DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Magicians episode “The Mountain of Ghosts” contains more spoilers than the number of times Julia has saved the world. Our former goddess has done more than her fair share of good deeds. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.
Welcome back, Fillorians! The Magicians aired its third episode of the season this week. “The Mountain of Ghosts” was rife with emotional revelations and grief-stricken moments. “Rip the band-aid off” is the phrase I’d use to describe this episode. Eliot and Alice embarked on a pilgrimage in Fillory to deposit the small amount of Quentin’s essence that the latter extracted from the Underworld. They met a mystery man from Loria who turned out to be the Dark King.
Meanwhile, Margo and Fen faced off in a battle to the death while undergoing some…lunar side effects. Oh yeah – Fen slept with Josh so now she’s a werewolf. Yay!
Alright, ready to delve into “The Mountain of Ghosts?” Just be sure to have a box of tissues handy. You’ll most certainly need them.
Now, we open with Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) dreaming of Quentin. Once she wakes up, she’s barraged with a series of texts from her mother regarding the latter’s garden. Alice wanders outside to the backyard and stumbles upon a strange discovery – the bottle containing the trace amount of Q’s essence has resurfaced.
Meanwhile, Josh (Trevor Einhorn) and Fen (Brittany Curran) are back on Earth and hellbent on celebrating Margo’s (Summer Bishil) success in saving them from death. However, little do they know that Eliot (Hale Appleman) was the one who sent that letter 300 years into the past. You know, the one that prevented Josh and Fen from falling into the clutches of death.
Suddenly, Alice sneaks into the apartment and makes her way toward the grandfather clock that leads to Fillory. Eliot catches her in the act. She reveals that Quentin’s bottled essence returned to her after she attempted to send it back to the Underworld. Thus, she’s embarking on a journey to the Mountain of Ghosts, which contains a direct portal to the Underworld. She need only toss the bottle down a deep hole and boom! Essence returned. Eliot decides to tag along, much to Alice’s chagrin.
Next, Josh and Fen have an idea on how to get Margo back into Whitespire sans her banishment markings. Josh and Fen created a battle-to-the-death competition wherein felons can have their crimes wiped clean upon their victory. Even banishment markings! Margo is intrigued, and the trio head to Fillory to enter said competition.
Meanwhile, Alice and Eliot find a man who can accompany them to the top of the Mountain of Ghosts. He forewarns them of the formidable Takers – elusive beings who swipe people and valuable items. Their guide also takes note of Alice and Eliot’s somber attitude, and attributes that to their shared grief over Quentin. He urges them to load up on living stones in a sack, as that will help ward off the Takers.
During their ascent, Eliot and Alice begin bickering over the past. Alice feels that Eliot is watching her every move and judging her in turn. She also fails to see why Eliot felt the need to join her personal pilgrimage. Eliot, in retaliation, twists the figurative knife in her side by reminding her that Q’s death occurred as a result of her actions. Appleman and Dudley are exceptional in this scene. So much nuance, vulnerability, and “piss and vinegar” injected between the lines.
Suddenly, their tour guide is snatched by one of the Takers. Well, that escalated quickly. Meanwhile, we see the competition is underway at Whitespire. Margo and Fen enroll into said competition under aliases. We see Margo practicing with an ax and Fen utilizing her knives. Josh reveals to Margo that a double full moon is to take place the following night, which explains Margo’s almost uncontrollable rage. Werewolf time!
Later, Penny (Arjun Gupta) and Julia (Stella Maeve) travel to London to meet Alice’s acquaintance. They step into her office which is an uncanny resemblance to the Physical Kids’ cottage at Brakebills. Then, they meet Zoe (Yetide Badaki), who is the sister of said acquaintance. Julia explains that the magical surges are the prelude to something much bigger – an apocalyptic event beyond their wildest imaginings. Julia is requesting Zoe and her sister’s help in predicting Circumstances so they can pinpoint the patterns in said surges. However, Zoe rejects their request.
Meanwhile, we see Alice and Eliot setting up camp for the night. Eliot is attempting a spell to protect their encampment from Takers. Suddenly, a Taker enters the scene and swipes Eliot’s bag, which contains Quentin’s bottled essence. Eliot makes a beeline for the Taker. He casts a spell against the being, but magic is apparently ineffective. The Taker overpowers Eliot and, just as it appears our favorite former High King is done for, a savior arrives. A mystery man (Sean Maguire) destroys the Taker with a spell and returns Eliot’s bag to him. Success!
