syfy the magicians season 3 episode 1 recap

‘The Magicians’ Season 3 Premiere Recap: The Tales of the Seven Keys


The quest to save magic begins.

The Magicians has had its fair share of ups and downs. After a season that drastically altered the course taken in Lev Grossman’s trilogy of novels, fans were left questioning what was in store for the third season of SyFy’s hit series.

The premiere of the third season did its fair share of character building, demonstrating just how jarring the loss of magic was for the Brakebills gang. Through alternating viewpoints, the quest for magic begins after an awkward encounter with a peacock, an insane party with the gods, and a date with a vampire.

This recap contains spoilers.

After a brief recap of the more traumatizing events that occurred in the last season of The Magicians, including the death of Ember, the half-ram, half-human god of Fillory, Penny’s diagnosis with an incredibly advanced form of cancer, and Alice’s return to life, we are thrown right into the dilemma of the season – the sudden loss of magic. For a group of students that rely on magic as a source of happiness, the sudden loss of the ability is jarring and sends many of them into a deeper form of depression than they were already in. (For those of you that need a quick refresher, the ability to perform and excel at magic has been proven to come from pain, both physical and mental.)

It is quickly revealed that Julia (Stella Maeve) still possesses a hint of magic. Although it is nothing more than a spark, Julia teams up with Quentin (Jason Ralph) in a brainstorming session. Why does Julia, of all people, still have the ability to perform magic? After a variety of possibilities are discussed, including the interference of the gods (as Julia has had contact with two different gods, the trickster Reynard, and the Goddess of the Underground), Josh (Trevor Einhorn), a graduate of Brakebills and brief inhabitant of Fillory, comes to the rescue and offers to take Quentin and Julia to meet a god in real life.

As Josh, Julia and Quentin begin their own personal quest, the scene transitions to Penny (Arjun Gupta) who is being held captive while doing work for the library. As a traveler, one of Penny’s duties is to ensure that the Neitherlands’ library is kept in order, meaning that it is his job to track down overdue and missing books. The brief glimpse into Penny’s current situation hints at a darkness that is settling over those who can perform magic. Just when things seem to be getting dangerous, Penny manages teleport back to the library where it is revealed that his cancer is progressing drastically.

Very quickly we are filled in on the events at Brakebills (where classes have resumed, despite the loss of magic) and Fillory. At home, Brakebills is on the brink of closing. Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) is met with demands to solve the problem or else, while Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil) are facing problems in Castle Whitespire, where they have remained on the Fillorian throne alongside the dangerous and creepy fairies. Remember Eliot’s wife, Fen (Brittany Curran)? She has gone insane thanks to the deal that Margo struck last season (wherein she gave up the couple’s unborn child in order to save Eliot) and can be seen rocking a log in place of a child.

For a brief moment, we are lead to believe that Josh will fulfill a part of the role that he had in the novels by leading Quentin and Julia in the right direction. Although it is hinted at that this will eventually occur, Josh leads the duo to a party, where the god of wine and revelry, Bacchus, is the center of attention. While Josh is immediately accepted, Quentin and Julia are abandoned in the stairwell and instructed to come back until they are “fun.”

As Quentin and Julia begin drinking and reminiscing in the stairwell, the plot involving the fairies is unfolding in Fillory. Eliot and Margo, at wit’s end, begin to discuss options to rid the castle of their presence only to come up short, as they have removed all traces of poison, weaponry and offensive magic.

Leaving Eliot and Margo to discuss their options, Quentin and Julia are shown drunkenly dancing. In an amusing twist, their moment of unabashed action is met with joy by Bacchus, who allows them to enter the party. Although drastically different, the scene calls to mind the moments in The Magicians trilogy where the physical kids (Quentin, Alice, Eliot, Janet, and Josh) partook in drugs and alcohol as a form of entertainment and escapism.

Bacchus slips Quentin a drug that makes him hallucinate, which allows Alice (Olivia Dudley) to briefly enter the episode. Although the episode is spurred on by Quentin’s eyes landing on the back of a blonde girl’s head, we are filled on in what happened in their relationship following Alice’s return to her human form. Although Quentin and Alice are seen kissing in the finale of the second season, their relationship is rocky at best and Alice has left him in pursuit of her own dreams.

Back in Fillory, Eliot and Margo are having a secret conversation in the woods using pop culture code (subtitled to make sure that all references are understood) that reveals that those fairies are using her eye to keep tabs on their actions and conversations. When magic died in Fillory, the fairies took complete control, which has caused problems not only within the castle but for the people of Fillory as well, as food is in short supply.

Eliot ventures off on his own to find a solution, turning to the beloved Fillory books to search for clues that may help him to save magic and the fantastical world in which he is High King.

Meanwhile, Quentin’s personality continues to shine back at the party, where he drunkenly blurts out whatever thoughts and questions come to mind, resulting in the revelation that it may be possible to “find a door to magic” in Athens (which is hopefully foreshadowing that will lead Quentin, Josh, and Julia to Venice, an event that happens in the books).

In the forests of Fillory, Eliot comes across the Great Cock of the Darkling Woods (Faran Tahir), a quest giver that is half-man, half-peacock. In another great scene, the quest giver reveals that the quest will rid Fillory of the fairy queen and result in the restoration of magic if done correctly. Furthermore, the quest will span “a great season”.

Talking animals finally present themselves after being largely absent from the television adaptation, despite their presence in The Magicians trilogy, in the form of adorable teleporting bunnies. Realizing that he needs to communicate with Quentin, Eliot uses one of the rabbits to send a message. Although brief (“Need help, love Eliot”), Quentin gets the message and departs with Julia to the New Jersey Public Library, where a magical book titled, The Tales of the Seven Keys, is found. Realizing that they need to get to Fillory, Quentin, Julia and Josh start searching for a means of transportation that will allow them to traverse between worlds.

In the final moments of the episode, Alice finally makes an appearance on her own. Hidden in the shadows, we see her character in an alley after offering her blood to a vampire in exchange for information. As the episode comes to a close, it becomes obvious that each character is on a quest of their own that will allow them to grow and develop past their roles in the series of novels.

From the party scene and excessive alcohol consumption to touching on mental health issues and using dark humor and nerd culture to lighten the mood with incredible pop culture fantasy and science fiction references from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, to Battlestar Galactica and Buffy, season three of The Magicians is definitely looking up. Although we can only expect the characters to branch out and develop in more ways than they did in the book series, the references to the Muntjac, an epic quest, and seven keys is more than enough to please fans of Lev Grossman’s novels.

What did you think of the premiere of The Magicians?

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