The Magicians, S03/E05: "A Life in the Day"

Welcome back to the Magicians.

Four episodes down and two keys in hand, what will A Life in the Day hold in store for the former students of Brakebills?


Thanks to everyone at the Observation Deck and TAY for visiting!

Alice, Astral Penny and Kady.

After an awkward encounter with Quentin, Alice leaves the dorm with Penny in tow, to take the key to Kady so she can see him. It turns out Kady is in some kind of institution because she didn’t have insurance to cover rehab after recovering from her heroin overdose. Alice just hands the key to her with no warning or explanation and Kady freaks out upon seeing her dead boyfriend. She was so thoroughly broken by his death and her failure to help him that she is repulsed by his return, along with the key itself putting her at unease. Julia also experienced discomfort when holding the key, but it looks like Kady’s reaction is more severe.

When someone who owns straitjackets says you are dangerous, don’t hit them.

Kady tells Penny off, which is unfortunate because the security cameras recorded her screaming at an empty room and threatening to kill someone. The staff think she is a danger to herself and others, and she makes their point by trying to fight her way out, getting taken down and sedated by orderlies.


Queen Margo the Destroyer.

Margo and Tick discuss their assassination plan when interrupted by the Faerie Queen, who has a new task for Margo. There is a floating mountain that fell into the sea and is now an island off Fillory’s coast, and the Faerie Queen commands Margo to marry their prince. Once again, the Faerie offers no explanation for her seemingly ambiguous demands, but does make it clear that by marrying into the royal family of the Floating Mountain That No Longer Floats, she will gain an army. This is consistent with her desire for Margo to “be a queen.”


Margo meets the queen of the floating mountain and tries to postpone the pending nuptials, but the Stone Queen (lot of queens lately) says she thought the wedding was a matter of urgency, as their mutual, pale friend has made it clear to both of them that this is happening. The Stone Queen introduces her youngest son, whom Margo balks at marrying, then her elder son, Mica, whose model good looks change Margo’s mind about marriage pretty quick.

I still think they should have executed this guy last season.

Prince Ess, the last guy who stormed her castle and tried to force Margo to marry him, comes for the wedding, and when an attempt is made on the life of Mica, Margo accuses him and has him arrested. The wedding continues, officiated by Tick, and beautiful Mica’s head is chopped off by an axe rigged to some kind of mechanism, Covering Margo in his blood. Already under a great deal of pressure from the fairie queen, the quest for the keys, and the deteriorating kingdom of which she is currently the sole ruler, Margo is reaching her breaking point. At this point, Prince Fomar steps up to take his brother’s place, still holding the ropes that triggered the axe that killed his brother, and demands the ceremony continue with him in Mica’s place. Margo starts to freak out, but the traditions dictate he take the dead brother’s place and the Faerie Queen insists Margo marry the teenaged fratricide. The poor Stone Queen, mother to the murdered and his murderer, has no real say in the matter, and agrees that the show must go on.


Quentin and Elliot: the Mosaic.

Elliot reads from the Tales of the Seven Keys, disappointed by its incompleteness. He finds reference to the mosaic, a puzzle that when solved grants a key to greater magic. Keys are exactly what they are looking for, and Elliot enjoys for a moment that the metaphor turns out to be literal. Quentin knows, from his many readings of the Fillory books, that Jane Chatwin found the Mosaic in Fillory but was too late, as someone else had already solved the puzzle. The pair use the first key on the Clock the Chatwins used as their gateway to Fillory, and make their way.


When they arrive, they immediately feel magic in the air, but realize that magic has not returned; instead they have arrived in Fillory’s past. Quentin deduces from the state of the castle’s construction that they have arrived decades before the young Chatwins first came to Fillory. With the door to earth gone, they journey forward and find a frustrated man trying to solve the puzzle. “It’s all yours, if you don’t mind wasting your gods damned time” he tells them, and storms off. Quentin and Elliot approach the mosaic, a large square on the ground with stacks of loose, colored tiles, and Quentin starts calculating the possible combinations. His conclusion: A shit load of combinations.


They get to work, and the frustration sets in quicker than expected. After all the time they spent without magic, they find themselves back in time, but their magic doesn’t work on the puzzle. They try again and again to “capture the beauty of all life” in the mosaic, but it is an impossible task that makes no sense to the pair. Time passes, and they try different combinations of tiles. Quentin despairs after what was probaby weeks, complaining that he knew it would take time, but didn’t think it would take a decade, but Elliot encourages him to keep at it. A local girl, Arielle, appears and offers them food, peaches and plums.