Later, Margo and Fen are facing off against their foes in the ensuing competition. Both ladies are successful, slaying their enemies left and right like the bada** fighters they are. We see Margo and Fen are named the victors, and they must battle each other the following evening. However, Margo reveals that she has a werewolf STD and, with a double full moon, well…the Whitespire folk can put two and two together. She learns something shocking amid this exchange – that Fen is also a werewolf, no thanks to Josh. Obviously, this means Josh and Fen did the horizontal tango. Margo is irate, naturally.
Then, we learn the mystery man is from Loria with Earth parents. He’s also a skilled magician, and he vows to teach Eliot and Alice what he knows by way of eradicating Takers. He gives our pair some very strong Lorian wine which floors Alice. She heads off to bed. Eliot and Mr. Loria have a very frank conversation beneath the stars. Mr. Loria is also grieving – he lost the love of his life too. That’s when he elicits Eliot’s true grief; that the latter is mourning Quentin as more than a friend. Q was also the love of Eliot’s life. Mr. Loria urges Eliot to tell Alice the truth. Oh, and the duo almost bang. Alas, no sexy times tonight.
Later, the following day, Margo and Fen face off in battle. Margo is armed with her axes and an overwhelming bout of rage. She also utilizes magic to toughen her skin against Fen’s knives. The pair engage in a bout of swinging axes and stabbing blades. Both are obviously very skilled and high on werewolf emotions. Suddenly, Margo stabs Fen squarely in the chest. She bleeds out and…dies. Margo is taken aback by her act. Whitespire declares Margo the true victor.
However, Fen abruptly rises from presumed death, and thanks Margo for knowing to grab her “child’s play knife.” You know, the knife meant for practicing children. Of course, it’s clear that Margo wasn’t in on the plan and very much thought she killed Fen.
Meanwhile, Eliot and Alice make their way to the top of the Mountain of Ghosts. A well resides there and its depths lead to the Underworld proper. Eliot finally reveals his true feelings for Quentin. Alice replies that she always knew there was something more brewing between them.
Of course, she knew Q inside and out, and loved every part of his complex soul. Eliot insists that Q really loved Alice, but she too insists that Quentin’s feelings for El ran deeper than mere friendship. Eliot shows Alice the letter he was planning on sending to Q prior to his departure through the Seam. He longs to mail it, but he knows that it won’t change a thing. However, Eliot can’t seem to let it go. Alice offers to drop the letter into the well in tandem with Eliot.
After Quentin’s bottled essence is deposited, the duo drop Eliot’s letter to Q into the well. Together. As they depart the scene, Alice thanks Eliot for his honesty. They hug it out, and subsequently my heart is torn asunder. This scene may be one of my favorites yet. The way The Magicians has portrayed the grief process is simultaneously touching and realistic.
Meanwhile, we see Margo, Josh and Fen are locked up in their respective cells as per their request. This is after the trio transformed into werewolves. Margo reveals that Eliot sent the letter that saved Josh and Fen. She was prepared to say her goodbyes to them. Oh, and she had no clue Fen’s knife was a fake. She truly had every intention of killing Fen. Thus, Margo deems herself a bad person. Fen and Josh are enraged with her, and the trio appear to be at an impasse. I don’t like it when my favorites are fighting. No bueno.
Later, Zoe’s sister winds up on Julia and Penny’s doorstep. She offers to help our heroes save the world again. Now, she also reveals that the Circumstances for this impending apocalyptic event cannot be predicted, but that doesn’t mean they can’t pinpoint a time frame for the next magical surge. They’ve got their work cut out for them, but thankfully Julia has assistance.
Next, we see Mr. Loria rejoining Alice and Eliot after their sojourn. He offers to walk with them back to Castle Whitespire. We see a carriage pull up alongside him, and a bevy of footmen depart and cloak Mr. Loria in a royal cape. Oh yeah – plot twist! He’s really the Dark King. Alice and Eliot refuse his request for a ride to Whitespire. As the carriage departs, Eliot reveals to Alice that he almost banged the Dark King. So, there’s that.
Now, this episode blew me away. Everyone was in top form performance-wise. Of course, y’all know I harbor a deep love for Summer Bishil, and she was perfect as always. But this week’s MVPs are, without question, Hale Appleman and Olivia Taylor Dudley. Their scenes were a punch to the gut. They took my heart and squeezed it. As someone who’s still in grief’s clutches, this arc has struck a chord with me. This show has such a realistic view of grief, and I don’t think I’ve ever watched a series portray it so beautifully and brutally. Side note: I hope this will pave the way for more Eliot and Alice scenes.
Do you think the Dark King will eventually turn on Eliot and Alice? Is he somehow related to Lord Effingham, since the same actor portrayed them both? Will Margo, Josh and Fen find a way to mend the rift between them? Join me next week as I recap The Magicians, here on Geek Girl Authority.
The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 10pm on your SyFy affiliate.
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