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The Magicians: Remedial Battle Magic

Margo: “There's this thing about you, Q. You actually believe in magic.”
Quentin: “So does everyone.”
Margo: “No. We all know it's real, but you believe in it. And you just love it, pure and simple.”

The magicians spend this episode searching for answers and solutions. How to stop the beast, how to fix the mess you’ve made or at least feel better about it, how to stop the voices in your head, how to end your pain. And they all make choices based on the solutions they find, for better or for worse.

The major question is, of course, how to stop The Beast. They come up with two possible solutions: trade the button that portals you to Fillory in exchange for their safety (the easier solution) or fight the beast with a magic, god-killing sword. The magicians play out the outcomes with a probability spell and find that every scenario ends bloody except when they fight The Beast head-on—which is completely blank. So they choose the latter, but they need battle magic to even make it through the Neitherlands. And now they’ve got two more choices: use a spell to bottle their emotions so they’ll instantly have the skills needed to do battle magic (the easier solution) or practice all night and try to do it without the bottles. The group separates into two groups: Quentin, Eliot, and Margo, who use the bottles, and Alice and Penny, who train without them.

It’s interesting that Quentin was ready to take the harder route when it came to facing The Beast, but he rejects Alice’s suggestion to try battle magic without the bottles. It seems to come from his self-doubt. When facing The Beast he’d have the help of everyone else, but managing to learn battle magic without a crutch would completely depend on his abilities alone. Ultimately, taking the easier route ends badly for them. In a fit of emotion and drunkenness, Quentin, Eliot, and Margo all sleep together. And Alice finds them in bed together the next morning. As upsetting as it is to find that Quentin cheated, it really isn’t all that surprising. Ignoring any romantic feelings they may or may not have had for each other already, the three of them were choking on their feelings, having emotional intimate conversations, probably thought they were going to die soon, and were just plain drunk. So it’s kind of understandable that it happened, but it’s also understandable that Alice would be upset. Especially because they made the choice to take this route and this is where that choice led them.

In their drunken, distraught state Quentin, Eliot and Margo also discuss this magical, healing spring from the Fillory books. Eliot hopes it’s real so he could use it to fix himself. And Margo hopes that’s true, too, because she fears he’s really broken and he doesn’t care to do anything about it. It’s another potential easy solution, a way of avoiding the pain and the struggle of getting sober, staying sober, and finding a way to feel whole again. I’m sure Quentin has considered it, too. Or else he might be considering it now. Because he thinks he’ll always be broken, just like he thinks he can’t learn battle magic. And maybe he’s right on both fronts, but the easier choice hasn’t seemed to work well thus far.

Julia, Kady, and the rest of the Free Traders also seem tempted to find a quick fix for all their problems. They’re still in search of a god with the power to fix everything. Through their efforts Julia and Kady come across a creature in Kady’s mother’s body. She tells Kady she misses her and she’s sorry, and she tells Julia she forgives her and that she can make Julia whole again. She promises them an easy way out of their grief and guilt, but Julia and Kady don’t buy into it. Then a Goddess comes to Julia in a dream, she pours milk and coins into Julia’s hands and says everything Julia’s done has been to pull her closer to her. Then she gives Julia instructions on how to reach her and Julia seems to accept them.

It’s interesting that Julia, who just a few episodes prior wrote off believing in a higher power as a crutch, seems so seduced here. Because, if the Goddess was telling the truth that would mean everything Julia’s done is okay—it was meant to happen and was all for a greater good. I think it shows how alluring easy solutions can be. The Free Traders aren’t wrong to hope the power of a god could enable them to fix all life’s problems. Quentin isn’t wrong to feel like using a quick solution is a good plan when you have a limited amount of time. And none of the characters are wrong for hoping something out there can absolve them of their pain and guilt and struggle. But we see this episode that quick solutions don’t always end well, and that might be true here as well.

Bits and Pieces

— There’s also a whole issue with The Beast torturing the travelers into becoming his human button. A couple of them kill themselves to escape it. A Brakebills professor offers a temporary solution to Penny. Hopefully it’ll hold up well.

— The prayer/spell Richard gave Julia in rehab was a test (magicians do love their tests). Julia is the only one it worked for. Richard thinks she’s god-touched.

— We get another sign that Quentin still cares about Julia and wants her to be okay. Kady asks about Penny, as well. Quentin says he’s extra broody.

— Penny is given a pretty harsh speech on the importance of accepting care from others when he can. Apparently, because of his powers, he will never really have a home or a family. Those powers definitely seem like more of a curse than a gift.

— Emotionless Margo admits she’s sad she and Eliot aren’t real friends anymore, but emotionless (and regular) Eliot refuses to deal with it.

Quentin, on why he still cares about Julia: “You know, that's not how it works. Giving a shit about someone that you give a shit about doesn't just evaporate the second that they fuck up.”

Margo: “What if we got guns?”
Quentin: “What? No. No, look, this is basic prime directive. Fillory is a pristine, non-industrialized society. You can't.”
Eliot: “Oh, yes, very pristine. It's been taken over by a kiddie-diddling mutant.”

Emotionless Quentin on the emotion bottles: “This must be what undergoing the Vulcan ritual of Kolinahr is like.”

Emotionless Penny on feelings: “Feelings are bullshit.”

Three and a half out of four emotion bottles.

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