Alternate reality fun time! I love an alternate reality story, and time travel. This is a little of both, which impressively manages to show us an alternate timeline while simultaneously adhering to continuity from previous seasons.
Alice, Quentin, and Josh have returned to the Muntjac after their unsuccessful raid of Whitecastle. The steps outlined in the Quest Book didn’t reveal the key as they had hoped, but Josh got magically high and saw where the 6th key might be. The magical altered state allowed him to see into the faerie realm before, so chances are that’s what he saw now. Unfortunately, knowing about the Faerie Realm and getting there are totally different things.
Quentin received word from Julia (via bunny messenger) about the Faerie situation on Earth and the fact that the faerie Queen is in possession of the 6th key, but Margo is unmoved and still wants to kill the Faerie Queen. Alice reminds her they may need her help to get the key. All four of the Kings and Queens of Fillory have a bounty on their heads and can’t approach the portal tree that will send them back to Earth, so they send Josh. He did serve as King of Fillory briefly, but Eliot thinks it didn’t count since it was a “substitute teacher” situation. (I think they don’t want Josh’s head because he was well-loved as King.)
Stunned by the revelation of the McAllistair family’s atrocities, Dean Fogg regrets being so sober. He worries that Irene McAllistair may come back to reclaim her property- she is the legal owner of Brakebills- but Julia tells him she’ll have to find it first. Julia has replaced all the wards that keep the school hidden, a feat Dean Fogg believes impossible for a single witch, but Julia’s power levels are still rising. She believes her magics improve when she uses them to help people, as she did with the faerie slaves. She offers him his school back, and suggests he remain sober.
Josh comes to Julia to coordinate efforts to retrieve the 6th key, but she explains to him that they can’t get to it, and if they did, it would collapse the Faerie Realm and probably lead to the destruction of the faerie race. Josh understands, certainly more than Margo would, but this leaves them rudderless.
Suddenly, they find themselves transported to another place, which Julia recognizes as a Tesla Flexion. This is not a car, as Josh guesses, but a magical device that allows for very brief communication across timelines. Josh and Julia are greeted by another Josh, who doesn’t wear glasses and has a really cool coat. Lasik-Josh tells them there is a six-fingered, moth-enshrouded monster killing magicians, which nobody will call Mothra no matter how many Joshes try to make it stick, and all magic suddenly disappeared, so they are defenseless. No one knows why the wellspring magic was turned off by the plumbers in this timeline, but the Beast still has power. Lasik-Josh guesses it might have something to do with the key he wears around his neck, which is rumored to give him visions of the future. He begs for their help in the one way Josh can’t resist- with a Star Wars quote.
With the Tesla Flexion expired, Josh and Julia return to their own time dimension, and ponder their next move. Josh, noting that the key in the Faerie Realm is out of their reach, suggests they skip ahead to the next key. None of the keys they have found so far grant visions of the future, so if Lasik-Josh was right about the Beast, then they may be able to learn the 7th key’s location while saving Other-Josh and whoever else remains. Julia is hesitant, noting that the Book has always pointed them in the right direction, and suggests consulting Quentin, who has spent more time reading the book and trying to decipher the quest. They make their exit but find themselves in the Brakebills Lab instead of the portal to Fillory, and quickly realize they aren’t in their own lab.
Quick refresher; in season one, when they fought the Beast, they died horribly. Eliza, who turned out to be the grown Jane Chatwin from the Fillory and Further books, turned back time and made small changes, hoping subtle tweaks would lead to a new result. There were 39 different versions, all of which ended in their deaths until the final and current timeline in which they defeated the Beast. Later, Quentin and Julia used a Tesla Flexion to communicate with Alice from timeline 23, who escaped death that one time and became an expert on shades.
Confused by the weirdly inconsistent rules of the quest and unsure why they ended up in Timeline 23, Josh suggests they must have some key-related business here instead of their intended destination. Other-Josh finds them, happy that they showed up so quickly, and announces their arrival, which summons Marina, now with a scar on her cheek.
(At this point let me just say that all names going forward are people from timeline 23 except for Julia and Josh)
Julia is taken aback at the sight of the women who she got raped and murdered when she used her as bait for Reynard, and Marina is surprised that Julia even knows who she is. In the first 39 timelines, Julia attends Brakebills and becomes a top student, while Marina is always a hedge witch. It’s only in the final timeline that Julia wasn’t accepted to the school and was forced to seek out hedge magic and met Marina. Josh knows Marina, as he is older than Julia and was at the school before Marina was expelled. Julia tells Marina they were friends because she didn’t go to Brakebills, and even Marina knows this rings false- she doesn’t make friends in any timeline.
Marina doesn’t know why magic went away in timeline 23, but once it did, they were defenseless against the Beast. The remaining Magicians and Hedge Witches banded together for survival, and while searching the university, found the Tesla Flexion and a battery to power it. Julia and Marina make a deal: in exchange for Julia’s help killing the Beast, she can take the Key. They celebrate with some champagne, while Josh and Other-Josh learn a bit about eachother. Other-Josh got Lasik, which Josh was always too afraid to do, and Other-Josh explains that he was trapped in Fillory. Unlike our Josh, nobody came to find him and his classmates that did escape left him behind. An extended stay in the Neitherlands gave him a new sense of determination. Josh is inspired by the brave new version of himself and promptly realized he has been drugged before passing out, and Julia follows suit.
