DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Magicians episode “The Side Effect” contains more spoilers than the number of times Penny has sacrificed himself to save his friends. Our favorite curmudgeon is actually quite fond of people once you peel back the layers. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.
Welcome back, Fillorians! The Magicians blessed us with another stellar episode this week. “The Side Effect” is aptly titled in that we delved into the side characters of the series. Fen, Kady, Zelda and Penny took center stage while Quentin and Julia crawled into the back seat. The pervading message of this episode was a crucial one – everyone’s stories are important. Everyone is important. Even supporting players can contribute to an overall arc. Nobody has a right to dictate whether certain stories take precedence over others. This sounds awfully true to life, doesn’t it? The Magicians has never shied away from addressing hot button issues, and this episode is no exception.
Alright, ready to delve into “The Side Effect?” Just be sure to compliment Josh on his souffle. His souffles are really the stuff Ember dreams of.
We open with Penny 40 (Arjun Gupta) sitting in a swanky office in the Library, leafing through pages of several books. An underling named Derek (Chris Brochu) waltzes in at the behest of Penny. Apparently, Derek misfiled a book into the wrong section. Penny hands him the pages he was previously reading as an experiment. He encourages Derek to peruse them, to learn just how important categorizing books is not only to the Library, but the universe itself. Essentially, the Librarians are telling people what lenses to wear while reading a story. What lesson they should glean from it. Penny starts by introducing our fabulous so-called “sidekicks” of The Magicians. First up is Zelda (Mageina Tovah).
Now, we pick up with Zelda’s story right after Alice and Santa Claus escaped the Neitherlands. We see her brainstorming with her fellow higher-ups on the appropriate next steps. Side note: lovely to see Jewel Staite make another cameo. Here’s hoping she becomes a recurring character. Everett (Brian Markinson) enters the meeting and takes charge. Santa’s book has been nicked (pun intended) from the Revision Room and is most likely beyond retrieval. However, Alice’s book is still being written. Zelda proposes the Library installs tracking devices to observe their every move. Eventually the duo will need to seek shelter, ask for assistance, etc. Perhaps they’ll seek the help of hedgewitches. Regardless, Zelda hopes to nix the idea of killing Alice and Santa. That should strictly be a last resort measure only. Everett likes the idea.
Next, Everett finds Zelda in her office. Of course, he’s aware of what happened to her daughter Harriett. He suggests she take some time off to properly grieve. However, Zelda insists she’s perfectly capable of performing the tasks at hand. Suddenly, Zelda’s ears begin to ring and we hear the sound of glass breaking, reminiscent of the mirror bridge shattering in Season 3. If that’s not PTSD, then I don’t know what is.
Meanwhile, we pay a visit to Fen (Brittany Curran) in Fillory. She’s watching Margo (Summer Bishil) attempt to elicit information out of her mute birthright lizard. Fen picks up a stray bunny, thinking it’s here with a message. Then, the bunny’s throat is sliced open by an unseen force and blood oozes from the wound. However, Fen was only dreaming the incident. She confides to Rafe (Sergio Osuna) her belief that she may be psychic, as that’s not the first time a dream of hers became reality. Madame Fen – I can see it now. The TV script is being written in my head as I type this.
Alright, so what’s up with Kady (Jade Tailor)? We haven’t heard from her in a bit. We see her return to Marina’s apartment, where she reunites with Julia (Stella Maeve). Kady informs Julia of her new mission, her new lease on life – she’s solving Sam’s old cases. Remember when Kady’s former identity was that of a detective named Sam Cunningham? Well, since Kady has magic on her side, she can actually close all of the aforementioned cases. Success!
Kady admits that she’s aware of her “sidekick” status, and that she was only granted admittance into the group because of Penny. She reveals she’s tired of taking the back seat in someone else’s story, and this new mission has rejuvenated her spirits. Hats off to you, Kady. I was worried that she would wander aimlessly, only to be brought forth when the plot required her presence. However, I’m glad to admit I’m wrong.
