The quest for the seven keys have been the main narrative driving season three of The Magicians as Quentin and the squad search for these magical items in the hopes of restoring magic on Earth as well as other realms.
The mission was given to them by the Great Cock of the Darkling Woods, the brother of the White Lady (who is one of the seven questing creatures in Fillory). He tells Eliot that he will need all his friends to fulfill this task and that they must go to a library in New Jersey to find a book with no author. Julia and Quentin are able to locate the book (mostly Jules since she still has a touch of magic) and it’s called The Tale of the Seven Keys. It’s magical tome naturally and initially, only the first page is written. Eventually, more pages get filled and we discover the story behind the keys.
Once upon a time, a knight had a very brave daughter and while the two were close, the father had always yearned for a son that he could pass on his knowledge to. One day, a witch kidnaps him and his daughter pleaded for his release to no avail. However, she tells the young girl that he could be rescued if she completed a quest to find seven keys that would open his prison inside the castle at the end of the world. The witch even reveals the location of the first key on an island beyond her kingdom.
This island turned out to be After Island on Fillory where Eliot, Fen, and Fray went to retrieve the object in the guise of collecting taxes. The key was in the possession of a charlatan named Father Poe who was using its illusion magic to oppress the villagers into making him their de facto leader through fear. He had been conjuring a shadow bat that couldn’t actually harm anyone and then murdering a person pretending that the creature had killed him/her. After Eliot reveals his trickery, the high king takes the key and lets the islanders do what they want with Father Poe. When Muntjac is attacked by pirates, we learn that the illusion key can also create portals. A door with a keyhole appears on one of the ship’s walls where Eliot is able to use it to open a door into the Neitherlands. Unfortunately, their troubles aren’t over because magic has vanished there as well and the place is in ruins. Cannibals are running amuck and trying to eat the Fillorian royal family. However, the key comes to their rescue again as Eliot tries to use it to conjure a shadow bat, but instead gets an illusion of his angry dad. But hey, it does come in handy regardless because he sends his father to set the cannibals straight and they are able to sneak down to the library and use one of the doors to portal into Brakebills. This key conjures up whatever the holder fears most.
Side note: Is Eliot able to leave Fillory because magic is gone? Was it some kind of magical restraint that prevent the high king from ever leaving?
Later on, the book revels more of the story as the knight’s daughter finds the second key inside a sentient cave. Quentin recalls that in the first Fillory book, Rupert Chatwin entered a magical cave filled with countless treasures. He ends up only taking one item, a golden key. Q concludes that it may be on Earth because Rupert gives the object to one of his friends from the war. This friend turns out to be Lance Morrison, who attended Brakebills in the 1940s. However, we discover that Lance had only been a student for a short white due to a Code 7. Dean Fogg explains that this is either death by suicide or explosion. But the dude is actually a ghost haunting the West Dorm, which was closed by the dean’s predecessor because back then it was considered taboo to have a campus spirit. Since magic is gone, Quentin and Julia are able enter the West Dorm and see Lance’s ghost. They witness Rupert give his friend the golden key and say that it reveals the truth of things. Once Lance holds the small item he realizes that they are attracted to each other and the two begin making out. The scene shifts to Mr. Morrison enraged that his son is gay and ends up choking the younger man to death. He also keeps the key. This little field trip though informs the magicians that Lance is a MacAllister and so Quentin and Julia ask Dean Fogg to help them get into MacAllister house. Earlier in the season, we met Irene MacAllister, a member of Brakebills’ board and a former student of Fogg’s. She had been visiting the graduate school on behalf of the board to have the educational institution focus on finding a way to bring magic back. The dean uses this angle to bring Quentin and Julia to Irene’s home in order for them to search for the second key. Once inside, the hedge with is able to cast a locator spell that shows her where the item is residing. Back at Brakebills they exchange stories with Eliot, when the high king takes the truth key and sees Penny, who has been stuck in the astral plane.
In this week’s episode, Alice takes the truth key to Kady who is in a hospital psych ward so that the other woman can talk to Penny. Understandably, she freaks out once she is able to see the traveler again because of everything she’s already gone through. Kady is pissed beyond belief because he’s the reason she’s in there and she just wants this to be over.
Back at the Physical Kids’ cabin, Quentin and Eliot are working on discovering the whereabouts of the third key. The book has filled in some more and this time talks about how the girl is training to become a knight herself. Eliot asks him to skip to the part to where they can find the next key and Q shows him a page with a drawing of the girl and a mosaic. They would have to create a design with the mosaic that shows all the beauty of life and their prize would be the key. However, the puzzle is in Fillory so they would need to find a way back to the other realm. Remember the ram grandfather clock? It’s back and it’s in the cabin! Quentin tells El that it had been a portal to Fillory and so it’d make sense that they could use it again if they somehow figure out how to wind it up magically. The men momentarily get distracted by two bunnies appearing with Margo’s message saying that she’s getting married and needs help dickwads. When they turn back to the clock, a keyhole has now mysteriously appeared. The high king puts the illusion key in, winds the timepiece up and a white light suddenly radiates from inside. Q wants to gather the troops, but the key pops out and they figure this round is just for the two of them. They enter the portal and find that they are in Fillory alright, but just not during their time. As they are walking through the woods, Q tells Eliot how in the books, Jane tries to complete the mosaic but she’s too late and someone had solved it first. El asks who and Quentin responds maybe its them. As they come upon a cabin with an old man seated on the ground, he turns around and angrily says that it’s all theirs if they don’t mind wasting their time.
