The premier episode of The Magicians’s sophomore season was all about people making shady deals and then immediately being sorry for making the deal. Penny gets his amputated hands magically reattached, Eliot settles into being a king, Alice and Quentin set out to find some battle magic, and Julia begins forming a plan to enact her revenge. But, even as everyone seems like they are on the path to getting their shit together, the looming question is: at what cost?
Spoilers for Season 2, Episode 1, of The Magicians; “Knight of Crowns.”
Early on in the episode, Quentin Coldwater runs into a witch in the middle of the Fillory forest who is surrounded by candy and cottage. “It’s just that where I come from, there’s a legend about a witch and a cottage made of candy,” he stutters, terrified that if he makes a deal with this woman, the price will be a nasty Hansel and Gretel-type deal. Thematically, this idea that magical assistance comes with a deadly price is the message of this entire episode, and perhaps a microcosm for the whole series.
When Penny and Margo hit up a Fillory “local” who suggests he can help Penny reattach the hands he lost last season, it seems to work. But, because Penny was a “douchebag” to the crazy magic river guy, his new limbs don’t work quite right, randomly casting magic. It’s possible these faulty hands are just foreshadowing a development from the books, where Penny goes down a very different path — the weird river guy does mention “what he will become” rather ominously. Or, maybe, Penny’s just a dick, and magic gave him what he deserved.
Meanwhile, Quentin, Margo, Eliot, and Alice all become high kings and queens of Fillory and hightail it to Castle Whitespire in search of some crazy good magic to help them fight the Beast. This is a biggish change from the books, in which Julia — not Alice — became a Queen (book-readers know why). And after she and Quentin discover an obscure battle magic book in the “armory” of Castle Whitespire, they figure out that have to go back to Brakebills to figure it out what it means. Meaning, just as soon as they get to Castle Whitespire, it’s time to leave. This leaves Eliot in charge, who is already overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being king and can’t ever leave Fillory. Even if you get to rule a fantasy land out straight-out-of a fairy tale, the logistics of kingliness are a giant pain in the ass.
With Penny’s hands casting random magic, and Quentin and Alice heading out on a quest, we catch up with Julia and the Beast at the tail end of the episode. They’ve made an alliance to destroy Reynard the Fox, but it’s an uneasy one. The Beast reveals to Julia that he knows about a certain thing inside her called a “shade.” This is the thing from which some of her dark powers come from, and the Beast can relieve her of it. But, Julia’s not sure she can ditch the kind of power her “shade” gives her just yet. If you’re going to enact some revenge, it seems you need a little dark magic to make the revenge as badass as it can possibly be.
Hopefully, Penny will get his hand-magic debacle sorted out next week. And maybe Quentin and Alice will decide to legit get back together after their battle magic-searching adventure. Seems like things are never that simple on The Magicians, though.