REVIEW: The Magicians, S2E11 – The Rattening

Last week on The Magicians, Julia (Stella Maeve) and Quentin (Jason Ralph) realized they would have to get past a dragon – otherwise known as an Ancient One – to take back Julia’s shade from the Underworld. One extraction spell and a baby molar later, and the two of them are on their way to the land beneath the sewer where the Queen of the Great Worms resides.

In exchange for granting them passage to the Underworld and back again, the Dragon demands a gift in the form of Quentin’s Fillory button. He is willing to give it up for his best friend, but she cannot accept that – which is a lovely sign of how far Julia has come even without her shade to guide her. Regardless, Quentin takes the deal and their souls set sail to the deceptively normal-looking afterlife.

“She’s tough as granite, and you’re afraid to bowl.”

Even in death bureaucracy haunts us all, and The Magicians mines a good deal of comedy out of the absurdity of categorizing life and death like just another government transaction. At the same time, there is some concern about what could happen to Julia if The Powers That Be find out she’s missing her shade – the dead apparently practice discrimination as much as the living do.

So much has happened in The Magicians‘ second season that it’s easy to forget that the body Reynard the Fox (Mackenzie Astin) is now inhabiting once belonged to a kind man named Richard. But Julia remembers instantly when she runs into him at a bowling alley in the Underworld, and the moment is a poignant punch to the gut for both her and the audience. Richard immediately sets out to help the duo find Julia’s shade, allowing Astin to display his wide range as an actor in both his roles.

Meanwhile in Fillory, Eliot (Hale Appleman) prepares for his wedding to King Idri (guest star Leonard Roberts) without knowing that Fen (Brittany Curran) has been kidnapped by the faeries. Though he has a few cares to spare for his wife, he is more interested in getting to know his new husband-to-be. Sparks are ready to fly and the two actors have a great deal of chemistry, but the court members of Fillory and Loria are all turned into rats before much can happen.

Because Eliot believes Fen must be one of the rats, Margo (Summer Bishil) has the chance to keep the secret of her dealings with the faeries just a little longer. But sooner or later, her conscience must give way… right? For now, though, she finds out from them that another power is behind the transformation and it’s up to her to reverse it.

Penny’s learning to handle problems without cursing.

Kady (Jade Tailor) and Penny (Arjun Gupta) are busy alternating between the Inception version of sex and the search for the Poison Room. The two of them exchange ideas for how to defeat Reynard, showcasing their growth as individuals and as a couple without actually having to spell it out.

Speaking of Reynard, he is enmeshed in his son John Gaines’ (guest star Christopher Gorham) senatorial office and manipulating the government aides like it’s his job. John is hesitant to learn his father’s trickster ways, but Reynard can be very persuasive when he wants. Unfortunately, the moment he tries to use his powers consciously for the first time on a fellow senator, it gives the older man a heart attack. Soon John realizes he can’t even speak to his own wife without putting her under his spell. Despite knowing very little about the character, Gorham’s performance is heart-wrenching.

The second half of The Magicians this week is filled with revelations. Julia learns that Our Lady Underground was real all along, and she’s actually Persephone who has gone AWOL from the Underworld. John finds out his father was once in love with Our Lady Underground, and that’s the reason for some of his rampage since. Penny fails to seduce information out of the Head Librarian, but makes a friend out of a magical mobster’s daughter who seems willing to help him and Kady. Finally, Margo is forced to spill her secret about the faeries due to Eliot’s truth serum, and the saddest moment of the episode comes when Eliot sends his best friend away to the dungeon’s nicest room – along with her coconut oil.

More surprises are yet to come, though. John finds Kady and offers an alliance against his father. Can he be trusted, or is this another one of Reynard’s plots? Given how close we are to the end of The Magicians‘ season, hopefully it’s the former. Margo transports herself to the magical realm of the faeries to save Fen and win back Eliot’s trust – except that Eliot has just been expelled from the kingdom without reason. Julia and her shade are reunited in Elysium, but an even bigger shock comes when she finds Alice‘s shade. The sweet meeting between her and Quentin continues to build the relationship in the wake of her death. Will it ever result in her resurrection? Julia seems to think so, as she trades her one shot at stealing her shade back to abscond with Alice’s instead.

All the pieces are in place for a final showdown with Reynard, as well as a battle for control of Fillory. This season of The Magicians has watched its characters grow by leaps and bounds, but none have changed as much as Julia. Her soul never prevented her from making calculated and selfish decisions in the past, yet now she’s learning to make selfless ones even without a soul. We can only hope she gets to exact justice against Reynard in the wake of all these changes.