out of the hedge scene so they call up Kady, who isn’t Julia’s biggest fan at the moment. One of the best parts of season 2 was the relationship that cultivated between Julia and Kady. I’m holding out hope that they can patch things up over the course of the season, but for now even Julia admits Kady has good reason to not be into the idea of teaming up with her for any plans. Still, if they do find the batteries, it could help Penny so Kady takes helps them out and takes them to the hedge witch bar from the video.
The bartender gives them some pretty solid leads confirming that Mayakovsky was at the bar and that he was with a woman. Quentin pulls up pictures and the bartender confirms the woman he was with was Emily Greenstreet. For those of you who need a refresher, Emily is the girl who was sleeping with Mayakovsky when she was a student, casted a spell gone wrong to get him to love her again after he curved her, and trying to fix that spell is the reason why Alice’s brother got consumed by magic and died. She also makes an appearance in season 2, which is how Quentin knows where she lives and he goes to see her alone. Emily tells him that Mayakovsky showed up and they went binge drinking and got married. They met a woman she didn’t know at the hedgewitch bar and she’s the one who turned Mayakovsky into a bear, so now team Brakebills 2.0’s quest deviates from trying to find Mayakovsky (who is pretty useless to them as a bear) to finding this woman who has magic powerful enough to turn him into a bear in the first place.
Back in Fillory, Eliot goes to see the Muntjac, and one of his advisors, Tig warns Eliot that the ship is made from sentient wood and thus has a personality, a personality in his opinion that happens to be kind of an asshole. It doesn’t really seem that way at the moment, but I have a feeling that at some point this, his assessment will be justified. The fairy queen allows Eliot to go on the quest under the impression that he’s sailing to the outer islands to collect taxes, but she also insists Eliot’s wife Fen come along. Fen was introduced at the end of season 1 as the daughter of the knife maker who had to marry the Fillorian high king in exchange for the blade that could kill The Beast. Season 2 fleshed her out more, and she actually not a bad addition to the tapestry of the show overall. She and Eliot had a baby who was taken by the faeries as part of a deal Margo made to restore the wellspring, and when she was, Fen had a sort of nervous breakdown. Eliot can’t say no to the Faerie queen, so it is what it is. In addition to Fen, the queen also sends someone else on the voyage, Eliot and Fen’s daughter, Frey, who looks to be a teenager as time progresses differently in the faerie realm where she grew up. Fen of course is elated, while Eliot is suspicious that she is who she says she is, especially considering Frey makes it known that her allegiance is to the faerie queen and not them.
Of course, Eliot talks to Margo about it, and tells him how he doesn’t believe Frey is actually his daughter. Margo doesn’t exactly agree, but regardless her concern is Eliot keeping himself safe and not dying. From the jump, Eliot and Margo especially have been scene stealers, and while we’re only two episodes into this season, for the second week in a row my favorite scene in the episode is the one that features the two of them. It’s both funny (they go meta and lament over how cliche’ the baby that becomes a teenager overnight trope’ is and name check Twilight, Angel, and Buffy in the process.) and heartwarming (Margo reminds him the difference between heroes and morons; one dumb decision) as she sends him off with a kiss.
Team Brakebills congregates to figure out how to find the mysterious woman Emily told Quentin about, and Kady tells them that word on the street around hedge witch circles is that weird spurs of magic are happening all over the city, mainly in two places; a sex magic orgy in central park, and a dinosaur conjuring at a children’s hospital. In both places there were sightings of a female magician so they split up to check both places out. Josh and Kady go to the children’s hospital and find out that one of the kids drew a picture of what they wanted and the mysterious woman made it real. While they’re there there the dinosaur makes an appearance, and Kady and Josh go to track it. An actual dinosaur wasn’t in the budget though, so the most we get is a shot of the drawing, a couple of dino sized footprints, and some sound effects. It’s all good though, it’s obvious that a lot of the production budget goes to the Fillory scenes so I ain’t even mad.
Quentin and Julia check out the sex magic orgy, but aren’t very productive initially, getting too distracted by…well all of the sex. Quentin sees Alice who isn’t all that interested in talking to him and tells him that she’s there for the same reason they are — following the trail of the magic woman. The best part of about this whole magic battery plotline is that so many people were able to get this far while Brakebills can’t even do that — the school is a joke you guys. At least Hogwarts was a little bit helpful every once in a while, Brakebills is just comically inept.
Julia comes back over with actual information saying the woman spoke about the loss of magic then asked where the highest building to jump off of is. Quentin, who used to be suicidal (don’t you love it when shows remember their character’s backstories?) knows exactly where that is. When they get there a crowd is already forming because the woman is on the ledge. Quentin rushes up and it’s revealed the woman is professor Lipshen. I don’t really make a practice of remembering the names of the Brakebills faculty aside from Dean Fogg, but I think the most memorable thing about Lipshen is that she’s the one who tells Penny that he’s dying from super cancer, so there you go.
