Known for its complex interwoven story lines, it’s not uncommon to see characters sporadically flit through episodes of The Magicians. Cliffhangers and unexpected side stories crop up when you least expect them, which makes the return of Poppy (Felicia Day) a pleasant surprise, especially after the sidekick arc explored in last week’s episode. Titled “Home Improvement”, this week’s episode continues to follow important side characters, including Fen who is on a dream-inspired quest in Fillory, and Poppy, who has abruptly returned after her mysterious disappearance last season.
This recap contains spoilers.
Just when Fen seems to be starting her own quest – having always been tied to another character – Margo intrudes as she sets out. Her theory? That Fen’s strange prophetic dreams are somehow tied to her, which makes sense, all things considered, as each dream was loosely connected to her mysterious birthright box. In the off chance that the quest to find the cloaked figure in Fen’s dream is not tied to Margo, she offers to simply be her wingwoman, leaving Josh as acting High King.
Fen and Margo’s unlikely companionship is not the only unexpected alliance in this week’s episode, however, as we learn with a quick transition to Dean Fogg’s office. Zelda, desperate to help her daughter Harriet, who she believes is still alive after the destruction of the mirror bridge, offers Alice a truce. In exchange for information on the mirror realm obtained during Alice’s brief time as a niffin, she’ll pull strings to free Sheila and ensure that neither woman is a target of the Library again.
In the mirror realm, Zelda experienced shards, or as Alice refers to them, echoes of Harriet’s being. Tracking the echoes to find Harriet will be difficult, if not impossible however, as magic has gruesome consequences in the mirror world due to cascading effects. Harriet will need to be pulled out, and Fogg, a quiet spectator, jumps in on the deal. For an extra supply of campus magic every month for Brakebills, Fogg offers up a locator spell that may be useful – one that will turn an ordinary object into a signal beacon, but only under certain conditions.
Underworld Penny’s message about the importance of side characters begins to fall into place when Kady’s connections prove helpful in another abrupt transition. In an attempt to save his best friend, Quentin has agreed to help build a new body for the monster inside Eliot. His search hasn’t turned up anything on its own, but Kady’s new connection to Lovelady proves helpful, not just in obtaining a new Egyptian building block, but in reuniting the group with Poppy, as the artifact’s last known location was a dragon hoard.
Although Kady may seem appear to be nothing but a connection at first glance, her story is unfolding too. After last week’s rallying cry to prevent future deaths due to contaminated Deweys, Kady has a new role that may require difficult decisions to keep the rogue magicians safe. Turning in Whitley, who was the cause of the Library explosion in Modesto, may be the way to salvage the reputation of the hedge witch population.
As multiple threads unravel, we end up at Alice’s house, where it is revealed that Fogg’s intended spell comes at the price of communication between estranged mother and daughter. Through tense conversation, we learn that the Modesto accident was considered an act of terror by the Library, resulting in the installation of magic meters in many homes to monitor spell use.
A series of quick transitions send us to Fillory and back on a journey related the Great Lady of East River – a New York dragon, who happens to be in possession of the building block needed to appease monster Eliot. If Quentin and Julia can find a missing elixir, the dragon will grant them anything in her power according to her Herald. The fact that the weapon used to steal the elixir was Fillorian made is the first clue that Poppy was somehow involved, but before she makes an appearance we transition to Fen and Margo who have finally found the mysterious cloaked woman – a figure Fen believes to be a prophet while Margo, understandably remains skeptical.
Before any headway can be made on the strange prophetic woman, Quentin appears at the Physical Kids’ Cottage, where Poppy has recently taken up residence. Quentin’s quick to accuse her of stealing from the East River Dragon – aware of her selfish mannerisms – but is thrown off track when Poppy reveals that she’s pregnant. Though the other magicians (Penny, Kady & Julia) are skeptical of Poppy’s claims – that Quentin is the father of her child and that she was not responsible for the theft – Quentin seems to be taking his role seriously (despite his feelings for Eliot) as he had a brief fling with the dragonologist last season.
As the magicians search the main room of the cottage during Quentin’s preoccupation with Poppy, they uncover a few interesting things, including an empty vial that looks oddly familiar as well as dragon erotica written by Poppy herself.
Before the strange circumstances surrounding Poppy’s pregnancy and reappearance unfold, we return to Alice, who is struggling to perform the spell necessary to save Harriet, seemingly because of her rocky relationship with her mother, Stephanie (Judith Hoag). Their attempts are put on hold when Carol (who, if you remember, was electrocuted by Alice last season during the Lamprey threat) appears, along with members of the Library.
Back in Fillory, Margo calls the cloaked prophet out on her bullshit by tying her up in a briar patch after the unlikely duo is put to work clearing out her garden. The truth? Many Fillorians have seen the green-cloaked woman in their dreams and have visited her property only to destroy it upon learning that they seek the Napster, a questing creature that can only be caught in dreams.
As the realization hits Fen, the magicians uncover Poppy’s secret back at Brakebills thanks to her erotic dragon graphic novel; the child’s not Quentin’s, it’s a dragon’s, but a strange dragon pheromone has ensured that Quentin will protect Poppy and the unborn dragon at all costs.
In the real world, Alice has blocked out the Librarians with a warding spell, realizing that her mother is the reason for their presence. The reveal that Stephanie alerted the Library comes as no surprise, until she informs a betrayed Alice that it was to turn in Carol, not her daughter. Carol has created voodoo dolls to aid in long-distance relationships with intimacy, but they are proving to be a powerful torture device as well.
Back at the Physical Kids’ Cottage, dragon erotica proves to be an informative subject on mating habits and pregnancy as the magicians uncover another truth – Poppy is not pregnant with a dragon (just a normal child), but she is gestating a dragon egg in a process that takes three years, explaining the numerous space heaters around the room. The pheromones are real though – and cause Poppy, Quentin and Penny to panic when the egg is taken by Julia, who remains unaffected by magic.
As Alice and her mother confront one another in Carol’s absence (looks like her voodoo dolls may be helpful in avoiding then Librarians outside), we learn that while they don’t have the best relationship, her mother still cares – Alice is the only thing she last left after the death of her husband and son. The realization that her mother does care allows magic to flow between them, resulting in a successful beacon spell. Successful use of the voodoo dolls allows both Carol and Alice to escape, serving as an appropriate transition to the East River, where another side plot unfolds.
Though Julia has good intentions in returning the “elixir” through Poppy’s newly fertilized egg, we learn that dragons have feelings too – and that the East River Dragon is not ready to be a mother. During the conversation, we learn where the egg came from in the first place – Poppy won it from the Seine River Dragon, Amelie. All the same, the East River Dragon accepts the offering, but before loose ends can be resolved, we learn that Sheila has joined the Order, much to Alice’s dismay – shattering the illusion that all is well.
As the episode comes to a close, all turns out seemingly well in the end. The magicians retrieve the stone compliments of the East River Dragon, while Julia is presented with a thinly veiled message instructing her to make her condition temporary, meaning that she should do everything in her power to return to her former god-touched status by visiting the Binder.
Even Fen gets the ending she desires – she captures Napster, a cat creature, thanks to Margo who recommends using Ambien to remain in the dream state. Although the Napster claims that she will not like her destiny, the feline dream prophet pushes Fen to see value in herself before revealing all – there will come a moment when Fen must dethrone Margo, with violence if necessary.