Wednesday, February 21, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Magicians' - Quentin and Poppy Enlist Penny and Kady on a Perilous Mission in 'Poached Eggs'

Syfy's The Magicians - Episode 3.07 "Poached Eggs"

Margo makes a bold stand against the Fairy Queen. Quentin and Penny try to retrieve a lost item.

Last week's episode of The Magicians set up the premise that Quentin and company would have to travel to the Underworld to retrieve the fourth key after it was lost following Benedict jumping overboard and into a dragon's mouth. And now, "Poached Eggs" is largely setting up that story. It's not the hour that actually sends a group of protagonists to the Underworld for that mission. It's all about establishing who can actually go and how they can get there. It's about the deals they have to make in order to keep this mission on track. It's a mission that could go awry in so many different ways. Quentin continually points that out until he is forced into forgetting about all of that through sex. It's a little lame and forced. But it's still entertaining to see all that transpires in regards to this plot. It's a story that once again touches on Penny and Kady's relationship. It doesn't really dig deep to analyze why Kady continually seeks drugs the moment her life is rid of happiness. She has completely built up this identity of only being happy when she is with Penny. She's in love with him and equates love with happiness. She's not wrong to do so. But it also seemed like she was turning a new corner in their last interaction where she knew just how self-destructive this relationship actually was. And now, it's up to Penny to break her out of this mental institute. So, the dependency of their relationship is once again on full display. It ultimately becomes a story about the two of them needing each other in their lives in order to feel happy and excited. They agree that it actually is a healthy relationship because they are willing to risk the entire world to make it happen. That may not be earned or completely truthful but it's the version of this story that the show is telling at the moment. The music still swells and the writing wants these two together. It should be fascinating to see if things continue to be happy in the future for them despite this brief speed bump.

And so, it's established that Penny is the one who will make the voyage to the Underworld. The group needs a dragon to create a portal there. Quentin simply can't go back to the dragon that sent him to the Underworld last season. He doesn't have anything of value that would be appealing to her. Then, Poppy points out that the Library has their own dragon which they use to send books to the Underworld. The audience has known that there was a connection between the Library and the Underworld. The librarians wanted to pick Penny up there the moment he died on Earth so that he could begin his million year contract with the Library in his afterlife. So, all of this makes sense. It just takes the majority of this hour to really lay out what is going on with everything. Penny will project himself to the Library. Then, he will become a book that will be eaten by the dragon. That will take him to the Underworld where he'll have to find Benedict and retrieve the key from him. Then, a second traveler will have to arrive to bring him back to Earth. That second traveler will be Victoria. She was a minor part of the first season that many people probably forgot about before the "Previously on" segment. She was a prisoner of the Beast's who was a part of the same Brakebills class as Josh and Poppy. Of course, there's animosity between Poppy and Victoria because Poppy slept with Josh while he was dating Victoria. It's all very melodramatic and mostly just provides an excuse for the narrative to reconnect with Kady and Harriet.

However, it's still engaging to revisit Kady in this institution. It's a confinement that Quentin and Poppy know well because they've been perceived as crazy before. Now, they have magic and know exactly what was going on in their lives. That also forms an immediate connection between the two of them. Of course, Penny does most of the work in breaking Kady out of this place. That's fun considering how he has struggled to interact with the rest of the world over the last few episodes. All Quentin and Poppy have to do is get the second key to Kady and start a fire in the building to evacuate all inside. But it's still up to Penny to help trick people once they hold the key so that Kady can make that run to freedom. It's a sequence still defined by the two of them fighting over their relationship. But it ends with them both standing tall ready to save the world together. But that also means Kady needs to make a deal with Harriet that increases the likelihood of all of this failing for the team. Harriet doesn't trust Kady like she once did because she never got anything in exchange for her help. Kady just keeps asking for stuff but hasn't returned the favor. Now, she'll need to repay her. That means volunteering Quentin and Poppy to break into the Library to steal as many books as possible. It's a mission that immediately freaks Quentin out. The only way to calm him down is apparently for Poppy to have sex with him. She sees it as something that was inevitably going to happen. And yes, the show was making that clear the more they interacted with each other. It still feels like it is happening very quickly. She's still not someone whom Quentin can trust. But now, she's engaged by this mission and just wants to have some fun again.

Of course, the world isn't a whole lot of fun right now. The quest to restore magic is important and possibly life-threatening. It also has the potential to do a whole lot of good. But elsewhere, several characters are needing to cope with lives without magic. Alice was so desperate to have it again because she felt she could begin fixing her life with it. She felt she broke so much while a niffin. She's trying to do penance by using this magic for good. But this magic isn't hers. It is Julia's. She's the one to whom it was gifted. She doesn't want it and was glad to give it away. Those consequences were severe and immediate. Alice's body is turning against her. She wants to help her friends. But magic is literally destroying her. She sees the only sensible answer as going to her vampire friend to turn her into a magical creature as well. To her, that's the only solution in which she is able to maintain her magical abilities. But that's crazy. The show absolutely calls her out as such too. She's on the verge of destroying even more in her life. She attacks Julia when she interrupts the process. Julia is there to help and protect Alice from herself. She's there to take back the burden of this magic. It needs to be restored to its proper owner. It's only through attacking Julia that Alice sees the error of her ways once more. But it also fosters a compelling conversation about all of the trauma that has occurred on this show - specifically with these two characters. At times, it's just easier to side step any ongoing consequences because magical forces need to be addressed right now or can ease the coping process. But Julia still psychologically has to deal with being raped and Alice has to find herself after being a niffin. That's a healing process that extends far beyond magic. The two of them are still just finding their ways. It's through friendship that they make some strong strides here. But it comes at a cost as well with Julia owing a favor to Irene McAllistair.

However, the most devastating story happens in Fillory. There is immediate payoff to Eliot and Margo stealing some of the fairy babies. They believe they are being smart in taking them to Earth for protection. They are willing to use the leverage right away. They want to arrange a trade so that all of Fillory can see the fairies and be aware of the chaos and destruction they are causing. To them, it's a way to rid themselves of these invaders. It's a way to force the Fairy Queen to operate out in the open instead of in the shadows. But that still carries the risk of it not changing the Fairy Queen's ultimate agenda at all. It's also an important story about family. As such, it's crucial that Fen and Fray come back into the fold. They've been enjoying their time on Earth. But now, they return so that the Fairy Queen can have leverage against the rulers of Fillory. It all ties back into the idea that Fray is Eliot and Fen's daughter. Eliot was always skeptical while Fen believed it right away. And now, it's confirmed to be a lie after the Fairy Queen is willing to kill Fray in order to get her babies back. That means Eliot and Margo have no reason to agree to this demand. It's a moment that has severe consequences for Fray. She's banished from the fairy world with it being a mystery where she has landed. That's a plot thread that is bound to come back at some point this season. It's a devastating reveal for Fen because she truly wanted to bond as a family. She thought if she wanted it hard enough it would be true. That could still be the reality of the situation. Fray could still be Fen's daughter despite the lack of a biological connection. They could still be a family. But right now, it's treated as a betrayal and loss. Fray does sacrifice herself because Eliot is willing to prove how protective of a father he really is. But it's still a decision that comes back to hurt Eliot and Margo. They are still being deceived by the Fairy Queen. They still don't know her full agenda. They hurt her here. But she strikes back hard in turning the citizens of Fillory against their human rulers. It's a haunting final image for the hour. There's no reason to be concerned about the fate of Eliot or Margo. But it should be very interesting to see how they get out of this precarious situation.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Poached Eggs" was written by Elle Lipson and directed by Joshua Butler.
  • It was tragic watching Penny become the fish and playing the song to get someone to help Alice. When Quentin, Poppy, Eliot and Margo walk through the portal, the song is still playing. Quentin is able to see what has happened to Alice right away. There are no huge side effects to this seizure. However, it's also unclear just how long Alice was on the floor and Penny was trying to get help for her.
  • Eliot and Margo's plan to hide the fairy babies on Earth was always going to go awry because they had Todd watching over them. Everyone else was too busy. Plus, the show needed Fray to find them and not face any opposition to returning to her queen with that information. But it's also just amusing that Todd calls Eliot "dad" after spending a little time with Fen while Fray doesn't even want to admit that she tolerates him as her father.
  • The Fairy Queen leaves Eliot and Margo abandoned in a field where the citizens of Fillory are rioting. They break into the carriage and carry them against their will for nefarious purposes. It's such a distressing image. It's all fueled by the recent changes made to the countryside. Eliot and Margo believe they can blame the fairies for everything. But they are still the ones who brought the fairies to this land in the first place.
  • It continues to be teased that the small amount of magic Irene has comes from fairies. They were previously glimpsed as the enchantments she had in her house. And now, the same special effect occurs when Julia uses her magic to find Alice and when the Fairy Queen disappears from the carriage. It continues to be ominous to think about these two worlds colliding soon.
  • It really is so amusing to see Dean Fogg be very blunt with his students now. He knows that nothing he says will ever make much of a difference. He knows that these students will keep doing whatever they want. As such, that's a lot of fun. But knowing who own Brakebills is a subplot that doesn't really have much meaning at the moment - though it being Irene signals its importance in the future.