We’ve gotten to a point where there is an undeniable difference in quality between the opening handful of episodes of The Magicians and the back end of the season where we are now. This week the fledgling show continued its streak of quality episodes with “The Writing Room” as we learn a bit more about the history of Fillory, and Julia managed a worthwhile storyline.
This week kicks off with a small reconnect between the two main stories, Julia and Quentin. Thanks to her time at rehab, Julia is reaching out with an apology letter to Q, though not without pointing out that neither one of them has behaved all that well through any of this. BFFs? Maybe not. But at least it’s a step toward proving why these two plots continue to exist together, reminding us that Julia and Quentin have a shared history. We also got a call back to the first episode, where the woman we now know to be (or, have been) Jane Chatwin gave Quentin the never-published sixth Fillory book … which he promptly lost. Or, as we’ve now learned, Penny stole. It seems like kind of a weird move for Penny to make since he doesn’t care about much of anything, but there it is.
Penny recaps the book as best he can remember. It turns out that it was written by Jane Chatwin, rather than the original series author, Christopher Plover. Of course, the reality of the Chatwin’s and Plovers relationship wasn’t as simple as it was made out to be and Jane wanted to set the record straight. She was looking to help her brother Martin who Fillory had rejected in some form or another, by finding a way to let him visit the magical realm whenever he wanted. She gets her wish in the form of an enchanted button, which Quentin seems to think could still be at Plover’s house in London. Penny zaps himself there, leaving Quentin and Alice to use Eliot’s magical doorway to the U.K. and he of course invites himself along on the trip, claiming that he’s bored without Margo but clearly still reeling from all of the dark shenanigans of the last couple of weeks.
The group starts off with a guided tour of Plover’s house, getting the official story about the author and the children who inspired the Fillroy stories. Seeing Quentin explore Plover’s house offered the first real glimpse into a corner of his character that may actually be likable. There were a few quick moments where we found him smiling with childhood wonder or snapping a selfie of himself at his hero’s house that were genuinely a lot of fun. Of course, this show being what it is, we took a turn for the dark and twisty pretty quickly. After the tour, the group sneaks back in to search for the button and finds the house well and truly haunted by the ghosts of traumatized children forced to relive the tortures done to them by Plover and his sister. Yes, the two kids were murdered by Prudence Plover, but the man Quentin had looked up to for all of these years was no saint either, taking nude pictures of the children and more than likely not stopping there. So it took seeing some beyond disturbing things, but they found the button and manage to escape, but can’t do anything to help the spirits of the kids who are still trapped there.
Moving into slightly lighter — but still heavy in its own way — territory, this is one of the first weeks I can remember where I actually cared about the outcome of Julia’s story. I was all for the ambitious character, refusing to take no for an answer plot, in theory. But the way it played out never seemed to grab me the way I’d hoped. But if that’s what it took to get Julia to where she is now, that’s something I can live with. This week Julia is sticking with her rehab buddy from the last episode, this time to speak with a comatose woman who may have access to some particularly powerful magic. Julia enters Kira’s mind, having to prove herself along the way before getting the opportunity to speak with a pretty likeable self-taught magician. Julia gets what she needs from the encounter, but not without a price. Kira asks Julia to kill her as a mercy, and while she resists at first, ultimately Julia does what she needs to. So even this nicer storyline ended with a complete absence of sunshine and butterflies.
All in all this was likely the darkest episode of an already dark series. And it ended with a pretty big promise of big things to come as Penny poofed away as soon as he touched the Fillroy button. It looks like a trip to Fillory is imminent for the whole group, and it should make for some interesting television. Now all that’s left to hope for is that Kady and Margo will return before everyone else disappears from Brakebills to go Beast hunting.