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The Magicians - Be The Penny - Review: “A Quest Of Life And Death” + POLL

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The Magicians continues to wow this season with yet another hard-hitting powerful episode. Things aren't going well for any of the magicians and their struggles are making for some great television. There was a decent bit of magic in this hour, well, not a ton, but more than we’ve been getting, so it was nice to see. While a lot of things went down elsewhere in the story this was definitely a Penny episode and Arjun Gupta was phenomenal. This was quite simply a jampacked episode. They managed to cram a lot of story into this single hour and it never felt overcrowded.

This episode picked up almost immediately after the prior one faded to black. Penny is dead, like really dead. Thanks to his last-minute astral projection at least he still lives on in the astral plane. Unfortunately for him, no one else knows that he’s there. With no way to communicate with the others, he has no way to tell them that he’s actually still alive. That fact proves to be a big problem when the Library sends an emissary to collect his soul per the contract. At this point, there are only a few available choices all resulting in the nothing good for Penny’s body. It’s either destined to be eaten or destroyed. There really is no way for Penny to win in this situation. Even worse is that the heavy weight of this decision more or less rests solely on Kady’s shoulders. Given her fragile mental state at the moment it is not a good position for her to find herself in. But more on her in a minute, because Jade Tailor was another shining star of this episode and the performances she delivered deserve more detailed analysis.

Penny valiantly fought to get a message to his friends, but almost all of his efforts failed. Hearing most of them dismissing his death probably wasn’t a great motivator, but he fought on anyway. If he does get back to a flesh and blood existence one day he really needs to work on forging some better bonds with his fellow magicians. While that whole exchange was interesting it was Kady’s reaction that seemed most puzzling. That is until one really thinks about it and these two really didn’t know a ton about one another. They unquestionably care about one another, but at the end of the day, they really don’t really like to talk about themselves. Still, it was probably her admission that she was glad it was all over that stung him the most. It is a sad reality that for caregivers of the terminally ill there can be a relief that comes from knowing the person they care about is no longer suffering. Kady went through hell trying to save him and in the end, it was too little too late despite her very best efforts.

By the end of the hour, after many failed attempts to convey he was indeed alive, Penny was forced to destroy his own body. That movement trick was really the only good thing Hyman (Dustin Ingram) taught Penny during their time trapped together. However, maybe it wasn’t a great trick for Penny to have learned given that shortly thereafter, as the hour closed, and Eliot arrived, he was finally visible to someone. What does this mean for Penny in the long term? Is he actually permanently stuck in the astral realm? Will they recast Penny? That option seems absurd because it would be exceptionally hard to replace Gupta who has made Penny the compelling character that he is. Will they craft him a new body when they get magic back? Will he be able to astral project into someone to communicate with them? Or will the show do the unthinkable and by the end of the season actually kill him off? All that is certain is that ending was cruel because the wait for answers is going to feel like an eternity.

The structure of the episode was quite fascinating with so many big storylines playing out yet they all tied together to the main storyline through Penny. He was there for everything that was going on, including Eliot’s little adventure with his family. They finally showed where last week’s mystery door took them and it was nowhere good. If these keys are meant to help them then the one that Eliot has might be slightly defective after its last use. Because the fact that the key took Eliot and his family straight into the path of hungry cannibals shows that the key isn’t exactly looking out for their best interests. It did make for a terrific storyline though. It’s always interesting to hear Eliot talk about not being heroic or wanting to be a hero but time after time that’s exactly what he becomes. He may not have fought the cannibals, but he did find a way to get his family to safety and that was an accomplishment.

While Eliot was out trying to save his family Margo was left behind still uncertain of his fate. She knows about what happened to Penny and comes to a plausible conclusion that Eliot might have met the same fate. She is not only on a long voyage back to her kingdom, but when she gets home she will be more or less alone. Her small group of loyal aids has been progressively shrinking. But this is Margo and nothing will stop her from trying to end the fairy invasion. She makes her declaration with fire in her eye and fierce determination in her voice. Without magic, Margo has very minimal odds of success trying to take out the powerful Fairy Queen, but it was still a nice declaration. Margo may be down at the moment but this Queen is far from out of the fight.

As all of this was happening, Quentin and Julia were off trying to progress the quest by locating another key. After a weird ghostly encounter and several additional blunders, they were finally successful. Julia was Penny’s last hope and while she was successful it once again happened a little too late to save him. Quentin and Julia were led to the home of Irene McAllistair (Jaime Ray Newman) where Quentin tried to play off the fact that he has magic. The core group still seems keen to protect Julia’s secret from too many people finding out, and that's probably quite smart. Despite Quentin’s rather impressive magic-less trick it wasn’t enough to convince Irene meaning Brakebills is still in peril of being sold. At least his distraction bought Julia time to search Irene’s house and thanks to a rather unexpectedly strong burst of magic she was able to track down the key relatively easily. However, the creepy fairies that lingered in the background when she found the key likely mean that the group on Earth isn’t much safer than those in Fillory. Things are likely going to get much worse before they get better.

A lot went down in this episode that tested them all in some unexpected ways. But no one was tested quite as extensively as Kady was and it just about broke her. The last episode forced Kady to work with Julia and while she did so begrudgingly their reunion would ultimately end up saving Kady’s life. Even though Kady desperately tried to brush off what happened to Penny it was weighing heavily on her. Kady has lost far more than any single character should have to. Each season has cost her someone she cares about, first her mom, then in many ways Julia, and now Penny. Losing him was the final straw. Even though Julia is so close Kady isn’t fully ready to let her back in yet which means in her greatest time of need Kady felt completely alone. To numb her pain she turned to drugs and in the process overdosed.

Despite everything going on in this episode and all the other exceptional performances, Jade Tailor stood out as one of the standouts. The way she took Kady from numb to desperately in need of a fix was fascinating. She handled the transitions so effortlessly and made Kady’s struggle feel so painfully real. When a performer can manage to project such deep emotions that they break through the barrier of the screen it’s something truly special. That’s exactly what Tailor did as she took Kady down this pain induced spiral. Her performance leading up to the overdose brought an extra level of intensity to that moment. Every episode has at least one powerful defining scene that makes an impact bigger than the show itself. This week the honor of bringing that scene to life went to Stella Maeve, Jade Tailor, and Arjun Gupta who all brought to life a powerfully memorable scene. Sadly in the US drug addiction has hit epidemic proportions. Every opportunity to shed light on the epidemic is a well served moment. What was so important about this scene is that all three performers involved spot on captured the severity of what was happening. Tailor didn’t try to overplay the convulsions and perfectly handled the shock of Kady’s return from the brink. It wasn’t an easy moment for Kady and it took a heavy toll on her body which the audience needed to see. And kudos need to also go to Tailor for seemingly managing to not get that fake puke concoction all over herself or Maeve.

On the other side of this scene was Stella Maeve’s Julia and her delivery was just as important. When she got that unusual warning about Kady being in trouble she went running without hesitation. Despite only having a minimal amount of magic she found enough magic to break through Kady’s door. What happened once Julia got into the room was so important. Julia did a rapid assessment before experiencing a brief moment of panic. The amount of fear in Julia’s eyes and the fearful tremble in her voice made the emotion of this scene all the more profound. Despite all going on between them the woman she cares about deeply, one of her few true friends, was quite literally dying before her eyes. All that stood between Kady and death was Julia. The emotions Maeve delivered in her performance made the stakes feel very real. Julia took a deep breath and shakily placed her hands on Kady’s stomach. There was absolutely no confidence that she could pull it off, but she still tried. When Julia placed her hands on Kady she was going for broke throwing everything at her friend. The way she looked at the ceiling was like she was begging for the intervention of a higher being. For someone who can basically only conjure up a spark right now, she pumped some serious magic into Kady. Julia’s chest was aglow as was Kady’s and after Julia’s desperate plea they both took a much-needed gasp of air like they were somehow linked in that moment. Was that divine intervention or a remnant of magic from the battery that Julia somehow tapped into? The magic Julia used on Kady came from some deep place inside and it was the purest magic that we’ve seen this season and it was used for the noblest of reasons to save a life.

What happens between Julia and Kady now? Kady hasn’t been inclined to make reconciliation easy on Julia, however, saving one’s life must count for something. Not only did she save Kady’s life but she held her hair and kept her from face-planting off the bed while she puked. That right there has got to earn a serious amount of reconciliation points. The only misstep in this entire episode is when they cut away from Kady and Julia to jump to Penny’s meeting of Hyman. From what was heard in the background Kady was struggling with her return to life as Julia tried to comfort her. That would have been quite powerful to see what the overdose victim was struggling through upon revival. The more realistic images of overdose that can get out there can only help the cause. Still, it was a poignant scene and to see both Julia and Penny’s fear of losing Kady is what helped make the whole scene even more poignant and real. People need to see what overdose does to those that love the victim. Kady went on to recover from her ordeal. The week that passed led her on a valiant journey to try and hold herself together while also trying to save Penny. Alas, in the end, with the aid of an unusually supportive Alice, Kady chose Penny’s fate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the one he wanted and he took matters into his hands. As if Kady hasn’t lost enough she now has to deal with this shock. The writers seem to enjoy throwing horrible things at her, so it’s almost a guarantee that her spiral is far from over, in fact, it’s likely just beginning. But the great thing about Kady is she is a survivor and she will find a way through all the things being thrown at her. And she has great friends who care about her and will be there for her through whatever comes next, even if she doesn't want their help she'll get it as Julia beautifully demonstrated this week.

There are also a few interesting points about this whole situation. If Julia was able to save Kady from the overdose why couldn’t she save Penny? Did the magic only work because of her deep connection to Kady? Or, had they thought of it, would Julia have been able to save Penny? Who sent Julia that warning that sent her running to save Kady? The Librarian emissary sort of implied it could have been him, but that seems unlikely. That message had to come from someone who knows Julia has magic and someone that knows Julia would do anything to save Kady. Could some sort of divine intervention actually have been at play? If so, what makes Kady’s life more valuable than Penny’s? All interesting points and it’ll be great if the show addresses at least a couple of them.

This was a jam-packed episode and it was a powerful and with many important messages. A lot went down in this single hour and there wasn’t a single moment that wasn’t important to character development and overall forward movement for the story. The group finally has another key and the quest is one key closer to bringing them some answers regarding restoring magic. In a season full of impressive episodes full of intrigue, humor, and heart it’s almost a guarantee that the next episode will be as epic as this one. This episode, as of right now, is the best one of the season so far, but it's almost a guarantee that other epic episodes are on the horizon because this season doesn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Don’t miss the next episode when it airs next Wednesday, February 7th at 9/8c on SyFy.

Hit the comments with your thoughts about this episode. What happens to Penny now? Will Kady reconcile with Julia? What will Margo do now that she’s alone?

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