'The Magicians' Raises More Questions Than Answers With "Garden Variety Homicide," But That's Okay

The Dark King's gotta go. That's what the gang in Fillory decide at the beginning of "Garden Variety Homicide," this week's latest installment of The Magicians. One member of the gang, however, is more conflicted about the planned assassination than the others. I'm talking, of course, about Eliot, who has gone and caught feelings for Seb (AKA the Dark King) and now can't handle the thought of killing him. To make matters worse, the gang agrees that Eliot is the one best positioned to personally deliver the final blow, something he's not sure he can do. That's when Margo steps in (after Eliot finally opens up to her, due to Charlton's prodding), and the real crux of the Fillory plot this episode comes to light—Margo and Eliot's relationship. The bond these two have is one of my favorite things about the series. The two have been estranged this season, however, due to their own emotional baggage. And while they had a nice heart-to-heart at the end of "Oops!...I Did It Again," it's still heartwarming to hear Margo say she'll do whatever she can to take the burden of killing the Dark King out of Eliot's hands. And then there's Margo's common trope solution to Eliot's predicament—the two switch bodies. The catch, of course, is that they can't tell anyone else they're in each other's bodies or the switch will become permanent. And so "Margo" (actually Eliot) goes off with Josh to cut down a conduit tree that will make the Dark King vulnerable, while "Eliot" (actually Margo) goes to reconnect with Seb so she has the opportunity to kill him when the time comes. Things unfold as you expect—"Margo" and Josh finally have the talk about their estranged relationship, and "Margo" (AKA Eliot) says some harsh things that end up pushing Josh away. "Eliot," on the other hand, tries to stab the Dark King even though it's clear he may be willing to rescind his throne. While "Eliot's" murder attempt fills, Julia is able to deliver a killing blow. And so we think the Dark King dead...until we see him awake in the last scene of the episode, groggy but likely to be angry at Eliot once he regains his strength. Meanwhile at Brakebills, Alice, Penny23 and the botanist named Bax want to call in another botanist expert of dubious repute to make sense of Quentin's mysterious plant paper. Things go wrong, of course—the expert botanist has a symbiotic relationship with a fungus, and when the symbiote subdues Bax and tries to escape with Quentin's plant paper, Alice inadvertently kills the human expert and lets the spore loose. Things get worse from there–turns out a rogue fungus can create, as Bax so eloquently states, "a zombie plague situation," and a handful of students are taken over and driven to attack who they must to get Quentin's plant paper from Alice. Alice refuses, leading to the most touching scene of the episode where she and Bax talk about grief, and how the pain never really goes away but simply becomes a part of who you are (the parallel between Alice's grief and the fungus are clear—yes the juxtaposition is a little weird, but The Magicians is a little weird, and I love it). Alice eventually defeats the sentient spores by spreading them across too many humans (why not?), and learns that the paper is an instruction manual for growing a World Seed, a magical object that can grow into anything, even an entire world. Other bad things, particular an entity called The Couple, want the instructions and will likely be coming after Alice and company soon to retrieve it. While this episode was chock full of plot tropes this week—Julia finding out she's pregnant (I'm guessing because actor Stella Maeve is pregnant in real-life), Eliot and Margo trading places, a zombie situation—the execution was done with enough tongue-and-cheek to make it enjoyable. What the gang has really accomplished, however, remains to be seen: those in Fillory worked very hard this week on a failed assassination attempt, after all. And in Brakebills, while the crew there got a new quest this week—to protect the supposed construction manual for the world seed from evil—it's unclear where or what will become of it. