REVIEW: The Magicians S2E6 – The Cock Barrens

The Magicians returns to familiar haunts with “The Cock Barrens,” as Penny (Arjun Gupta) is sent on a mission back to Fillory in search of the cure for his hands, and Quentin (Jason Ralph) has been seeing Alice’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) ghost calling out to him. Meanwhile Margo (Summer Bishil) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) must deal with an insurgence in their kingdom, and Alice’s parents come into the picture once more.

The episode opens with Quentin attempting to call Alice’s niffin with Cirque Du Soleil moves, conjuring up both pity and disgust from Margo and Eliot. Despite the fact that the operation seems a total failure, it highlights the mixture of sincerity and snark that the High Queen and King of Fillory have perfected. Even as they roll their eyes and stamp their feet, Eliot and Margo’s love and concern for Quentin shines through – a testament both to the script and to the actors.

Quentin wants to bring Alice back, but is it really Alice?

Quentin goes to the memorial for Alice and has the misfortune of hearing Mrs. Quinn lie that her children loved her and “I was a good mother.” What really matters, though, is that he again sees a ghostly weeping Alice haunting the house. Of course he follows her, because that’s what a man in love does, and it leads him to a mysterious book. I didn’t buy their relationship last season of The Magicians, so it’s a shame that their romance feels more believable now that we’re watching Quentin mourn for her. Hopefully when he successfully revives her – and he better – he will proceed to be the kind of man she deserves, like he once promised. For now he teams up with her father Daniel (guest star Tom Amandes) to restore her to life.

The only problem with Quentin’s quest in The Magicians right now is that other characters drive it, and he himself remains aimless. He wants to help Alice, which is admirable, but he stops the moment someone tells him to. Otherwise, he’s following her ghost with very little initiative of his own, or taking suspicious orders from Daniel to follow through on plans that the grieving father concocted off screen. Once the mother steps in to finish the job, Quentin finally comes into his own and forces her to tell the truth about her relationship with Alice. It’s almost enough to save the storyline, but the plot twist negates that. Quentin does his best to help Alice and is rewarded by the return of her evil niffin, who was quite literally “inside him all along”? Not exactly the most satisfying conclusion.

Julia (Stella Maeve) and Kady (Jade Tailor) do some investigative research to uncover an old fire that might provide a clue to the mysterious woman who holds the secret to the defeating Reynard. The mix of brains and magic is very effective, and the camaraderie between the ladies remains poignant even when their scenes are primarily about taking care of business. The tension is also ample throughout the scenes, especially once Julia meets with the woman who previously banished the trickster god.

The suspense turns to horror when Julia is knocked out and wakes up to learn she must give birth. It’s the only way she can harness the power to banish Reynard, but the price doesn’t seem worth it. I wonder if the knowledge that Reynard’s current demigod offspring is a good man will change Julia’s mind, if that information is even true, but hopefully it doesn’t. The Magicians did such a good job with abortion last week that it would be unfortunate to reverse it now. Overall, though, any storyline that ends with Kady busting open the doors to rescue her bestie is a win in my book.

Why are the bad ones so good-looking?

Back at Fillory, Penny continues his world tour of rivalry-fueled bromances by requesting aid from Eliot to find a special moss in the most brusque way possible. Eliot sends him off to the mapmaker after trying to ascertain his feelings about Alice’s death and calling out “love you” as if he doesn’t mean it. Their scenes together are short but delightful. The real meat of the plot lies in Margo’s failed engagement to Prince Ess (incredibly handsome guest star Arlen Escarpeta), which in a single scene devolves into the royal castle being kidnapped and transported to Loria itself.

The banter between Margo and Ess is fast-paced and the sexual tension is thick, but it is a little uncomfortable that the Lorians are immediately labeled as barbarians, and that Margo finds it impossible to believe Ess went to Exeter. Considering that their group largely appears to be composed of black men, the idea that they are fuzzy on the concept of consent – among other judgments we are meant to immediately believe – seems to be an oversight on the part of The Magicians writers. Penny finally gets a chance to use the fuller extent of his powers in this plot, too, when he dreamwalks into Margo’s mind to figure out her location and save the Fillory crew. Turns out it was an illusion and they never moved at all, which is rather entertaining.

On the other hand, Fen (guest star Brittany Curran) and Eliot’s marital problems were surprisingly emotional this week. Fen is well aware of Eliot’s lack of feelings for her, but she’s a realist who wants what’s best for Fillory. Eliot, for his part, is actually starting to respect and like her as both a partner and a human being. Fingers crossed she’s an asset to them now that Margo has declared war on Loria…