Elliot and Quentin celebrate their one year anniversary of trying to discern the mystery of the mosaic. Time passes. Arielle comes by frequently and Quentin forms a relationship with her, they have a child. She dies. Elliot consoles the grief stricken Quentin, time passes. Quentin and Elliot raise the boy, they work on the mosaic. They fix up the nearby cottage and make it a home, time passes. They work on the mosaic, time passes. Their boy grows up and leaves the mosaic home, Quentin and Elliot remain, aged and content. Time passes and Elliot dies.

Hey, watch where you’re walking, we were working on that!

Quentin, now alone and having spent a lifetime unable to complete his quest, gets a shovel to bury his life partner. As he digs Elliot’s grave, his shovel hits something, and Quentin pulls up a single tile. He places it in the center of the mosaic and the third key appears. As with most quests, the oblique instructions become clear after the solution is found: “The Beauty of all Life” is more like the sum total of an entire lifetime, spent in service, or dedicated to a quest, or surrounded by love, or some nebulous combination of all this and more.


After an entire lifetime, in his moment of deepest grief, he finally finds the object of his quest. Before he can begin to think about what to do with the key, he looks up and sees the young Jane Chatwin. As he knew from the books, she came to the mosaic in search of its prize, but someone had completed it before she got there. His original hypothesis, that he and Elliot were the ones who solved it before Jane, was right. He is happy to see her, but reluctant to give up the key after what it cost him. The young girl is distraught, as some helpful dwarves have gifted her a magical pocketwatch, but she needs the key of Time to make it work. Her brother has become quite dangerous, and they told her if the situation becomes so far gone that nothing can fix it, she can use the watch to reset time. Quentin, of course, knows this. He knows Jane needs the watch to fight the Beast and create the time loops that saved him and his friends from the Beast, that gave them so many chances to fight back after so many deaths. He knows that she needs the key more than he does, and that his friends’ survival depends on it, and that he already gave it to her.

Quentin rocks a wizard beard, because he’s a wizard. Jane’s beret and cloak are adorable.

Julia and Alice.

Alice finds Julia doing some research, and is confused to find the books are about religion, not magic. Julia’s response: “Yeah, we’re in that territory” communicates the depths of their desperation. Alice’s eye go white and Julia is given another message; this time she is told Alice needs her help. Alice snaps out of her trance and realizes something just happened, but Julia doesn’t acknowledge it, instead suggesting they go out for a drink.


Julia probes for ways Alice is hurting and how she might be able to help her, and the ready response is that Alice misses magic and wants Julia’s. Alice was good at magic, then, as a niffin, she was magic. Now the niffin is gone, the magic is gone, and she’s not sure what it means to be Alice. Julia has no answer as to why she still has magic, but her best guess is that Our Lady Underground, the earth goddess who returned her shade to her, left her a present. Alice suggests Julia use the Key of Truth and a mirror to focus it’s powers, or, you know, to take a look at her true self. Julia sees Reynard’s demonic, cat-like eyes on her face, and is understandably upset. Time stands still, and Our Lady Underground sitting at a nearby table, invites Julia to talk.


Julia asks the Lady why she has Reynard’s eyes, and she is told that she was given a seed to grow, and that this seed of power, the source of Julia’s magic, came from Reynard. It isn’t his anymore, and it isn’t a direct result of her interactions with him, but she doesn’t want anything to do with it. Julia would rather live without magic than carry his taint. Alice is much more pragmatic about it, admittedly because she didn’t have any direct experience with Reynard’s savagery, and suggests she’d be willing to take that once-evil magic off Julia’s hands, if such a thing were possible. Alice also mentions she thinks such a thing is possible, and the two head back to the university to investigate means of swapping magical seeds bestowed by minor deities.

Margo, Jane.

In an effort to postpone having sex with a murderous teen, Margo convinces him that if they consummate the marriage before she opens every single wedding gift, his dick will rot and fall off. He is eager, but decides not to push his luck on this one. Margo opens a parcel addressed to her, a letter from Quentin containing the first key, with news of their deaths and the story of their lifetime. He arranged, many years before, for it to be delivered on her wedding day, and has a message for her.


