Episode 103, “Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting”
Dean Fogg: “Being a magician has always been, in part, about accruing power; but power does not come cheaply.”
This week’s lesson is about knowing your strengths, knowing your limits, and not biting off more than you can chew, in the magical sense. Magic spells, it seems, can sometimes be too powerful for just one magician, and can quickly get out of control. As Dean Fogg warns, it can turn on you, kill you, consume you, and even change you into something else. I am certain that he’s referencing some past experiences, but we have to wonder if history might repeat itself.
This week, the students were sorted. Not into houses, per se, but into their natural abilities to explore those disciplines which will now become their major field of study. Penny is less than happy about being categorized as a Psychic, which he seems to despise, and after several unfruitful tests, Quentin is labeled as “undetermined.” As he and Alice talk about their assignments over coffee, she seems unenthusiastic about her physical magic major of Phosphoromancy, illustrating to a confused Quentin her ability by making her hand disappear.
Quentin: “Are you kidding? You have light-bending powers! Me…I’m a Nothing-mancer!”
Despite his non-major status, Quentin is assigned to the Cottage with the other physical students “because there is room.” He and Alice find the door locked (as a test to the Freshmen) and they make a grand entrance to the post-sorting party using Alice’s light-bending abilities like a magnifying glass to burn a hole through the door, drawing applause from the room.
Alice is still determined to find her brother, Charlie. It was Charlie who taught her how to make glass horses from marbles as a kid — a spell that awed the students and the teacher on the first day of class. She and Quentin invoke a finding spell which leads them to the Van Pelt fountain on campus. The fountain has been rumored to be haunted, and is the site where several students and Professor Van Pelt died.
The fountain gives Alice the creeps, and as they walk away, an unseen hand emerges from the water and salutes them with a rude hand gesture. Later, two psychic students are sitting at the edge of the fountain, discussing its history and are pulled in by whomever (or whatever) was lurking in the water. They survive the attack, but nonetheless, the school has declared it off limits while the protective wards can be checked.
As Alice and Quentin walk back to the Cottage, they talk through the idea that it may have been Charlie who caused the trouble at the fountain. When they open the door to her room, they find several animated glass horse figurines placed on the desk and tables in the room, which stops them in their tracks.
Quentin (opening the door): “But if it was Charlie, don’t you think he would have reached out to you directly?”
Alice: (seeing the glass horse miniatures) “Maybe he just did.”
Charlie may be “confused,” as Alice puts it. Sure, I’ll buy that: loving big brother turned homicidal maniac… “confused” is one way to put it. Quentin encourages Alice to talk to Margo, whom Alice doesn’t trust, to help her find out what happened several years ago to her brother.
Q: “Maybe you don’t need a spell, maybe what you need is information…and Margo’s discipline is gossip, so…?”
Alice swallows her pride, and with Margo’s help, they locate Emily Greenstreet (Abby Miller), who dropped out of school soon after (and as a result of) Charlie’s death. She’s in a sort of “magical relocation program,” living a normal, non-magical life. Despite Alice’s desire to do this by herself, Margo insists on coming along. Emily reluctantly tells them of her own failed beauty magic that rendered half of her face in a melty mess, and Charlie’s hurried attempt to put it right and prevent her suicide in the fountain. His complex and untested magic overtook him, consuming him in magic flames and turning him into a niffin—a being of pure magic, without a body.
Quentin tries to convince Alice that Charlie is a lost cause — he’s not really Charlie anymore. But Alice is convinced that she’s figured it out and is more determined than ever to save her brother. She goes to the fountain, with Quentin along for support, and calls Charlie to existence, but her attempt backfires. Quentin manages to trap the malicious Charlie in a niffin box from his pocket, saving Alice from being consumed by Charlie’s malicious energy. She refuses to admit that she was in any real danger.
Alice: “Why did you have to save me? I was so close, and now he’s gone!”
Angry with Quentin and disappointed in her failure, Alice packs her bag and leaves school, but I’m certain that we’ll be seeing her again.
Margo: “Where are you going, Kitty-cat?”
Alice: “I’m done here, for good. You should be happy—less competition.”
Margo: “Alice: I like competition.”
Meanwhile, Eliot discovers that a book is missing from the Cottage (the book that Kady lifted and delivered to the Hedge Witches in the last episode), and Professor Sunderland wants it back. He’s frantic about the disappearance, not because of the danger it might present if it gets into the wrong hands, but because the school may put a stop to his parties and his carefree lifestyle if they think the parties are a security breach. He implores Quentin to help him find it. They track it down using the book’s mate (and I mean that in the literal sense) as a tracking device. They end up at Hedge Witch central and Julia spots Quentin when he enters the building.
