The Magicians (S04E05) “Escape From The Happy Place”

I admit it, I needed some time to process this episode. It’s been days and my emotions are still in a swirl. “Escape From The Happy Place” is a rather slow-paced episode, in the sense that not much happens in regards of plot until the end. It’s mostly introspective, as we spend a significant portion of time trapped in Eliot’s mind as he goes through his memories – and what a delight that was. The writers did insert a little bit of fanservice that will hopefully become more and more relevant to the plot in the future.

It’s always nice to have these character-driven episodes in a show that is mostly event-driven. We don’t usually get to explore the characters’ past, but this time we finally got a glimpse and snapshots of Eliot’s life before Brakebills. People have theories about Charlton’s real identity, but I think he’s genuinely only the previous host of the monster.

Honestly, the biggest plot twist of this episode was discovering that Todd’s real name is Eliot and that Eliot bullied him into going by his second name. This mini trauma explains nicely why Todd has had an obsession with becoming Eliot ever since El left Brakebills the first time. The scenes of Margo and El being best friends at the Physical Kids cottage with no preoccupations or complications warmed my heart.

The sequences of Eliot looking for his most traumatic memory were equal parts genius, hilarious and touching. It makes me want to frame his list on the blackboard and read in-depth stories about each memory. As I watched the episode, I was half-convinced Eliot would lose hope and decide he’d be content with just being in this fake happy place with Margo and Quentin as figments of his imagination, and I’m incredibly glad he surprised me and found the strength. He fought through his worst memories to find the door to communicate with his friends. Eliot tends to be determined when his actions will affect his loved ones, not often when it’s for his own good.

In the real world, the Monster wearing Eliot’s face wants Quentin’s help and even tries to console him after telling him that Eliot is gone. Penny has gone back to being an uncooperative git, blowing Margo off to go see Julia like a sixteen-year-old on his first crush. Margo has to tell Fen and the castle that Eliot is dead, and they don’t take the news well. Poor Fen organizes multiple rituals to wallow and lament her late husband, King, and dear friend. It was lovely to see she was concerned with Margo’s wellbeing, continuously asking her whether she’d cried yet. But Margo decides not to give her emotions an inch because if she did, she’d go mad with grief. She proudly understands she can function without her best friend and soulmate, no matter how much it hurts. She retrieves her birth box, even if we don’t get to see the scene or Lord Fresh himself. Inside the box however is an iguana – Fresh is the king of reptiles after all – which isn’t helping much by not talking. Raif realizes the talking animals have gone silent, as Abigail also won’t talk to him.

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On Earth, Shoshana removes Julia’s cloaking spell for a ritual long enough for the goddess Iris to find her. She blackmails Julia into agreeing to kill the Monster for her by soaking him with the blood of a living stone. Quentin agrees to kill the monster, no matter whose face it might wear.

Alice shows up at Marina’s apartment. Alice doesn’t want to make up with Q, she wants to save his life, even though it’s clear she actually wants his forgiveness and is lonely wants to be let back in the gang. She warns him that he’s going to die in two days, but he refuses to leave Julia and the plan. Alice convinces him to let her help and promises she’ll leave to wherever she’s supposed to go if Q lets her help him. He reluctantly agrees. I’ve never been a fan of their relationship, but their dynamic was finally turned around this episode. For two seasons we’ve watched Q strive to get Alice back and her run away from him, despising him. Those times are over:

“I’m about to kill my friend. It’s a monster, I know, but it’s a monster with his face and eyes and I just I don’t have space for us right now.”

Penny is kidnapped by a mysterious young man – possibly the same who grabbed Marina a couple of episodes ago?

The walk down the memory lane for Eliot was the biggest and best part of the episode. Knowing that out of all the things we were shown, his two most traumatic moments were betraying Margo and rejecting Quentin, the tears kept coming. And they obviously did not stop once the true ending of episode 3×05, “A Life in a Day” was revealed. After coming back from fifty years of living together and having a family in Fillory, Q actually confessed his feelings for Eliot were real in their world too, in that time and place, and asked him to give them a shot. But El, being cynical and also a little afraid of ruining something already beautiful, had to refuse: “That’s not me and that’s definitely not you, not when we have a choice.”

The last part about the choice truly kills me, because Eliot is so clearly in the wrong. Quentin has a choice now, and he is taking a chance and passing the choice to Eliot. Present!Eliot sees his mistake and visibly regrets it: “Q, I’m sorry. I was afraid and when I’m afraid I run away.” (Eliot gives Quentin a sweet kiss.) “When I’m braver, it’s cause I learned it from you.”

What is beautiful about these two is that they’re so imperfect and messed up and will always be a work in progress. They’ve both got their own issues to deal with and they don’t lean on the other for support or out of need, but because they genuinely love each other. The entirety of the second half of season 3 can be read in a very different light with the information we got this episode. We know that Q tried to commit suicide, and later on that he volunteered to stay in the prison with the monster, because he thought he’d already lived a full lifetime with the love of his life, so he might as well sacrifice himself for all his loved ones.

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THE MAGICIANS — “Escape from the Happy Place” Episode 405 — Pictured: (l-r) Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh, Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater — (Photo by: SYFY)

At the park where Quentin’s destiny is supposed to unfold, Eliot breaks through the monster’s control for only a moment, but it is enough for Q to believe him and to save him from Alice pouring the blood on him. Iris shows up and kills Shoshana in anger, but the Monster, again in control of El’s body, kills Iris and demands an explanation from our heroes. Alice, ever the quick thinker, fakes that it was their plan to get Iris all along.

At the end of the episode, we can’t help but contrast Quentin’s “I loved you, but you couldn’t trust that. Goodbye Alice” to the “We work. We know it cause we lived it. Who gets that kind of proof of concept?” It is becoming clearer and clearer that the show is moving towards what the people want: Queliot as the endgame ship. That above dialogue sounds awfully like it’s taken from a season 3 angsty fanfiction, but oddly enough, it didn’t feel like fanservice. It truly felt like an important plot point, something that is going to carry weight for story and characters alike – unlike Margo and Josh’s weird hookup from the previous episode, which was promptly ignored in 3×05 but will be brought up in 3×06, even if not the way you may expect.

The Magicians is a fantastic show, it can’t be categorized with other similar shows of its genre. It belongs in a category of its own.

Until next time, talk to me at @ladymultifandom on Twitter. Peaches and plums, motherfuckers!

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