“The Flying Forest” begins with a centaur sewing up Quentin’s injured shoulder. “Five surgeries,” remarks Margo.
“He’ll recover,” assures Eliot.
After Margo jokes about the surgeon’s gigantic natural endowment, they depart the centaur’s retreat, first leaving a letter for Quentin.
In the throne room, Tick Pickwick briefs Margo and Eliot on the power vacuum in Fillory. While the court recognizes their authority, Fen reveals that the common people assume that they’ll “…be dead soon, or run away, or vanish, or go mad…”
Another councilor has heard “stirrings of rebellion” and “refusal to pay the crown’s taxes,” to which Margo suggests people with broken legs love to pay taxes.
Finally, Abigail, a talking sloth, reminds them money won’t fix the wellspring, and that without it, “Fillory withers.”
In response, Margo says “if a kid drops a log at a public pool, you just send another kid with a net to fish it out.”
Unfortunately, the divine “befouling is substantial,” and the wellspring isn’t recovering fast enough. Some want to appeal to Ember, which seems a slim hope as the god is unable to be found.
Eliot interjects that he wants to have a statue one hundred feet high built to honor their fallen Queen Alice. When Eliot doesn’t want to hear about the cost, Margo commands that the room be cleared, and proceeds to attack Eliot’s sentimentality.
Alice wasn’t their friend, she says: “Alice was a package deal. She came with Quentin.” She continues that Eliot, the High King, needs to pull himself together.
“Since when are you Fillory Clinton?” scoffs Eliot.
“Since I’m me! My crown is just as heavy as yours.”
“You can leave whenever you feel like it. You can go back to Brakebills…I don’t belong here. I’m not ready to be a king. I wasn’t done being me. It was so much easier when there was just one giant evil d*** trying to kill us.”
Margo heads to Brakebills in search of something to exploit a loophole in Eliot’s contract.
Julia locates Kady in a heroin den and helps her friend off the floor. “Come on,” she says. “I need your help.”
Dean Fogg, in his office, turns a magical globe, and it blows apart. When he inquires of Professor Lipson, she shares that she has had about five “brown-outs,” or magical mishaps, a day.
Penny teleports to Dean Fogg’s lab, where Margo is ransacking it to find Eliot’s loophole. Gasping for breath, Penny says he’s been trying to return, but his aim has been off, and the “last three worlds I’ve been in, I haven’t had any f***ing oxygen. My fingers–they keep shorting out.” When Margo tells him that though The Beast is dead, Quentin was badly hurt and Alice was killed, it seems to be too much for him to bear, and he walks out.
Just as Eliot is in bed, bemoaning that everybody in the kingdom wants something, Fen comes in, adding a request for sex to the High King’s already long list. Then Margo barges in, to reveal that she has the secret of “living clay,” and that they’re “going to make another you.”
Kady thanks Julia for the hot shower, the nap, and the “magic methadone.” When Julia reveals that she found Kady by trailing rumors of a girl that “traded miracles for a quick fix,” Kady tells her side of the story, which is fairly similar, though her word choices are “turning tricks,” running, and hiding. Kady is understandably shocked when Julia pulls the sheet off of Marina’s spell-frozen corpse, but when Kady sees the message on Marina’s arm, she says that it’s “a locator code, for a book in Brakebills.”
Quentin wakes on a rustic bed made from a board on two tall stones, and trees, cloth curtains, and birdsong surround him instead of walls. When he sits up, a nurse hurries to his side to warn him of the long drop “for human legs,” and to tell him that she wouldn’t want him to get hurt “so soon after being rebuilt.”
Already befuddled by his surroundings and situation, as well as the word “rebuilt,” Quentin then notices his new arm. “Strange, I know, but you’ll get used to it,” says the nurse, who elaborates that he is at a medical retreat a few hours’ north of Whitespire, where she serves as a nurse to repay the centaur doctors for saving her life. Quentin has been convalescing for three weeks because his injuries were severe. Before leaving him, she indicates the package that Margo and Eliot left him, and that he starts physical therapy in the morning.
