As “Night of Crowns” begins, Quentin runs through the woods of Fillory. screaming mid-pant, “Help! Somebody!” He trips, falls, and exclaims, “there’s gotta be somebody in this f****** g******** magical forest!” When he finds a fairy tale cottage with a candy garden, a woman opens the door
“Hungry, I assume, after all that being chased?” she asks Quentin.
After assuaging Quentin’s fears that “…where I come from there’s a legend about a witch with a cottage made of candy…” the candy gardener tells him that she is a “healer and gardening enthusiast,” and agrees to help him for payment in gold. Quentin, who has no gold, says she would be helping Fillory’s next high king, and the candy gardener offers him her discount rate, one vial of Quentin’s blood.
Quentin leads her back through the woods to the scene of their battle with The Beast, where Alice steps out, surprising Quentin. Cut into this scene are flashback moments in which we see that after Alice was slain, her blood crept back into her body, her eyes lit up, and she came to life. “God powered,” Alice says, “so it’s a little hard to kill me at the moment.” The flashback continues, revealing that Alice used her divine spark to cauterize Penny’s hands and jump start Eliot and Margo’s hearts.
“Thank god,” says Quentin, “”I mean, you know, thank god-Alice.”
When Alice says that their dismal showing against The Beast was her fault, Quentin starts to tell her she is wrong when Margo cuts him off and says “…he’s right, it’s Julia’s fault.” Quentin excuses Julia’s actions as a lapse of sanity–which calls back to last year’s series opener, in which Quentin had just finished treatment for his own problems–to which Eliot snickers and Margo opines that at least Julia is with The Beast right now, a situation that isn’t likely to end well. Quentin is about to continue his defense of Julia, but first turns to the candy gardener and asks for his blood back, as her services were not required.
She laughs. “No. I took an hour out of my night. You’re in Fillory, magician; be careful with strangers. We only look whimsical.” Fans tallying the differences and similarities between Narnia and Fillory willl want to make a note here, as this sets a much different expectation than The Pevensies not having to miss a meal due to friendly beavers laying out a legendary breakfast spread.
When the candy gardener leaves, Margo says that since The Beast is likely to return any minute, and Julia stole the blade, they need a new strategy, “especially while Alice is all…”
“Juiced up?” Alice finishes for her.
“We should all juice up,” agrees Eliot, “like The Beast, wellspring smoothie style.”
However, they find the mandala-like seal of the wellspring too hot to touch, and with a piece removed. Quentin finds the piece, but when he burns his fingertips on it, Alice is able to pick it up. “Wow, swallowing has its privileges,” quips Margo.
While Quentin, Eliot, Alice, and Margo are fiddling with the wellspring, Penny stares at a box that presumably holds his hands.
Alice inserts the missing piece, and the mandala seal spins open, revealing that the wellspring water level seems very low. When they try to pull up the bucket to juice up from the wellspring, the house shakes, and it falls back into the water.
Alice doubts that The Beast was able to drain the wellspring this dry, even if he imbibed daily, to which Quentin replies that something else is out of kilter with it.
Eliot says, “I vote we don’t touch it, on the grounds that exploding Fillory wouldn’t help.”
“We need a new plan,” says Quentin.
“What plan? The beast is gone. Our squad is a joke,” retorts Margo. “What plan, exactly?”
“We’ll figure it out. We always do,” offers Eliot.
“When it’s a final to cheat on,” says Margo, “not when we’re stuck in some epic fantasy that likes to behead its heroes halfway through season one! If we even are heroes; we might be comic relief.”
Eliot hands Margo a flask, and when they pass the flask to Quentin and Alice, the camera shifts to Penny, staring in horror at the stumps of his arms. In this case, putting the spotlight on Penny’s trauma and shock also puts the spotlight on the narcissism and self-absorption of The Magicians‘ set of heroes, who have obviously forgotten about their friend, who in turn certainly can’t enjoy a ‘pass the flask’ moment. It’s a good early reminder in this season opener that these are not traditional fantasy heroes, and that The Magicians is anything but a formulaic fantasy.
