This episode has our Brakebills students learning that they need to work together through their participation in the Trials, tasks that test their magical fortitude, while Julia is forced to realize that, because of Marina, she may be destined to travel her path to magic alone forever. It also cranks up the gore and the sex appeal to great effect and offers up three pretty big surprising moments. We begin with Quentin expressing his devastation that Fillory is not the idyllic dreamworld that was depicted in the books; the books don’t have dungeons where a creepy, moth-swarmed entity called the Beast holds a woman prisoner, nor is the Fillory of the books a place where said Beast also has no qualms about ripping people’s eyeballs out of their faces. It’s here that the overarching theme of the novels and the series is expressed—disillusionment in the fantasy. I love this aspect of the books and the series where it throws in meta-commentary about our experiences with fantasy series such as Narnia or Harry Potter. As Lev Grossman said in an interview, “What happens when Harry Potter grows up?” What happens when you realize that magic is real, when you travel to the fantasy world, but it turns out to be darker than you expected and you’re still the same person you were before even with magic? They are all things that Quentin, our unlikely protagonist, is forced to wrestle with throughout this episode and likely the series as a whole. Later, Quentin is hilariously kidnapped after lamely throwing a book at a would-be intruder and asking if someone is “being creepy on purpose” to participate in The Trials, which are presided over quite gamely by Eliot and Margo. These two seem to have just walked off the pages of the books in this episode, especially Hale Appleman, who embodies the very essence of book Eliot. The Brakebills students are forced to go through a magical hazing with extremely high stakes while the faculty and Dean Fogg, explained by Eliot, “watch from afar.” Very suspicious. If they pass The Trials they get to stay at the school and continue their studies; if not, they’re expelled. As the Trials begin at Brakebills, Julia continues her quest to learn more advanced magic but runs into obstacles because Marina has blackballed her at every safehouse in the area. She finds an unlikely ally in a new character named Hannah, who, we learn, is actually Kady’s mom and has her own reasons to hate Marina. Hannah tries to redeem herself to her daughter, who she sacrificed to Marina’s influence due to a blackmail type situation after magic gone bad, by helping Julia get access to all of Marina’s spells—this is supposed to help free Kady from Marina’s influence, but I’m not exactly sure how. It doesn’t matter, however, because their plan totally backfires. They’re able to steal her files, but the paper where the spells should be transcribed are blank. In retaliation, and as the first big surprise of the episode, Marina murders Julia’s new friend and Kady’s mother, Hannah, from afar with a spell that apparently makes all the blood in her body gush out of her face. It was gross and perfect and completely showed how formidable of an enemy Marina is for Julia. This scene really drove home just how alone Julia truly is, as her only friend she’d been able to make since crossing Marina gets graphically killed right in front of her eyes. I’m also wondering what kind of punishment Marina has planned for Julia. Events are building for a big faceoff between these two and I can’t wait to witness it. Back at Brakebills we see Eliot absolutely killing it in this episode as he and Margo gleefully relish their roles presiding over the trials. Quentin and Penny pass the first trial by cheating off of Alice, and later they are transported to the woods for their second trial where Margo and Eliot, fabulously costumed, demand each person retrieve something different for them from the forest. Surprisingly it’s Penny, the most anti-social, who realizes that they all need to communicate, work together, and share resources to retrieve their items. In the third and final trial, they have to participate in secret sharing magic that requires them to bare themselves completely naked both physically and emotionally. They must bind their wrists with rope, stand in front of the other person completely naked, do some sexy body painting, and then share their utmost truth. If they’re honest enough, the ropes will fall off and the Trials will be over. Sadly, the newly emotional Penny gets his heart broken in return for sharing his emotions when he openly expresses his love for Kady. In the second big surprise of this episode, she reveals that she really doesn’t care about him at all and was just using him so he could help her steal magical secrets for Marina. Damn. I really did NOT like these two characters when the series first began, but I was strangely affected when Kady admitted she didn’t truly care about him. Quentin and Alice struggle to be truly honest with each other until Alice finally admits that she holds back her abilities constantly, which really makes you wonder how badass she is since she’s already the most talented magician in their class. Quentin’s bonds are finally released when he admits that he runs away from everything in his life and that he harbors a deep sense of self-loathing, even after his dream of being a magician has been realized. This episode hits again on that theme of disillusionment– that magic doesn’t change who you are inside, and that Quentin still hates himself with magic or without. The series does a lovely job of portraying mental illness in a realistic way. There are no histrionics here from Quentin, just a pervasive sense of not belonging and lack of purpose, a general greyness to his personality. I really love Quentin as the unlikely protagonist- he’s so unfit for the job of “hero” but you can’t help but root for him to get it together and show the same levels of confidence that Penny, Eliot, and Margo are capable of. The episode ends with the final and biggest surprise as we see Quentin transform into a goose and fly off into the distance. I know where he’s going, because I’ve read the books, but it probably confused a LOT of people who haven’t. I am eagerly anticipating the next episode to see where it takes Quentin and Alice’s relationship, to see how Penny reacts to the bombshell dropped by Kady, and to see how Julia is going to escape from Marina’s wrath now that she’s unsuccessfully attempted to steal all of her spells. 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