The Magicians S2E3 – Divine Elimination

The Magicians starts the hour diving right into the curse that the Beast (Charles Mesure) cast on the Fillory castle. While the rest of the team was back at Brakebills preparing to defeat their enemy, Eliot (Hale Appleman) was busy preparing the royal accoutrements and, as he declared, “I expect you to slather yourselves in it.” Little did he know, the thrones he was showing off to his friends were the origins of the curse. The regal seats inspired a paranoia in Eliot that made him want to kill his fellow royals, and that curse spread to every person that sat on their respective throne.

Penny has a lot to deal with this week.

Quentin (Jason Ralph) recalls Julia’s warning about the curse, which leads Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) to suspect the goblets are poisoned. Unfortunately, while she’s figuring it out, both she and Quentin sit on their thrones. Thank goodness for Penny (Arjun Gupta) and his lack of royal status, which allows him to realize what’s going on from outside. Not only can he see the thrones turning each of his friends “tweaky,” but they all find it incredibly easy to confide their murderous plans to him.

Penny goes straight to Margot (Summer Bishil) for some help in recovering the minds of the other rulers, but of course, she already sat on her throne. Penny doesn’t often get the chance to do more than gripe at the actions of others, but “Divine Elimination” affords him the opportunity to gripe in a particularly hilarious way. Not only that, but he is the mastermind behind the plan to save them. Penny had an interesting arc last season of The Magicians learning to use his teleportation skills, but this is the first time he shines in the second season thus far.

He reaches out to the adorable Fen (guest star Brittany Curran) for help, and together the two understand that the royals will have to die in order for the curse to play out. This is where Penny’s oft-unused intelligence comes in, as he immediately comes up with a plan that will result in no deaths if all goes well. Margot and Quentin have a great duel before Penny can reach them, however, wasting their Keiko demons and trading some excellent barbs.

Penny’s plan is going swimmingly until his fingers start acting up once more, but at least he’s got Fen as reluctant backup. It can’t hurt that Margot inadvertently decides to help the plan along by stabbing Quentin with the needles Penny brought. Once Eliot and Alice start going to town as well, all Penny and Fen have to do is wait for them all to be dead before reviving them. Margot is the last one standing, as it should be, but the curse won’t let her stay alive. Penny and Fen’s reactions throughout the entire ordeal are a good dose of levity for the darkness that The Magicians doles out elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Julia (Stella Maeve) is setting a trap for Reynard the Fox along with Marina (guest star Kacey Rohl). The tentative friendship forming between them is strained by Marina’s rightful distrust of the Beast, and it’s a shame that this episode proves her right in such a gruesome way. Even though she and Julia were at odds more often that not, watching two women struggle to work together makes for more interesting and innovative television that watching one woman struggle and fail to stay alive.

As soon as Julia has coaxed a realistic incantation out of Marina, the Beast warps her away from the area. While his reasoning is sound – Reynard won’t come if he senses Julia’s presence – the collateral damage is far too much for Julia to contemplate. And too much for this audience member, at least. While Reynard (guest star Mackenzie Astin) does not appear to the hedge witch at the base itself, the tension of his imminent return lingers.

Of course he shows up once Marina has locked them inside her home with powerful wards. and from that moment on The Magicians takes a turn for the dark and gruesome. Kacey Rohl’s performance as a bitterly cynical woman trying to keep her fear of death at bay was breathtaking, and I’m truly saddened that we may not be seeing her again on this show. Audiences should also be warned that there is some animal cruelty amidst all the human cruelty in the scenes between Reynard and Marina.

Julia and Quentin suffer crushing losses.

The Beast and Julia get the wards undone just in time, which means Penny has the worst timing when it comes to saving his friends. Because once they’re all awake, it’s time to summon the Beast. The Magicians puts the audience in a clever yet horrifying position: rooting for one set of heroes means the destruction of another. As much as we may not like the Beast, he was Julia and Marina’s best shot at protection against the Fox spirit. Not to mention that Alice’s power is running out and it may not be enough to stop the Beast, anyway.

Regardless, they succeed in warping the Beast out of of his conflict with Reynard, accidentally taking Julia with them and leaving Marina at Reynard’s mercy. Then Quentin gets Julia out of the way of Alice’s blast, causing her to miss and only affect one of the Beast’s arms. It’s a pretty bleak prospect, with one heroine murdered and none of the evil men dead yet.

Quentin sends Eliot and Margot to petition Ember for more power while he and Alice go to finish the battle with the Beast. Their time alone in the carriage leads to a sweet scene where Quentin promises to be a better man for her, and she finally accepts his apology and moves towards forgiving him. Of course, their kiss is preceded by Alice asking Quentin not to put so much pressure on her before the fate she must face. It does seem a little out of place for them to be confessing love, but the next few scenes make it clear why it was so important to seal their romance now.

Ember shows up to explain that he befouled the wellspring, meaning no one will be able to heal themselves and things will go from bad to worse for Fillory. The Beast has them all in a bind until Alice saves the day by unleashing her magic and becoming a rage demon called a Niffin. She appears to kill the Beast successfully – yay? – but then she turns on her friends. Boo! In order to stop Alice from killing Eliot and Margot, Quentin releases the last of the Keiko demons. Considering how easily the others were sent away or vanquished, it doesn’t seem like a move that should work… But it does.

“Divine Elimination” ends with Julia watching over Marina’s body and Quentin watching over Alice’s in a heartbreaking sequence that certainly earns The Magicians the episode title it chose. While the episode was very well-written and acted, it feels like a big letdown to kill off two of its female characters long before they reached their potential. But it’s a magical world, right? Who knows when and how they might come back. Hopefully soon!