Using the first key that creates doors, Margo finds her way to a space where she finds the grown Jane Chatwin- the one who recruited Quentin and gave him the final Fillory book, and used her magic pocketwatch to reset time to give them so many chances, until she fell to the Beast, her brother. Jane is in a pocket dimension called the Clock Barrens, a place where all time exists at once, and it is held together by the magic of the Key of Time. Margo needs the key that Quentin gave her, but without it, the Clock Barrens will collapse and Jane will cease to exist in this form. This isn’t an insurmountable problem, since the Key of Time is also still on Earth, in Jane’s grave, a place Jane can easily send Margo.

Elliot and Quentin, at the start of their journey into the clock, are interrupted by Margo, who now holds two keys, one of which was in Elliot’s hand a moment before. Their quest completed before it began, the trio return to Fillory, where Quentin and Elliot begin to remember; peaches and plums, aging, Arielle, Quentin’s wife, their child and grandchildren, their life together, their death.

A lifetime comes rushing back.

Invocations of generations. 

  • The Stone Queen was played by Dina Meyer. Great choice, she has the cheekbones for a Stone Queen.
  • There was no mention of Hyman or his fate, but since the key is still usually in the dorm, I’m sure someone will talk to him from time to time.
  • I have missed both Jane Chatwins so much, I loved seeing them again. I hope not for the last time.
  • Keeping score, Elliot found the first key, Julia found the second, and now Quentin has found the third.
  • I love the little antique shop tags they put on the keys with “#1" and “#2". Got to label those things, you really don’t want to grab the wrong one when you’re heading out on an adventure!


  • Margo to her new fiance, Mica: “Are you one of those sick fuck princes who shoots girls with arrows, am I gonna wake up tomorrow chained to a wall?” Ouch, Margo. I probably don’t have to point out that these are things the sadistic Prince Joffrey did on Game of Thrones, but you may not have realized that Esmé Bianco, the grown up Jane Chatwin, played Ros, the one on the receiving end of Joffrey’s new crossbow.
  • When Margo meets Jane in the Clock barrens, she is overwhelmed and unsure of her position in life. She feels that Elliot and Quentin do all the real work and she’s just a placeholder in Fillory until and if they return, and she just found out they died decades earlier, so she is lost.
  • Jane commiserates and says sometimes they feel like they are a minor character in someone else’s story. This is a pretty messed up thing for Jane to say, since she was the primary subject of, like, six really famous books and she knows it.
  • Unless she knows the books are fake and only a part of the Magicians series of books and now tv, which, whoa. No, I can’t go there.
  • Margo had to rob a cradle and a grave in one day, but she got Elliot and Quentin back. Now she just has to think of something before hew husband wakes up horny with bad ideas.
  • Margo may have been forced into one marriage and tricked into another, but the people of the Floating Mountain(that no longer floats) have a strictly matriarchal society, she really ought to lean into that to control her twerp husband.

Quentin and Elliot.

  • “The Beauty of all Life” was such a vague and impossible test, but the episode delivered. When they arrived in the past, I knew they were in for the long haul, but the way it started out slow, a few hours, a few days, then suddenly but seamlessly snowballed into decades. We got a visceral sense of their lives in the mosaic cottage, and it was truly a thing of Beauty. Quentin earned his key, the hard way.
  • When Elliot laid to rest, and Quentin called out to him, realizing he wasn’t getting up, my heart broke.
  • Elliot and Quentin, upon returning to Fillory, start to remember their other life. The time loop was broken, but it also happened. I hope Quentin’s descendants are out there somewhere.
  • I also hope this gives them both, but especially Quentin, a new perspective. They really should not continue from this point forward as the same people they were the day before,
  • Quentin knew on day one that they landed in Fillory many decades before the Chatwins found their way in, and that the puzzle was solved before Jane got there, he really should not have been surprised that he’d be there for a decade and probably longer.


  • So it seems, at least for now, that the prophetic messages were coming from Our Lady Underground, and we know for sure her magic did. This should have been more obvious, but I didn’t expect them to bring her back, and I still think there could be another player at large. The faeries mysterious purposes could still be a factor.
  • I doubt that Julia’s magic will be transferable, no matter how much she doesn’t want it and how much Alice does. While some kind of transfer of magic is proven possible by Lipson’s batteries, Julia’s magic was granted her by a deity, and I think the Lady will want it to stay where she put it.
  • I know Julia suffers serious PTSD regarding Reynard, but throwing away the only magic in the world is entirely unreasonable, especially since she already suspected it came from Our Lady Underground, which it did. Did Julia not ever suspect that being raped by the trickster god was the source of her power, as it was the cause of her ability to hold the god-killing knife?

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