Episode 105, “Mendings, Major and Minor”
What is the point of magic if you can’t fix real problems? This is the question that Quentin struggles with when he learns of his father’s terminal cancer and realizes that he’s helpless to provide a cure, despite his magical abilities. The realization is that magic is just like any other learned skill or trade: it can be very useful, but only in its focused applications. He and his classmates come to understand that no matter how powerful, magic can’t mend broken relationships. Those fixes are much harder to come by.
Dean Fogg: “We can fix some things, so we fix what we can.”
At school, the alumni are back at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy to witness the campus version of The Hunger Games. No, the contestants don’t have to kill one another, but they do play a mean game of Welter’s Squares (a version of magical chess) to show off their stuff and hopefully gain the interest of a prestigious mentor as a “personal trainer,” of sorts.
Gearing up for these magical Olympics, students are practicing hard, including Quentin, who is seen attempting a complex set of finger movements to perform some unknown spell. Some students, like Eliot and Margo, prefer to schmooze for their mentorships rather than earn them. They are both obsequiously kissing up to Alice, whose aunt Genji (Denise Crosby) owns and manages a famous magical retreat. It is clear that scoring a great internship can have a great impact on your fate, regardless of how you go about getting one.
Welter’s Squares is a game of circumstances. During each turn, each magician must capture a square on the life-size board for his or her team. The spells are complicated by a series of variables that affect how they must create their spell, adjusting in a dozen ways to get it right. The slightest error will result in a fail. When it’s Quentin’s turn, he’s preoccupied with thoughts about his dad, and he’s not able to even summon the large die into his hand. Manually taking it from Alice, he becomes very focused and rolls the die into the center square on the floor. This square looks very different than the others, and when his piece stops on it, the crowd utters a collective groan. Quentin, begins manipulating his fingers and conjures a great whirling opening overhead, sort of a black-hole storm over the gymnasium, which starts whipping everything into its vortex. The maelstrom becomes so powerful that Alice finally performs a spell to seal it off. After the chaos of the storm subsides, the results are clear—Quentin has conquered the entire board in a single turn, and their team wins. He’s surely captured the attention of a few alumni at the event; however, he’s unimpressed with a mentor who asks him to help stalk a river dragon in the Fertile Crescent. Hmm. Good mentors seem hard to come by…I wonder what Jonathan Strange is doing these days?
Julia’s fate is uncertain. She puts up a good front for James, but behind the happy homemaker guise, she has an insatiable desire to learn more spells, and a nasty disposition when she doesn’t get what she wants. When she previously lied to James about having an addiction, she wasn’t far from the truth—this threatens to consume her and cost everything that dear to her.
Having been evicted from Marina’s Hedge Witch safe house, she seeks any information she can get her hands on to keep up with the “magical Joneses.” When a fire spell from the internet gets out of hand, she’s lucky that she didn’t burn more than her fingertips.
Pete (applying bandages): “You should know better than to mess with Google magic…you got lucky.”
Julia tries everything, including seducing Pete, to find other Hedge Witch groups. When his lead doesn’t pan out, she demands access to the magic that she helped Marina steal.
Pete: “There’s this place in the Mali desert; the Maribots have this object magic, like nothing we have here. We could go, together.”
Julia: “No, I can’t.”
Julia: “Because I love my boyfriend.”
Pete: “You slept with me just two days ago.”
Julia: “You’re welcome.”
Julia’s superior attitude, bullying, and manipulations finally backfire on her. The Hedge Witches find out about her threats and wipe her from James’ memory; he no longer recognizes her. As Pete explains to an enraged Julia, it was to protect James from Julia, and with that harsh reality, she possibly understands that she has finally bottomed out with her addiction to magic. Her only recourse may be to appeal to Quentin; however, that may be easier said than done. Considering that she exploited him to steal from his school and almost left him in a permanent, nightmarish coma, I think that she’ll have to summon up some powerful humility to face him again. Add that one to the long list of things that can’t be fixed by magic.
Alice returns to school at Dean Fogg’s request, after he admits that he made a mistake in leaving her off of the admissions list. He explains his reasons: he felt responsible for Charlie’s demise and was trying to protect the family from any further loss. When Alice runs into Quentin on campus, their initial meeting is awkward considering their recent falling out; however, they patch things up fairly quickly, and the news of his father’s failing health brings them closer.
On campus, it’s alumni week, and most of the students are vying for a mentor to notice them and take them under their wing. Penny, on the other hand, gets one without asking. Meet Stanley (M.C. Gainey), who is Brakebills’ lite version of Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody (a dark wizard hunter from the Harry Potter series), complete with a wooden leg, grizzled appearance, and gruff disposition. His teaching tactics are even similar to Mad-Eye’s: he goes straight for the fear tactics, scaring Penny about the dangers that his rare abilities can bring. He explains that full body translocation could take Penny someplace that doesn’t support life (displaying his wooden leg as proof). Stanley’s advice: stick with astral projection. He recommends a grounding tattoo that will allow Penny’s mind to travel while keeping his body safely bound where he started. Penny takes some time to think about permanently limiting his ability to fully travel.
During meditation, Penny’s mind follows a woman’s call for help that he’s been hearing for some time now. He ends up in a dungeon with the damsel in distress, Victoria, who has the same tattoo on her arm that Stanley recommended for Penny. She is bound in chains and suffering from what appears to be a very long captivity and torture. She cannot see Penny, and as he studies the tattoo on her arm, the moth-swarm headed Beast enters the dungeon, ready to question her. As Victoria pleads for mercy, Penny is aghast, watching this scene as if from afar, until the Beast unexpectedly turns to acknowledge Penny’s presence. The sudden greeting from this malevolent Beast scares the daylights out of Penny, who awakens immediately with a major case of the heebe-geebees. Penny hurries to confront his new mentor about the truth that he’s just realized: Victoria is also a traveler, missing from the famous 3rd year class, who lost many of their students without a trace during some unspoken event in the recent past. Stanley knew about it, but shrugged off any responsibility for her rescue. With Quentin’s help, they identify a crest that Penny saw during his astral trip to the dungeon.
Quentin (incredulous): “That’s Ember’s Seal….Penny, I think you were in Fillory!”
It seems inevitable that these young students will have to travel to Fillory, through astral projection or otherwise, in order to rescue the missing Victoria, and perhaps defeat the Beast himself.
Although Quentin finally accepts that he cannot fix his dad’s disease, he manages to get their relationship back on solid footing. He finally reveals to his dad about his talent with magic, and assures him that he is doing what he loves. By the end of the episode, they are both at peace with the past and able to make the best of the time that they have left together.
The Magicians airs Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy.