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The Magicians: The Mountain of Ghosts

“Death is so simple, and life is so complicated.”

The Magicians took things a bit slower this week with just three storylines. Eliot and Alice hike up The Mountain of Ghosts to drop Quentin’s essence down a hole to the underworld. Over in Castle Whitespire, Margo, Josh, and Fen fight in a tournament so Margo can get de-banished. And Julia and Josh track down someone who might be able to help them figure out the magic surges.

Alice and Eliot

So Alice and Eliot go on a tension-filled “pilgrimage.” Both are racked with grief and guilt and anger. So naturally, after being essentially alone on a dangerous mountain for a long, undisclosed amount of time, they lash out. Then, a Taker steals Quentin’s essence and Eliot’s almost killed trying to get it back until the Dark King comes to his rescue. (We meet the Dark King, who’s actually kinda an okay guy?) The three have a nice-ish time together, Alice goes to bed super drunk, and Eliot confides to the Dark King (who at this point was thought to be a kind, non-dictator) that he had a relationship with Alice’s lost on-again, off-again boyfriend and he thinks Alice doesn’t know this. The wise Dark King tells Eliot to share this with Alice. The next day, Eliot does. Turns out Alice already knew and was pretty understanding. They grieve together.

Here the show wonders, is honesty really the best policy? Eliot doesn’t think so. At the beginning of the episode he tells Margo not to admit to Fen and Josh it was really Eliot that saved them, that it’s better to let them “be inspired by a simple, uncomplicated story” because no one wants the truth. This leads him to also believe it would be cruel and selfish to tell Alice he and Quentin had a thing. But the Dark King tells him otherwise, that Alice deserves to know the real Quentin. Here, when Eliot finally shares that truth with her, it allows them to finally be real with each other and to support each other. Throughout the episode there has been this strain between them; when Eliot finally opens up to Alice and Alice to him, the strain lessens. They’re finally vulnerable with each other and that allows for catharsis. Now Alice is able to help Eliot to forgive himself by showing him how she managed to do the same. The scene is steeped with pathos and is really just beautiful.

Margo, Josh, and Fen

These three are also struggling with secrets. Josh and Fen slept together, a lot, after they gave up on Margo or anyone else returning to save them. Margo let them think she wrote the letter that saved them and brought them to Fillory 300. And, during Fen and Margo’s battle at the tournament, Margo secretly actually tried to kill Fen. When these secrets come out, they don’t get the same catharsis as Alice and Eliot. Instead, they end up angry and hurt.

The tournament was a lot of fun (especially watching the magicians watching their friends fight from the side-lines). I appreciated Margo and especially Fen standing up for themselves, and the emotional fight scene was very well acted. But it didn’t land as well for me as Alice and Eliot’s final scenes did. Because even though they revealed their secrets, they didn’t share the whole truth (or at least Margo didn’t). Margo didn’t just give up on Fen and Josh right away, she tried saving them multiple times but kept inadvertently getting them killed. And even though she didn’t write the letter that ultimately did save them, she came up with the idea to use the enchanted stamps. Also, I feel like they should cut her some slack with the whole almost killing Fen thing. She’d just heard Fen and Josh slept together lots of times and was pre-wolfing out while battling Fen. I’m not saying it wasn’t bad, but still.

Julia and Penny 23

These guys have a shorter story where they track down the author of Alice’s book, Daniella, and eventually get her to help them figure out the magical surges so they can work on averting the apocalypse. During this time an interesting question is raised: when do they get to stop saving the world? Do they get to stop saving the world? Daniella’s sister Zoe clearly falls under the category of yes. It appears Penny 23 is leaning the same way. But Daniella is still up for the fight and, while Julia says she’ll be ready to focus on her relationship with Penny 23 after they save the world this time, Penny’s not convinced.

