Episode 106, “Impractical Applications”
Every life lesson seems to show that what can be done alone, can be improved with teamwork. Why should magic be any different? As our magicians grows in power, it becomes harder and harder to accept not only that there are definite consequences of their actions, and interactions, but also that they are not — and perhaps, no matter how much power they gain, will never be — infallible and independent.
Despite the act of ultimate wish fulfillment of my 12-year-old dreams, it seems Penny (Arjun Gupta) just can’t accept the notion that he’s traveled into a fictional book, and while there witnessed terrible things — or the fact that Quention (Jason Ralph) is excited by that same notion. In fact, Quentin is beside himself with this revelation; but for Alice’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) insistence, Penny would have left it at that. However, curiosity of the fly-faced Beast prompts him to give Quentin one small chance to help. Unfortunately, the Beast’s not in the books — though that lovely woman who hides clocks in trees sounds much kinder — and Penny and Kady (Jade Tailor) head out. While later tattooing an anchor on Penny’s arm, Kady finally opens up a bit more about herself to Penny, detailing how her mother died young, how her father was a hippie, and how her cool tattoo gives her 20/20 vision in the dark.
Quentin, lost in a book, continues to be my favorite victims of circumstance, as he is melodramatically “kidnapped” by masked, robed figures. Margo (Summer Bishil) and Eliot (Hale Appleman), in concert with the rest of the upperclassmen, have gathered the first-years to administer “the trials”, which is an also melodramatically named, do-or-die-okay-not-really test to see the first-years’ ability to behave like magicians — and though failure doesn’t end quite so direly as the fire and mask work would suggest, it does result in flunking out.
Exposition Margo tells Alice that the Dean created the trials, then elegantly hands Alice a card designating her to ‘Team Fishpunchers!’ (Which I desperately hope makes for grindylows, in my heart of hearts).
On team ‘Horny Chupacabras’ — if you’re as lost as Quentin is, his teammate sassily tells him that a chupacabra is a spine-covered goat-sucking primate indigenous to Mexico — Quentin and Penny learn that an old secret society called The Brethren encrypted a set of spells in order to hide them from the Church. The basis of the trials is for each team to decode their spell and have it cast by 9 A.M., a test which Eliot describes as “pretty much impossible”. No pressure, freshmen.
As dawn hits the first-years, Quentin is realizing that the teams have been Kobayashi Maru’d, set up for an unwinnable challenge. In the truest spirit of the Kobayashi Maru, a seemingly impossible situation that is designed to elicit a strong, ethically based decision, Penny and Quentin decide to cheat. Their mysterious teammate, who knows a lot about chupacabra but not much about Star Trek, handily refuses. Fortunately for Quentin, while Penny can’t read the mind of Alice, the brains of their group, he can astral project to copy over her shoulder, which makes me wish I’d had all these abilities in high school for about the ninetieth time.
The spell goes off without a hitch, and Quentin and Penny pass on to the second trial (without Highly Moral Teammate, who is deemed a failure), while also learning that Eliot was on to them pretty much the entire time.
“There they are, all those little fishies. They’re just like us…eating, sh—ing, breeding. I require one.”
Each of the four remaining (protagonist) first-years has a ridiculous request made of them by Eliot or Margo, sending them spinning and reeling about the forest with desperation: catch a pheasant with a net; catch a horse with a hatchet; bring down a tree with a rope; shoot a fish with a bow and arrow. The importance, however, was not to struggle through their difficulties, but to work together to acknowledge their individual strengths, and the right tools for the right job. After all, as we have seen from the Eliot and Margo, as well as from Hannah (Amy Pietz) and Julia (Stella Maeve), magic takes teamwork.
The final trial is one not most difficult only because of the openness required in the presence of another, but also the honesty required within oneself: the first-years are to be naked, painted, and bound to one another, and must openly acknowledge a deep, dark secret for the bonds to break. With a looming midnight deadline and many failures behind them, we learn that Alice has been holding back dramatically in her abilities, more concerned about trying to fit in. This brings Quentin to his own revelation: that he’s constantly running away from something, usually himself. Kady and Penny’s truths are less therapeutic: while Penny admits he is falling in love with Kady, she hurls back at him that she has been lying and using him from the start.
Julia, meanwhile, has had a heart-to-heart with Hannah, a hedge witch from the bar who followed Julia to the safe house, displaying star tattoos on her arm to prevent being maced. Hannah desperately implores Julia to try some spells, so Julia follows her to the most trustworthy of places, a somewhat shadowy garage. The ladies appear to run out of spells fairly quickly, but rather than follow up on Hannah’s offer to “hit the road”, Julia lights on a new idea – Marina (Kacey Rohl), who has her memories back…and a ton of spells.
In a bid to get a magical jones on, Julia and Hannah meet up with Hannah’s daughter, Kady – and almost immediately it’s completely clear why Kady prefers to act as if she has no mother. Kady’s lack of faith in her mother’s plans, and the protection spell Julia shows her, seems to put her strongly on Marina’s side as Julia and Hannah plan to start their own safe house, and Kady angrily explains to Julia that Hannah wasn’t simply kicked out of Marina’s safe house – she botched a job under pressure and cost two people their lives. Kady angstily storms out, taking the protection spell with her.
Without Kady’s help, Julia determines to steal Marina’s file cabinets full of spells, first alone, but ultimately with Hannah’s help. Rather than being the stealthy, extra-dimensional in-and-out that Julia envisioned, general magical mayhem erupts in Marina’s safe house. Ultimately, Marina gets the last laugh, entirely at Hannah’s expense: the pages within the cabinets are blank, and the futility of the effort just has time to set in as Hannah begins to hemorrhage blood from every conceivable orifice, trembling and shaking, until her grisly death at the base of the all-important file cabinets.
If the dangers of magic use and abuse weren’t apparent before, they certainly have come crashing home now.
The Magicians airs Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy.