The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 8: “The Strangled Heart”

The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 8: “The Strangled Heart”
Grade: A

The eighth episode of The Magicians was such a good. Honestly, my favorite thus far and worked on so many levels. Every tiny complaint I’d had up to this point—pacing, choices of storylines—righted themselves to form a near perfect episode. I thought “The Strangled Heart” was an even stronger episode than the first—which I couldn’t shut up about for two weeks after watching.

With the gang back at Brakebills, Alice decides she wants to take a break from Quentin, to “see what’s real and what’s fox.” Alice says that she can still smell him, the fox him, and it’s hard to differentiate the pheromones and actual feelings. As weird as this entire fox thing is, it works well here and it’s surprisingly interesting, nothing I’ve seen on TV before, and not as strange as I would have thought, if I’d known going in. Throughout the episode, though, Quentin does everything to just be around her—including switching with someone else in their study group to be with Alice, as well as Penny—who has a large role in this episode. He’s been trying to travel more, to learn how to control it, and ends up soaking wet in Professor Sunderland’s class—magic learning!—and after the class is dismissed, he attempts to seduce her, while shirtless, telling her they could travel together for her to teach him—she tells him no, that it’s inappropriate, but it’s clear she wanted to say yes.

Mike and Eliot are dating, but Mike wakes up to a moth on his shoulder. He goes out into the hall to find a bunny, which he grabs and graphically kills to retrieve a dagger inside. Honestly one of the most horrifying things to watch, because it was really graphic, but made it clear that Mike (and presumably the Beast) are not playing around, and neither is the show. With the dagger, Mike attacks Quentin but Penny is stabbed instead. After capturing Mike, the Dean—whose hands are healed, but he can’t do any magic just yet—learns that Mike doesn’t remember anything, having been in Brooklyn then arriving there with the Dean. Because the dagger wasn’t an ordinary dagger, some sort of spell had been cast on it and a strange infection, turning into vines growing out of his abdomen, spreads across his body.

Alice recognizes the vines from the Fillory books—Jane Chatwin had the same thing happen to her in the books. The vines would keep growing until it strangled the person, but Jane survived and Quentin knows the answer. A doll that looked just like Jane was accepted as a substitute, so Quentin makes a doll that resembles Penny and they burn it—but it doesn’t work. Eliza, the British woman from the first episode, is scolded by the Dean who tells her that the entire mess of the Beast is her fault and he tells her to stay away from Brakebills. She speaks to Quentin, saying that the Fillory books are children’s telling of a much stranger, darker world. She tells him that the answers he seeks are in the sixth book that he’d lost—and that he may be the one to open a door to Fillory. And she informs him that the doll Jane had was her most prized possession, not only that it looked like her. As Penny can’t speak any longer, Quentin and Alice go to find his most prized possession in his room and fight while searching, then Quentin finds the chocolate bar wrapper Kady had given him in Brakebills South and knows that it’s what they were looking for. They burn it and the vines begin to disappear on Penny and he survives.

Eliza visits the captured Mike, and we learn that he’s a puppet being controlled by the Beast. Eliza, it turns out, is the actual Jane from the Fillory books. The Beast had been waiting for her and attacks her. He kills her, strangling her so hard her neck bursts, and he escapes. The Dean attempts stopping him—his magic working just enough to try—but the Beast/Mike knocks him out. Eliot, on his way to visit Mike, is able to stop him, killing Mike in the process—heartbreakingly after he’d opened up to him, telling him that he’s from Indiana and how hard it was to become the person he is, something he’d only told Margo during the truth Trials. Afterward, Alice had been worried about Quentin and the two kiss, ending their separation.

Meanwhile, Julia has checked herself into rehab. Marina visits her and apologizes, but threatens Julia, telling her that they will stay out of each other’s hair, or she’ll kill Julia and everyone she loves—if there’s anyone left. The therapist at the rehab center knows that she’s a hedge witch, asking her what safe-house she’d been in. They discuss god, and gods, and using magic as a tool. He’s also a magician, having studied at Brakebills, and he gives Julia a spell—a prayer actually, to a goddess—and after she’s finished, she floats in the air in the most beautiful shot, and scene, of the show. It was clear that it wasn’t different from other magic that we’ve seen. She says that it was like a spell being done on her, instead of the other way around. He tells her that she feels like magic is a drug because the people she learned from acted like drug dealers, treating it like a drug.

“The Strangled Heart” worked in every aspect. Every complaint I’d had throughout the season thus far, though I’ve loved it, has been fixed in this episode—Julia’s story not fitting well, the Beast and Fillory not being featured enough, not a lot of magic learning at a magic school for us to learn how it works too, and the pacing. For me, it was a damn good episode and a near perfect one in comparison to the previous episodes—best one yet.


HIGHLIGHTS

The Beast and Fillory
are much more a part of the story in this episode, something I’ve been waiting for since the first episode—I get the build up to it, but I think after that first episode’s end, I expected a bit more—and the fact that Jane is, or was, alive and real, speaking to Quentin as Eliza, is something I hadn’t expected. Though, um, British woman should’ve been a tip off, but I didn’t put it together.

Julia’s storyline
worked so well into this episode. It had just the right amount of scenes, great performances, and an interesting discussion about magic, the gritty side of it that we’ve been seeing with Julia. Her rising in the air after the prayer, it felt almost like a rebirth for Julia, and those shots were beautiful.

Magical learning
in a magic school doesn’t seem like much of a difficult thing to show, but boy have previous episodes done a poor job of it. We know nothing about the history of magic, where it comes from, how each spell works, what makes them work. In this episode, we get glimpses of it here, especially in Sunderland’s classroom, talking about how different things change how casting works—alignment of planets, weather, etc.—which is something I’ve been interested in and was hoping to get more of, and in “The Strangled Heart,” we did.

LOWLIGHTS

I miss Kady and Margo,
and even though I know they’ll probably be back, I wanted some Margo and Eliot scenes. I’d so wanted Kady and Margo to have more in the earlier episodes, and they finally had more scenes, and now they were completely missing. Though, I’m not sure how they’d have fit in this episode, so I wasn’t too upset. Honestly, it was such a good episode, that’s just nitpicking.

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