The Magicians 1.3, “Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting”

This post contains mentions of suicide and drug abuse.

Before I get started on the recap, I want to say how nice it is to have people tell me they’ve started watching The Magicians or reading the series recently. Operation Get Everyone To Talk About What I Want To Talk About is underway.

“Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting” opens on Julia walking into the Hedge Witches’ clubhouse, a small storefront with a secret back room. They call this a safe house, since it’s one of the only places in the mundane world where they can practice magic. Inside, Julia flips through a binder of spells while Pete tells her to slow down and start small.

At Brakebills, Dean Fogg is addressing the students. He’s been healed, but he is heavily scarred. While he warns the students about how reckless magic can kill you, we see a short montage of Julia doing spells, levitating a stack of quarters and magically stealing cash from an ATM.

Outside the safe house, Julia leaves a voicemail for James, her boyfriend. Pete comes out to smoke and tells her to be careful with juggling the magical and non-magical parts of her life. He says that magic is “better than sex,” except for some kinds of sex, presumably the kind she could be having with him if she dumps James. Pete is still the worst.

Fogg has taken over Sunderland’s office, since he is now blind and hers is more accessible. He and Professor March, who we haven’t met before, test Alice. They’re trying to find out what her discipline is. That’s her magical talent, the equivalent of a major at Brakebills, which also determines living arrangements.

Quentin is being tested for the same by Sunderland. She hands him lots of rocks and plants and waves things around him a bit, but nothing happens.

Quentin and Alice meet up in the same café/dining hall where they have most of their chats. Pouring a terrifying amount of sugar in her coffee, Alice tells Quentin that her discipline is Physical Magic, specifically Phosphormancy, the ability to bend light. She makes her hand disappear. Quentin is bummed out because Sunderland couldn’t determine his discipline. He’s being assigned to the Physical Kids’ cottage for the time being, since they have space.

When Quentin and Alice get to the cottage, there’s loud music inside, and the door is locked and warded against common unlocking spells. This is the last test: they’re stuck on the front steps until they can magic their way in. They make a few failed attempts and a talk about Alice’s brother and their mutual guilt over The Beast incident. Eventually Alice, at Quentin’s suggestion, bends a beam of sunlight to burn a whole through the door. The other Physical Kids cheer and Eliot hands them each a green cocktail.

With the party in full swing, Eliot and Margo cuddle and ogle Quentin from across the room. There’s some playful debate about whether Quentin is their “type.” It’s not clear if either of them really regards Quentin as a potential partner or if he’s just a socially awkward puppy they’ve decided to adopt.

Alice and Quentin are across the room. Alice is drunk and confessional, telling Quentin that Charlie taught her how to make the glass horses. Quentin tries to cheer her up by telling her about a locator spell that might tell them where Charlie died. She calls him “stupid face.” You both suck at flirting, please just kiss already.

Daytime, outside. Quentin and Alice are walking around with an unlit match. It lights itself when they’ve reached the spot Charlie died, in front of Van Pelt Fountain, which has a Capitoline Wolf in it. Alice tells Quentin that the fountain is supposed to be bottomless, so it’s a popular spot for suicides. She’s not convinced that’s what happened to Charlie, though. As they walk away, a hand rises out of the water and gives them the finger.

Sometime later, Penny and Kady are walking outside. He just had his discipline testing and found out he’s a Psychic, which is unsurprising since he’s been hearing voices. Quentin is sitting under a tree and reading; Penny yells at him for thinking a Taylor Swift song too loudly. Based on Q’s denial and his whole personality, I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s “You Belong With Me.”

Back in New York, Julia’s apartment. James is on the computer looking for a new place for them to live together while they’re at Yale. Remember, Brakebills is a few months ahead of the rest of the world, so while they’re deep into their Fall semester, Julia and James have just graduated. Julia’s not paying attention, and James calls her out on how distant she’s been. He asks if she’s cheating on him. She tries to explain that it’s just stress from school, but he’s not having it.

Two Psychics are sitting by the Van Pelt Fountain, discussing a mass suicide that supposedly happened there years ago. One of them gets too close, and they both end up pulled into the water by the hand. Cut to Professor March explaining to a classroom full of students that this is a “garden variety haunting” and probably happened when the wards were reset after The Beast attacked. Both the Psychic guys are recovering.

Alice and Quentin talk about the possibility that Charlie is the ghost. When they get to Alice’s room, there are glass horses everywhere, so probably yes.

The two of them go sit on a couch to examine a horse and decide what to do next. Margo strolls by to tease Alice with potential information about her brother. Eliot bursts in to drag Quentin off to deal with an emergency. Before he goes, Quentin tells Alice she should find out what Margo knows.

