The Magicians S2E2 – Hotel Spa Potions

The Magicians reminds its audience that Quentin (Jason Ralph) and his friends are in dire need of spells to defeat the Beast, and in order to find them they must return to Brakebills. Eliot (Hale Appleman) has to stay behind on Fillory and tend to his people, not to mention their crops. Meanwhile, Julia (Stella Maeve) tries to secure fellow hedge witch Marina’s (guest star Kacey Rohl) help against Reynard the Fox.

The hooded strangers don’t stop Quentin’s team from returning to Brakebills this time around, which is a mystery Penny (Arjun Gupta) has no interest in figuring out. Upon their arrival, Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) deadpans what a “lovely surprise” it is to see his students alive. Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) explains that they weren’t the first students to enter Fillory or to become the monarchs of it, which is why they need the Dean’s help to track down the teacher who imparted her knowledge of battle magic over a century ago. Luckily, the Dean knows just who they need and sets off to uncover Professor Bigby (guest star Amanda Brooks) while Margot (Summer Bishil) works up a temporary cure for Penny’s idle hands.

Can Julia keep her soul & kill her demons?

In regular old New York City, the Beast (Charles Mesure) has been struck by a metaphorical musical bug and is singing almost all his lines. Much to Julia’s chagrin, he won’t stop reminding her of the grim reality of what she’s up against… or the fact that he put a curse on the castle. Though he doesn’t explain exactly what the curse is, it’s clear that Eliot especially is in danger as well as the rest of her friends. If they even are her friends after this.

Within the castle itself, Eliot’s wife Fen (guest star Brittany Curran) worries about her husband’s ability to lead the people of Fillory given the track record of past rulers. Despite the excellent comedic element of this plot line, in which no one ever learned how to farm but Eliot’s haunted agricultural past saves the day, it also proved to be quite poignant. Hale once again makes the most of a hilarious monologue about the horrors of fertilizer, but hidden amidst the melodrama is a kernel of pain when it comes to his family. His dynamic with Fen is also very interesting, showing each character’s strengths and complicated dynamics. This is the space where The Magicians excels – taking a ludicrous situation and getting to the heart behind it.

Another moment of surprising emotion comes from Alice, who wisely states, “Not everything that hurts is bad.” She’s really stepped up to the plate, proving herself worthy of the god powers bestowed on her. While she and the others are reacquainting themselves with Brakebills and gathering their strength, Dean Fogg fills Professor Pearl Sunderland (guest star Anne Dudek) in on the reality behind Fillory and the need for battle magic. In order to find the necessary spells, they will need her expertise of the library.

When the episode title gets a shout out.

Quentin gets to show off some of his magical knowledge at the library, recognizing “Last Hope Options” as an important text on battle magic. He and Alice end up making a good team here, figuring out The Magicians‘ episode title is an anagram for the famous book. Pearl proved useful as well, since she knows the location of the book. The entire sequence is filled with the kind of whimsy that this show needs more of – despite the dark and dreary foreboding that surrounds the protagonists at every turn, The Magicians is always best when said magicians are allowed to have some fun. Professor Bigby herself, once her whereabouts are discovered, is another delightful breath of fresh air who lightens the proceedings.

In the course of being “helpful,” the Beast kidnaps poor Marina. Julia tries to convince her of the need to stop Reynard, but the other hedge witch doesn’t want to play their game. She still makes a point to warn others and try to defend against the coming danger, but unfortunately she’s too late to save anyone but herself. The horror on her face when she realizes the urgency of Julia’s warning is heartbreaking, so kudos to Kacey Rohl for turning Marina into a fully-fledged character despite limited screen time.

Julia and Marina both have demons to battle this episode, though they’re mostly of the metaphorical kind. The struggle to keep her humanity remains a strong undercurrent in all of Julia’s scenes with the Beast, while Marina tries to grovel for asylum at Brakebills with little to no success. At the end they’re forced to turn to each other for the only help they’ll get. It will certainly be exciting to watch her team up with Julia once more in the upcoming episodes, as those scenes were some of the strongest of The Magicians‘ first season.

By the end of the episode, Penny appears to have working use of his hands once more thanks to Professor Pearl’s ministrations, which came with some pretty charged sexual tension. “I might, after you graduate,” she tells him when he tries to go in for a kiss. That might be one of the best lines in the episode, if only because so many other shows go there with students and teachers in much more unsavory ways.

Julia and Quentin have their first big reunion of the season, breaking each other’s hearts while trying to help like they always do. Their relationship is one of the tent poles of The Magicians story, even though they rarely cross paths, and this scene displays exactly why. So much is left unsaid in their interactions, but the love they have for one another remains strong no matter how twisted it has become.

Quentin, Alice, Margot and Penny have to get disturbingly painful tattoos before they can be gifted with an even more disturbingly painful Keiko demon. How they will use these one-shot weapons against the Beast remains to be seen, but their return to a greener Fillory feels triumphant. Overall, The Magicians ends on a high note that builds on the anticipation of the premiere.