On the package is a letter, which Quentin reads:
We buried Alice today in the gardens where she’ll always be close by. We left a box of her things if you ever wake up. Please wake up.
Your benevolent overlord,
High King Eliot.
Penny arrives at the centaurs’ retreat just in time to see Quentin sniffling. Penny tells Quentin that Margo sent him here to get his hands checked out, and then attempts to commiserate about Alice’s death.
When Penny says that he loved her too, Quentin scoffs “for what, like ten minutes, including foreplay?”
“Are you mad at me because I cared too much or too little?”, asks Penny.
“I’m mad at you because you f***ed up the one thing we were counting on you for.”
Penny uses one of his best moves–blame-shifting–by saying that it was Quentin’s cacodemon that killed her.
Quentin answers that by then Alice was already gone, then suggests that they do their best to recover separately, and Penny walks off.
Penny is equally frustrated by his centaur doctor, who has little bedside manner. Doctor Sawbones sniffs Penny’s hands, wrinkles his nose, and says “Those are the most accursed things I’ve ever smelled! They must be removed, post haste!” And after hearing that the River Watcher cast this curse, Sawbones refuses to help Penny, on the grounds that he’s “a surgeon, and can’t risk the curse spreading to his own hands. The River Watcher, he’s mercurial and dangerous. You erred greatly in offending him, Penny.” The centaur then defecates on the ground, and when Quentin’s nurse hastens over to sweep away the manure, Sawbones says “You’re welcome,” then turns back to Penny.
Margo and Eliot survey their handiwork, which stands naked before them.
“You’re thinking about banging yourself, aren’t you?”, asks Margo.
“No,” says Eliot. “Doing your clone is more like AP level masturbation.”
Margo says part two is mind control, which will allow Eliot to live his Earth life vicariously through the living clay.
“You sleep here, and your mind goes into the golem.”
“And the golem goes to Brakebills. Unless of course we’re wrong about the fine print in my contract, and he can’t leave Fillory either.”
Kady stares hatefully at Marina’s corpse, and when Julia is about to enter the room, Kady kicks the body, which is the viewer’s reminder that Marina was to blame for the death of Kady’s mother in “Impactical Applications” (S1E06).
Julia gives Kady Richard’s alumni key to get past Brakebills wards, but Kady says it’s useless to an expelled student like her, because “alarm bells will go off as soon as I pop in.”
Julia was never a Brakebills student–in this time loop–but doesn’t know where the book is. Kady’s solution is to enchant a best friend necklace so that she can communicate through it to Julia and guide her to the book. This works perfectly, except the book has a magical security device to prevent theft. When Julia laments that she will have to copy it by hand, and that there isn’t a secure enough place to do it, Kady says that she knows a hiding place.
On Margo and Eliot’s return to Brakebills, they find a party going on in the Physical Kids Cottage.
“Why does everything smell so great?”, asks Eliot.
Margot answers, “Because your doppel-banger hasn’t had cocaine yet.”
“Why is everyone cheering for Todd?”
Todd confesses that when he threw a party in their honor, he became the “new Eliot of the house,” and as he’s wearing not only one of Eliot’s vests, but a paper party crown, the irony here is that while Eliot has a real crown on Fillory, he’s been deposed on Earth, and Todd’s petty usurpation of Eliot’s Physical Kids Cottage privileges represents to Eliot a meaningful loss of Earthly power. Eliot confides in Margo that his new plan will be to give up on Fillory, and destroy Todd instead.
“He’s usurping me. My entire kingdom is at stake.”
“Your actual kingdom is at stake,” says Margo.
“There are things that are more important than saving a world,” rebuts Eliot.
When Margo tells Eliot that this isn’t about Todd, Eliot walks away, and a few moments after their spat, and unseen by either, Julia enters the Physical Kids Cottage.
Night falls, and Quentin, going through Alice’s things, sees a horned fairy with paper-white skin. When the nurse enters, he looks away, and the fairy creature disappears. The nurse tells him that he’s seen The White Lady, and then begins to paint his shoulder with a broad brush. It’s skin, she says, and “It won’t feel, but it might help you forget what’s underneath.”