Lipshen spills all of the tea on Mayakovsky; just when you thought he couldn’t be any worse than he already was, turns out he was also smashing Lipshen and she was the one who gave him everything he needed to create the magic batteries and screwed her over after he had what he needed. When she found out that he married Emily she pretty much snapped and used the battery she had to use magic for something good and selfless, something he never would have done as a final F U. Lipshen jumps, but Quentin grabs her by the wrist and saves her. The battery falls and doesn’t survive, still Julia takes a fragment of it, which isn’t positioned as a big deal, but I have a feeling it’ll have a part to play later. For all of the magic she let loose across the city, Lipshen has no idea what Quentin is talking about when he mentions she turned Mayakovsky into a bear, which means that Emily lied to throw him off her trail, so they go back to her place.
Before moving on, there is a small aside that happens here that I guess is worth mentioning. Earlier in the episode, Alice bought a kitten, and when asked about it by Quentin she said she needed a companion. When they’re in the police station after Lipshen is taken in, Alice’s cat starts to hiss then straight up explodes. After that, Alice gets ghost quick. It looks like she was using the cat as a sort of warning system and since it exploded it meant that the Lamprey was near. It’s worth mentioning because clearly Alice is going to have to meet her reckoning with this mysterious creature, but the show is revealing it’s cards slowly in terms of this plot.
Back to Eliot’s quest, he makes landfall on the outer islands and meets it’s people and leader, an older guy named Father Poe. They explain to him that Father Poe protects them from a monster that comes to attack them every few days. Eliot tells him that he’s looking for the key, and Poe has it, only he can’t give it to Eliot because the key is what he uses to fend the monster off. When the monster attacks, they all take shelter while Father Poe does his thing, but there is one casualty and they have a funeral. Before the body is burned, Frey inspects it and tells Eliot that she knows that the creature is a shadow bat and that whatever killed the villager wasn’t that. Fen backs her up, telling Eliot that as the daughter of a knife maker, she knows what blade wounds look like. Eliot exposes Father Poe, who was using illusion magic to scare the villagers so they would make them his leader for keeping them safe. Remembering what Margo said, however, he takes the key and leaves Father Poe at the mercy of the villagers.
Runner up for best scene in this episode comes here when Frey is suspicious of Eliot since he didn’t actually collect any taxes from the outer islands and just took the key. Fen backs him up, telling her that the key is gold and magic, which makes it the most valuable thing in Fillory. The greatness of the scene comes when Fen and Eliot turn into parents and tell her not to talk back and to go to her room, which she does. It’s awesome because we get to see Eliot do some honest to God parenting, but surprisingly, Fen snapping out of it was something I was happy to see as well. Give me more of the Waugh family this season, please.
When they get to Emily’s, she’s holding a frozen bag of peas to her face and tells them that their friend beat them to the punch (literally, she knocked her out) with getting the battery. They assume she’s talking about Alice, but it’s actually Kady who snaked the battery from them.
We see Penny for the first time this episode. He left the Neitherlands looking rough to see Kady again figuring if he was going to die, he’d want to spend his last moments with her. She shows him the battery and takes him, presumably to get him healed up. Julia, Josh, and Quentin split up to find Kady and while he’s out looking, Quentin notices a new chapter of the book appears considering Eliot completed quest 1. Q doesn’t have time to read it though, as he’s attacked by a construction worker who in an earlier scene had something crawl up inside of him and possess him. My guess is that this thing is the lamprey and the last scene of the episode sees it changing hosts and crawling inside of Quentin to possess him.
So that’s season 3 episode 2, and what a ride. I’ve gotta give props to the show still earning that ‘urban-fantasy’ genre title. So much of season 2 was in Fillory and I thought for sure the ‘urban’ aspect was going to fade into the background quietly. There’s a better balance this season so far between what happens on earth and on Fillory that I’m loving, and the progression of the split narrative transitioned so smoothly from just being ‘what’s happening to Julia vs. what’s happening to Quentin this week’ like it was back in season 1. Nothing is new under the sun, and I like how the show calls out it’s own use of tropes when they use them. I still think the idea of a magical battery is lame, but if it’s used as a macguffin to get the Brakebills crew to Fillory and on The Muntjac then so be it, I just hope it doesn’t get drawn out for too much longer. Hopefully, Margo not being involved in the quest doesn’t mean significantly less screen time for her because really at this point, how can you not be here for that literal queen? And if that last shot is any indication, I’d guess that we’re in for some badass nega-Quentin in the next episode, something that can turn out really good or really bad, guess we’ll find out next Wednesday.
There’s my take on Heroes and Morons, Fanbros, but what did you think? Do you think Frey is really Eliot’s daughter? Would you rather check out the sex magic orgy or the literal dinosaur? Why are women in this show so sprung off Mayakovsky? Let me know in the comments down below, and if you’re just getting into The Magicians and need to catch up, check out my season 1 recaps here on Fanbros.com.