Quentin helps Julia with her search. Eliot endeavors to win over his people, as Margo tries to keep a devastating secret. Penny and Kady are caught between two magical factions.
"The Girl Who Told Time" is a necessary episode of The Magicians. It makes it clear what the character arcs will be for the final stretch of the episode. It's just not as fun or special as most of the season that came before it. There is just a lot of exposition in this hour. All of it is important information to have. Things have to be established with importance before the characters can start complicating things for their personal stories. It's just a lot of scattered storytelling that hints at bigger moments yet to come this season. Of course, some of these stories still work in the context of this episode. It's still fun to see what new character pairings this show can come up with while also relying on the ones that have already worked so well for two seasons. Those character relationships are important and make every new discovery seem fresh when it's just establishing stuff for the next few episodes.
The most inspired storyline in this episode is the exploration of alternate timelines. It's been awhile since the show has mentioned the time loop that Jane created in her efforts to defeat The Beast. She's gone and Dean Fogg is the only person who knows they happened. He has knowledge of what all of these characters were like the previous 30 times they went through this same scenario. It's fascinating to see that knowledge come into play in the hopes of helping Quentin and Julia right now. The audience even gets to see one of those alternate timelines. It shows why Fogg has such affection for Julia. She is a knowledge student just like him. He sees her learn and execute magic quickly and is envious of what all she'll discover in this world. It could feel like a disservice for Fogg to release Julia from her captivity so soon after Kady imprisoned her. She lost her shade and did a number of reckless and selfish things. She deserved to face some kind of consequences for her actions. And yet, her punishment is knowing she should feel bad even though she doesn't. She's aware of that now and fighting the urge to make these same kind of horrible decisions.
All of this allows Quentin and Julia to work as a team again. Quentin is once again avoiding his responsibilities in Fillory to help his friends back at Brakebills. He's not really committed to being a leader in the world he dreamed about for most of his life. That should bear further examination. But instead, he's with Julia trying to find her shade and reunite it with her body. Before now, that didn't even seem like a possibility. If the audience had known that before, it would have lessened the impact of Julia losing it in the first place. So, now feels like a fitting time to introduce this potential. It means this version of Julia may just be temporary. There is a way to make her whole once more. That's something that everyone wants. It took Julia reflecting on her actions to make her want this. It would be one thing if Quentin was forcing Julia to help but this is something she wants to do. Plus, it's fun seeing Quentin, Julia and Fogg conjure up an Alice from a different timeline to provide answers. The show has really given Olivia Taylor Dudley a lot to do this season. This is yet another take on Alice. This version is severely broken because she was the only one who survived the encounter with The Beast. Sure, it seemed inevitable that Quentin would almost ruin things because of his love for Alice. But fortunately, everything works out. Now, Quentin and Julia just need to find a way to the Underworld.
Elsewhere, Penny officially starts his new job at The Library. He signed that contract because the librarians promised to heal his hands. And yet, they still haven't done that for him! It's starting to seem like a cosmic joke that everyone promises to help Penny but they never ultimately follow through. Will he ever get magic back? It's unclear. But more importantly, should the audience want him to? He's been perfectly fine as a character without it. However, this arc has been pretty annoying a lot of the time. But that's a concern for the future. Right now, his story with Kady largely just shows that The Order of the Library has its enemies as well. Plus, Kady is given a clue on where to find the book detailing how to kill gods. Both of those are important revelations. It could pit Penny and Kady against each other because they have different opinions on if people should have access to the books in the Poison Room. However, the story itself is pretty lame. It incorporates Marlee Matlin, who is always a pleasure to see when she pops up on shows. And yet, it's just a boring scene where Penny has no patience for a deaf woman. That's weird. Yes, the idea that clickbait articles are really secret messages for magicians is amusing. But the show spends very little time in this workplace for it to mean anything. Harriet is trying to steal a book from the Poison Room. Perhaps that will become important again in the future. However, it largely just feels like a way to say that the Poison Room exists at all.
And finally, Eliot is in full-on wedding planning mode while also distracted by how unpopular he still is throughout his kingdom. The show could be saying something interesting about the damaging effects of polling and how it doesn't reflect things accurately. Eliot spends his time obsessing over his likability. But it just rings hollow when he feels like he has rehabilitated Baylor in the castle dungeon. Baylor hasn't been seen since he tried to kill Eliot and the king showed him mercy. Eliot and Margo have been too busy with the war with Loria to deal with him. But apparently, Eliot thought he was making progress offscreen. That's why he's so devastated to find him sneaking out notes to the rest of the Foo Fighters. It's just weird. Plus, it's a threat that Eliot, Margo and Josh are able to quickly take care of. The Foo Fighters were introduced as this serious concern that Eliot would have to worry about during his reign as high king. But now, they've largely been dealt with offscreen with Josh slipping a love potion in their water supply. It's an awkward way to tell the story. Plus, it takes away from the reveal that Margo made a deal with the fairies to restore the wellspring. She only confesses to Fen. It's clear this will continue to be an important story arc this season. It's just a little too rushed without having the emotional impact it clearly could have.
Some more thoughts:
- "The Girl Who Told Time" was written by Noga Landau & Henry Alonso Myers and directed by Joshua Butler.
- There is a small time jump in this episode as well. It highlights the time disparity between Earth and Fillory. On Earth, it's just been a few days. On Fillory, it's been three months. Those logistics have been a little too inconsistent this season though. It largely just allows Fen to be further along in her pregnancy now.
- Eliot also believes Fen is acting strange because he is getting married again and making a much bigger deal about it. He has no idea that she and Margo are being haunted by the fairies who want that baby as soon as possible.
- Margo promises to Fen that she'll find a way out of her deal with the fairies somehow. Will she though? It's clearly something she wants to do because she doesn't want to hurt Eliot like that. But it still seems very unlikely.
- The brief moment where Penny believes Harriet is casting magic instead of signing is pretty great. Plus, I'm really okay with the show not giving the audience an explanation for how Kady knows sign language. It's just important that she's the sympathetic one in this scenario.
- In order to go to the Underworld, Quentin and Julia need to find an Ancient One - a creature that has lived throughout time. It looks like they get a big clue in the Loch Ness monster by the end of the hour. That's a fun and exciting tease for next week's episode.
- It's annoying how the characters need to constantly be stating the stakes of the magical spells they're about to cast or the situations they are in. Julia's shade saying time is running out for her to be reunited with Julia sets a certain time limit for that story. Meanwhile, Fogg talks about how dangerous the spell is to talk with Alice from an alternate timeline. And yet, it goes off without a hitch. It's just a cheap way to up the stakes in that moment.