“There was a witch, a man, and his daughter. The witch wanted the man’s undevoted attention, but as he couldn’t give it to him, she kidnapped his daughter and trapped her in a hovering castle, telling him that he had to find six golden keys to unlock the castle’s door, if he wanted to see his daughter again. The man spent years looking for them but could only find them by accident, and with each key he found, he opened another door, with each room being bigger than the last. When he found the sixth and final key, he went to the castle and unlocked the final door, only to find that his daughter was grown up. The girl didn’t recognize him but thanked him by giving him a seventh key, which he never used.”
While the show has derailed from the source material it has been impressive how they have still been inspired by and paid homage to the novels. In the show Elliot deceives the Fairy Queen by saying they need to go on a trip to the islands to collect taxes, which is actually what Quentin was doing out of boredom when he went to the Outer Islands and received the Fable of the Seven Keys from the young Eleanor that started him on his quest in the books. The major changes are obvious with the daughter becoming the hero, embodying the show’s themes of diversity/ inclusion/ circumvented expectations, and the story being unfinished which plays up mystery and allows fan theory (sure it fills in as The Magicians gather the keys, but could the daughter/Father represent Elliot and his fairy realm aged daughter and his journey of growth? A stark contrast between the shows tone and the book’s themes of heroism, realism, and anticlimactic-ism.
Back to the episode, Elliot rallies his council to journey to the kingdoms outer islands (and After Island, with book character, swordsman Bingle, queen Fen and their hyper-aged daughter, Fray) to collect taxes because the kingdom is out of money. He journeys out on the Muntjac [a sentient ship with an attitude — side note, I was hurt that it just has a heartwood and isn’t made of a clock-tree], leaving Margo to run the kingdom and deal with the Fairy Queen while he’s gone restoring magic which could correct both of the kingdom’s problems. Fans are split on Margo’s farewell speech, but the reference to baby to overnight teen trope talk and the line, “2 months without dick and I sound like Quentin” means we love it, and their unscripted, non-lust but loving kiss embodies their relationship and probably serves as a needed brace for the struggles to come for them while apart.
Margo is absent the rest of the episode but Elliot does make it to After Island and find the first key. A slightly more barbaric tribe is found, with their religious leader using the key’s illusion magics to deceive them that they are constantly threatened by a shadow bat creature that he uses the key to protect them from while they hide. Coincidentally, an attack starts after introductions and the “creature” claims a villager. Fray, however, knows the creatures attack marks from the fairy realm and reveals it as a hoax to Elliot, corroborated by Fen who guarantees they’re knife wounds (her father,
the inventor of Toaster Strudel blade maker, would be proud). Elliot reveals the truth, snatches the key, and the villagers do away with their former leader. It is unclear to what extent Elliot or the other Magicians will be able to channel magic from the key for purposes other than unlocking magic’s back door, but it opens up the next chapter of the book on Earth.
Speaking of Earth, while they wait for Elliot to get the first key, Quentin worms with Julia and Josh to hunt down Mayakovsky and his magic batteries, in hopes of using them to go through the Plover grandfather clock and reunite with Elliot and assist him on his quest.
A quick google search reveals a very rude and very Russian brown bear went on a rampage in a hedge witch bar. It isn’t long before we figure out the bear was indeed Mayakovsky, accompanied by his old flame and ex-student, Emily Greenstreet, and a third mystery woman, and they “somehow” cast magic that went amuck. Points to Julia for her hedge connections, taking the points from Quentin for not thinking to immediately go to Emily for information on the renegade Russian.
Magic sparks again with an R-rated public park orgy and a dinosaur on the loose. Joined loosely by an angry Kadie, who is in a rush to find the battery to save Penny, quest be damned (she isn’t a Julia fan, but there’s a time to put pettiness aside). Q and Julia go to the orgy while Josh and Kadie check the dinosaur at the children’s hospital, where the sickly children’s made-up dinosaur came to life. We never see the beast because the episode’s budget was spent on the Muntjac and opening information. Quentin finds Alice at the orgy, as she was also tracking the crazy magic to find the batteries to save herself from the Lamprey [note her baby kitten that will…alarm her if it’s near]. They learn the crazy woman asked where the tallest building nearby was, and a previously suicidal Quentin knows just the spot.
They find Professor Lipson ready to jump, but Quentin is able to coax out the story of her affair with Mayakovsky and her shipping him supplies for his experiments and how she was owed the battery and used it to do good magic he would hate and think a waste. Quentin catches her when she jumps, but she drops the battery and it shatters on impact losing its last bits of magic.
The whole Earth team regroup at the hospital, where Quentin points out Lipson said she didn’t turn Mayakovsky into a bear, and Emily must have another battery. Kadie gets called away to a dying Penny, and Alice’s kitten EXPLODES and she runs from impending death, leaving Quentin to explain the mess to security without actually knowing what is wrong.
However, Kadie beat them to Emily and beat the annoying liar and stole the battery, and then found Penny with battery in hand. The episode then ends with Quentin watching the book magically open and filling in Chapter 2, after Elliot completed Chapter 1, but is interrupted when he gets possessed by the Lamprey.