Last week we began our look at the eighth episode of The Magicians by asking, what’s the deal with Fillory? One episode later and how does that old saying go? Ask and ye shall receive. This week’s episode, “The Writing Room” may not have given us a complete answer to our questions about Quentin’s favorite not-so magical realm, but it sure as hell did satisfy them for now. We just want more. Not only did Quentin (Jason Ralph) and a handful of Brakebills students (sans Summer Bishil’s Margo) finally get to experience the truly evil power behind Fillory, they got to do it in a straight-up haunted house.
This isn’t the first time The Magicians gave us some creepy flourishes of the horror genre (Dean Fogg and Kady’s mom can attest to that) but it was the most complete and fun example of the show’s rapid changes in tone. This time it did so with some savvy genre confidence to boot. How haunted is this haunted house? Per Quentin, it’s “Haunted as balls.”
The episode also developed the push and pull of Quentin and Penny’s (Arjun Gupta) friendship a bit more. These dudes have been at odds so far, and even if Penny remains a disinterested jerk, he still has a conscience in that traveler head of his. It only adds to the discord between the two when he reluctantly has to tag along with ultimate fanboy Quentin — and Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) — to visit England for a tour of the house of Fillory and Further author Christopher Plover (Charles Shaughnessy) for a few reasons.
Reason one: To continue the series’ habit of sending the students to far-flung locales without the hassle of schoolwork (seriously, do these kids expect to get good grades?). And two: To advance the plot by having the group try to uncover the key to travelling to Fillory. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a MacGuffin.
But as soon as you can say abracadabra, things take a turn for the macabre. The tour guide ends up dead when he finds them snooping through the giant Victorian house at night, and ghosts of children start showing them clues about Plover’s potentially evil treatment of the Chatwin kids. Besides adding some serious weight to the show’s sometimes overly flippant humor, it’s a nice aside — that someone whose work we admire was a pretty terrible person.
Poor Quentin. He should start to realize that everything he’s learned about Fillory outside of the nostalgic books has been bloody, violent, and downright grotesque. Things will likely be bleak from now on, and it’s great.
It’s going to be bleak because we probably know who the Beast is at long last. While we haven’t had a moustache-twirling moment to reveal that Plover is the series’ true villain quite yet, the haunted house tchotchkes, ghost-child comments about him extra fingers for magical purposes, and questionably placed moth artwork on the walls could make even a non-magician realize we have a really bad guy on our hands.
But, like with the best magic tricks, we’re left guessing. For now, we’ll just have to admire the show’s turn for the morbid and take bets on what happened to Penny when he touched the sewing button that ended up being the MacGuffin. With his best worst friend gone and his girlfriend jilted after the group couldn’t save the ghost kids, Quentin is going to have to find some initiative and take the magic into his own hands. It’s exactly what The Magicians needs right now.