Penny wakes when one of his rogue hands begins to choke the life out of him. Later that night, Quentin is reading, when Penny walks in with both arms hanging oddly at his sides. “My hands tried to kill me, so I broke my own arms…The bronies can’t fix me, and I need your help.”
After the commercial, they’re in the woods, where Penny’s hands are tied to a tree stump, and Quentin holds an axe. “Are you sure about this?” asks Quentin.
Penny, drunk on centaur alcohol, says, “Do you know how strong booze has to be be to get a horse drunk? I can’t feel my face, much less my face, I mean hands. Just do it.” And when Quentin still can’t go through with it, Penny strings together a half dozen insults that finally goad Quentin’s first, poorly-aimed, axe blow. It knocks off a few of Penny’s fingers and sets Penny screaming. Quentin says that he can fix it, and swings four more times in quick succession.
Eliot is chopping herbs with a mezzaluna when he meets Javier, a second year student from Spain that is in Brakebills for a tournament. When Eliot says that he would make a joke about ball-handling except that he is deadly serious about ball-handling, Javier says that he is too. Eliot tries to put a stop to their flirting, saying that he needs to make a perfect drink, and Javier says that he needs to relax. And when Eliot says that he’s married, Javier says that both his own boyfriend on another continent and Eliot’s wife, who is on another planet, don’t count.
The scene cuts to Eliot’s bed, where he’s happy that his clay clone is fully functional. While making out with Javier, Fen wakes Eliot up in Fillory, and he is started to find that he’s conscious in both worlds. This puts Eliot in the awkward position of having to choose words that fit both situations, and soon, he’s having sex with both Fen on Fillory and Javier on Earth in what can only be called a many worlds menage et trois.
After the nurse tells Quentin that Penny is fine, despite losing a lot of blood, she asks him to begin his physical therapy with calisthenics. He answers that he has something else in mind, and grabs a bow and arrows. His first time in front of the target, he fumbles the arrow, and also has a hard time picking it up.
The scene cuts from here to a brief interlude of Julia, on a couch in the Physical Kids Cottage, copying the spell.
When Penny arrives at the archery range, Quentin is still a lousy shot, but he can now draw the bow and fire the arrow in the right direction.
Penny berates Quentin, saying that with The Beast dead, Penny should be at peace because the whispering in his ears is finally gone after many years, but now he can hear Quentin thinking “low self-esteem s***.” Then, seeing that Quentin can’t hit anything, Penny teaches him a spell to make arrows fly straight. Using this method, Quentin is able to strike the bullseye.
Quentn tells Penny about The White Lady:
“I saw her yesterday. She’s one of the seven questing creatures of Fillory. If you can catch her, she has to give you whatever you ask. Plover wrote about her, she’s calling the Winter’s Doe, she lives in the Darkling Wood, it’s just past the Flying Forest, it’s not far from here. We could hunt her together.”
Penny says, “Let’s go hunt the white lady? People like me get shot for saying s*** like that!”
“She can give you your hands back,” says Quentin.
“What’s in it for you?”
“I’m going to ask her to bring Alice back to life.”
Fog rolls in as Penny and Quentin enter the Flying Forest. When Penny asks why the trees aren’t flying, Quentin remarks that most are active only at dawn and dusk. Within minutes, however, they learn that there might be another significance of the word “flying,” as a delightful arboreal scent makes them high as a kite.
“Oh my god!”, says Quentin. “The Chatwins were like ten when they came through here! They must have been blazed the entire time.”
Here the camera adopts a distorted wide-angle lens to simulate the euphoria of the hallucinogenic forest. Penny calls Quentin Quincy by mistake and Penny is surprised to hear that isn’t Quentin’s name. Quentin runs his hands over Penny’s mouth.
“Dude! Get away from my mouth, man.”
“It’s my mouth!”, argues Quentin.
