REVIEW: The Magicians, S4E8 – Home Improvement

“Home Improvement” expanded on last week’s concept that stories aren’t always about who we think, a device that The Magicians uses to great effect here. It also touched several times on what it means to be a mother, but that wasn’t as strong of an arc even if it did lead to a few nice moments between Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and her own mother Stephanie.

I may love you, mom, but I don’t like you much.

On that note, let’s start with Alice and her quest to help Zelda bring Harriet back from the Mirror World. With some advice from Henry (Rick Worthy), she extracted a promise that Zelda would free Sheila from the Library’s custody and burn her book. The only problem was that in order to create the object needed for said quest, she had to perform a mother-daughter spell with the woman she barely considered family. Stephanie didn’t seem any more pleased to see Alice, either, repeatedly trying to send her away as the failed attempts piled up. As distant and uncaring as Stephanie seemed, it was Alice who kept jumping to the wrong conclusion: first she assumed her mother was going on a date when she was really waiting for family friend Carol to show up, and then she believed Stephanie had turned her into the Library when she had really turned Carol in. She was trying to protect Alice in her own way by sending her off before the Librarians came to take Carol in for creating intimacy aids that were actually voodoo dolls.

Thanks to those voodoo dolls and the magical security system Alice’s father set up before her death, the Quinn family is able to distract the Library with some flicks to the groin while Stephanie and her daughter finally bond enough to complete the spell at hand. They still may not like each other, but at least they understand each other better by the end of “Home Improvement.” Ironically, it was Alice’s new mother figure Sheila who ended up being the bigger disappointment. She decided to join the Library, which meant her book was stored away unread in the Poison Room, but refused to see the evil side of it that Alice was desperate to convey. So while both Alice and Zelda got what they wanted, Alice came out feeling like she’d lost it all over again.

Meanwhile, the clock was running out on Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Julia’s (Stella Maeve) task to locate the next godly artifact on Not Eliot’s (Hale Appleman) list. Kady (Jade Tailor) helped out by way of the unsavory Pete – who now goes by the super not lame nickname of Love Lady – and they quickly come upon the necessary item in the horde of the East River Dragon. The dragon’s herald – named Harold! – had a quest for them in exchange for the artifact: locate a stolen elixir. There was a hint of the Hedge Witch subplot brewing when Kady insisted on turning in the witch responsible for the Library explosion in order to take the heat off the rest, but the majority of “Home Improvement” focused on the thief of said elixir. And who was it? None other than Season 3’s Poppy (guest star Felicia Day), now incredibly pregnant and with Quentin under a powerful spell that kept him enthralled to her… Or rather to her dragon egg.

In a comical series of misdirects, The Magicians would have us believe that Quentin impregnated Poppy and was now thrilled to be a father, then that Poppy impregnated herself with the elixir of dragon semen and Quentin was enthralled to it. The real story was that Poppy fertilized a stolen dragon egg with the stolen elixir (and we learned what that elixir was thanks to some graphic dragon porn she wrote, so thanks for that!) and now both she and Quentin were under its spell because they touched it. Even Penny (Arjun Gupta) started licking the shell once his hand grazed it, but Julia had no such problems due to her still inexplicable powers. She was granted the next step in the Not Eliot quest because of her efforts, but she was also told that “the binder” would have the answers she needed to escape her current demi-goddess status. Whether she will return to being a full-time human or a full-time goddess is still in question, but at least she can pick one. And as for Poppy? Everyone’s favorite pathological liar chose motherhood over giving up her child for adoption, and she credited Quentin with that decision. Poor Quentin was none too pleased with being blamed for the terrible childhood in store for that tiny human, but maybe Poppy will surprise us all.

Who runs the world? Fen, maybe.

Finally, Fen (Brittany Curran) searched for her dream woman on what she thought was a solo mission, only to find Margo (Summer Bishil) following close behind because she was convinced the quest was all about her. As well as to get some time away from Josh, who was currently running the kingdom in her stead and who she most definitely was not catching feelings for. When they reach the supposed prophet, she made them landscape her cottage before sharing any information. Fen was very willing to comply and Margo was not at all, threatening the woman into admitting that she was not actually the “Napster” in question. Clearly, this episode of The Magicians was all about hysterical nicknames, but it also proved the important point that everyone’s been underestimating Fen all this time – including Fen herself. When she tracked down the Cat Lady in her next dream, she asked for Margo’s destiny instead of her own and was confronted by the fact that she didn’t value herself enough. Of course, changing it to her own destiny only revealed that she would have to be the one to violently dethrone Margo before too long. Perhaps she can find a more peaceful way, especially since Fen is certainly the person who cares most about Fillory.

Penny-23 didn’t exactly have his own plot, but he did have some touching moments with both Kady and Julia. He had to pass along Penny-40’s goodbye message to the love of that Penny’s life, and he seemed rather shaken by her broken reaction. Then he had to comfort the love of his own life’s doppelganger, and the energy in both situations was charged and uncertain. Will The Magicians actually pursue this love triangle, and how can it if every feeling in the mix seems to be unrequited? Only time and magic will tell.

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