the magicians season 4 episode 5 recap

‘The Magicians’ Season 4, Episode 5 Recap: Escape From the Happy Place

An unexpected love story unfolds.

Eliot has been a tense subject so far in season four of The Magicians. Possessed by an unpredictable monster on the hunt for a stolen identity as it was stripped from him by the gods, Eliot has become a strange figure intent on bloodshed and revenge. Manipulation tactics by the creature have made it difficult to ascertain whether Eliot remains alive deep inside, with “Escape From the Happy Place” finally solving the mystery after last week’s cliffhanger, proving Margo’s theory correct – Eliot is alive, forced to watch the monster’s every action while he silently pleads for help.

This recap contains spoilers.

Sucked into an alternate reality – the one in which Eliot is inhabiting deep inside his mind – the Physical Kids Cottage comes into focus, where Eliot is teaching Todd (the only character present so far) how to craft his signature cocktail, a scene the quickly transitions into a party reminiscent of the carefree atmosphere of the first season of The Magicians.

Familiar sights and sounds – the carefree party scene that has been absent from Eliot’s life for some time, along with quiet moments with Margo – are interrupted by incessant knocking, a clear sign that something is amiss. Before we can find out what that something is, which has been paired with animalistic growling and screeches, the scene transitions to the present day, where the monster inside Eliot continues to manipulate Quentin into believing that his best friend is dead.

After the death of his father and the loss of Eliot, it’s no surprise that Quentin is devoid of emotion, appearing broken and aloof as the creature continues to wonder about his mental state. Not understanding the concept of friendship, the monster inside Eliot urges Quentin to accept his friendship instead, as the creature is still on a mission – this time to uncover the meaning behind a large rock, the purpose of which remains unclear but sends the being to the birth of civilization – Mesopotamia.

Meanwhile, inside Eliot’s mind, Margo has opened the door, curious about the knocking, wherein a new character appears – a familiar face that was present for just a moment in the season three finale, the monster’s previous human host, Charlton (Spencer Daniels), who explains the situation that Eliot is in. His identity has been banished to a small corner of his mind – the area in which he holds memories, which explains the Cottage and Margo.

Eliot’s current whereabouts are referred to his “Happy Place” a corner of his mind filled with his pleasant memories, where, Charlton explains, it’s easy to lose track of time and reality. The catch – Eliot can’t leave – it’s the only place inside his body where the monster can’t find him. The shrieking, hissing and roaring? Those were Castle Blackspire’s other inmates, wretched mistakes of the gods, but Charlton lets slip important information in an attempt to deter Eliot from leaving – there’s a door, the mention of which serves as a transition to Alice, who is looking over a map of the Neitherlands with Christopher Plover.

Although we’re unsure of where the unsightly duo is headed, a few literary jokes are made, as Plover suggests Alice is caught up in a redemption arc. Despite her past with Quentin, she’s determined to save him from his impending death (the details of which remain unclear, aside from the fact that it is set to occur within a few days according to his Library book).

As Plover and Alice travel through the Neitherlands in search of a fountain, Eliot threatens Charlton, who reveals that there is a door, hidden deep in a forgotten remembrance inside his mind, which will unveil his most traumatic, repressed memories, sending the duo on a trip down memory lane.

Instead of a world creating spell, Alice and Plover were using a world searching spell, leading Plover to a locked fountain, which he enters without a second thought only to be left behind by Alice, who has taken on a cold new exterior, hatred dictating her every action due to his horrible actions in the past. Who can blame her, really? It’s Plover’s fault she became a niffin and lost everything in the first place, not to mention his perverse actions toward children.

Before we can delve further into Alice or Eliot’s whereabouts, we’re brought back to Fillory, where Margo has temporarily embraced her role as High King. Turns out the birthright box hasn’t been forgotten, but Margo has a new problem – explaining Eliot’s absence. Meanwhile, Shoshana has travelled to the real world with Julia, effectively pushing Penny 23 away from her (as a devoted follower, she can now perform the rituals required to hopefully unravel the mystery of Julia’s latent god power, all of which require belief – an idea that is reminiscent of American Gods).

Rejected, Penny leaves, opening up the perfect opportunity for things to fall apart, as Shoshanna removes the wards around Kady’s new apartment (who has been strangely absent), resulting in Iris’ (Madisen Beaty) appearance. It seems the gods have caught on to the monster’s plans when Julia is given an ultimatum – she will help protect the gods, Iris included, or she will die. Iris gives Julia a living stone (the material Castle Blackspire is made out of), the blood of which will keep the monster from travelling. Julia is tasked with bleeding the stone and trapping the creature (full gods can’t do it, but Julia won’t be affected, which makes her the perfect candidate for the task).

Although Shoshanna has reservations about Iris’ ultimatum due to a complicated past between the Goddess and Bacchus, Quentin (who has since returned to the apartment) is open to the plan, believing Eliot to be dead, though Julia remains hesitant about trapping his body in the castle.