Eliot’s emergency is that a book from the cottage has gone missing. This is the book that Kady stole for Marina, but Eliot and Quentin don’t know that. Eliot is worried that this will draw official university scrutiny to the Physical Kids’ parties; Quentin is more concerned by a cardboard box that keeps moving around the table. Eliot opens the box and a living book flies out. This is the companion volume to the one that went missing, and it’s frantically trying to find its partner.

At the safe house, Julia is trying and failing to magically unlock a padlock. Marina looks on scornfully and then tells her that there are certain kinds of magic you can only do if you’ve given up all your other options. Everyone is ready for Julia to dump James, including some of the viewers of this show I’m sure.

At the cottage, Alice asks for Margo’s help. Margo admits that she doesn’t know anything about Charlie, but she does know where to find Emily Greenstreet, who dropped out of Brakebills right after Charlie died. Fogg set her up with money and a job in the city and she hasn’t done magic since. Margo and Alice decide to go visit her.

A turbaned and dreadlocked student is showing Penny around the Psychics’ living area. Everyone is meditating and getting in touch with their feelings, which Penny hates. His guide leads him to a meditation space that’s meant to amplify what he can do. He hears a call for help, and when he opens his eyes he’s on a rooftop in a city.

Margo and Alice find Emily walking out of her office. She figures out where they’re from right away and asks them to leave her alone, but when Alice says she’s Charlie’s sister Emily agrees to have coffee with them.

Emily reveals that she had an affair with a married professor while she was at Brakebills. After he broke things off, she tried to work a beauty spell on herself to win him back. Margo and Alice are shocked by this, so they’ve obviously been warned about that type of spell casting. Emily’s spell went wrong, leaving her face deformed. Charlie, who was in love with Emily, finds her about to drown herself in the fountain. He convinces her to wait, and he comes back and tries to repair the damage. It’s too much magic, and Emily describes watching it burn him up while she watched. Charlie turned into a niffin, a malevolent being of pure magic, and then disappeared. The same professor who Emily had the affair with healed her face.

Eliot and Quentin are walking around with the flappy book in a box. It leads them to the safe house, where Eliot makes disparaging remarks about hedgewitches. They make their way inside and are met with understandable hostility, considering Eliot’s attitude. Eliot lets the book out of the box and it flies over to its mate. The books hump joyfully.

Julia and Quentin’s reunion is less happy. She calls him out on not telling Brakebills to re-test her, and he admonishes her for doing dangerous magic and being unable to admit when she’s lost. They’re talking over each other and digging up past offenses, BUT there is a thread of love and concern through it all. Julia wants her friend to see this new person she’s becoming, and Quentin doesn’t want his friend to get hurt. That doesn’t mean it’s not completely vicious and self-serving for both of them. It’s one of the most real and most heartbreaking themes of the books—the closer you are to someone, the more ways you can hurt them.

Penny is walking down a city street in Asia. Sunderland and Fogg roll up to collect him, like they just happened to be out for a drive. Sunderland is excited because this means Penny is a Traveller. He can transport himself anywhere, instantly, and with training he may be able to move between worlds. She’s going to tutor him. Penny transports all three of them back to Brakebills.

At the cottage, Quentin and Eliot are on the couch. Quentin is upset about Julia. Eliot pours more wine and tells him to forget her. Kady, apparently the newest Physical Kid, blows the door off and joins them. Her talent for violent magic makes me even more curious about her association with the Hedge Witches.

Quentin finds Alice in the dining hall, researching niffins. She’s enchanted a small wooden box that will disable and bind one, but she says she wants to try to make Charlie human again. Quentin tries to dissuade her. When Alice isn’t looking, he pockets the niffin box.

Julia is pacing her apartment. James comes over and demands to know what’s been going on. She tells him that she’s addicted to Adderall, which is why she’s been acting strangely. When he’s not looking she magically transforms her keychain to look like a Narcotics Anonymous keychain, shows it to him, and tells him she’s in recovery. James is very cute and supportive.

Later, Julia and James are asleep in her apartment. A text wakes Julia up, and she sneaks out.

Quentin and Alice at the fountain. Alice needs to establish an emotional connection to summon Charlie, which she does by singing the song her brother used to sing to cheer her up.

Charlie appears. He seems happy to see Alice at first, but when he takes her hands he shocks her with some blue sparks. This is still a niffin, it has Charlie’s memories but it’s an amoral monster. Quentin tries to bind the niffin, but it knocks him down and he drops the box. Alice starts a spell that she believes will make Charlie human again. While she’s still trying, Quentin recovers. He grabs the box and says the binding spell, trapping the niffin inside of it. Alice is furious, she says that she was so close to bringing Charlie back and Quentin ruined it.

At the cottage, Alice packs a suitcase. Margo tries to convince her to stay, but Alice leaves, convinced she’s failed at the one thing she came to Brakebills to accomplish.

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