Warning: This post contains discussion of rape, murder, and torture.
I’ve been vibrating with excitement over The Magicians premiere for like a week now, and “Knight of Crowns” did not disappoint. Lots of stuff happened in this episode, and you all know how I feel about stuff when it happens.
Julia and Martin on Earth
Julia is holding the only weapon that can kill Martin/The Beast, so she offers him a deal. She won’t kill him as long as he helps her get her revenge on Reynard, the trickster god who took over her mentor/friend/lover Richard’s body, raped her, and killed her friends. Once Reynard is dead, provided Martin hasn’t harmed Julia, Quentin, or any of Quentin’s friends, she’ll hand over the knife. They seal the agreement with a magical sigil that will automatically kill Martin if he breaks it. I’m unclear on what the consequences for Julia will be if she doesn’t hold up her part of the bargain, but let’s assume they’re also dire.
Both Julia and Martin are magically talented, both were denied their desires (Brakebills and Fillory, respectively), and both were victims of sexual assault. Martin, despite his stated desire to find a loophole in Julia’s deal, takes a bit of a shine to her. While she struggles with the aftermath of the rape, he offers her a way out of her pain—a spell that will remove her deepest self, her “shade.” Julia is clearly tempted by the offer, but she sees that Martin, cut off from his own emotions, has become a predator in his own right and refuses. For now, anyways.
These sections of this episode felt slow to me, even if they did pack an emotional punch. It was so satisfying to see Julia and Quentin’s storylines converge last season, and I’m sorry to see them separated again. New York has grown even grayer and grittier to contrast with the lush fantasyland that is Fillory.
The Brakebills in Fillory
This part of the episode was everything I could have asked for and more. The plot is basic—The Beast is still at large, and without the knife the gang needs a new weapon. Quentin, still our foremost Fillory expert, suggests the armory, a stockpile of books in Castle Whitespire that holds texts on powerful battle magic (Side note: magic that Rupert Chatwin may have used to win World War II. I’m actually very curious about Rupert. He was the only Chatwin to enter Fillory for the first time as an adult, and he’s also possibly buried there. Since the book-to-show adaptation had no problem ditching two Chatwin sisters, I imagine they must have needed Rupert around for something).
Before they can get to the castle, Eliot needs to be crowned high king, and crown his three co-rulers. This scene, with the titular knight, is both absurd and touching. The Magicians flirts with being a little too self-aware at times, and I tend to cringe at pop-culture references shoehorned into my fantasy. That said, I would not trade Eliot reciting the final speech from Dirty Dancing for anything in the world.
The whole impromptu crowning ceremony gives the group a chance to start patching up their somewhat tattered relationships. There are apologies and affirmations all around, but I particularly like Eliot’s face when Quentin asks him to kneel. It’s the perfect mix of I want to make a dirty joke right now and I’m still not totally over that time we had sex and Thank you for believing in me when I don’t believe in myself.
Penny, with his hands newly re-attached, stays in character and well out of all this sappy nonsense. Which like, okay, he’s not actually getting a crown, but maybe he has some issues he needs to talk about? Or possibly he would just like a hug and/or a forehead kiss? Anyways, I’m glad to see that he’s physically intact (let’s be honest, this show has better things to do with its budget than CGI Arjun Gupta’s hands off), but I’m also glad he doesn’t get off too easily. The least genre-savvy character, he breaks one of the cardinal rules of traveling in a magical land: always, always be polite to strangers you meet in the woods. Now Penny, who went to such lengths last season to learn control, has more unpredictable quirks to his magic.
“Knight of Crowns” puts down some groundwork for the rest of season. Here are some dangling plot threads that I sincerely hope will be picked up again:
-The vial of Quentin’s blood has to return. Otherwise, why the whole sequence in the woods with the healer/witch?
-The time-sensitivity on Alice’s godlike powers intrigues me, but mostly because it’s been implied that Julia has similar abilities. Not to be gross, but does the manner in which god-semen enters the body affect the endurance of its effects?
-I loved the tree growing scene, and that Alice initiates the kiss. An arc where Alice discovers her own strength would be fantastic, and if Quentin can be helpful and supportive without asking for anything in return, so much the better.
-The time difference between Fillory and Earth—what’s Eliot going to get up to while Quentin and co. are back at Brakebills? He might have years to rule Fillory by himself. I appreciate the poignancy of the scene between him and Quentin, but like, why not just leave Margo there too?
-What’s up with Eliot’s wife? She could be a valuable source of information, but she is mostly being ignored right now. I hope she doesn’t wind up dead just so Eliot can have feelings. Enough bad things have happened to him, guys, let’s just chill for a minute
-Okay this is digging back into season one stuff, but whatever happened to the Margolem? Is she in a closet somewhere? Is she attending classes at Brakebills, posing as Margo? There were some problematic elements of that subplot but I still want to know
-I miss Kady.
I’m predicting that from this point on, the series will continue to diverge from book canon, like Game of Thrones or True Blood did. The showrunners are doing their own thing here, and I can’t wait to see where they take it. Let me know all of your thoughts and feelings in the comments, and see you same time next week for episode two 🙂