The Magicians: The Strangled Heart

“What we love can be as important to us as our lives.”

Over the course of this episode (or the past few episodes) most of the Brakebills characters lose something they love, something they find precious. “The Strangled Heart” deals with the aftermath of losing such things.

Eliot loses Mike. Mike hasn’t been around for long, but we already know Eliot bonds fast. At the start of this episode we see a giddy Eliot take great care in making his and Mike’s drinks. He’s even willing to get past it when Mike rejects Eliot’s carefully made cocktails for beer. And then Eliot tells Mike a secret only Margo knows—that he was actually born on a farm in Indiana. Eliot trusted Mike enough to really open himself up to him, but Mike turns out to be The Beast’s meat puppet. And, not only that, Mike even attacks and harmed his friends. It’s devastating to see. The episode did a great job of playing up Eliot’s love for Mike and the positive effect that had on Eliot before making the reveal. It could have easily seemed like a hollow blow given how little time we’ve had with Mike, but after seeing the trust he had in Mike, the devastation was palpable.

We see Penny still pained by Kady’s betrayal (in his eyes, at least). When Mike stabs him with a magic knife, Quentin and Alice need to burn his most precious possession to save him: a candy bar from Brakebills South, where he last saw Kady. And of course it is. We know that Penny loves her, despite acting like he hates everyone and everything. We know that he was willing to hear her out even though she used him. And he spent all episode grieving in his most Penny way: insulting Quentin. We see here that despite Penny’s tough exterior, when he cares about someone he goes hard. Also evident in his move to protect Quentin, despite claiming that he constantly fantasizes about stabbing him himself.

Dean Fogg loses his ability to perform spells. His hands are finally mended after the damage they took from the first Beast encounter, but he still can’t conjure with them. Although not much time is spent on his predicament, it was nice to learn a bit more about Dean Fogg. Learning that he taught himself magic starting at age four and seeing his struggle with his situation helps make him seem like a more realized character, with faults and problems and a childhood. He’s not just a frustrated dean with a deep hatred for millennials, although that is certainly a part of him.

Quentin explicitly says his most precious possession is his first Fillory book (which is no surprise). He’s already been struggling with reconciling the real Fillory with the version in his favorite children’s books. And now, with Eliza dead, he feels helpless to stop the creature from Fillory from killing him and all his friends. Suffice to say, his precious possession has been thoroughly mutilated. Believing that there’s no way to save everyone, Quentin decides to finally act on his feelings for Alice. Not as a fox, not at Mayakovsky’s mandate, but of his own volition. It’s nice to see Quentin break out of his own head and take real action. So far he’s been a fairly passive hero (understandably) and it’s good to see that he can break out of that.

Bits and Pieces

— We learn that Eliza is actually Jane from the books, which is pretty cool, but then The Beast kills her immediately after that. It was a great reveal—I don’t think I picked up on it during my first watch-through, although it makes a ton of sense with what we’ve seen of the two (both of them trying to prepare Quentin and all). One question, why couldn’t Quentin know she was actually Jane? Would that have thrown him off somehow?

— Quentin once again figured out the mystery right away, immediately linking the stabbing to The Beast. Way to demonstrate competence, Quentin.

— We find Julia at a rehab clinic rejecting the resident chaplain’s advice to lean on a higher power. I really liked seeing Julia the skeptic. She has been against crutches since the beginning: advising Quentin to let go of Fillory and magic tricks, refusing to pace herself with magic. Julia’s pretty tough and never one to take the easy way out, even if she should.

— We hear another philosophy on magic. Richard, the chaplain, tells Julia that magic is left over from the Gods for humans to find. He thinks they should use it to remake the world into a better place.

— Quentin has no respect for Alice’s boundaries. She clearly said she needed time to figure out her feelings and he has no time for that. I guess it still worked out, but I thought it was pretty frustrating.

— Quentin has a whole collection of Leonard Nimoy spoken word albums on vinyl.

— Quentin was of above average size for a fox.

— Julia has a fun time levitating thanks to a shy harvest deity.

Alice: "I think we need to send some time apart so we know what's real and what's fox."

Quentin, on the stabbing: “Why us?”
Penny: “You I get. I think about stabbing you all the time.”

Richard: “There are good people out there, Julia. People trying to learn about the world and make it a better place. Now, you can be one of those people, you can be a dealer, you can stay here and be nothing. You get to choose.”

Julia, on the levitation prayer: “It's like touching a bare wire. More energy than I've felt.”
Richard: “It felt good.”
Julia: “It felt dangerous.”

Three out of four shy harvest deities.

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