'The Magicians' Presents Big Questions In "Home Improvement"

Several characters in "Home Improvement," the title of this week's funnier-than-normal episode of The Magicians, deal with some concept of home. First, there's Fen, who does whatever she can for her homeland, even if that that means undergoing back-breaking yard work for the supposed prophet in her dreams. There's also Alice, who must visit her mother to cast a location spell for Zelda, the Librarian who has her own home-related desire to find her daughter in the mirror realm. And then there's a very-pregnant Poppy (a recurring character played by Felicia Day), who is expanding her own home — first by stealing dragon sperm to inseminate a dragon egg, and then by embracing the human baby growing inside her. Home for the gang is a fickle thing, something so flittering it's hard to hold on to, yet something so powerful that it drives our characters to go great lengths to preserve (or push away). Fen's concept of home is arguably the most clear-cut and, in the end, the most challenged. Fen is a child of Fillory: her entire life has been dedicated to protecting her home country. It's this dedication that drives her to go on a quest (with Margo coming along as her wing-woman) to find the purveyor of her prophetic dreams. This same commitment causes her and Margo to get conned by a woman pretending to be the prophet, though fortunately, the only cost to them for doing so is a few hours of menial labor. Less fortunately, however, when Fen finally confronts the real prophet in a dream (a dream where she's shipping Margo and Josh, no less), the cat-like creature tells Fen that her destiny lies with usurping High King Margo.Meanwhile, Alice must face a home she's run away from — she needs her mother, Samantha, to cast a spell. But the two have never gotten along, and their rift has grown into a chasm since her father died. Alice's resentment causes their first attempts to cast the spell to fail, and it's only when two Librarians show up to arrest Samantha's friend Carol (who sells illegal sexy-time voodoo magic) that they admit that they love each other, even if they don't like each other very much. Love is all that's needed though, and the spell works, allowing Alice to fulfill her end of her deal with Zelda. Zelda holds up her end of the bargain: to free Alice's new friend Sheila from the Library's clutches. Sheila, however, has drunk the Library Kool-Aid and become a junior Librarian. Alice is distraught but seemingly on the fence about the Library at the end of the episode. Maybe Sheila is right? Maybe the Library could be a new home for her?The weirdest storyline revolving around the idea of home this week, though, belongs to Poppy and her infatuation with dragons. Quentin and Julia negotiate with Harold, the herald of the dragon of the East River (puns, as always, abound in The Magicians) about trading for one of the stone organs Eliot-Monster is collecting. As payment for the stone, Harold sends them on a mission to recover a vial of blue liquid that someone stole for the dragon's hoard. That someone turns out to be Poppy, who is very pregnant and camping out in the Physical Kids Cottage at Brakebills. Poppy, as we saw in earlier seasons, is a dragon fanatic: she's even written dragon pornography! The gang finds out that she's inseminated a dragon egg (that blue elixir she stole was dragon sperm), and the to-be-born dragon has ensorcelled all who touch it, which includes Poppy, Quentin, and, when he tries to steal it, Penny 23. Julia, given her former-god status, is immune from the egg's powers, and she and Kady run back to the East River to trade the dragon egg for the stone organ Eliot-Monster wants.While these storylines more or less resolve themselves this episode, they all drive the larger arcs of the season forward both in terms of character development and likely future plot points. Julia, for example, is told by Harold that she needs to change her current god-with-no-power status ASAP, and to do so, she needs to find someone called the Binder. Kady also touches on the whole hedge witch versus Library brouhaha by ordering Pete to turn in the hedge witch who blew up the Modesto branch, something that will likely cause issues in the future, one way or the other. Alice and Fen also face emotional turning points at the end of the episode: will Alice team up with the Library? Will Fen fulfill her destiny and betray Margo?One thing that's clear is that the simmering conflict with the Library will move to the front burner over the next few episodes. Whether this arc clashes with the one involving the Eliot-Monster remains unclear — Quentin has another stone organ, but still no plan on how to save Eliot and rid the world of an unspeakable evil. Maybe the monster will just peace out once it gathers the stones and remembers who or what it is? Maybe the Library will realize the error of their ways and release their hold on magic? Given the gang's track record, I doubt it.