They awake in bondage, and Marina admits that the call for help was a set up. They don’t have any way of killing the Beast,and don’t expect Julia can do it either. During the Beast’s massacre, he kept asking for Julia, even though she was already dead, so Marina had the idea to give him what he wanted in hopes he would stop hunting them. Julia offers Marina another option- they killed the Beast once with the Rhinemann Ultra, they can do it again. Marina knows this spell can’t be performed with intense magical mastery, and Julia agrees, using her powers to free herself and Josh from their bonds. She approaches Marina, who flinches away, but Julia grasps her face and chest, healing her scar, migraines and smoking addiction as an example of her power.
Julia may have the power to perform the Rhinemann Ultra, but she doesn’t know the spell. Marina takes her to Dean Fogg, who led the students to the spell in Julia’s timeline. Along the way, Marina presses for more details about her supposed friendship with Julia, and Julia admits they had some disagreements before working things out, again pointedly leaving out the horrific death she caused.
Dean Fogg tells them that Bigby, the pixie who taught Alice the Rhinemann Ultra spell in Timeline 40, was murdered along with many other magical creatures by magicians looking to get a fix. Before Bigby was killed, however, he sent two other students, eager for the means to kill the beast, her way, and they may have retrieved the spell. They already died, but the good news is, they died horrific, violent deaths, and their ghosts may still have the knowledge Julia needs.
In the Library, they find the ghosts of the students, Eliot and Margo. They found Bigby and got the spell, but don’t have the power to cast it. They find a cooperative spell that should allow them to combine their strength to use the difficult battle magic, but fail at it spectacularly and blow themselves up, but the tragedy loop does allow Julia to see the spell she needs. As they leave Eliot and Margo’s ghosts behind, they are followed by Penny, who in this timeline, is in love with Julia. He joins them and they return to Josh and Other-Josh. Julia practices the spell, while Penny learns of his doppelganger’s fate, and the two Joshes try to come to terms with who they are.
The Beast appears and kills Other-Josh, as Josh runs to get clear of Julia’s highly destructive spell. Julia performs the Rhinemann Ultra and strikes the Beast directly, but it only destroys the cloud of moths around his head, revealing not Martin Chatwin, but Quentin Coldwater, himself. When the most powerful battle magic at their disposal didn’t faze the beast, the remaining magicians flee to the Library in the Neitherlands, where they try to make sense of the situation. They know the Beast killed Quentin, Alice told them as much when they visited her using the original Tesla Flexion spell, but clearly Quentin is the beast. Looking for answers, they track down the only person they can think of who might know why Quentin isn’t as dead as previously reported.
Alice lives aboard the Muntjac, where she is hidden from the Beast and works for the messenger bunnies, who are radish smugglers in this, the darkest timeline. She has three wooden fingers. Alice explains that after seeing Quentin from Timeline 40, knowing he was out there, she became obsessed with saving her Quentin. She made a deal with a magical creature who could return Quentin without his shade and figured the two of them could work together to regain it once he was alive again, but she quickly learned that the shadeless Quentin isn’t the man she loved. Shadeless Quentin killed the Beast, then took Fillory for himself. He found a way to kill Ember and steal his power, which triggered the shutdown of magic by the Old Gods in this timeline.
Like the prime timeline, Alice was able to go back in time and procure a dagger capable of killing a god, but in timeline 23 she doesn’t have the power to even touch it. Julia does, much to Alice’s surprise, and they begin to hatch a plan to kill Quentin. Marina is firmly in favor of using Alice as bait, but Julia won’t even consider it, and finally reveals the true nature of her relationship to her own Marina, and how it ended. Julia has herself been shadeless, and she knows Quentin better than anyone, knowledge she can use against the new Beast. Penny travels them to Whitespire, where they find a collection of Fillorian artifacts.
The plan to distract Quentin while Penny teleports Julia and her god-killing dagger behind Quentin quickly fizzles as Quentin has placed wards preventing him from being ambushed, so Alice reaches out to him. He tells her he let her live because it was more fun to watch her torture herself, but he knows this is a ploy, so he kills her and calls out. He sniffs out Julia and calls to her, secure that she can’t hurt him, and allows her to get close. Julia casts a spell and transfers her own shade into Quentin. She has been through this before and can control herself without it, but Quentin is now engulfed with grief and shame. Julia presses her advantage over the overwhelmed Quentin and asks him where he found the key. Instead of telling her where he found it, he explains why; he heard it could be used to return magic, and he couldn’t allow that to happen. When he got it, it showed him visions of the future, and Julia assumes he had a vision of her killing him, which is why he was hunting her, despite the Julia from that timeline being dead, but that wasn’t it. he wasn’t afraid of Julia killing him- the key showed him a vision of Julia opening a lock at the end of the world and releasing something horrible into the world. Something worse than him. he tells her to take her shade back and slides the dagger into his own heart, collapsing on the floor next to Alice.