Penny is suddenly shocked to see that he has no hands. “Where are my stuff-touchers? What’s going on? Who are you? Who am I?”
“I have no idea,” says Quentin.
In Dean Fogg’s office, Eliot tells the Dean that Ember defecated the wellspring.
“And now magic is failing on Earth, because of s***, proving once again that comedy and tragedy can coexist in the same godd***ed sentence,” laments Dean Foggs.
And when Eliot whines that he is in over his head in Fillory, not knowing which world he’s going to wake up in, and dealing with a sexually aggressive wife, Dean Fogg says that’s a student-teacher boundary that he prefers not to cross.
“What do I do, Henry?” asks Eliot.
“What did you think was going to happen when you dove headfirst into another world?”, says Dean Fogg.
“I thought I’d die!”
“But you didn’t. Now you have two lives. You’re trying to live both. But you can’t. That’s stupid. You can let it tear you in half, or, pick one.”
“I can never leave Fillory,” laments Eliot.
“The choice is easy.”
“I am ill equipped to be a king.”
Dean Fogg retorts, “I am no better equipped to teach one. Being an adult is recognizing your responsibilities. A bunch of my students went and conquered another world.”
“They more like gave it to us.”
“Either way, it doesn’t look great for me. It reeks of Earth privilege. The very least I can do is to help you rule it.”
“What do you have in mind?”, asks Eliot.
“Bring in the best minds we can. Historians, politicians, shamans, military leaders. Your thesis project is ‘How to Save an Entire Godd***ed World.'”
Due to drug-addled forgetfulness, Quentin and Penny are stuck wandering around the same circle in The Flying Forest. Every time they come to the fork in the road that perpetuates their circular motion, they choose the right side, because “right seems to be a popular direction.”
“I must be an adventurer,” says Quentin.
“No you’re not,” laughs Penny.
“What? I have a bow and arrow, and a cool questing outfit. And a manservant.”
“You did not just say that, white boy! Besides, what kind of servant has no f***ing hands?”
“Right or left?”
“Right seems to be the popular direction.”
Margo, happening on Julia’s study nook in the Physical Kids Cottage, confronts her, saying that Julia screwed everything up with Penny, Alice died fighting Martin, and Quentin was “almost ripped in half.” Julia counters that if they had trusted her, both Raynard and the Beast would be dead, but Margo retorts that Quentin should have left her as a hedge wizard, trading sexual favors for spells. They keep swapping insults. Julia says Margo isn’t better than her; Margo says she didn’t get her friends killed.
Julia’s answer to this is “You don’t have friends. You have people that are so afraid of you that they’d rather be on your side.”
“And you have no one. And you deserve no one”, says Margo.
Julia appeals to Margo, saying that since Raynard’s been free, he’s murdered women, and the book she’s copying may be her “last shot at killing him.” Margo offers Julia a magical box that will copy the original text.
Quentin finds Alice’s pocket watch in their latest circuit in The Flying Forest.
“This is a girl’s. What if I’m supposed to be rescuing her?”
“Or what if you’re a stalker,” says Penny.
But this time, instead of going right, Quentin says that “If I’m supposed to find her, I have to look where no one else is searching,” and chooses left. They arrive at a wide field, where their heads clear of the soporific effect.
“Oh my god! It’s Alice’s,” he says,looking at the pocket watch and realizing that he forgot her in the woods.
Penny says, “Before, when your wards were slipping, I know…you can’t puss out right now. Think about Alice. She needs you, man. I need you.”
Margo returns to Eliot, and says “I’ve been thinking. Is a hundred feet really tall enough for Alice’s memorial?”
“We weren’t her friends, remember?”
“We owe it to her because we weren’t her friends.”
“We don’t have the money.”
“We’re magicians. Let’s build it ourselves.”
Having returned with the book to her apartment, Julia tells Kady, who had been listening in to her argument with Margo through the locket, that what was said was true. Kady says that for better or for worse, they’re “best b*****s,” and that she’ll stand by Julia.
