The Magicians, S2E1 – Knight Of Crowns

The Magicians‘ first season ended with every major character’s fate up in the air, a cliffhanger which “Knight Of Crowns” is quick to tackle. The opening shot heartrendingly encapsulates the show: Quentin (Jason Ralph) runs through the woods, shouting for help before nearly giving up.

Thankfully, he meets with a “healer and gardening enthusiast”  who offers her help in exchange for a single vial of blood. He then immediately runs into Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), resolving the question of what happened to her in the moments after the finale. Turns out her temporary god powers make it impossible for her to killed at the moment, thank goodness. If only Penny’s hands had been god-powered too. But Alice managed to revive the others in their group, and soon Margot (Summer Bishil) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) join up with them and begin to formulate a new plan to fortify themselves with the Wellspring in order to face the Beast. But not before the local leaves Quentin with a very relevant warning: “Be careful with strangers. We only look whimsical.”

Margot continues to elevate the somber setting with her snarky humor, muttering “Swallowing has its privileges” when Alice is able to open the door to the Wellspring due to her new powers. It’s a quick and disturbing reminder of just how dark The Magicians can get while still maintaining its self-aware sense of comedy.

Julia and the Beast exemplifying dark comedy.

Speaking of dark comedy, Julia (Stella Maeve) and the Beast (guest star Charles Mesure) are playing in a ball pit in New York City. She continues sketching out an agreement to receive the Beast’s help in order to kill Reynard the Fox, who horribly murdered her friends and raped her last season. Even though Quentin and his friends believe she double-crossed them, Julia also ensures their safety in her deal. But what will happen once Reynard is dead and Julia sets the blade down for the Beast to take?

The rest of the crew decides to go to Castle Whitespire, since it is accessible to Eliot as the King of Fillory. But first Penny (Arjun Gupta) needs help getting his hands sewn back onto his wrists, so Margot volunteers to accompany him and bring back a gallon of healing water. While those two go on their trek, Quentin and Alice follow Eliot only to learn that he must first be crowned – and crown three other Kings and Queens in turn.

One of the most intriguing plot threads in The Magicians premiere is Julia and the Beast doing a little undercover work to investigate Reynard’s latest movements. Despite her pleas that he nicely keep people away while she does some investigation, he simply waves his hand and freezes a police officer so he can check out the crime scene. Annoying, but effective. Given how useful he is in ” Knight Of Crowns,” it’s easy to forget how terrible Martin Chatwin has been as the Beast so far.

Penny and Margot have a hilarious interaction with a river-dweller who offers his “services” helping Penny get his hands back on. When the stranger requests 20 gold pieces, Penny adamantly – and rather rudely – refuses. Surely that won’t have negative consequences later on. Oh, nevermind, his hands start making funny noises as soon as he catches up to the group. Surely it’s nothing, though!

An emotional moment highlights Eliot and Margot as the show’s MVPs

The episode’s namesake appears halfway through the episode, when they meet the sleeping Knight Of Crowns, who is so out of the loop that his pop culture quiz consists of 90s references. Good thing the 90s are a decade both the would-be royals and the audience are intimately familiar with. Eliot’s reenactment of a famous Patrick Swayze moment from Dirty Dancing is perhaps the highlight of the episode and a testament to how good The Magicians can be thanks to the prowess of its actors, who manage to blend the comedic and dramatic elements of the show with ease.

And it does move from the comedic to the poignant at least, as Quentin dubs High King Eliot, “The Spectacular” and he moves on to crowning Margot in a touching moment that showcases Summer and Hale’s endearing chemistry. Eliot and Alice also get a sweet conversation, as do Margot and Quentin. Their apologies are heartfelt, and it feels like real progress after the huge betrayal that Quentin, Eliot, and Margot’s threesome was to Alice.

Alice and Quentin’s reunion, however, seems a little less genuine. Their friendship is hard-won and enjoyable, but it’s still a little soon for them to get romantic again. For those who root for the relationship, though, it’s important to see Quentin so supportive of Alice and encouraging her talents. And who doesn’t get turned on by a little bit of successful naturalist magic? Alice insists that she and Quentin are still not getting back together, but her body disagrees.

The Beast interrogates Julia about the pain Reynard the Fox put her through, and tries to help her with the trauma in his own way. In fact, their conversation puts their similar tragedies into perspective, and makes it clear that Julia is now at a crossroads. She can become a vengeance-minded person who severs her Shade – and thus her humanity – like Martin Chatwin did to become the Beast, or she hold on to both the pain and the love she feels and work through it on her own. We certainly hope she chooses the latter, but it’s easier and easier to understand how the Beast came to be. Julia herself comes close to giving up her Shade this episode, but at the last minute she hangs onto her pain despite the Beast’s haunting warning that it will destroy her.

A premiere far livelier than the Knight it’s named after

Once the High King and his consorts reach the underwhelming armory, it seems the battle magic books have all but disappeared from it. The only clue left suggests they must head back to Brakebills for the necessary spells. Looks like the season will soon bring back some of our other favorite characters? Eliot and Quentin end “Knight Of Crowns” on a bittersweet note, worrying about the effects of time travel between worlds but also cementing their friendship as stronger than ever before.

Penny, meanwhile, makes his way back to the healing waters to beg for help with his hands and is met with a rather chilly reception. “Actions have consequences” is a lesson that all the main characters of The Magicians are having to learn the hard way, and “Knight Of Crowns” depicted that perfectly. The season is off to a strong start, as long as it avoids jarring tonal shifts and sticks to the smoother transitions that this episode did so well.