This was a very solid follow-up to last week’s premiere. We have a lot of different storylines already, so “Hotel Spa Potions” felt a little rushed to me. Still, it’s all good stuff, as I’ve broken down below:
The Brakebills at Brakebills
Through the fountain and to Earth we go. Quentin and co. need to learn battle magic that can kill The Beast. They go on a scavenger hunt through the library in order to track down Bigby, a former Brakebills professor and old flame of Dean Fogg’s. It’s all fun to watch, if a tad drawn out.
Alice blames herself for not killing The Beast, and her guilt combined with her waning god powers drive her to get this done. Her insistence to Quentin that “not everything that hurts is bad” is worrying.
Penny gets an assist with his out-of-control magic from Professor Sunderland. Honestly this is my favorite thing from this ep, it’s such a good companion to the scene in “The Strangled Heart.” Sunderland performs a ritual that involves tying Penny’s hands, because light bondage is the real source of magic. Penny starts trying to seduce her again, but he’s less aggressive this time, almost clumsy. By stepping in as his teacher to help him, and by turning him down in no uncertain terms, she’s re-established boundaries. Good for her.
Then we got to see the cacodemon scene and I died of happiness. In a direct shout-out to the first book, Dean Fogg give Quentin, Margo, Penny, and Alice tattoos. The tattoo serves as a portable prison for a powerful demon that the wearer can release with a word. The plan in this case is to have the demons distract The Beast, giving Alice time to deploy her battle magic.
Eliot in Fillory
In the absence of his friends, Eliot faces his first challenges as High King. Thanks to the Beast’s magical drain, the crops aren’t growing. Luckily for the starving populace, Eliot grew up on a farm. He’s well-equipped to learn them a thing or two about agriculture, mostly by hand-delivering manure to skeptical citizens who have only ever fertilized with magic. It’s funny and a little poignant to see Eliot embracing his least favorite parts of himself for the greater good.
Fen gets to have a bit more personality in this one. As Eliot said last week, I think I like her. She’s devoted to Fillory and to helping her husband succeed as a ruler. They clash, albeit politely, over sex. Eliot proposes inviting other partners into their bedroom as a sort of compromise, and Fen isn’t interested. She also points out the inherent consent issues—no one feels comfortable saying “no” to their king. I didn’t love that the last season ended with Eliot in this marriage, and I’m glad this season is tackling that problem head on. I feel for both of them here, and I hope the show continues to explore their dynamic.
There’s also the little matter of the curse that The Beast put on Castle Whitespire, but Eliot doesn’t know about that and it’s not clear if his struggles so far are curse-related or not.
Julia and Martin in New York
Julia is working on a way to summon Reynard. She’s willing to offer herself up as bait, but Martin claims Reynard won’t be tricked. They need someone new. I was expecting this to be Kady, but Martin shows up with Marina, the leader of the safe house where Julia cut her hedgewitch teeth. Julia isn’t up for holding Marina against her will, which Martin sees as a sign of weakness. He reiterates his offer to remove her shade/emotions, she makes a counter offer to remove some of his body parts.
Back on the street, Marina recognizes the threat posed by the Julia-Martin partnership and tries to team up with her West Coast counterpart to take them down. But Reynard gets there first, killing the other hedgewitch. This is the first time we’ve seen Marina truly scared, I think. She goes to Brakebills to ask for help and gets rebuffed by Dean Fogg before returning to New York. Marina has never been a favorite character for me, but I’m kind of enjoying her and Julia and their “so done with your shit” faces back together again.
Quentin and Julia have a brief reunion in New York, unbeknownst to any of their co-conspirators. They both want some of the same things, in the big picture sense—to go back to Fillory, to have magic in both worlds remain intact—but their short-term goals are at odds. Watching them admit that they’re on opposite sides again is tough, but that just seems to be the way it goes with these two.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and see you next week!