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The Magicians: Word as Bond

Quentin: “I can't help Fillory. And I can't help Eliot. And I can't help Julia. And I just want to do—God, one thing for the person that deserves it the most. That's what I want.”

Our magicians struggle as they continuously hit brick walls in their attempt to help those they love, who (for the most part) don’t even want their help.

Right away we meet Shadeless Julia, who’s totally different. She’s upbeat, jovial, lively, but still super determined to take down Reynard. All of this might be good (if slightly creepy), if she were not also extra fearless and ruthless. She leaves the safety of Brakebills on her own, only to be saved from Reynard by Quentin, who was secretly following and protecting her. And she no longer cares about anyone but herself. Quentin and Kady want to help the Julia they know, but she’s no longer there.

Shadeless Julia is heartbreaking for a couple of reasons. First, we know Julia refused to remove her shade before, so this is yet another thing taken from her against her will. Shadeless Julia also makes Julia’s distress so much more pronounced. Shadeless Julia is better-kept: nicer hair, eye-catching clothes. It’s like before she didn’t have the care or energy to really take care of herself and was just trying to blend into the background. And it’s strange seeing her act happy and hopeful. Shadeless Julia highlights how far our Julia had fallen.

Quentin also spends this episode trying to help Alice, his other friend who’s lost her humanity without her consent. Just like Julia, Niffin Alice refuses Quentin’s help at every turn. Both Niffin Alice and Shadeless Julia like their current states, even if it worries their friends. So Quentin’s in the position of trying to help two people who no longer exist. It turns out Niffin Alice was playing Quentin the whole time, using his desperate need to save his friend to assist her in meeting Friar Joseph, who she hopes will show her how to release herself from Quentin. She fails in obtaining Friar Joseph’s help, but it still must be a low blow for Quentin.

For the past couple episodes I’ve been wondering why Quentin’s hiding his current Alice situation from his friends and I’ve written it off as a stupid plot devise. But here, finally, Quentin answers my question. He’s trying to buy himself time to fix Alice, because he feels incapable of helping any of his other imperiled friends. He’s worried that if he tells someone they’ll box her, and Alice is playing up that fear, manipulating him into keeping this secret. This actually makes sense and fits his character. His fear may likely be unfounded (his friends may be willing to help with Alice if he’s tell them), but Quentin’s always been an easy prey to manipulation and delusion. I just wish the show had given us this explanation sooner.

Margo struggles as she fights for a world that doesn’t want her and a friend who’s always had a death wish. Eliot’s stuck in a magical coma that only he can get himself out. Margo begs Eliot to find the strength and desire to come back to her and Fillory, but he sure takes his time. Margo, still afraid that her friend may never wake up, does her best to rule Fillory. But Fillory is still super misogynistic and, when she tries to deal with a pesky sentient tree problem, she learns that Fillory may never accept her—a woman—as their leader. She puts on a brave face for Fen, promising she’ll figure it out and take care of Fillory even without Eliot, but then Eliot wakes up. So she doesn’t have to find a way around Fillory’s misogynistic principles, at least not right now. It would’ve been interesting to watch Margo find a way to rule reluctant Fillory alone and—even though I’m glad Eliot woke up—I do wish we could’ve seen her try.

Finally, Penny tries to help a very abrasive Kady. Kady spends this episode growing increasingly frustrated as she tries to locate the demi-god baby and keeps hitting dead ends. In her drunken desperation she reveals to Penny that she’s “a junkie”, she’s not his problem to solve, and she’d like it if he’d stop trying to be her hero. But Penny refuses to stop. He explains why everyone (Quentin, Margo, Kady, and Penny) keeps trying to help their friends despite their protest: it’s up to them to decide who’s worth their time, and after watching their friends die, get fatally injured, or lose their humanity, they’ve realized they need to be there for their friends when they still can. So they’ll risk hitting wall after wall, putting themselves or their soul in danger, and taking blows from their friends’ hostile behavior. Because they’ll do anything they can to help their friends, because they think they’re worth it.

Bits and Pieces

-- Margo and Shadeless Julia should really have listened to Tick’s information on Fillorian history and customs before trying to negotiate with the dryad. At least Julia has her shade amputation as an excuse; Margo just made another stupid, hasty decision.

-- Shadeless Julia killed a whole forest full of sentient trees. But it’s okay, because now Margo can lead her army to Loria and Fillory will blame crazy Julia—not Brakebills royalty—for the lost trees. It’s sound logic, but also pretty heartless. Shadeless Julia is really off her rocker.

-- Penny signs a ridiculous deal with the library to help Kady and get help with his hands. Another stupid decision.

-- Penny’s onto Quentin’s Alice situation. Kady knocks Quentin out so Penny can incept him and figure out what’s happening. I will never not enjoy watching Kady knock people out.

-- I thought the time-sight object was really cool. It’s like one of those spy prizes you’d find at the bottom of a cereal box.

-- Quentin tried singing Imagine Dragons in his head to keep Penny off Alice’s scent. I’m surprised he didn’t go with Taylor Swift.

Niffin Alice: “I checked your work, it’s fine. Nothing can break a Word As Bond.”
Quentin: “I must've overlooked something.”
Niffin Alice: “No hurting anyone. No casting magic. No sex. Trust me. You locked down any possible fun.”

Margo: “I'm just glad we managed to sneak the gollum out. Is it me or is morgue security ridiculously lax?”
Quentin: “Well I don't think stealing corpses is generally a thing.”
Margo: “Should be. Kinda fun.”

Three out of Four murdered sentient trees.


  1. I just keep hating seeing Alice like this. And now I have to deal with seeing Julia like this, too. I wonder why "shade"? Why not use the word "soul"?

  2. I think The Beast previously explained that the shade is just a part of a soul, not all of it. It's supposed to be the part that allows you to feel pain, and also love.


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