People grieve differently. Some, like Julia and Alice, want to take their grief and transform it into something productive, something that justifies the pain that they feel. Others, like Eliot, want to push away their grief (along with all their other feelings) by whiling the days away as a fatalistic drunk. There are as many ways to mourn as there are people, but oftentimes (at least in the case of The Magicians crew), grieving can cause people to do things that are, to put a fine point on it, reckless and stupid.
Alice, as is her modus operandi on this show, went and did something reckless and stupid with her grief in this season’s second episode, “The Wrath of the Time Bees.” After chiding Julia in the season premiere to stay from using dangerous magic to connect with Quentin, she casts a spell using living clay, Quentin’s book from the Library and A PIECE OF HIS SOUL in an attempt to resurrect him. She tells herself she’s doing this to get Quentin to translate a paper she found in his stuff at Brakebills—if she can understand this paper, she convinces herself, maybe she can complete something he didn’t have the chance to.
The spell doesn’t go how she expects it to, of course. After the season premiere cliffhanger, where we saw her casting the spell, we start Episode 2 with the clay golem moving and coming to life as…the 12-year-old version of Quentin Coldwater. I miss actor Jason Ralph playing Quentin. But I’m glad the writers didn’t have him come back here; it would have felt almost cruel to have him back on screen, even playing an altered version of the character, after so much weight was put upon his death last season. Having Boy Quentin spouting on about Star Trek: Voyager and Taco Bell was poignant enough.
So why is Boy Quentin here instead of Adult Quentin? The episode does some weak magic handwaving to justify this choice—apparently Alice’s internal circumstances are looking for closure with Boy Quentin (perhaps the more “pure” version of her love?) rather than a way to translate the note she found in Quentin’s things. Boy Quentin, using words and wisdom beyond any 12-year-old I know (though Quentin was a peculiar child), ultimately gives her that closure. And then promptly ceases to exist. While this storyline was sweet and pushed Alice’s grieving process along, it could be argued that it was a little forced and contrived. I’m betting Alice still has a ways to go to crawl out of her grief, however, which would have this make more sense as a first step in that process rather than the final one.
And then there’s Eliot. Just like Alice, Eliot is back to his default setting and starts off this episode drunk and apathetic, something the Fen’s ghost is happy to point out when he stumbles across the place where she was hanged. Perhaps it was guilt at seeing Fen’s ghost that made him seek out Jane Chatwin at first. And perhaps it was Jane’s revelation that the first thing she changed in the past during her effort get Quentin to destroy The Beast was to prevent Eliot from dying that made him steal her time-travel gadgets. Eliot, much like Alice, is muddling through his grief. His muddling, however, causes him to vacillate from taking determined steps to save Fen and Josh and to giving up and falling back on the comfort of apathy.
Margo, who knows Eliot better than anyone, calls him out on this and tries on her own to save Josh and Fen. Eliot eventually comes through though, and uses one of Jane’s time stamps (stamps that can send a letter to any place, any time) to tell Josh and Fen (and a dozen or so of their friends) to contact the clock dwarf and fast forward 300 years to join Margo and Eliot in the new present. His plan succeeds, and the end of the episode has High King Margo out of prison and supported by a court in exile. Eliot is there as well, of course, but he has one time stamp envelope left, and this one is addressed to Quentin just before he died. Will he pull an Alice and do something reckless and stupid? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out.
“The Wrath of the Time Bees” not only addresses the repercussions of grief, but also touches on the struggles of addiction through Kady’s storyline. Kady finds herself in bed with a random guy and what she thinks is a killer hangover, and at first thinks she fell off the wagon. Kady, however, didn’t break her sobriety; someone has used magic to wipe her memory of any recollection of her search for the missing Library book depository building. With the help of Penny23, she and her one-night-stand go through a memory VR of what they recall, which reveals that the guy is a sleeper spy and the reason her memory has been wiped (his was accidentally wiped too when she tried to defend herself). When Kady confronts him, he chooses to kill himself rather than let Penny23 probe his mind and make him remember what he’s done.
The realization that there’s a power out there with the capabilities to disappear a highly-warded building and use memory-wiping spies is overwhelming to Kady. She confesses to Penny23 that she was almost relieved when she thought she fell off the wagon. She’s been struggling to stay sober (notably, just like Dean Fogg), and fears that she’s not strong enough to lead the hedges and deal with such a strong adversary without a crutch. Her vulnerability here, something we rarely see given her tough persona, is something I’m looking forward to see develop as her storyline plays out of this season. Will her biggest challenge be this mysterious force working against her? Or will it be her own internal weaknesses instead?
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