Next, after Julia leaves, a strange woman called the Baba Yaga enters the apartment without invitation. Her objective? To collect what she is owed, courtesy of Marina. Apparently, it costs a pretty penny to keep that apartment under magical protection. Wards ain’t cheap, folks. The Baba Yaga demands Kady collect three magical items and deliver them to the former in the next few days. The items are tacked to the refrigerator. Thankfully, one of them is already in the apartment. One down, two to go!
Later, Kady barges into a popular hedgewitch bar to request a meeting with Lovelady. As it turns out, Lovelady is really Pete (David Call). You know, the creepy blonde dude who essentially assaulted Julia in the pilot episode as a means of revealing magic to her. Pete informs Kady that holding the title of Lovelady garners respect and opulent wealth from the magical masses. Once he learns that Kady has met the Baba Yaga, he eagerly waives his usual fee in lieu of meeting the old witch himself. Kady accepts the deal. Pete peruses Kady’s list and reveals they must embark on a journey to the black market. Shopping time!
Meanwhile, Zelda informs Everett that Alice’s book ends on a really mundane, delightfully mortal note. According to her book, Alice spends the rest of her days in Portland. She was just hired at a brewery and adopted a shih tzu. How very hipster of her. Zelda and Gavin (Daniel Nemes) venture out to said brewery to confirm Alice’s supposed employment. Zelda goes in solo and learns that Alice isn’t working there. Of course, we know that Alice performed a spell to rewrite the ending of her own book. Zelda omits that information, lying to Gavin in order to save Alice.
Next, Kady and Pete arrive at the black market. Kady meets Whitley (West Duchovny). If you’ll recall, Whitley was one of the hedgewitches who played cards with Quentin and blew up the Modesto branch of the Library in the previous episode. Kady attempts to purchase one of the items on her list. However, Whitley laughs at her paltry attempt to do so, citing that Kady should return when she’s “serious.” Kady decides to start small – she trades her cuff links in for a minuscule magical items, then works her way up the ladder. Finally, she returns to Whitley with a magical relic of grave importance, which garners her one of the items she needs. Two down, one to go!
Later, Kady and Pete head over to a fellow hedgewitch’s apartment to obtain the last item – a baby doll that cried healing tears. However, they find said hedgewitch dead as a post. Kady notices a peculiar rash on the deceased’s arm. Pete steals a Dewey coin, because he’s Pete and sleazy is sort of his thing. The pair finds the doll, and now Kady has everything she needs to present to the Baba Yaga.
Then, Josh (Trevor Einhorn) finds Fen hiding in his pantry, which isn’t weird at all. Fen reveals her psychic dreams, the premonitions she’s already had that came to fruition. Josh encourages her to commandeer her dream once she realizes it’s a dream. To lucid dream by seeing if she can insert her forefinger through the palm of her opposing hand.
Next, Pete and Kady are preparing for the arrival of the Baba Yaga. Suddenly, Pete faints. Kady asks his friend Gordy to meet them at the apartment. Gordy deduces that Pete has been stricken with a virus courtesy of a curse. Said curse isn’t playing nice with Pete’s personal wards. Kady urges Gordy to strip Pete of his personal wards, otherwise the latter will die. We see that Pete has a rash on his arm as well. Whitley’s partner also faints at the black market, presumably from the same virus.
Meanwhile, Zelda notices Harriett (Marlee Matlin) calling to her from within a mirror in her office. Said mirror shatters, and blood seeps through the glass shards. Zelda approaches Gavin and beseeches him to help her travel to the mirror realm. Gavin is capable of such a feat because he’s a Traveler. Zelda believes Harriett may still be alive, trapped between worlds. Gavin reluctantly acquiesces.
Later, we see Fen standing with Margo, Josh and Rafe. Margo pours the beet juice she acquired from Lady Pike onto her birthright lizard. However, instead of the animal regaining its vocal capabilities, it bursts into flames. Fen quickly realizes she’s in a dream. She performs the trick she learned courtesy of Josh. Suddenly, a strange woman shrouded in a green cloak appears. Fen tries to follow her, winding up at a bridge nestled in the forests of Fillory. Unfortunately, the caped crusader (sorry not sorry) disappears from view. Fen wakes up from her dream.