Keeping with the chaotic nature of the episode, Penny is attacked by an unknown assailant before we delve into Eliot’s worst memory – his first use of magic, which killed his childhood bully Logan with a school bus. Despite reliving his worst memory – the moment in which he went from hating Logan to hating himself, a door does not appear. As we see a glimpse of his childhood best friend, Taylor, a repressed memory is triggered, revealing the harrowing moment in which Eliot joined a group of children in beating and abusing Taylor for his sexuality. Not even that heart-breaking and unexpected moment triggers a door. Instead, a group of masked demons descends upon the duo sending them back to the protection of the Happy Place.

Meanwhile, the monster inside Eliot appears at the apartment just as Quentin manages to draw a drop of blood from the living stone of Blackspire. Quentin’s awkward attempt to hide remains undetected by the beast, too focused on his own findings – the black stone is now marked with golden hieroglyphics. Unsure of what it means, Julia and Shoshanna manage to convince the monster to join them on a trip to Brakebills to visit the library under the guise of research.

Back in Fillory, Margo has returned to Castle Whitespire after obtaining her birthright box to find Fen performing the last lay, a tradition in which the wife lays on her marital bed buried in the garments of her deceased love, which has followed the bare-breasted lament and the construction of the altar of remembrance.

In the apartment, Quentin’s still working on bleeding the stone when Alice makes her first appearance in the real world and is refused entry. While Quentin treats her with an icy stare and skepticism, Alice desperately tries to convince him of what she has learned – he will die in two days, over the course of which he will bleed the stone, only to die at the hands of the creature inside Eliot when he attempts to douse him. Quentin wants to beat the odds and leaves the door open for Alice to help, should she choose to.

At Brakebills, Julia and Shoshanna are searching for information on the hieroglyphics to keep the monster out of the apartment. Shoshanna, devoted and honest, is able to find the information quickly, but before she can reveal her findings, Julia creates a diversion much to the creature’s annoyance, serving as a perfect transition to the Happy Place, where Eliot and Charlton are sifting through a list of painful memories, which include sleeping with people’s boyfriends, betraying friends on accident, terrible haircuts, sexual mishaps, car accidents and more.

To help combat the odds, Eliot brings in an army of his own making composed of Welters Captain Margo, Ready-to-Fight-Penny Quentin, and Battle-Ready Fen, claiming that “no force in heaven or on earth is more terrifying”, which he plans to use to keep the monsters away as he relives memories.

Eliot’s memories send us through embarrassing moments and deep regrets where his friendships with the magicians are concerned, especially in regard to Margo and Quentin, while Quentin and Alice are struggling with their own predicament in the real world. Aware of magic that will bleed the stone in a matter of minutes, Alice averts that crisis but is shunned by Quentin, who doesn’t have time to deal with their past. Upset, Alice reveals her purpose for coming – to save Quentin’s life in an effort to atone for her mistakes, wherein she finally reveals the details of the unknown world that she banished Plover to. Rather than send him to a peaceful world, she doomed him to the poison world for his perverse actions.

Quentin struggles to understand her motivations, causing Alice to break down. Her only hope is to make up for her mistakes and she longs for validation, approval and redemption. Desperate, she asks Quentin for help with the spell she performed for Plover. If he will let her prevent his death, she will go wherever the spell leads her, providing a mystery that serves as a perfect transition to Fillory, where Margo has finally opened her birthright box and unveiled a Talking Lizard of the Dunes, according to Fen. The problem? All of the animals of Fillory seem to have lost their ability to speak.

At a dead end, the scene transitions to Eliot, who’s still battling to find his door in the Happy Place. The final remaining member of Eliot’s force to prevent the shadows, which happens to be Quentin, offers to create a diversion when the time comes, claiming that you make sacrifices for the people you love. Immediately, Eliot realizes what memory he’s been avoiding, taking us back to the beautiful episode from last season wherein Eliot and Quentin lived out a life together.

Before we can delve into that memory – the moment in which Eliot and Quentin realize that they lived a separate life in love – the scene transitions to Alice and Quentin who are planning out the creature’s death in a park, offering a back and forth view of two different realities. The repressed memory? A confession from Quentin – a proposition of a relationship in the real world, fueled by their time together in an alternate reality, wherein Eliot turned him down.

The memory, which is beautiful and heart-breaking, finally triggers a change in Eliot, just as the signs leading up to Quentin’s death in the real world begin to appear. As Shoshanna, Julia and the monster possessed Eliot appear, the real Eliot chides himself in the memory before apologizing to Quentin and kissing him, which results in the appearance of a door just as the monster approaches Quentin in the park.

As Eliot finally comes to the surface of his body and convinces Quentin by bringing up peaches and plums, Alice, unaware, attempts to make everything right, wherein Quentin quickly pushes his body out of the way just before he can be doused. Before we can learn the outcome, Eliot’s body disappears, leaving everyone at a loss, but not before Iris appears and attempts to strike Julia down (only for Shoshanna to dive in front of her and sacrifice herself).

Just as Iris attempts to take Julia’s life a second time, the monster possessed Eliot returns, ripping her heart out (which is actually just another black stone). In an attempt to cover up the failed murder attempt, Julia comes forward with information on the hieroglyphics, which reveal that the stones are actually building blocks that can piece together a body.

Aside from Penny’s attack, the details of which remain unknown at the close of the episode, “Escape From the Happy Place” ends on a note of finality with Quentin breaking off the possibility of making amends with Alice in a romantic way.

What did you think of this week’s episode 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.