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The Magicians: Impractical Applications

“You ever want something so badly and then realize that it's nothing like what you thought? And maybe that you are stupid for ever actually even wanting it.”

In this episode, Quentin and co have fun with pheasants and horses, and turn into birds, flying off into the night. Julia loses a new friend to a spell gone wrong. So, in typical Magicians fashion, Quentin gets his whimsical adventure while Julia gets a bleak cesspool of despair.

Quentin’s story line involves another Brakebills test called The Trials. Quentin and the other first year students (namely Alice, Penny, and Kady) have to perform a bunch of impossible and difficult tasks testing their problem-solving skills as magicians. It’s a great way to bring a majority of the cast together. Even more fun than seeing Quentin and friends figure out how to beat each challenge was watching Eliot and Margo relish in their power and enjoy the first years’ frustration.

The best part of The Trials was that the final task was a nice source of much-needed character development and a great chance to check-in on some of the more developed characters. The first years are basically forced to reveal their deepest secrets to another—their greatest truth—in order to break the enchanted ropes binding them. Incidentally, they have to be completely naked while they do this.

What’s interesting about this naked rule is that Penny and Kady are super comfortable being undressed in front of each other (probably because of all their levitate-y sex), yet they don’t (and we don’t) know much intimate information about each other. During the spell, Penny’s forced to admit that he’s falling in love with Kady. That’s pretty obvious given that Kady is really the only person he wants to spend his time with. But it’s also obvious that admitting such a thing is really difficult for Penny. And Kady’s secret probably didn’t make him feel much better. Kady tells him he’s been using him, and then has no chance to further explain herself before they both transform into birds. This is a really weird show.

We learn a lot more about Kady’s situation through Julia’s plot. Apparently, Kady’s mother Hannah messed up a spell during a heist, accidentally killing two hedge witches in the process. Marina cleaned up Hannah’s mess in exchange for Kady’s services. So now Kady has to act as Marina’s spy and steal stuff for her, and she uses Penny to help her with that. This helps to explain why Kady would know things like battle magic. It’s also nice to get a glimpse inside her head and to better understand her motives. It’s a super sad situation and Kady finally starts to break down from it all. Of course, things are just going to get worse from here on out now that her mother died and Hannah and Julia’s heist has gone wrong.

On the flip side, Quentin and Alice are super awkward as they perform their naked secrets spell. They drink a ton of—whisky, is it?—just to get through it. Yet, they know a lot about each other. Quentin was there when Alice lost her brother the second time; Alice gave Quentin the note about his father’s illness. And still, they are just as (if not more) uncomfortable revealing their truth. Alice’s truth is that she holds back with magic so she won’t become even more unpopular. She has no idea what she’s capable of and is just trying to be something close to normal. Objectively, I feel like that’s a pretty nice problem to have, but Olivia Taylor Dudley (Alice’s actress) does a great job showing how distressing this is to Alice. Quentin’s secret is much darker. He tells Alice that he’s always running, even now that he has everything he’s ever wanted. He’s still “this person [he] fucking [hates].” The problem Quentin has is that he can never run from himself. So no matter where it is, even if it’s the perfect fairy-tale version of Fillory, he still has to live with himself. This felt much more relatable to me and very in line with the Quentin we’ve seen so far. We’ve seen that Quentin is still struggling with his depression despite his new magical abilities, but it’s still nice to have a chance to check in with Quentin and better understand where our hero’s at.

Elsewhere, in the dreary part of New York, Julia is still desperately trying to find a source for new spells. Her efforts lead her to Hannah (Kady’s mom). After burning through all of Hannah’s spells, Julia and Hannah concoct a plan to steal Marina’s new spell book and create a new safe house—one that would actually be safe. Of course, this goes awry. Hannah dies violently during their heist as Julia watches helplessly. What we see is remarkably similar to Hannah’s backstory, which is very interesting given that Julia’s aversion to Hannah stemmed from her seeing herself in Hannah. And now they have even more in common.

There is also a question about Julia’s responsibility in all this. She did come up with the idea to steal Marina’s spells, but she also tried keeping Hannah out of the heist. Hannah was the one who insisted on helping Julia with it. And Hannah should have known better than Julia anyway since she had more experience with both magic and hedge witches.

All that being said, the real question is where will Julia go from here? And also, what’s going to happen bird Quentin, Alice, and Kady? Maybe they’ll stay birds forever. Maybe they’ll fly into a window. Quentin probably will.

Bits and Pieces

— Quentin thinks Penny was definitely in Fillory and he’s upset at how much darker it was than in the books. The Fillory books basically got him through his entire life and now one of its creatures is trying to kill him. It’s a very understandable sorrow.

— Kady tattoos Penny to limit his powers. Because apparently Kady can tattoo people. Because apparently Kady can do anything the writers need someone to do.

— Quentin is not a virgin and Alice lost her virginity with her clothes on.

— So, if you fail these trials you flunk out of Brakebills. But Penny needs Brakebills to learn how to control his powers so they don’t kill him—Dean Fogg told him as much. So shouldn’t Penny get special treatment and get to stay? You know, so he doesn’t end up dead? Or does Dean Fogg just not care about the safety of his students?

— Apparently Margo’s also a fan of the Fillory books.

— I really enjoyed the pep talk Margo gave Quentin right before she roofied him for The Trials. It just seemed like a very Margo move.

— Quentin went to junior cowboy camp.

Quentin: “Did you see any animals? Did they talk to you?”
Penny: “I was inside a dungeon, you hobbit loving freak!”

Penny: “Oh, nut up. This isn’t Harvard. It requires actual effort.”

Kady: “Is that why you’re hanging out with the angriest bitch from the safe-house?”
Julia: “Oh, if you want to insult me you should try again.”

Penny: “That’s it? We passed?”
Eliot: “After you chop the tree into firewood. Whip us up a little grilled salmon.”
Margo: “Some honeyed pheasant.”
Eliot: “And take turns blowing the horse.”

Four out of four honeyed pheasants.


  1. I really enjoyed the Trials, with their literal and metaphorical nakedness, especially how it affected Alice. And I'm still wondering why I like Penny so much. :)

  2. Ariel, so I don't know how blind you're going into this, but just FYI, the last ep of the season needs a giant brutal trigger warning. It works, and sn 2 deals with the ramifications well, but it's pretty rough.

  3. Jeff, we're a time travel site. All of our reviews are either written contemporaneously or as if they were, so that new viewers can read along without getting spoiled. We also delete spoilery comments. I don't think yours is too spoilery, but fyi.

  4. Thank you for the explanation. And yeah, I tried to keep it vague.

  5. I kind of lost The Magicians after season 1. It was good but not great. Should I get back in there?

  6. TJ, I think The Magicians is quirky and unusual and it's probably not to everyone's taste. I'm not quite sure why, but I like it and will be watching season four in January.

    Ariel, please don't hesitate to chime in. :)

  7. Thanks Billie!
    I trust your judgment, we usually have the samt taste...I think?:-)
    I will probably dive in during the holidays and then I will be ready for season four.

    PS. Don't miss Counterpart season 2, starts at 2018-12-09.


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