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The Magicians: Be the Penny

Penny: “You will say my name. You say my name, you ghost dick!”
Ghost Emmett Morrison: “What is your name? That's not a name! No, it isn't! No, it isn't!”
Julia: “Uh, Q? I think we might have broken this ride.”

“Be the Penny” may be my favorite episode in the whole series. Its gimmick helps the episode in so many ways. One being that it brings so many amazing, hilarious lines that I had to seriously restrain myself in the quote section.

So we start where the last episode left off. Penny’s body dies but his soul (I guess?) is still on the astral plane. So Penny spends this episode helplessly watching his friends struggle and trying to get them to notice him. Astral projection is a common gimmick. It happens to Cordelia in Angel, Patrick Swayze in Ghost. But that’s okay because it works so well in this episode.

First of all, Astral Penny enables us to see things we wouldn’t have otherwise. We see how Julia’s powers manifest. A glowy thing coming from her hands as she revives OD-ing Kady. A spark shining in her heart while she performs a locater spell. We see the flashes of magic performing McAllistair’s chores (who we later see as fairies when Julia holds the truth key). Little bits of clues and information conveniently shown through Astral Penny’s perspective.

He also works well as a narrative devise, only showing us the bits of plot that are interesting or important and giving us fun Penny commentary while we watch. We get to see the lead-in of Eliot vs. Fear-Projected Eliot’s Father, but then we’re left in a state of tension until we see Eliot at the end, telling it like a fun adventure story. We see Kady turn to heroin, but don’t have to watch her use it. It all works well. And it gets even better when we meet Hyman Cooper, our racist, homophobic, perverted, early 1900s audience insert.

He allows the show to poke fun at common TV tropes. There’s fun small stuff, like his shipping of some of the characters and his trouble following the plot due to missing some things. And then there’s his fondness of Quentin, who he sees as a relatable white, heterosexual man; the outsider let into this world of fantasy. If Quentin was created to be a deconstruction of the Harry Potter character, that would be an apt description. Plus, it may have also been a way to comment on the writers having to use Quentin as a way to lure in an audience; a more typical character to latch people in before we’re introduced to the more diverse cast. Hyman’s also just one funny pervert.

Through Astral Penny we also get to see Penny realize everyone’s dream (or nightmare). He gets to essentially watch his own funeral. Unfortunately for Penny, people aren’t nearly as broken up about his death as he’d hoped. They pretty much react the way you’d think. Quentin unintentionally and inappropriately laughs, and then awkwardly explains that he’s inappropriately laughing. Margo bemoans that she always thought they’d fuck, and now they can’t. And Kady breaks down, turns to drinking and drugs, and admits that they never really knew him.

And that’s the last thing the gimmick allows the show to do, reflect on Penny as a character. Because Kady’s right, Penny is so guarded that no one really got to know him. Even Kady herself. And it can be easy to forget that, as a viewer who gets a deep look into Penny through all his interactions with every character. Kady spends much of the episode struggling with what to do with his body: burn it so his soul is lost forever or send it to the library for his billion year contract. And she has no idea what Penny would want. No one’s mourning Penny the way he wants them to because no one really knew him. And at the last moment before his soul’s going to be given to the library, he makes himself known, his choice known, by turning into a candle and burning his body.

That seems to be the last of him until, in a hilarious moment, Eliot sees Penny through the truth key and nonchalantly says hello. So Penny might have another chance to allow his friends to know him. And hopefully he’ll take it.

Bits and Pieces

-- The Neitherlands residents have become cannibals since magic died. Then Eliot unknowingly eats their food. It is disgusting.

-- The fake-out of Alice mourning for her father instead of Penny was super effective.

-- Alice seems to be the only one who doesn’t necessarily want to bring magic back. And she has some good points. They did make a huge mess with it and it made a huge mess of them. But there are some reasons that don’t entirely work. She says she wants to be just wants to be twenty-three and not know what she wants or what she’s doing. And that’s basically who she is now and who she was pre-destruction-of-magic. But it’s still an interesting stance and discussion to look out for.

-- Code seven signifies a student suicide or a student explosion. Dean Fogg isn’t sure why the same code is used for both.

Margo: “Penny's dead?”
Tick: “Was he not already?”

Hyman, discussing how astral projection works: “Okay, Professor, then how come I can sit in a chair? Why, why am I not just falling forever?”
Penny: “I don't know. I don't make the rules. Your ass just knows.”

Hyman, on his ships: “You and Kady are great. I totally ship that. Alice is okay. She's a bit of a Mrs. Grundy, you know?”
Penny: “I don't get that reference.”
Hyman: “Oh, Josh is my idol. That man is a Vagician. But Quentin, I mean, the outsider let into the inner sanctum of secret knowledge. As someone born in 1902, I find a heterosexual white male hero very relatable.”

Penny: “Hyman, where have you been?”
Hyman: “I went with them to solve the mystery of Rupert's golden key.”
Penny: “Who cares?”
Hyman: “If they find all seven keys, Penny, then... something good happens? I missed a bit.”

Eliot: “Gather 'round. Story time with Uncle Eliot. This story is called ‘Eliot did nothing wrong but was chased by cannibals through the fucking Neitherlands anyway’ … So, the cannibals blocked our only point of egress … Turns out, the key creates illusions of what you most fear. Hence, my dad. I told my father that the guys in the tent didn't know the difference between a tractor and a backhoe. And so he went to set them straight.”
Quentin: “You're saying, you fed your dad to cannibals?”
Eliot: “An illusion of him. But yes. It was very cathartic.”

Four out of four astral projected perverts.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely my favorite episode so far. I laughed and laughed, and yet there was so much seriously good content that it wasn't just funny. Penny is my favorite character and I so don't want him to be dead, but he reacted to being stuck as an astral projection exactly how we'd think he would. I loved what they did with Hyman. The scene with the Margolem had me rotf.


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