Julia: “What the hell are you doing here?”
Quentin: “What the hell are YOU doing here?”
Pete denies having the Brakebills book; however, the stolen tome bursts from its hiding place in their attic, joining Volume 2 in a very physical display of public affection.
Pete (incredulous): “Are they….?”
Eliot: “Yup. Love wins.”
After they box up the books and leave the building, Julia follows, accusing Quentin of not asking Brakebills to give her a second chance. Quentin seems to have gained some self-confidence during his brief time at school, and he stands up for himself. He also warns Julia about the dangers of practicing magic, even with proper training. He finally stops her whining with the one truth that hasn’t occurred to her yet:
Quentin: “Stop slumming because you lost for once in your life! I’m sorry, but I mean it—you could really get hurt by this [stuff]. Grow up.”
Maybe it would have been better for Quentin to tell Brakebills about Julia. One of two things would have happened: either she would have been re-tested, and happy that she is able to learn real magic from a bona fide institution, or they would have wiped her memories successfully, leaving her to pursue her education at Yale, unaware of the magic she left behind, and much happier.
But instead, Julia is left to sort out her own destiny, an untrained magician, foraging for magic among the muggles. She works hard to master the few spells that have been scavenged by the Hedge Witch school, mostly consisting of street skills magic, like making an ATM regurgitate money, and unlocking padlocks. She’s also keeping her activities from her boyfriend, James, who Marina describes as the safety net in Julia’s life: she points out that the distraction of living in both the magical and the mundane worlds are keeping her from moving forward. But Julia isn’t ready to let James go, and she’s certainly not about to give up the magic, either. She tells James that her mood swings and mysterious absences are due to an addiction to Adderall and Narcotic Anonymous meetings. He buys it, relieved that she’s not been seeing someone else. Later that night as James sleeps, Julia is called away by a cryptic text from Marina. Little does James know that Julia does have another love—the irresistible power that magic offers.
Dean Fogg is back from the hospital and on the mend. His eyes are back in their proper place; however, they come with a full array of special glasses to help them work. He’s also sporting some steam-punk gloves for his hands while they heal from his attack by the Beast. Most of the spells that we’ve seen require some fancy finger work, and the danger is still out there, so he may be needing those digits soon.
But what about Penny? After his course assignment to the Psychic discipline (which he scorns), Penny is sent to the psychic student house. (Hmm, I guess they really WERE sorted into houses.) At the Psych house, he gets a tour from a female mentor, who “talks and touches too much.”
Mentor (conducting the tour): “The coves are for meditation, while the enclosed conscientious areas are reserved as a place to cry, and process. We call it “the Amplifier.” Basically, it’s like turning your psychic powers up to eleven.”
Penny: “Why would you want to do that?”
She encourages him to meditate and let his mind go, and it seems that he is quickly successful, in that he immediately finds himself at the top of a building…in Tokyo. Professor Sunderland and Dean Fogg retrieve him soon after and explain on the way home.
Penny: “So what’s wrong with me?”
Sunderland: “Nothing’s wrong. I made the mistake of thinking you were just psychic, but it’s more complicated than that.”
Dean Fogg: “You are a Traveler.”
Penny: “A what now?”
Professor Sunderland explains, with a hint of excitement in her eyes, that Travelers are the rarest and most difficult discipline to master. They can travel anywhere in the world in an instant, and she submits that with a great deal of training, Penny could possibly travel between worlds…that is, if the gift does not kill him first. They leave a perplexed Penny standing in front of the fountain, with Professor Sunderland’s promise of personal lessons to get a handle on his abilities. If I were Penny, I’d be afraid to meditate again without a few of those classes.
As for Quentin’s status of “undetermined,” we’ll see what tricks he has up his sleeves as the season continues. Chances are that he’ll surprise everyone–himself included. This uniquely talented freshman class is just in time to battle whatever is creeping through the cracks in the school’s defenses. Sure, you might say that if they hadn’t come, the school’s defenses may still be intact, but judging from Dean Fogg’s conversation with Eliza last week, the threat of the Beast predates the school year. It seems as though Brakebills has recruited a strong group of new magicians to produce the powerful magic needed to finally defeat the menace–but will they be able to work as a team to keep it from defeating them?
The Magicians airs Mondays at 9/8c on Syfy.