REVIEW: The Magicians, S4E6 – A Timeline and a Place

There’s a time and a place for kindness and for brute strength, both of which are used to varying degrees of success in The Magicians this week. “A Timeline and a Place” once again breaks the cast up in smaller groups to explore various quests that all somehow tie back to the Library and its terrible hold over magic, but plot progression has been a little slower this season than in previous ones. The show makes up for that by continuing to use surprising role reversals to balance the characters out and help the audience understand them – not to mention help them understand themselves – further.

Unexpected heroes.

The struggle between war and peace reared its head rather unexpectedly in the middle of Alice’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) banishment to the boring town of Modesto, where she finds room and board with a lady named Sheila. As it turned out, Sheila had recently discovered her own magic – called queromancy, the ability to find money – and hoped Alice could be the one to teach her how to use it wisely. Alice’s fear of the Library made her wary, but she eventually agreed to do it after a powerful speech about tools being what you made of them. Upon learning about the lead contamination in the water (Flint, is that you?), Alice taught Sheila how to remove it from a single glass. Which in turn led to Sheila figuring out a leak in the ambient magic pipes, which the ladies used to purify the town’s water. It was a solid case of he soft and empathetic approach saving the day, but unfortunately some hedge witches caught on and used said ambient magic to blow up a local branch of the Library. At the end of “A Timeline and a Place,” Sheila was confronted by some Librarians while Alice smiled at the now happy kids unaware of what her benevolent magic might have wrought on her new friend.

As for the eponymous storyline, “A Timeline and a Place” opened with Penny (Arjun Gupta) and Marina confined by a horomancer named Daniel who decided it was time to send the two timeline interlopers back to Timeline 23. Their extended stay in Timeline 40 was creating a frequency issue and messing up every spell, not to mention killing his mother Sonya by ruining the precautions she had taken with her horomancy experiments. This is where the push-and-pull became very obvious, because Marina was immediately ready to let Sonya die without a second thought in order to get back to her right place – after all, a new timeline had given her a second chance not to make the same mistakes with her girlfriend, and she wasn’t about to pass that up. But Penny was much more willing to stay in 1984 or Crucible world of Timeline 23 if it meant Sonya would be safe, because empathy is the only thing he knows. He remained adamant even after the horomancer genius herself explained that she knew the consequences of her experiments and chose to continue them regardless, essentially validating Marina’s choice to look out for herself. The most interesting part about this dichotomy is that, in the end, it takes another Penny to convince him what the right thing to do is. He ran into the Library employee version of himself while attempting to jump back and was told that Timeline 40 needed him, though he wasn’t forthcoming on the reasons why. There was a heartbreaking beat where Penny-40 asked Penny-23 to pass on a message of love and apology to Kady, until I remembered that we haven’t seen her in two episodes and that’s probably my biggest gripe with The Magicians at the moment.

My King and Queen.

Over in Fillory, loyal subjects and rulers Fen and Tick updated Margo (Summer Bishil) on the pollen that prevented the talking animals from exercising their voice, which in turn was keeping the High King and her not-quite-boyfriend Josh (Trevor Einhorn) rooted in place instead of being able to communicate with the rest of the characters. Margo was tasked with some dreaded diplomacy in order to get the necessary cure of beets from a neighboring ruler who was proving to be a rather “difficult woman.” After appropriately calling out the euphemism and threatening to blow everyone to Hell and back, Margo relented long enough to listen to Josh’s “feed them and empathize” method. This is what The Magicians does so well, without ever shoving it in anyone’s face: reversing the roles men and women are expected to play in stories, allowing some ladies to be headstrong and violent while some men are prone to emotional intelligence and civil discussions. Margo went so far as to drink Alpaca milk in order to follow Josh’s plan, but after he unwisely besmirched Eliot’s name she resorted back to threats of violence and got what she needed immediately. Sometimes talking it out just doesn’t do the trick, although unfortunately (for those who ship it, if that is indeed anyone) the spat seemed to have but the brakes on the Margo and Josh train for now.

Finally, Quentin (Jason Ralph) convinced Julia (Stella Maeve) to keep helping the Monster (Hale Appleman) in the name of helping Eliot, and together they worked on deciphering the hieroglyphs. This part of “A Timeline and a Place” felt the most like an unnecessary scavenger hunt, with the next clue being a pyramid housing the god Heka, until Not Eliot started disrespecting his host’s body out of boredom. This was when Quentin switched gears and threatened to abandon him if he hurt Eliot, thus abandoning the pretense of believing he’s dead. The monster’s jealousy was palpable, but he relented in favor of this rather intricate love triangle.

The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on SYFY.