REVIEW: The Magicians, S3E7 – Poached Eggs

The Magicians takes a moment to connect almost ever plot together in “Poached Eggs,” checking in with all of our favorite characters as the second half of the Seven Keys quest – and of the season – begins. While Margo (Summer Bishil) and Eliot’s (Hale Appleman) fairy situation grows more dire than ever before, Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Penny (Arjun Gupta) break Kady (Jade Tailor) out of the hospital so she can join their quest. Finally, still trying to restore magic in their own way, Julia (Stella Maeve) and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) take stock of the consequences  for their transference spell. If the situations each character deals with weren’t interesting enough, the sheer number of callbacks to earlier seasons would certainly suck an invested viewer in.

Fillory will not give these two a break.

Margo and Eliot’s story is perhaps the most disconnected, but they still meet up with the others in the ‘real world’ to hide the fairy eggs and plot their fairy vengeance only to discover they’re also going to have to deal with Floaters pillaging back in Fillory and riots in the streets. Another fly in their ointment is leaving the eggs and Fray (guest star Madeleine Arthur, who displays the perfect balance between innocent and creepy). She quickly uncovers the hiding location thanks to poor Todd’s carelessness, leading to a face-off with Fen (Brittany Curran) that is equal parts painful and beautiful. Fen tries her best to make her daughter see that she’ll never be anything but a frail human to the Fairy Queen and that families are bound together by loyalty, but Fray is a long way off from learning that lesson.

Meanwhile, the High King and Queen of Fillory manage to extort a bathtub in exchange for the safe return of the fairy embryos – with the catch that the bathtub will belong to everyone and therefore make it possible for them all to see the Fairy Queen. The references to “Poached Eggs” and other meals to make out of the fairies sparked a few moments of laughter, but things take a serious turn when Fray defects to her adopted family after all. Without a second thought, the Fairy Queen uses her as leverage and threatens to kill her if the others don’t give up. To be fair, Eliot had already been wavering throughout the episode, but this time he chooses his duty as a father over his duty as a king. Despite Margo’s earlier talk of sacrificing for their people, it’s clear this is a different and more mature response from him – and one that affects even Fray, as she finds herself confessing that she’s not even their daughter after all.

Fen’s heartbreak at this news – and worse, upon learning that her daughter died in childbirth – is the most tragic part of “Poached Eggs.” It almost doesn’t matter that this revelation allows the deal with the Fairy Queen to close, because there’s already so much emotional baggage to unpack. Not that the deal matters literally speaking either, seeing as the people of Fillory are too angry with their King and Queen to care about what some faeries are up to. And so the episode ends with Margo and Eliot being dragged away by the people they’ve sworn to protect, for whom they’ve sacrificed nearly everything.

If you love someone, let them sacrifice for you.

The theme of sacrifice is woven into Kady and Penny’s plot this week, as well, and we all know these two can’t stop martyring themselves for one another. Quentin and Poppy (guest star Felicia Day, who’s as chipper as last week and much more likeable) pose as doctors and aim to break Kady out of her hospital stay using their all-too-scary inside knowledge of the lax standards of mental institutions, which results in a tense yet hilarious sequence of Kady answering questions about her ex while looking to his astral projection for help. “Poached Eggs” once again showcases just how much their romance has evolved over the course of The Magicians, and for once their fight ends in understanding rather than more rejection. Penny tells Kady he is happy to have loved her no matter how his physical life ended, while Kady unwittingly reciprocates the sentiment by confessing that she can’t be happy without him.

The two of them take a break from turning me into mush in order to actually follow through on the plan, which involves a series of clever and complex events to get Kady out just so she can talk to Harriet (guest star Marlee Matlin). See, in order to get the next key, they have to go to the Underworld. Penny can astral project there with the help of a dragon from the Library, but he’ll need another Traveler’s help to get out. This is where Poppy’s ex-best friend Victoria, whom the Magicians saved from the Beast in season one, comes in. But she can’t help them without her boss, Harriet, who Kady befriended but then left high and dry when Penny ‘died.’ All of this history builds up in “Poached Eggs,” coming together to give a real sense of stakes to the story. Not to mention add a few more obstacles along the way.

So while Kady volunteers herself (and her friends) to steal a book from the Library in exchange for Harriet’s help, Penny volunteers himself to actually travel to the Underworld. And of course Penny won’t stand for Kady endangering herself, but she turns it around on him perfectly considering that his constant attempts at throwing his life away for others are exactly what pained her so much in the first place. They share a brief but brilliant ‘joke’ about making it out of this, and one “I love you” later, they’re off to their respective missions. But don’t think I’ve forgotten about Quentin and Poppy in the midst of cooing over my favorite couple. The two of them take a moment to “just have some fun,” and hook up to get Quentin’s mind off the weight of the world that’s resting on his shoulders. It was a little out of the blue, but I’m certainly not going to begrudge him a relaxing makeout session.

Lest we forget, Alice ended the previous episode of The Magicians foaming at the mouth and writhing on the floor. Thankfully she’s fine for now, but Henry Fogg (Rick Worthy) makes it clear that she will die if she doesn’t give Julia back her magic. He may be drunk and mean, but he’s also right, so Julia sets off to grab some temporary magic of her own in order to take Alice’s back permanently. “Poached Eggs” brings in previous elements of the series once again, by having the very woman who bought Brakebills out from under Henry be the one whose help they need now.

She’s not the only cameo: Alice runs into Professor Lipson, who inadvertently suggests that she become a creature in order to retain her magic. Alice is desperate enough to do it, and she’s seconds away from getting turned into a vampire when Julia shows up and puts a stop to the shenanigans. Interestingly enough, instead of being angry that she was thwarted, Alice is moved that Julia would go so far for her. Their bonding from last week strengthens her choice to return Julia’s magic, and they share a powerful moment in which Julia both admits the power Reynard’s memory still has over her and decides to stop letting it control her actions.

The Magicians mines all the emotions one could want from the episode while also managing to lay out the path for the rest of the season, which is quite a feat and also the reason it’s one of the most enjoyable shows of the year.