THE MAGICIANS -- "Be the Penny" Episode 304 -- Pictured: Arjun Gupta as Penny Adiyodi -- (Photo by: Eric Milner/Syfy)
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‘The Magicians’ Review: Penny’s Got 99 Problems

This week’s episode of The Magicians is all about Penny as the traveler tries to figure out how to communicate while stuck in astral form. Hint: it does not go well.

When we last left off, Penny’s body had just died with Kady and Julia still in the room with him. Kady storms off angrily just as he tries to talk to her. It soon becomes apparent that no one can see him, though I wonder why the demon Asteroth (who could see him) didn’t tell the two women that hello, Penny’s soul was still alive before leaving. He tries in vain several times to get people’s attention and fails each time. While observing Julia telling Quentin the bad news of his death, the traveler gets offended at the other man’s uncontrollable laughter.

Kady, Q, Julia, and Dean Fogg gather around the living room inside the Physical Kids’ cabin to commemorate his life but no one can seem to say anything about him. It’s Kady who declares that none of them really knew him (even her) and that’s how he liked it. Ouch. This is wake up call for Penny at how screwed he is because how can he expect these guys save his ass when it’s hard to say that they were really even his friends. But can he blame them because he did often keep people at a distance through his acerbic personality.

Luckily though, it seems that he is still able to teleport himself all over and so he heads to the Library in the Neitherlands to find a book on astral projection. Unfortunately he still faces the same problem of not being able to touch anything. To make matters worse, all is not well there as cannibals seem to have taken over and most of the books have been taken or destroyed. Two such men talk about how they hadn’t eaten fresh meat since they caught a librarian two weeks ago, but had new entrees upstairs. Penny follows them and sees Eliot, Fen, and Fray whom have come there from Fillory thanks to one of the golden keys. He tries to warn them that it’s a bad idea and of course that doesn’t work because nobody can see him still. We do find out though that all the fountains have frozen over and so they are basically stuck there. The two cannibals in the meantime arrived there via a magic bean. Eliot gets offered a rib (a human one unbeknownst to him) and he begins to eat with gusto.

Penny grossed out beyond belief returns to Brakebills and finds Alice and Quentin talking. He thinks Alice is pouring her heart out that she had actually loved him only to discover that she was talking about her father Daniel who had also died. She also briefly mentions that she had no place else to go since she can’t be in the same room as her mom. Q says that they could use her help on their quest, but Alice is torn about it because sometimes she thinks that they are better off without magic after the mess they made. Fair point. It seems the only thing good that’s come out of this is that Quentin’s father had some form of magical cancer and now it’s in remission. Well that’s super unfair because wasn’t Penny’s the same? Why didn’t his go into remission?

Q sends a bunny to tell Eliot and Margo about Penny’s death and the traveler follows the animal to Fillory where the high queen is still on the Muntjac. Pickwick mourns him as his best friend and Margo sadly expresses that she always thought they would bang. Penny nods and agrees. Us too guys. Us too. He travels back to Brakebills where Kady is in her room looking for drugs. In her grief and anger she’s planning to get high and Penny can’t stand and watch her do this to herself, so he heads downstairs. He catches a God possessing Todd’s body and telling Julia to help Kady now because she’s the only one who can. She then races up the room, uses her ability to open the locked door, and finds Kady having a seizure. Julia places her hands on the other woman’s stomach and thankfully is able to revive her through magic. Suddenly another voice interrupts and Penny turns around to see a person he’s never seen before. The guy freezes and asks if he can see him to which the traveler asks the same thing.

The duo relocate to the living room where we meet Hyman Cooper and hear his tale. It turns out that Hyman is the pervert ghost of Brakebills and was a student at the school in the 1920s. He practiced traveling by astral projecting himself into lectures, dormitories, showers, etc. As a prank someone moved his body and he never found it again since you can’t cast a locator spell without actual fingers. Penny asks him why he hasn’t figured out more about their condition when Julia walks in and Hyman runs off to observe her and Quentin. The lives of the living have basically become his only source of entertainment and he watches them like a reality TV show. Q, who has been researching the second key explains that the knight’s daughter found it in a sentient cave that kept asking her riddles. Julia comments that sounds familiar and he refers back to the first Fillory book where Rupert Chatwin found the same cave. Inside is a mountain of treasure and yet he only takes one thing, a golden key and gives it to his friend that he met during the war. So if the story is real, then the next leg of their quest is on Earth.

Penny looks at Hyman in disbelief and asks him if he was serious about liking these two the most. The other traveler explains that as a man born in 1902 he finds a white heterosexual male very relatable. Obviously. Q tells Jules that they should send a message to Eliot which reminds Penny that the high king was going to be food back in the Neitherlands.