Next, Fen bursts into the same room from her dream, where Margo waits to douse the lizard in beet juice. Fen prevents her from doing so, citing that she saw the lizard bursting into flames in her dream. Naturally, Margo is reticent to believe Fen but Josh vouches for her. Fen vows to catch the green hooded lady. This scene made me chuckle, especially watching Fen stumble her way through unfamiliar monologue territory. Curran is an expert at making us root for Fen, imbuing her with a natural charm and oodles of heart.
Meanwhile, Pete wakes up, cured of his virus thanks to Kady and Gordy. Unfortunately, he missed his window of opportunity to meet the famous Baba Yaga, much to his chagrin. Kady summons her fellow hedgewitches for a meeting. She discovered that the Library was responsible for Pete contracting that virus. The Library has been tampering with hedgewitch wards. They’re on the war path, and the hedgewitches are sitting ducks. Kady proposes they rise up and take hold of the narrative. They won’t be pawns in the Library’s game. Whitley, hellbent on revenge after the death of her boyfriend, broaches the idea of burning down the Modesto branch. Kady urges her to refrain from taking action, but we know that Whitley doesn’t follow orders. Our Kady is now spearheading a movement of her own.
Later, Zelda and Gavin arrive in the mirror realm. It’s like their own world…but backwards. Gavin, like Victoria, must use his blood to keep the door open so they can travel back to the real Library. Zelda wanders into the mirror realm’s version of the main room of the Library. She finds Harriett standing before her.
However, Zelda quickly learns she’s not the real Harriett after noticing that the latter was merely mimicking her words like a talking parrot. Harriett disappears like an apparition. Zelda whirls around and finds another Harriett who’s missing half of her face. More Harrietts surround her, each looking more grotesque than the last. Talk about a fun house horror movie. Zelda urges Gavin to stay a bit longer so they can pinpoint her daughter. However, Gavin is injured and makes the executive decision to take them home.
Next, Everett reveals to Zelda what the Library’s trackers are doing to hedgewitches. Said trackers are interfering with their personal wards, which in turn kills off the hedgewitches. Zelda is appalled by this, citing that they aren’t killers. However, Everett insists that the protection of magical knowledge comes at a price.
Then, Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) turns up at Brakebills asking for Dean Fogg’s (Rick Worthy) assistance. She urges him to help her find Sheila, as she was kidnapped by the Library. Fogg brings Zelda into the fold who in turn asks for Alice’s help, presumably with finding Harriett and protecting the hedgewitches. Plot twist!
Meanwhile, Penny concludes his meeting with Derek by emphasizing the vitality of shelving books in the appropriate sections. Derek applauds Penny on his presentation, and reveals that he’s not actually a new hire. Derek was slaughtered over a thousand years ago, during the Crusades. In fact, he’s actually Penny’s boss. Derek promotes Penny to the office of Secrets Taken to the Grave, effective immediately. Later, we see Penny standing before an elevator. As the door opens, he greets the mysterious figure within. Judging by his expression, it’s someone we know. Cliffhanger!
Now, The Magicians boasts some of the best storytelling in modern TV. This episode delivers a beautifully poignant message. It reminds me of the adage related to acting, “there’s no such thing as small roles, only small actors.” That really pertains to life as well. Not to mention, that cliffhanger will have me relentlessly theorizing until next week. Who was in that elevator? Curran and Tovah gave us excellent performances, and I was tickled to see Matlin again. Her chemistry with Tovah is pitch perfect.
Do you think Penny addressed a character we know? Who is in the green hood, and will Fen catch her? How will Kady and the hedges retaliate against the Library? Join me next week as I recap The Magicians, here on Geek Girl Authority.
The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 9pm on your SyFy affiliate.
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