Their comiseration turns into whining. “We are f***** without grease,” says Margo, to which Quentin says “sounds like us,” and Eliot adds “Must be a Monday. Onward to glory.” The title card plays, ending the first act of “Night of Crowns.”
Julia and The Beast pop up out of a ball pit at a Chuck E Cheese, or possibly a knock off of that gaming and pizza parlor chain as The Beast says “the food is tremendous.”
After their chain pizza and soda, Julia and The Beast hammer out a magical contract. “I assume the extra bits enchant the blade to kill me instantly in the event I break it,” says The Beast.
The tit for tat conversation that ensues sums up the terms of the contract, that The Beast will help Julia to kill Raynard the Fox, upon which the blade’s ownership will revert to The Beast. Julia agrees to this, adding that The Beast cannot act against her, Quentin, and “all of them,” or the contract will put the magical dagger in his skull.
Back in Fillory, Qunetin has finished explaining that Julia stole the knife to kill Raynard the Fox. He agrees that it was a stupid thing to do, but she wasn’t in her right mind.
Still holding his hands, Penny looks up and says “Kill The Beast!”
There is some disagreement about whether they should act against Julia, but Alice points out that until they have a plan for taking out The Beast, they don’t need to vote on it.
Upon arriving at Fen’s home, Fen embraces Eliot, who looks troubled to see his new wife (cf. S1E13 “Have You Brought Me Little Cakes”). However, when she says she will get everyone something to eat, he says “that would be amazing,” and when she exits the scene, Eliot continues “I think I like her…I hope I like her…
Quentin, having consulted his Fillory book, remarks “This might be something. There’s a place called the armory.” Not weapons, he tells Eliot, but books.
So Rupert Chatwin–he realizes back home WWII is still raging, and he tells Jane and Martin that he’s going to go fight. Before he does, he spends all night in the armory reading, and you know, whatever he finds it doesn’t say, but his next move is to petition Ember and Umber for strength. But what if he found something–a spell or a piece of Fillorian battle magic that was so strong he couldn’t do it without…”
“Not without juice,” finishes Eliot.
“Yeah, but the thing is, this is December 1944. I mean he shows up right in the middle of the…”
“Battle of the Bulge,” finishes Alice. “Wait, are you saying that Rupert secretly…”
“I’m saying maybe he found something powerful enough to help…” says Quentin.
“…and win WWII?” says Alice. “Well, then I need the armory. Where is it?”
Quentin informs them that the armory is in Castle Whitespire, along a carriage path that runs in a continuous circle, and that both are at the disposal of the King.
“Ok, Whitespire it is,” says Eliot. “Come on everybody, grab snacks!”
Penny yells, “yeah, about that! My hands are in a f****** box!” He then says, hopefully, “So, Chatwin’s Torrent?…can it reattach hands?”
Quentin isn’t sure, but Penny decides that he will try it, and meet them at the castle later. Margo goes with Penny, mainly because if there’s “healing water…we’re going to battle, I’ll grab like a gallon,” but she assures Penny that “you’re wiping your own ass, so figure that out.”
Alice keeps the fragment of the Wellspring, not as a souvenir, she tells Quentin, but as a “barometer…I thought I should pay attention to see if it gets warm,” because when that happens her borrowed divinity is fading.
The carriage not only leaves them in the dust, but even the horses were rude (your reminder that animals talk in Fillory), because they didn’t see a crown on Eliot’s head. Quentin says that they won’t be allowed into Whitespire, either, “so we need to get you crowned.” Upon again consulting his Fillory book, which seems nearly as wise as The Junior Woodchucks Guidebook, he tells them of a specific coronation spot in the forest.
Eliot interrupts Quentin to mention, absently, that there are four kings and queens. “Yeah, you get to pick the other three,” Quentin says, “…do I get to be a king?”
Eliot assures Quentin that he will also be a king, unless, he snickers, if Quentin wants Eliot to pick Penny.
Quentin continues that they must cross the rainbow bridge to reach the coronation place, and while there’s no map to the bridge, Martin found it with a spell.
Eliot happens to know a guide spell, and when he casts a spell, the follow the flowers that he enchanted to fly like butterflies. “He loves me, he loves me not,” Eliot chants as they follow the flowers.