Julia finally understands why Marina wanted Julia to get the book–it contains a necromancy spell which can bring Marina back to life. Kady is against bringing her mother’s killer back to life, but Julia tells her that the effects are temporary.
“Fine. Let’s defrost the b****.”
A metal bowl is aflame between them, and Kady says the last ingredient is “the book itself.” When the book catches fire, Marina draws a breath, and flails around hysterically.
“You brought me back! I’m going to die,” wails Marina.
“We don’t have much time,” says Julia.
“No, you don’t understand! You don’t know where I was! I don’t want to go back there, I don’t want to go back!” she weeps.
Julia tells her to pull herself together. “You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met, and I need you to tell me…about the thing that killed you.”
Marina tells Julia that “forty years ago there was a girl that banished Raynard from Earth. That’s where he was until you summoned him. That’s where he was, until you brought him back.” Then she convulses and dies.
It is nightfall by the time that Quentin and Penny catch sight of The White Lady. Quentin nocks an arrow, fires, and there is a falling sound. After the commerical break, Quentin politely says hi to the fairy creature that he shot.
“Yo White Lady! We caught you,” adds Penny. Quentin tells him to show some respect.
“It hurts”, says The White Lady.
“I’m sorry…that’s my arrow,” says Quentin. “You have to do what I ask.”
“Obviously, you turd. Well look at you. Someone’s been rebuilt, and so cleverly. Feel that,” she says knocking at Quentin’s shoulder.
“Could you not?”
“Here’s a riddle? How much do you have to lose before you’re no longer yourself?”, says The White Lady, paraphrasing a famous speech of Major Motoko Kusangi’s from Ghost in the Shell, basically just because she’s The White Lady, her makeup looks like a Studio Ghibli design, and we expect her to know anime references. Also, the episode has been about loss, with Penny cutting off his own hands, Quentin waking up to a new arm, Eliot at risk of losing his life on Earth, and Marina losing her soul to whatever inky, Cthulhu-filled, realm she now inhabits. These losses bring existential doubts and fears of the abyss that are on the level of Kusangi’s concern of what happens “if all that’s left of the ‘real you’ is just a couple of lonely brain cells” (GitS, 1995).
“What is it Quentin Coldwater, that you ache for? You have the crown and the power to shape the very ether to your whim? What else could you possibly want?”
“Well, uh, technically speaking,” says Penny, “we both caught you, so…”
“Shut up!” says Quentin. “I’ll ask for your thing with my third wish.”
“No! We each get a wish, and then we have one mutually agreeable third wish.”
“You can each have one wish, or you can f*** off,” says The White Lady.
“Ok,” says Quentin, “Alice Quinn. Bring her back to life. Please.”
“What do you mean you can’t? You are not the only magical creature in this f***ing forest.”
“True. And we all have limits. We can give you anything, but we cannot pierce that veil. Alice is gone,” says The White Lady.
“My turn,” says Penny. “I want my hands back.”
“That I can do,” she says, and the spell works almost immediately. The regrowth is so painful that Penny falls to the ground and screams. She waves her hand and he passes out. “That screaming was irritating. He’ll wake when he’s healed…Now I can’t nap until I’ve granted you a wish.”
“I’d like to be happy,” says Quentin. “Can you do that?”
“I can do wonders. But you should know. There’s nothing that I can give you that can soothe your shade. There’s only what I can take away.”
“You’d take away my memories of Alice.”
“Yes. I would free you completely,” promises The White Lady.
“You are wiser than you appear. You would find your way back to sadness no matter how far you’d run from it.”
“Well, that’s comforting,” says Quentin.
“Is there nothing else you desire?”
“Everything else I’ve ever wanted I’ve got. Magic is real, and it can fix anything except what I need. I loved a girl. My entire life I’ve dreamed of Fillory, that I would be like Martin Chatwin. I’d find a way to stay her forever. Send me home.”
The White Lady closes her eyes and Quentin appears on city streets. He puts his bow and arrows in a trash can. Roll credits.
Here’s a special feature on The White Lady:
And here’s the promo for “The Flying Forest.”