the magicians season 3 episode 4 recap

‘The Magicians’ Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: Be the Penny

Penny enters the picture.

After last week’s shocking ending, in which not one, but two characters die, it comes of no surprise that this week’s episode of The Magicians continued along the path of an alternate universe, but in a unique and exciting way. While the history of Brakebills is not really touched upon on in Lev Grossman’s trilogy, the adaptation has offered a bit of an alarming backstory, all thanks to the search for the seven keys. Although this week’s narrative takes a surprising turn, Penny is back and offers commentary on the on-goings of Earth and Fillory, many of which he has missed as he has been battling with super cancer.

Need a quick catch up? Be sure to check out our recap of last week’s episode.

This recap contains spoilers.

The fast-paced narrative continues this week in “Be the Penny” where we start the episode from the third person point-of-view of Penny, who realizes that his body has died while he was astral projecting. Very quickly, he realizes that he is unable to communicate with Kady or Julia, and he resorts to everything he can think of to make a sound or cause a disturbance – talking and yelling, attempting to touch or move objects, and jumping around wildly.

As Penny continues to fruitlessly search for a way to contact the living and let them know that he is not actually dead, we watch as he views each character respond to the news of his death, and understandably, get angry when no one shows any remorse – Quentin laughs and all of the other characters have rather stoic responses, with each one revealing that they did not know much about Penny as he often kept to himself.

Scene transitions occur quickly, with Penny following each character, offering the viewer an outside view of the current events in motion – Margo continues to seethe with anger at the fairy queen; Eliot’s magic key has sent him to the Neitherlands with Fen and Fray, where the library has been over-run with cannibals; Alice and Quentin discuss the impact that the death of their fathers had on them; Kady struggles with her emotions for Penny by turning to drugs – all while Penny watches helplessly.

As each character struggles to deal with the loss of magic, on top of the “death” of a comrade, Julia’s powers continue to manifest, revealing her god-touched nature – Julia given a warning through possession that Kady is in trouble. When she finds her, Kady is in the process of over-dosing and Julia is able to save her just in time through healing magic.

Meanwhile, Penny runs into someone that can finally see him in the Physical Kids’ Cottage – Hyman Cooper (Dustin Ingram), the self-proclaimed pervert ghost of Brakebills. Although Hyman is a new character, he offers quite a bit of comedic relief and offers commentary on the characters, parings and quest in motion from the perspective of an outsider (which mirror many fan’s thoughts and theories). It is revealed that Hyman is not actually a ghost, but a traveler, like Penny. While Penny uses his powers for good, Hyman used his to be a creep and would often spy on unsuspecting girls. While projecting during his school days at Brakebills, classmates moved his body and, as he did not know its location, he could not return to it.

Despite being a soul out of body for hundreds of years, Hyman has not mastered the art of communication with the living world, claiming that he has tried everything. He does however, suggest that it is possible to inhabit objects and coaches Penny to the best of his ability, starting with coins – hence the episode title, “Be the Penny”.

Penny does not have many options and time is not on his side – as he has filled out a contract for the library for life, the order of librarians has offered the services of a corpse-eater that will sever all bonds between Penny’s body and his soul, allowing him to go to the underworld and serve in their library branch. Kady, who does not trust the library, is contemplating burning his body instead. Either way, Penny will not be able to inhabit his body unless they can find a way for it to return to life, as if his soul enters a dead form, it will die along with it. As such, throughout the episode, Penny searches for a means of communication – the penny, the messenger bunnies of Fillory, and the Margolem, a decoy body of Margo, that was created in an earlier season.

Meanwhile, while Penny continues to fail at communication, a secret bit of Brakebill’s past is revealed during Quentin’s research on the seven keys project. By referencing his notes on Fillory, as well as the books in the series, Quentin believes that one key could be on Earth, a subject that it brought up with Dean Fogg, as it is revealed that Rupert Chatwin was in possession of a key that was given to Lance Morrison, a former student at Brakebills.

Dean Fogg reveals that Lance was a former student at Brakebills but that he was murdered. As his spirit was believed to be malevolent, the dorm where his body resided was closed off from students and hidden. As Quentin believes that the key must be with him, Fogg gives Julia and Quentin permission to search for the missing key, revealing the location of the dorm. At the same time, Hyman reveals that ghosts can see astrally projected spirits, leading Penny to accompany Quentin and Julia on their next quest.

While searching the dorm, Quentin and Julia come across a room preserved by time, where they meet with Lance’s ghost. In an earlier season, it was revealed that ghosts often live through time slips, in which they re-live portions of their past, and Lance is no exception – he believes he is a student at Brakebills. As Quentin and Julia ask Lance about the key and Rupert, Penny begins assaulting him, demanding that he inform the two of his presence. Two conversations happen at once, leaving both parties confused; although Quentin and Julia cannot see Penny, they can see and hear Lance.

When Rupert is mentioned, it is revealed that Lance and Rupert had a romantic relationship with one another, something that was looked down upon by Lance’s religious minded father. Quentin and Julia are presented with a vision in which Lance’s father learns the truth behind his relationship with Rupert after holding the key, which has the power to reveal the unseen. After pocketing the key, Lance’s father brutally murders him. When he turns on Quentin and Julia, Penny attacks him and demands once more that the ghost make his presence known – this event causes alarm in Quentin and Julia, who flee the scene.

Although this encounter leaves Penny voiceless once more, he realizes that he will be seen if he comes into contact with someone who has a key. Immediately, he seeks Eliot out, only to witness Eliot struggle to fight off the cannibals by using the key to accidentally summon a vision of his terribly opinionated father, who to no surprise, also has a problem with Eliot’s sexuality, which explains Eliot’s behavior.

Realizing that Eliot has it worse than he does, Penny departs once more, joining Quentin and Julia as they search out the McAllister family, who has ties to Brakebills and the missing key of Rupert’s. As Dean Fogg, Quentin and Julia enter the McAllister house, something is immediately amiss – there are moving objects, similar to the self-cleaning tools that are seen in Harry Potter.

While Quentin performs stage magic for Irene McAllister (Jamie Ray Newman), a member of the Brakebills Board of Trustees, Julia casts a location spell for the key. Penny who is running out of time as it is nearly sundown a week after his body’s death, returns to Kady, desperate to connect with her as she makes the difficult decision about what to do with his body.

At the McAllister house, Julia locates the key. Upon picking it up, it is revealed that the McAllister family is using fairies, who are hidden from normal sight, to perform tasks for them – cleaning, cooking, etc.

Just when Kady is about to burn Penny’s body, Alice appears and offers to make the difficult decision for her. Alice turns to offer his body to the corpse-eater, dooming him to the underworld, just as Penny finds his “voice” and briefly inhabits the candle, choosing the death of his human body over working for the library.

The episode closes with a few dramatic events occurring in a matter of moments – Dean Fogg announces that the Board of Trustees has decided to close Brakebills, just as Eliot appears at the Physical Kids’ Cottage, stumbling in with Fen and Fray. As the episode comes to a close, Eliot holds up the key in his possession, whereupon it is revealed that Penny’s spirit is still intact and that Eliot can see him.

What did you think about this week’s episode of The Magicians?

Share your thoughts on the third season of the show in the comments below!

Melissa Ratcliff
the authorMelissa Ratcliff
Senior Staff Writer
Reader, Writer & Translator. Cats, books and video games are my life.