Julia takes his key, and Josh spends a few minutes waving it around while Marina makes fun of him. Penny informs Julia that he’s leaving with them, and Julia reminds him she isn’t the woman he fell in love with. Josh’s key-waving finally produced the door, and he tells Julia that Marina just ran through as soon as it opened. Josh, penny and Julia walk through and close the door behind them.
- I really liked this episode, but every time I think “oh, this was straightforward,” it is somehow harder to recap, but good episodes are fun to do.
- Tesla should definitely make a Flexion.
- She has come a long way, but I never realized Julia was the best student. It makes sense- Jane Chatwin expelled Julia in the final timeline because she was the most talented and driven, and would find magic without Brakebills.
- I’m loving her approach, informed by her past mistakes. She won’t use Alice as bait because she did that to Marina and got her killed. When Marina captures her, she responds by healing Marina, and when she can’t kill the Beast, she literally defeats him with compassion (at risk to her own soul).
- Julia’s powers are growing. She has god-infused power, now knows the Rhinemann Ultra, which she performed after a few minutes of practice- it took Alice much more work to master in the main timeline. I’m a bit concerned about power creep.
- I can’t believe she took the key off Q-Beast’s neck but left the dagger. You don’t just leave god-killing daggers around!
- Josh thinks they skipped ahead to the 7th key, but did they? We don’t know where Quentin got this key, so for all we know, he killed all the faeries along with everything else magical and took it from them, meaning there could be two 6th keys now.
- There are two episodes left, one to get the final key, one to complete the quest. This would neatly sidestep the problem of getting the 6th key from the Faerie Queen.
- Josh had an effective turn at two versions of himself, and I think he did a great job. I really liked the subtle but distinct variations of a Josh that still needed people and one that pushed everyone away.
Okay, fine, dick-Josh
“Don’t call me dick-Josh.”
“Then stop being a dick, Josh.”
- Seriously, who needs Shakespeare?
- Dick-Josh was revealed to be a werewolf, which everyone thought was no big deal, but Dick-Josh is convinced that the Quickening is coming, and that it means a horrible end- either for himself, or everyone around him.
- Unfortunately, Dick-Josh didn’t feel like talking about it, and Josh is now freaking out that his sexually transmitted lycanthropy is “murder herpes.”
- Penny also heard that Lycanthropy was no big deal, so maybe whoever told dick-Josh about the Quickening was messing with him, considering it’s a pretty overt reference to The Highlander, but nobody mentioned it.
- Seems that if Josh wanted dick-Josh to tell him about the Quickening, he should have been more forthcoming about the fact that he also had werewolf sex instead of pretending he hadn’t.
- Margo didn’t get a lot of screentime, but she cursed through as much of it as humanly possible. I think she cursed more in 5 minutes than she has in entire episodes that feature her, but “Tinkerbitch” has to take top prize here.
- The ghost of Margo 23: “Don’t Cock out.” That whole exchange was awesome, as were Marina and Julia’s reactions. Aussie comic Steve Hughes had a similar routine. I think Ash vs Evil Dead went there, too.
- Every week another layer is added to Fogg, and I love it. At first he just seemed short tempered, then we learned that Magic helped him be more tolerant, but this episode reminds us that he remembers all the previous timelines- something that was apparent in season 1, but we really didn’t know the extent of what he carries with him.
- Prime Dean Fogg seemed downright giddy at the thought of Julia plucking out Irene’s eyes so she couldn;t find the school. He was almost as disappoinbted that she hadn’t as he was impressed that she replaced the wards.
- 23 Fogg killed a Leprechaun once. That makes me wonder how much Fogg remembers from timeline to timeline, because you’d think he’d be less surprised about the McAllistairs killing faeries for their power if he lived through a timeline where the same thing happened before.
- I’ve been trying to find a spot to bring this up- in season 2, Quentin traded his blood to a witch in Fillory. That still hasn’t paid off.
- Maybe the key didn’t show them visions of the future because there is no future in this timeline, at least not for Julia or Josh.
- Strange that Josh didn’t get a door to appear until Penny told Julia he’s coming with them.
- I don’t know how I feel about a new Penny, because I really like the old one and the direction his story took. I am pretty sure Kady is going to hate a Penny that’s in love with Julia.
- I liked the return of the Beast’s musical queues.
- If Quentin-Beast was right, and the collected keys lead to Julia unleashing a monster upon the world that even God-powered Quentin is afraid of, does that mean the whole quest was a con? I will be mighty pissed if it turns out the Great Cock of the Woods was a bad guy.
- The Great Cock’s tail feathers were on display in the same hallway as the Winter’s Doe’s antlers. Maybe that’s why.
- Quentin killed the gods in both timelines, making the guy who wanted magic the most the one responsible for losing it both times.
- I got a slight Tyrion Lannister vibe off Q-Beast. It works.
- Around the time they picked up Penny I got a strong Wizard of Oz vibe, gathering the heroes to take on the Wicked Witch.