This episode is everything about why I love The Magicians, but why the question “Who is your favorite character?” is so hard to answer. We see the return of our Penny, and find out what Kady, Zelda, and Fen have been up to. This is an episode for the sidekicks, who may actually be the most important players in the story.
There are spoilers for “The Side Effect” beyond this point. You have been warned.
Timeline 40 Penny Adiyodi, who seems to be doing quite well at the Underworld branch of the Library. A newer librarian comes into his offices, (yes, he apparently has an office now,) and Penny asks why he shelved a certain person’s book in a certain place. He chose to shelve a young woman’s book under “disappointing prodigies” because she did not become a pianist, but overlooked the fact that she saved her brother’s life. This is the first example of three cases in this episode in which what we think of a person may not actually be the case, and, as Penny puts it, “The most important characters aren’t who you’d expect.”
Let’s start with Fen. Fen was introduced in the season one finale as the daughter of a knifemaker and the now wife of Eliot – not really her own character, and only defined by her relationship to others. Three seasons later, Fen has been High King and continues to come into her own. This episode starts with what seems to be a replay of an earlier scene, where Margo opens her Birthright Box and finds a lizard inside, but the animal is unable to talk. Suddenly, Fen finds herself holding a bunny with its throat gruesomely slashed, and then wakes up. However, this dream occurs before the scene happened, and Fen already knew the talking animals were going to go mute. These are not just dreams, but prophetic dreams.
Fen continues to have these dreams, whether they be about lizards setting fire or soufflés falling. Josh advises her that if she wants, she can find out what is causing these dreams by pressing her index finger into the palm of her other hand. This will allow her to lucid dream and see what is out of place. The next time she realizes she is in a dream, she is able to use this technique, which pauses everything except her, and a green hooded figure. The green hooded figure leads her to the Fuchsia Forests, and… then she wakes up. She confronts Margo, Rafe, and Josh, and tells them she is going to find this woman, so that she may receive some answers and find out why she is having premonitions.
Meanwhile back on Earth, rent is due on Marina’s apartment. Kady, who now owns the apartment, is visited by the Babayaga, an ancient Slavic witch. The protections on the apartment come at a price, and now Kady has to go find two magical objects before the Baba kills her. Her search brings her to a bar to find someone called Lovelady, who turns out to be none other than Pete. You remember Pete, Marina’s second in command, kind of a major prick? Well now he is dealing on the hedge witch Black Market, and says he can help. One of the items, “Webster’s Weeping Healer,” brings Pete and Kady to the home of an, unfortunately, deceased hedge witch with some kind of burn all over his arms. They find the item, and Pete finds a Dewey, or magical current coin, on the dead guy, which he pockets, to Kady’s dismay. They head back to Kady’s apartment to await the Babayaga, when suddenly Kady notices similar burns on Pete’s arm, before he passes out. Kady finds a hedge doctor who says that there may be a cursed object interfering with Pete’s personal charms, and that is when she realizes the Dewey may be the root of a bigger problem.
And that leads us to Zelda. Distraught after finding out Alice escaped and desperate to find her again, so she meets with other Library executives to discuss a plan. (One of which happens to be Jewel Staite!) Rather than deploy Librarians, which may result in casualties, Zelda suggests putting tracking spells on several Dewey coins and dispense them to hedge witches so that if Alice were to use one, as she very well might, they could find her. She could not have predicted that the trackers would interfere so poorly with the hedge spells, causing several deaths and the destruction of the Modesto library branch last episode, but she did in a way start an all out war between hedges and The Library – one Kady happens to be leading. It is clear The Library was not really prepared to be a governing body, and that they still have a lot to learn. Kady might be just the one to teach them.
This episode also shows that Zelda is still reeling from the aftermath of losing her daughter, Harriet, last season. She often looks in mirrors (as Harriet was trapped in the mirror realm when the bridge broke) and sees Harriet signing for her mother to help her, before the mirror shatters. She decides she must try to rescue Harriet and enlists the help of Gavin, a traveler Librarian. She enters the mirror realm and thinks she finds Harriet, but it is in fact just a reflection, and a broken one at that. She is soon attacked by several gruesome looking reflections, and she and Gavin return, unsuccessful. But she has one last idea of where to look for help, and that brings her to Dean Fogg, who brings her to Alice.
Finally, we are back to Penny. He explains that these three characters have set in motion moments that will change Fillory, The Library, and all of magic, forever. They are not sidekicks or B plots, but just as integral and important to the story as Quentin or Eliot, maybe even more so. When he explains this, and shows he truly understands the importance of stories, and of the books of the Library, the young Librarian congratulates him. He reveals he is actually Penny’s bosses boss, and that he is here to offer Penny a promotion. The episode ends as Penny enters an elevator and says, “Hey. Been a while. Welcome to the Underworld.”
Who is Penny talking to? Will Zelda find Harriet? Who is under the green hood, and how will Kady fare trying to control an army of hedge witches? Season four of The Magicians only continues to heat up.
The Magicians season four, episode eight titled “Home Improvement” airs Wednesday, March 13 at 9/8c on SYFY.