Episode 3×04 “Be The Penny” was narratively very innovative because the whole thing was explored from Penny’s point of view. We watch as Penny watches his friends react to his death, and just like us, Penny can’t do anything about it. Or can he? So many things happened this episode, that I thought it ran longer than 42 minutes. Genius writers and directors for being able to insert so many events and information in one episode. Let’s recap what happened!
Penny was astroprojecting when he died and now his conscience is alive but his body is dead and he can’t reach his friends. He is extremely disappointed nobody is crying, but just drinking, as they improvise a funeral in the Physics kids cottage. Quentin gives a funny eulogy and Kady laments the fact that none of them really knew him, not even her.
Penny travels to the Neitherlands and finds the Library trashed. He follows the criminals who killed the librarian and they run into Eliot, Fen and Fray at the fountains. The key evidently transported them to the Neitherlands, which makes a lot of sense. Penny tries to warn Eliot that those people are cannibals, but they can’t hear him and they end up having to run.
Alice went back to Brakebills. She can’t stay with her mother after she caused her father’s death. She and Quentin talk. Alice believes they shouldn’t try to bring magic back, they’re better off without it. Her claim is only backed up by the fact that Quentin’s father – who we met in season 1 and discovered was battling cancer – is completely healed as the cancer was somehow inherently magical. Meanwhile, Kady overdoses and Julia receives a sign from above that tells her to go save her. She can summon some magic and is able to cure her.
Margo receives a messenger bunny with the news of Penny’s death. Paradoxically, she is the one who has the most dramatic reaction. “I guess I always thought we were gonna bang some day.” To which Penny absent-mindedly responds, “Me too, girl.”
Penny meets Hymen, aka the Pevert Ghost of Brakebills, (except he isn’t a ghost, he’s like Penny). Hymen (say what you want about his name, Penny has already made his comments) is a guy who died in the 20s, and he is basically Brakebills’ creepier version of Moaning Myrtle. He likes to spy on people while they’re in the bathroom or having sex. He also ardently ships Julia and Quentin, who finally figure out where the next key is thanks to the Fillory books (NERD POWER!). They realize Rupert Chatwin found a key in Fillory, brought it to Earth and gave it to an American soldier who went to Brakebills in the 40s, Lance Morrison.
Someone from the order of the Library looks for Penny, because his contract said he would serve the Library even after death. Penny, who does not want to be stuck working at the library for eternity, desperately tries to communicate with his alive friends. Hymen explains he has to project his being into something else, starting from a penny, hence the episode’s title “be the penny!”. He masters the technique but can’t go back into his body because, well, it’s dead. The others are debating burning his body or turning it in to the Library.
Margo plots revenge on the fairy queen. She’s going to get her castle back, and she sounds scary. It also occurs to her that Eliot may be already dead, and she wouldn’t know. She didn’t have any action this episode, but at least we got a bit more of Summer Bishil screen time because Penny tries to project in the Margolem. Unfortunately, Quentin kills the Margolem because he thinks it’s possessed – well, technically it is, by Penny – so Penny’s efforts were useless.
Julia and Quentin find out that Lance’s ghost is at Brakebills. Penny hopes he can reach out to the ghost, that Lance could act as a medium between him and his friends. But Lance Morrison is stuck in a loop and relives moments of his life: Rupert Chatwin giving him the key and saying “it reveals hidden things” and it certainly did, because we discover they were lovers. But he also relives his father killing him so he’s of no use to Penny.
Speaking of homophobic fathers, Eliot uses the key and his hateful father appears. Penny aptly asks, “What is it with everyone and their daddy issues today?” After a couple of ugly, openly homophobic comments directed at his son, Eliot’s father is sent in the direction of the cannibals, while Eliot, Fen and Fray flee through the Fountain.
Quentin, Julia and Dean Fogg go to visit the trustee Irene McCallister — old magical family, related to Lance Morrison — her house still has a lot of enchantments that run on a deep reserve of energy. While Q distracts Irene with fake magical tricks, Julia searches the house and uses its magical energy to look for the key. She finds it and we see fairies appear behind her for a second.
It’s been almost 7 days since Penny’s death and his body needs to either be burned or handed over to the Library. Kady can’t seem to make a choice so Alice is about to make it for her. But Penny astroprojects into the candle and burns his own body.
Chapter 3 is unlocked, and key #3 might be in Fillory. Dean Fogg arrives with grim news about the board of trustees closing Brakebills. The day is saved by Eliot and family bursting into the cottage.
Quentin is so relieved to see him, he runs to him and hugs him tight (I missed them so much). They obviously all have a lot of catching up to do. They come to the realization that Eliot’s key shows what you most fear, while Quentin’s shows the truth. So Eliot tries the truth key and… he finally sees Penny! The episode ends like that, boom.
I really, really liked this episode. I thought it was brilliant. The only note is that I wish we could see more of Margo, and I hope they won’t separate Eliot from the others again. Also, what is up with the fairies behind Julia? And who sends her the godly messages whenever there’s an emergency? I am so glad to see Julia smile and laugh, and she fits right in at Brakebills. I hope the entire squad can reunite soon, and they can figure out how to fix Penny’s situation. As long as someone can hear him, that’s great, but we would like to have him back for good.
Episode rating: 9/10
Come fangirl with me on Twitter, at @ladymultifandom!