The show’s considered this before. Kady once asked the same question not long before Penny 40 died. And, just last season, Hymen was trying to force Penny 23 and Julia to take some time for themselves because he didn’t think they’d ever stop sacrificing for the cause. In a world that’s actually a fantasy TV show, do you ever get to stop? Are the magicians fated to keep fighting apocalypse after apocalypse until they die like Quentin? As a wise horse in an alternate universe called Hollywoo once said, “You never get a happy ending, 'cause there's always more show. I guess until there isn't.” … That really doesn’t bode well for our magicians.

Bits and Pieces

-- This week’s episode description: “Eliot and Alice go for a hike. Fen gets a haircut.”

-- No Kady this week. Penny 23 is still working on his traveler issues.

-- I’ve gotta say, Fen and Josh seem like terrible rulers. It sounds like they spent their entire reign waiting around for the other magicians, forking, and losing the kingdom to the Takers. Maybe the Dark King isn’t such a bad guy. But also I still think he might have summoned the Takers himself.

-- During my first watch-through I was kinda annoyed at Alice up until that last scene. I found her harsh and cruel and tactless. During my second I was much more sympathetic and felt like she pretty much acted like most in her position would.

-- It’s a nice touch that both Alice and Eliot were having bad dreams about Quentin. I appreciated that this episode gave Eliot’s grief and his relationship with Quentin the same credibility it gave Alice.

-- The tournament referee was a Pickwick. Our Pickwick likely continued his streak of betrayal and turned on Fen and Josh in favor of the Dark King.

-- Eliot’s finally reading the books.

-- Fen mostly dates humans.

Eliot, to Alice: “Where are you going, and why are you dressed like a goth survivalist?”

Josh, while watching Fen in battle: “God damn.”
Margo: “We’ve been wasting her, right?”

Eliot: “I can’t send it, but I can’t just let it go.”
Alice: “It’s OK. He was your friend.”
Eliot: “He wasn’t just my friend. I’m sorry. He loved you. Why would I want to take that away from you now? That would be so cruel.”
Alice: “Do you really think I didn’t know there was more? I knew Q really well, and if anyone was messy, it was him.”
Eliot: “Yeah.”
Alice: “He was pretty in love with you.”
Eliot: “I’m not sure that I’d say that.”
Alice: “I would. What was I supposed to do, huh? Demand that he only love me. Scream at him to be a less complicated person. I mean, it’s Quentin we’re talking about, and I loved him – the real him, all of him.”

Three and a half out of four child’s play knives.


  1. The tournament referee was a Pickwick. Our Pickwick likely continued his streak of betrayal and turned on Fen and Josh in favor of the Dark King.

    I thought he came through as part of the court that went forward 300 years. He could have left a son or a brother who joined the Dark King.

    Margo's tragedy is that she doesn't want people to think she's good. She would rather be reviled than portray a lie and she'll slant the truth so that she looks worse. It's probably how she sees herself. She also was making sure Josh and Fen felt less guilty, which is a good thing to do for them. Margo is such a complicated person and she is a King, who owes her country her protection and loyalty first and foremost.

  2. Thanks for helping me sort this out. I heard q call El to tell him the taker was coming. Was Q's spirit looking out for El?

    1. Alice just before that said she thought she was hallucinating. I'm thinking the Takers have some sort of power where they can use your thoughts against you and conjure up voices of loved ones.

  3. I found myself proud of Alice for knowing the truth about Quentin and Eliot, and being okay with it. Although maybe she should have told Eliot at the beginning of the trip, not the end. Except that would have lessened the dramatic tension.

    The Takers looked like the wendigos on Supernatural. Bleah.

    The Dark King reveal actually surprised me. Maybe because I thought he would be physically dark. Maybe I'm too literal. He didn't seem evil, but I'm sure they don't call him the Dark King for nothing.

  4. Thanks percysowner! Your interpretation/analysis of the Margo/Josh/Fen plot makes a lot of sense and made me appreciate that plotline a lot more. Turns out you're also right about Pickwick; I guess I underestimated him.

    Billie, I was proud of Alice for that as well, and for going a step beyond and being supportive to Eliot and helping him see that his grief was legitimate.


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