If you were hoping the second episode of the second season of The Magicians would find Quentin, Alice, Penny, Eliot, Margo, or even Julia wielding that badass battle magic they went in search of in the previous episode, what you got instead was an episode where Eliot moved some shit around. It wasn’t the worst episode of the show, but the preponderance of fertilizer is telling. Helping a story grow — like a plant — means you have to be patient, but it also sometimes means you throw a bunch of shit on it and hope something happens.
Spoilers ahead for Season 2, Episode 2 of The Magicians: “Hotel Spa Potions.”
For readers of the books, this episode was both a huge deviation, but it also had a bunch of comfort food, too. In The Magician King, one of the most humorous conceits comes from the idea that a magical land like Fillory has basic, almost silly problems, because without magic, people are fairly useless. In this episode, Eliot is forced to deal with the fact that people are starving in Fillory because they have no idea how to grow food conventionally. This leads to the decently funny idea of Eliot having to introduce his kingdom to the idea that they need shit to fertilizer their crops.
Elsewhere in the episode, metaphoric fertilizer is thrown on about every other plotline. Julia’s old hedgewitch pal Marina rejects an alliance, but then ultimately decides it’s a good idea only to end the episode hanging out with the Beast as he continues to — for some reason — sing like he’s in a bad musical.
On the battle-magic front, Dean Fogg, Alice, Penny, Quentin, and Margo seek out a former Brakebills staff member who’s a pixie named Professor Bigby. After showing off her pointed ears and bragging about all the times she screwed Fogg, she gives Alice a nifty scroll which has the battle magic instructions on it. Alice practices the battle magic, but with time running short, Dean Fogg decides he wants to plot a few more plot seeds, too.
Alice, Quentin, Margo, and Penny are then encouraged to get boozed-up while they all get complicated tattoos. These tattoos become magical symbols which will serve as receptacles for demons which Dean Fogg describes as a “one-shot” weapon. This is another bone thrown to fans of the books: these tattoos-as-demon-houses are straight out of the first book, and Dean Fogg reveals their power in a very similar scene.
It sounds exciting, but something about how telegraphed the foursome’s training and inking scenes were felt off. Everything that happens in this episode screams to the viewer that they better remember this little detail because it’s going to be important. If Anton Chekov were to appear in this episode, he’d be walking around, just handing guns to every single character, and then winking real hard at the camera.
That brings us back to Eliot’s shit. The side-plot of Eliot inventing fertilizer was probably the most honest, weirdly entertaining thing about the whole episode, mostly because it didn’t feel like a cliche. Thinking about how a fantasy world deprived of magic manage doing basic stuff is really cool and original. It’s just too bad Eliot’s fertilizer plot was surrounded by all this other shit.
The Magicians airs every Wednesday on Syfy.