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The Magicians: Hotel Spa Potions

“Life is pointless. The after-life even more so. Which is why we invent these games to fill the void of existence. Who diddled whom. Who'll get revenge for it. Who takes the throne.”

Our magicians spend this episode preparing for battle.

The Brakebills kids track down spells they can use against The Beast. Battle magic was outlawed by Dean Fogg decades ago, but luckily the pixie-professor who taught the class hid clues to her whereabouts around the library, knowing that one day the school would need her expertise. So they take a trip to Rhode Island (the island made of streets), learn a battle magic spell called the Rhinemann Ultra, and watch pixie-professor Bigby flirt and fight with Dean Fogg. Apparently the two have a romantic history. It’s fun to see a glimpse of a wilder Dean Fogg of the past. It’s humanizing. It’s also kind of gross.

When the two aren’t flirting they’re debating the merits of the battle magic ban. Dean Fogg asserts the ban was necessary due to a high mortality rate of students, Professor Bigby says fewer students died of battle magic then than did throughout history and humans don’t see this because of their short memory. Which is an interesting point. All of our characters are stuck to their time, their point of view, their stakes—which seem monumental. But if they took on Professor Bigby or even The Beast’s larger-than-life view of things, their causes may look smaller by comparison.

While the Brakebills kids prepare for their fight with The Beast, Julia prepares to confront Reynard. The Beast tries to get Julia to use a more ruthless approach, which involves forcing Marina to act as bait. But Julia is determined to protect her humanity, even if it weakens her plan. This complicates things with Julia a bit. She’s willing to work with the man who’s killed her friends (and Julia herself) thirty-nine times, but she’s not willing to put Marina at risk. I’m not sure how Julia’s drawing these strange boundaries. It may come down to timing. She had little time to take the god-killing sword and make a deal with The Beast, leaving her little chance to think the choice through. And after she made her move there wasn’t much she could’ve done to take it back. But choosing to involuntarily put Marina at risk would’ve been premeditated. She had lots of time to consider her options, make her decisions, and try to get Marina to consent to helping with Reynard. Still, she doesn’t seem to regret betraying Quentin and friends too much, so this theory may be completely off base.

There may be no rationalizing her decisions because she’s still overcome by her trauma and is acting out of desperation. Either way, she makes her plans, wins over Marina’s help, and is all set to go into battle when she meets up with Quentin and learns that they’re prepared, too. But their plans will put hers in jeopardy. So Quentin and Julia get into another argument. They both have a point, but I once again find Quentin’s way of expressing his point to be so obnoxious that I end up siding with Julia. He’s patronizing her, pitying her, and making assumptions about what she wants. If he tried to talk to her, understand her point of view, tried to help her understand his, and pointed out the logical inconsistencies in her plan, things might’ve gone better. But he doesn’t, because he still has some character flaws to work through.

What’s cool about the clash between the Brakebills kids and Julia is that they both have arguably worthy causes. The Beast is threatening magic (and likely the Brakebills kids, Julia included). Reynard is threatening hedges. It’s easy to see why both sides are highly motivated to win their fight. Because, while a century-old pixie and a shadeless magician may be better equipped to see the less emotional, more abstract version of the pull of the world, our magicians are stuck in their own parts of the stories, only able to see the obstacles threatening them and theirs. It’s hard to get out of that head space.

Bits and Pieces

-- Eliot has fun with farming. He sets out to be the Champagne King, but ends up King Shit when he learns Fillory is starving and they don’t know what fertilizer is.

-- Eliot also tries to handle his less than ideal romantic situation by finding and recruiting Fillory couples to act as make-shift porn. I’m glad Fen puts a stop to this immediately; it’s pretty unethical.

-- While on the subject of potentially unethical situations, Penny tries to seduce his professor while she helps him with his hands. She turns him down for the moment, but leaves the relationship open for after he graduates. Which is still pretty sketchy.

-- Marina seeks shelter and safety from The Beast through Brakebills and Dean Fogg turns her down. Once again I question why there is no magic police or magic asylum. Also, why couldn’t Dean Fogg have kept her in the anti-magic room where Jane died? Then Marina wouldn’t be able to contaminate his students with her faulty character. Dean Fogg is pretty sketchy himself.

-- The Beast is a really great singer. Maybe the Brakebills kids should just try to manipulate him into trying for a Broadway career so his efforts would be moved away from obtaining a ton of magical power and killing graduate students. It might be easier than killing him.

The Beast: “If... if I took just a smidgen of your Shade, not only would your trauma drop away, you'd have no issue with using Marina. You'd be free of these useless feelings and this idiotic moral quagmire.”
Julia: “Come near me and the knife won't kill you ‘cause you can still live without a dick.”
The Beast: [Starts singing]
Julia: “Or a tongue.”

Quentin, regarding his new magical tattoo: “Well, I can never get buried in a Jewish cemetery.”
Alice: “Are you even Jewish?”
Quentin: “No, but options.”

Alice: “Not everything that hurts is bad.”

Three out of four Cakodemons.


  1. There really isn't any show like this one. It's insane. Martin and the musical theater. The tattoo burning demon ritual thingy. Penny and his hands. But my favorite scenes were all the craziness in the library because of course, I'm a librarian. I especially loved the flying cards.

  2. Not much really happened in this episode but it was tremendous fun. Bigby and the Dean Fogg were a hoot. Does it make me a bad person that I'm starting to root for the Beast?

    It did occur to me that Quentin might have had more success with Julia had he told her to just get Reynard and the Beast within 20' of Alice and she'll deal with both of them at the same time.


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