REVIEW: The Magicians, S3E10 – The Art of the Deal

The Magicians takes things rather slow quest-wise in “The Art of the Deal,” but Julia (Stella Maeve) and Fen (Brittany Curran) massively ramp things up when it comes to the faeries. While the rest of the storylines feel low stakes in comparison, there is an undercurrent of trust and difficult choices than runs throughout the episode.

A selfless queen, truly.

The hardest bridge to gap in terms of trust is Fen and her hatred of faeries, which honestly feels repetitive at the start of the hour. But once Julia has convinced her to help for the third time in as many weeks, “The Art of the Deal” quickly turns the storyline into one filled with both hope and horror. Fen’s rage against the creatures makes it easy for the girls to convince Irene McAllistair that they want to capture one for themselves, allowing them access to the killer collars that her uncle Edwin makes. Armed with this device and the knowledge that Edwin has a machine to take it off, they head to the Fairy Queen (Candis Cayne) and beg her to come rescue her people. It is here that Curran shines most, pouring the pain of her lost chance at motherhood into her plea for the traumatized children who deserve a new start. The combination of her words and Julia’s God-touched abilities make the Queen willing to return to the land of humans.

It’s actually a rather risky plan, requiring the Queen herself to be collared up without a sure way of rescuing her. Though The Magicians also takes this otherwise tense time to mine a few laughs from Fen’s discovery of the universal Emoji language, it’s hard to laugh when we’re witnessing the torture and enslavement of so many innocents. The Queen rallies her people with an angry speech, but Fen soon learns that the oldest one of them made a deal with the McAllistairs to serve eternally in exchange for protection – and a fairy deal can’t be broken without sacrificing their culture or reputation. The Queen’s iron will is tested when Skye is grabbed by Edwin, however, and she breaks the deal so that the faeries may become invisible. They kill all the McAllisters in a bloodbath that still feels like justice, except that Irene manages to flees in terror. The Queen thanks Julia before she goes, pointing out that coexisting with humans would be possible if only more of them were as selfless as she is. She also reveals that the seventh key lives within the Fairy Realm, which can’t exist without it. Well, that certainly puts us in a pickle.

Alice is sick of Quentin’s crap.

While their problems are certainly not on the same leve, Alice (Olivia Taylor-Dudley) and Quentin’s (Jason Ralph) trust issues are getting in the way of their quest. Alice is tired of not being allowed to help, but Quentin is tired of not knowing what she’s after. And I would say it’s meant to be some kind of sexual tension, except that every scene Quentin and Julia have had lately is screaming romance. Maybe the two characters just aren’t very compatible period. Either way it makes things tough on poor Josh (Trevor Einhorn), who just wanted to go on a cool quest with his friends and instead learns his ex is dead in the middle of their fight. Thankfully he still has the presence of mind – thanks to the power of pot! – to figure out the location of the sixth key. And maybe next week we’ll see whatever he’s seeing, too.

While Quentin and the others are looking for the sixth key in Whitespire, Margo (Summer Bishil) and Eliot (Hale Appleman) have chosen to save their kingdom from invasion despite having been overthrown. Margo and Eliot ask their old allies to withdraw from their advancement on Fillory, but they refuse. And so the duo are forced to offer them magic, alternating between threats and seductions to get the job done. With the promise of their own people receiving magic, the other rulers are hard-pressed to say no to an alliance. And so it seems like Margo and Eliot get their way, but once again we’re not really sure yet where the story is headed. It seems “The Art of the Deal” is full of unanswered questions.

Meanwhile, Penny (Arjun Gupta) is tiredly shelving books in the Library when he is approached by the overeager Howard who want him to join the book club. He is then accosted by Sylvia, who tells him she turned him in only because her family had ‘moved on’ from the Underworld without her. He softens a little at this, questioning her about a special room in the Library that doles out metrocards out of the Underworld. He then forms a plan in that smart little head of his, waiting for someone to come out of the room and spooking them into handing over their metrocard. But he is then intercepted by the god Hades (?!), who explains that Penny fights his destiny so hard that he propels himself toward it. It’s a classic Oedipal problem, minus the whole killing your father and sleeping with your mother thing. Hades knows all about Penny’s need to prove his worth and is willing to let him go back to his friends, but would prefer that Penny choose his amazing destiny in the Underworld. This leads to Penny handing the card over the Sylvia, which is at once a move towards his own better destiny while simultaneously being yet another self-sacrificing choice. He then proceeds to join Howard’s book club and tries one of Kathy’s cupcakes, learning to take pleasure in the small things.

Outside of Julia and the fairies, “The Art of the Deal” ends in a rather lowkey and ambiguous way given how high stakes the rest of the season has been. But as we reach the endgame and the final two keys, it makes sense to pause the action and take stock of where we are. While this week didn’t feel as intense as the previous ones, hopefully the answers that come the next episode will make this one feel more significant in retrospect.