The twosome start the work and Q first tries to calculate their odds and the different possible tile combinations. He tries to cast a spell, but unfortunately magic doesn’t appear to work on the mosaic so they have to try the old-fashioned way. As they continue the difficult task of puzzle solving, years ago by where Eliot and Q’s relationship evolve and grow into an incredibly deep relationship. They even slept together for a hot second, Quentin meets a pretty Fillorian fruit seller named Arielle and ends up marrying her. They have a son! When his wife passes away, the high king was there for his friend. Q’s kid eventually grows up and leaves home, promising to come visit. We flash forward to the two magicians as old men still at it and Eliot asks if he thinks about them. Q wonders if he means the grandkids, but the other man says no their friends. Quentin responds that he dreams about them sometimes. Even more time passes by and Eliot dies in his sleep. Ugh my heart!!! Q wraps up his companion of many years in a blanket and begins to dig a hole in the ground to bury him when his shovel hits something solid in the dirt. He bends down to investigate and discovers it is a single gold tile that had been covered by soil. Q takes it to the emptied mosaic and places it at the center of the space.
As soon as he does, the spell is broken, and the tile vanishes with a key emerging. As he stares at the key that’s taken both his and Eliot’s entire life to find, a young Jane Chatwin appears asking if he’s solved the mosaic. He was right after all! Jane pleads with him that she’s trying to stop her brother. The dwarves built her a pocket watch so that if things get too messed up she can reset time, but she needs the key to power it. Q realizes that this is how Jane created the time loops during season one. Eventually he decides to give her the key knowing that she needs it in order for the events from his past to occur. She gratefully takes it, gives old man Quentin a kiss and departs. As he stands there alone I’m sure he must be asking himself was this all worth it?
Back in Fillory during the present, Margo is opening gifts delaying her eventual consummation with the young prince she was forced to marry (he chopped off his own older brother’s head so that he could wed her instead). She finds a letter from Q with the illusion key inside. The missive explains that he and Eliot are dead and that they had been sent back in past to find the time key. He had arranged for this letter to arrive to her way in advanced and now she needed to go to the Clock Barren to find Jane Chatwin and get the magical object from her. Margo is proceeds and finds a still alive Jane. The elder magician was able to create a space outside of time and tells the high queen that in the linear plane the key is with her dead body in Brakebills and that she can send her there. She manages to get it and arrives at the Physical Kids cabin just as Eliot and Quentin are about to put their key into the keyhole within the grandfather clock. She shows them both keys and explains what happened. The three then head back to Fillory where Q finds the letter his other self had sent Margo (who leaves the two men to get some much needed rest). Eliot grabs a peach and begins to eat it. They then both sit down, a feeling of déjà vu takes over as memories from their other timeline come flooding back. The duo are both flabbergasted at how they could be remembering they life that they didn’t actually get to lead.
Meanwhile Alice and Julia have a drink together and this is the first time the two talented women are alone. Earlier, a god possessed Ms. Quinn and told the hedge witch to help the ex-niffin. At the bar, Alice tells Jules that she should want to know why she has magic still and to use the truth key to find out. She suggests using a mirror to help her focus. As the other woman stares into her reflection, she suddenly sees her eyes turn into Reynard’s fox eyes and it freaks her out big time. When Julia removes her hands from her face, the bar has become empty except for Our Lady Underground who is seated at a table nearby. The two talk and we finally discover that the goddess had taken her son’s magic and put it in the young hedge witch because she earned it when she showed mercy. Understandably Jules wants nothing of Reynard’s in her given that the god had raped her, gotten her pregnant, and then lost her shade through the exorcism/abortion. But OLU says that this power is no longer his but hers. Back in the linear plane, Alice tells the other woman that maybe she can transfer her magic over.
Season three of The Magicians continues to throw audiences for a loop in the best way possible. For a show that’s based on a series of novels, it still manages to be surprising and inventive as the story unfolds. We’ve seen plenty of books, TV shows, and films take on the magical school trope, yet The Magicians manages to keep themselves fresh, a task that is no easy feat.
With three keys discovered we have four more to go and it’s going to be such an adventure to see what they can do.
TL;DR: Illusion key creates an conjures up whatever you fear most, the truth key shows the truth of everything and reveals hidden things, and the time key manipulates time (can send people to the past and present; can also create time loops and spaces outside of time).
To read all about keys four and five, click below:
The Magicians airs on Syfy Wednesdays at 9 pm.