He finds the royal family running for their lives and Fray realizes that Eliot lied to her about collecting taxes on After Island. She demands to know what the key is for to which her dad responds back that it doesn’t matter if they are dead. The high king then remembers that there are doors downstairs in the library and so the trio try to make their way down there in order to use the key.

Penny returns to Brakebills looking for Hyman who is in Dean Fogg’s office with Quentin and Julia. Q tells the principal that they think Rupert gave the key to an American named Lance Morrison and it turns out that after the war he went to a magic school. The dean points them to a cabinet drawer at his assistant’s desk for files from the 1940s. However, their sleuthing activities are interrupted by the arrival of a traveler from the Library inquiring after Penny. The dude gets sent to Kady at the infirmary where he asks her if Penny had died a violent death. She begrudgingly confirms it and the librarian explains that her significant other never made it their underworld branch. He muses that Penny may be on his way to become a vengeful spirit and it was best that they nip that in the butt. His solution is for a corpse eater to consume the body in order to send Penny’s soul to where it’s supposed to be. They need to do it fast however because the soul is only tethered to its body for seven days. Uh oh this isn’t good. Kady goes to get Alice’s advice and the other woman actually feels that it would be better to use the corpse eater. She also adds that Quentin said the underworld wasn’t that bad, there’s a bowling alley! Kady is unsure though because she’s still clinging to the hope that somehow they can bring Penny back with the small amount of magic Julia has.

Against a ticking clock, Penny finds Hyman and tells the other traveler that he needs to help him find a way to talk to Kady or else he was going to cock block him for the rest of time. Hyman then reveals that when he first got stuck in the astral plane he spent months trying to push objects, but it never worked until he became it instead. So, he instructs Penny to pour his whole being into a penny, to envision actually becoming the item. Three hours later they are still arguing with no result. In frustration Penny suddenly vanishes and is now inhabiting the coin. He then manages to somehow flip it over all my himself! Determining that he needs something bigger that can talk, he heads to the Muntjac to try and possess a bunny.

We see a furious Margo with retribution coursing through her blood as tells Tick that when they get back to Whitespire he’s going to get a bunch of soldiers to go to the fairy repellant wing and grind one of those bricks to dust. He is then to put the powder into the fairy queen’s bath and when that knocks her on her ass Margo’s going to cut out her heart and eat it in front of every fairy in the kingdom. Penny astutely comments that she gets it done. That reminds him of the Margolem, who happens to be currently stored inside Todd’s closet in the Physical Kids’ cabin. He manages to inhabit it but before he can say anything that is intelligible, Quentin starts to beat it with a stick so that plan fails.

Dean Fogg comes by and Quentin and Julia tell him how they found out that Lance was only Brakebills student for a semester because of a Code 7. The elder man explains that is either a student suicide or that he magically exploded. Julia voices that they key might still be here since Lance died on campus. Q interjects that Lance had lived in the West Dorm but that building doesn’t exist, to which Dean Fogg says that’s because its buried. Apparently in the 1940s there was a haunting in that student hall and at the time it was considered in poor taste to have a ghost on campus so the former dean buried the whole dorm and magically protected the entrances so that students couldn’t find it. This conversation begins to freak Hyman out and he tells Penny that the ghost will kill them. Also fun fact, this ghost terrorized him for a week back in the day so he refuses to step foot in that building. Penny though sees the upside that if the ghost can harm whatever it is they are then it can also see them.

Q and Jules make their way into the West Dorm where a door opens leading to a lit room with a student inside. Penny pops in though and is able to physically touch the ghost who also reacts to him by saying, “I’m not a bitch!” Surprised, Quentin asks Lance about a key that he could have gotten from Rupert when another figure enters the room revealing himself to be Mr. Chatwin himself. The two friends hug and we witness the key being given to Lance, with Rupert explaining that it will show the honest truth of things. The two guys then start making out but the scene quickly changes to Lance talking to his father. We discover that he is also a McAllister on his mom’s side and Mr. Morrison is pissed that his son is gay. He then magically flings both Lance and Penny who was still trying to get the apparitions to say that he was in the room. The older ghost then begins to strangle his son. The dude is about to attack Q and Julia when Penny intervenes and starts beating the old man up still trying to get the dead to say his name. But Mr. Morrison argues with him and the two living individuals high tail out of there. The duo return to the Physical Kids cabin and relate to Dean Fogg what happened. He in turn explains that the MacAllisters were one of the oldest magical families around and were on the board of trustees. They ask if the principal can get them into the MacAllister house since Mr. Morrison would have likely kept the key because it was a valuable magical object. The older magician says that Irene MacAllister has been calling him every day so perhaps they can give her something she wants.

Meanwhile, Kady and Alice go to see Harriet who recommends that they burn Penny’s body instead of making him a slave to the people who caused his death to begin with.

Penny then finds Hyman again who’s with Todd and excitedly says that the golden key can show the truth of hidden things and that he’s something hidden. He is running out of time though as today is the seventh day since his body died. The other traveler then comments that Eliot already had one of the keys so Penny goes back to the Neithlands. The high king and family are still trying to escape the cannibals and Eliot comes up with a plan to use his key to summon a shadow bat to scare away their pursuers and then they find a book chute to get the hell out of there. Instead of conjuring a bat though, Eliot’s father appears spouting angry homophobic rhetoric. Penny tells his fellow student that he may be more screwed up than him and goes back to Earth.

We find Julia, Q, and Dean Fogg at Irene MacAllister’s house where her family has their own personal magical batteries that her father gathered for decades. Over martinis Irene asks which one of them can do magic and Quentin proceeds to show and tell that he had actually been doing translocator spells without knowing it back before he knew about real magic. He was able to make an olive disappear from his hands and reappear in Irene’s drink, though likely it was Julia did that. Speaking of the hedge witch, she excuses herself for a bathroom visit and when Penny follows her we see that she’s actually casting a locator spell to find the key. The flame leads her to a study where she starts to poke around trying to find the key. Penny walks with her but as the sun sets he leaves to go find Kady and learn what fate has in store for his body. If he had only stayed a few moments longer because Julia does find the key and we see two fairies in the room with her. So interesting that Penny actually saw them as shafts of light the way he saw other magical enchantments in the MacAllister house. Julia though didn’t notice them. She puts the key back in its box and then into her purse.

So why are the fairies there? They must be spying on the magicians on behalf of the fairy queen. Guess they can traveling to different worlds too.

Kady is lighting a candle and preparing to burn the body when Alice comes and tells her that it’s not too late and that the corpse eater will be there any minute. She asks Ms. Quinn why she even cares and the ex-niffin answers that she knows what it’s like to be trapped and to totally lose yourself, but in the underworld he still gets to be Penny. Kady pours out her emotions that she gave It her all to try and save his life and he died anyways, but at least now it can be over. Oh that’s got to hurt poor Penny. Alice tells her that she doesn’t have to take responsibility for this and asks for the matches. Not wanting to be shackled to the Librarians for the rest of his existence, Penny becomes the lit candle and burns his own body.

Back at Brakebills, Quentin and Julia are examining their newly acquired key. It turns out that she unlocked chapter three and that their next mission is back in Fillory. The dean comes in though and relays some bad news that their show didn’t convince Irene and as of this morning the board put the school up for sale and he’s out of a job. He tells them that he’d evict them but he actually has no idea who owns the building. The dean then grabs a bottle of hard liquor and goes to lie down. Their next interruption comes in the form of Eliot barging through the door with Fen and Fray behind him still trying to get away from the cannibals. As he begins to tell Q and Jules his story, they ask who Fray is and the high king tells them that’s his daughter and to hold their questions till the end. Turns out his key creates illusions of what you most fear and they were able to use his shadow dad to trick the cannibal (he fed his fake dad to them basically). They tell him about their key (dubbed the truth key) and Eliot takes it. Just as he says that it doesn’t seem to work on him he sees Penny and says hi. Penny then gets up from the ground yelling wait!

Final Thoughts

This is one of those episodes that reminds us why The Magicians is just so damn good. It a totally unexpected and playful way to tell a story that is a bit reminiscent of the fourth episode during the first season when Quentin was being inceptioned by Marina and Julia. Except this time of course its the real world just that nobody can see Penny who is on a different plane of existence. It was super interesting to see how ghosts though seem to inhabit both planes and therefore can interact with both the living and the not quite dead.

Tonight was all about Penny and it was fascinating to see that he could still travel with a dead body and even without a body at all after he burned his. It makes one wonder what kind of magic is it and that it must be tied to his soul somehow. But since fairies could also jump from world to world could travelers trace their magical ancestry back to them? Though why would the fairy queen send a bunny then…mmmm….must think on this more. Speaking of travelers I hope Hyman got out of Brakebills and saw the world since the 1920s. It’s not like they are tethered to their bodies so that would have been such a waste if he just stuck around Brakebills for all these years.

Also it seems like some of the old Alice is coming back since she felt motivated enough to help Kady out with Penny’s body. Some semblance of compassion is returning and this could help her figure out what she wants and who she wants to be.

Now that Brakebills is officially closed and on sale, what does it mean for all the students? Kicked out? Well that isn’t good.

The Magicians airs on Syfy Wednesdays at 9 pm.

About Nicole C

Nicole is the Features Editor for The Workprint. She may or may not be addicted to coffee, audiobooks, and sci-fi.

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