At the Chuck E Cheese, Julia seals her deal with The Beast, who assures her that he heard every loophole, and that she doesn’t have a fighting chance.
After a commerical break, we see The Beast pacing in Julia’s apartment. He admires Raynard for pulling “…so many hearts out of chests, it’s distinctive”, and he admires Julia’s laptop, “the things they come up with when they don’t have magic.”
“Yeah, like accounts that tweet police scanner activity,” says Julia. The Beast, who is a child of a much earlier decade, only knows of birds that tweet, but she ignores him, and finds what she was looking for: “they found five bodies at a house in Florida missing a couple of hearts.”
Through the powers of magic and a scene change, The Beast and Julia approach the Florida crime scene, which has yellow police tape, a crowd of passersby, and EMTs taking bodies out on stretchers.
Julia gains access by magicking her ID, but The Beast simply freezes into place the officer that would bar his entry to the crime scene, where he removes a card that depicts what looks like a Virgin Mary from a tray with flowers, candles, and a severed hand.
Having questioned a grieving witness, Julia has learned that Raynard is still in Richard’s body, but otherwise she feels that their trip didn’t bear fruit. The Beast is more optimistic, saying that they have a method by which they can lay a trap–the very specific ritual that attracts Raynard’s interest, and he hands her the card.
Penny and Margo arrive at Chatwin’s Torrent, where a man who claims to be the river guardian tells them that she must help him sew his hands back on his wrists
“I watch the river and assist those who require its magic,” says the guardian, and then proceeds to hit on Margo: “You know, you’re very beautiful. Where you from, Earth? I love women from Earth.”
“is it supposed to take this long?” asks Margo.
“No,” says the lackadaisical guardian. “He may have drowned.”
Just as Margo is about to dive in after him, Penny surfaces, his hands reattached and a smile on his face. In no time at all, however, Penny loses his cool as the guardian tries to sell him first an elixir, then tooth powder, and then goes on to demand a twenty gold piece tip. Even Margo feels that this sounds like a lot, and Penny becomes outraged, saying the books mentioned nothing of a fee. When the guardian aloofly states that Penny could pay in three to five years of labor, Penny accuses him of being a “con man…I been ripped off plenty of times by smiling little snake oil pricks like this dude…same in Detroit, same in Mumbai, same in Fillory. Sorry, try it on the next sap who wants to use this natural resource on public property. Good luck.”
Margo tries to smooth things over, even offering her diamond earrings, but the guardian scorns her, saying “what the hell is diamond?” And when they leave the river, the guardian works a spell on Penny’s hands. Unfortunately, Penny didn’t learn the lesson that Quentin did from the candy gardener: “we only look whimsical.”
Julia asks The Beast “what kind of net catches a god?”, to which The Beast responds that it will certainly work but only hold for a few seconds, then hands her his shopping list of spell ingredients. Julia tells him it would be better for her to go alone, and The Beast, as if he’s Sheldon Cooper asking to go to the train store, asks Julia to drop him off at the playground, because he likes “to watch the little children play.” Julia stares at him, then her stare seems to go inward, as she realizes there could be consequences to others from her devil’s bargain.
Back in Fillory, Penny and Margo have caught up to Quentin, Alice, and Eliot. Penny tells them that the river worked perfectly, but we see the first signs that his hands may go haywire when an unintended gesture snips a branch off of a tree. “It’s fine,” he says, “they’re just healing.”
A minute of Broken Bells’ “October” plays as they cross the Rainbow Bridge:
So you showed me around your town
To hell again and back
Our love has served to alienate
All the friends you depend on
I know it might seem odd
I know it might seem odd
Cause your not the only one
I remember my self as a lonely child
So I was
And you’ve got me wrong
You’ve got me wrong
Ground your sense of worth
Til the spark of morning burns
And all those searching eyes
They step off the bridge through two giant stone ram’s heads that flank the entrance to a beach, where they see an armored, grizzled, warrior, propped up against a stone, and a large chest beside him.
The warrior coughs, sits up, and says “Oh dear…oh dear…I am the Knight of Crowns. My apologies; I seem to have died waiting for you aspirants to come. You are aspirants?”
