“Remedial Battle Magic” starts off as a calm interlude. We know that things are about to get real, but first everyone needs to gather their forces, gird their loins, etc. If The Magicians was a movie, this would have been the training montage.
Most training montages don’t end with my heart getting dropkicked, but you have the idea.
The Free Traders
Julia and her friends are still working on how to summon a god. I really need more of this group interacting with each other. I don’t care about anyone but Julia and Kady yet. Julia making a bad joke to diffuse the tension when Richard gets too intense was a nice touch of group dynamic, but I’m not invested.
Richard reveals that he didn’t just bring Julia in because she fits the emotional damage profile. She was able to levitate because a local goddess took a shine to her, which is rare. Julia may have an affinity for communicating with gods and supernatural creatures.
All of this seems borne out when she’s continuously drawn to goddess imagery, mostly depictions of the Virgin Mary. For The Magicians’ purposes, Mary is less the mother of Jesus and more the modern face of the mother goddess. At the end of the episode the goddess visits Julia in a dream.
Julia feels like she needs to atone, and she’s trying to find her place in the world. Taken with her rocky relationship with her real mom, all that leaves her very receptive to the kind of love, forgiveness, and power that the mother goddess offers her. But who’s this servant that lives by the bridge, and what gifts does she need to bring him? Isn’t a mother’s love supposed to be unconditional?
The Brakebills gang has, at last, acknowledged that the Beast is their most pressing problem. I’m very exited about this, because it means Quentin et. al. are now united by a common cause. As much as they fight and disagree, they’re inhabiting the same scenes and contributing to the main plot.
Penny almost backs out, but comes back to the group after the Beast tries to drive him to suicide. I see a deliberate parallel between the travellers’ reactions to constant mental noise and certain types of real-world mental illness. The feelings of helplessness, the intrusive thoughts, seeking peace through drug abuse or suicide attempts… not subtle, but effective. I like that we see Penny getting a type of intervention from Sunderland, who had similar experiences as a psychic. She’s not very comforting, but she offers a plausible solution.
The literal bottling up of emotions is another heavy-handed but nonetheless workable metaphor. Penny and Alice are both repressed in their own ways, but the magical equivalent convinces them it’s maybe not the greatest idea. Quentin, who feels so intensely, relishes having a chance to be free of that. Overwhelmed, Eliot turns back to a less magical type of bottle. Margo finds herself craving emotional honestly. When Eliot won’t give her that, she gets it from Quentin.
Which brings us to Quentin cheating on Alice.
I love Quentin and Alice together, and I hate anything that separates them or makes them unhappy. They foil each other in so many ways (logical vs. emotional, practical vs. romantic) and I know those characteristics could compliment each other if they had time to grow together. So, I hate this.
But part of me loves it. Everything we’ve learned about these four characters has led us to this point. Quentin is constantly seeking validation, and what’s more validating than a hot person who really gets you? Eliot wants to love someone he doesn’t have to kill. Margo thinks she can cheer him up and repair their friendship by delivering Quentin, meanwhile satisfying her competitive side by stealing Alice’s boyfriend. Alice, who was just beginning to trust Quentin, is shattered.
That’s my interpretation, anyway. However you slice it, there’s going to be a battle, and we’ve got serious dissention in the ranks. With two episodes left in the season, Quentin, Alice, Eliot, and Margo don’t have time to work out their personal issues before they got to Fillory. They’re going to have to forge ahead, broken hearts and all.
-What is the thing that was pretending to be Kady’s mom? I thought they called it a lamia, but the cow tail reminded me of a hulder, and neither of those creatures traditionally served a goddess or were killed by shark blood, afaik.
-For that matter, where are all these gods and monsters coming from? Are they native to New York, or did they emigrate from the old country American Gods style?
-I really never expected to like Penny as much as I do, but here we are closing in on the finale and he’s been one of my favorite characters. Despite his issues with Quentin and his creepy behavior around women, I like that he’s always nice to Alice.