Eliot introduces himself as the High King of Fillory, and the Knight of Crowns is only too willing to give them the crowns, but the High King must pass a test. And, since only a child of Earth can wear the crown, the Knight of Crowns will ask Eliot “a series of questions designed to root out all pretenders to the throne; only a true high king will know the answers in his heart.” Just for fun, I’m going to post only the questions, and not the answers, to the following questions.
“What popular American television program stars actor Tim Daly?…there is only one correct answer,” he emends when he is told that Daly was in a number of shows.
“This hit single is performed by offspring of famous entertainers…you will receive a single hint. Your hint is Beach Boys.” Both Alice and Margo know the answer to this one, as “that song was their jam” in the 90s.
“Wait,” says Eliot, “all these questions are from the 90s.”
“It’s not the 1990s on earth right now?” asks the dumbstruck Knight of Crowns.
“No, it’s 2017,” says Quentin, and answers the Tim Daly question.
“Of course you know that,” scoffs Penny.
“Ok, 90s,” says Eliot, “ask me something about Patrick Swayze.”
“You know of Swayze?” asks The Knight of Crowns with a tone of adoration.
At this, Eliot removes his jacket, grabs Alice’s hand, and delivers a famous Patrick Swayze quote from a movie that you may know:
Sorry about the disruption, folks, but I always do the last dance of the season. This year somebody told me not to. So I’m gonna do my kind of dancin’ with a great partner, who’s not only a terrific dancer. Somebody who’s taught me that there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them. Somebody who’s taught me about the kind of person I wanna be. Miss Frances Houseman.
“Your majesty,” says The Knight of Crowns, bowing. “The crowns of Fillory are yours.”
Eliot is about to put his on right there and then, when Quentin stops him. “…we should do a cermony…this is only going to happen once. We are becoming kings and queens, so it’s important, and we should honor it. So give me that. Kneel, Eliot Waugh,” he commands his friend, who is about to laugh, but does as requested. Quentin dubs Eliot “High King Eliot the Spectacular,” and Eliot notes that his crown feels as “natural as underwear.”
Eliot dubs Margo “High Queen Margo the Destroyer,” adding the possibly foreshadowing sentiment, “long may you reign.” Eliot then dubs Alice “Queen Alice the Wise,” adding a promise to never betray her again.
“Since we’re cleaning slates and s***,” says Margo, then apologizes to Quentin for her part in messing up his releationship with Alice, saying “now that we’re ruling a kingdom together, I hope we can be whatever we were again.”
“I guess you could call that friends,” says Quentin, to which Margo says “let’s go with that. I hereby crown you King Quentin the Moderately Socially Maladjusted.”
After their coronation party, Penny, having started a fire unintentionally with his reattached but misaligned hands, heads back to Chatwin’s Torrent.
Sitting by a campfire, Quentin hands Alice a mug, which Alice also takes as an apology for what he did. Quentin nods at this, and Alice tells him that assuming they survive, she hopes that they can be friends. “I know it might sound stupid, but that’s what I’m mad at you for–not the cheating part, but the part where what you did made me lose you.
When Quentin shakes his head, and reassures her that she will never lose him, Alice isn’t yet ready to give up her worrying mood, and frets about freezing again the next time they meet The Beast in battle. Quentin tells her that grace under fire isn’t a talent, but something you practice. He reminds her that she once said she was “afraid to see what you’re really capable of…that was then so let’s see what you can do now.”
He hands her a seed, to which Alice says “I’m not a naturalist.”
“We all know the spell,” Quentin counters. “We just sucked at it.”
Alice casts her spell, and the seed not only sprouts, the seedling becomes a sapling, then a tree, which drops an apple into her hand. Alice, drunk with her power and perhaps grateful to Quentin for his belief in her, kisses him. “We’re not getting back together,” she says, but keeps kissing him.
Back in Julia’s apartment, The Beast asks Julia why Raynard spared her life, and when she doesn’t answer, he says,
you weren’t spared, were you…you know when I was a boy, a man who was meant to care for me bent me over his desk and had me over and over every time I was alone with him. It helped me to understand a truth: you’re powerful or you’re weak. If you’re powerful, you will survive…what you feel–the haunted look in your eyes–doesn’t come from nowhere…in the center of your being there’s a tiny beating heart.
“What you mean like my soul,” asks Julia.
Part of it, yes, the slimmest part, but it holds specific power. It’s called a shade…that’s what makes you feel the pain will burn you until there’s nothing. And yes, it’s also there for love. but let’s be frank, darling. You’re more likely to throw yourself off a bridge than over love again. I felt that way, and I knew it crippled me when I needed to be strong as you do now. You know I don’t care for people as a rule. I like you.
When Julia allows The Beast to touch her face, we realize that his attempted seduction of her, enticing her down the dark path that he took, was almost successful.
You have promise; with the right control you would be formidable, even a worthy collaborator. I have plans. You could be part of them…if you do what I did, sever your shade…It’s not hard. You’ll feel better. You’ll feel happy. I can show you how
Julia tells him no, but we can see that she struggles with the decision.
Quentin, Eliot, Alice, and Margo approach Castle Whitespire, where Fen has arrived as well, and Eliot meets Tip Pickwick, a member of the family that were the stewards of Fillory until the arrival of the children of Earth.
Tip tells Eliot that there are a few immediate concerns that the High King must address, but Eliot wants to be taken straight to the armory.
The next scene is an interesting one, as there is no dialogue, and it instead seems to be a slice of life segment in which we look in on The Beast and Julia in a quiet moment. The Beast is watching and loving Rick and Morty, specifically the Operation Phoenix scene from “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez,” in which Rick Sanchez murders all the clone Ricks under his garage laboratory. Is this a thematic reference, a bit of adumbration? Is the Beast laughing because he’s also a doppelganger, a copy acting as an agent of the real Beast?
Oh, you want to laugh along with The Beast? Here you go:
The nightmarish scene conflates Rick’s mad scientist laugh, The Beast’s cackle, in Julia’s dream, Raynard’s insidious chortle. At this point, Julia wakes up and looks in the mirror.
The armory is a disappointment, as there are rows of empty shelves except for a few irrelevant texts such as Strategies for Trapping a Tomato Eating Garden Fairy. While the battle magic is gone, Alice finds a workbook for battle magic spells, and while the actual spells are not copied into the workbook, it has a Brakebills seal and indicates their next destination.
Penny’s negotiation with the river guardian goes nowhere. “By all means, request a refund,” says the saucy guardian. Penny attempts to bribe him, saying his King and Queen friends can make the guardian a Duke, but the guardian takes the moral high ground: “actions have consequences, Penny, even glib words spoken in casual arrogance. It’s past time you learned, especially given the position that you’ll occupy soon.”
“What position?” asks Penny, but the guardian
“You know what, I’ve done you a service,” says the guardian, and when Penny persists, he says, “ok, how can I put this in a way you will understand…go f*** yourself?”
Quentin says goodbye to Eliot, who must remain on Fillory as High King, and take
one for the team to the tune of for the rest of my life. I am trying to see this ruling thing as an adventure. Apparently we have enemies to the north and south, plus a broken infrastructure and huge magic issues thanks to The Beast and his wellspring addiction. And do you know, they don’t know what champagne is here. I plan on inventing it. I’d like to be known as champagne king.
Eliot is concerned, however, that since time doesn’t run at the same speed on Earth as it does in Fillory that he might live out his days waiting for his friends and die alone. Quentin hugs Eliot.
The Beast invites Julia to check his spell preparations before they get started. He reiterates that without her shade, Julia would see things differently, and this time, when he says “come here, let me show you,” she allows him to magically pass his hand into her chest. Julia’s heart glows, and her face is transfixed with either bliss or pain or both, but she says “put it back…I need it. Put it back now, Martin.”
The Beast removes his sticky hand from her chest, and says
I understand you’re afraid. You don’t want to lose yourself, but hear me on this: martyring yourself to your pain isn’t all it’s advertised to be. It will destroy you. There’s no glory in that. You might get Raynard, yes, but he’ll still win anyways.
Julia shivers. The credits roll.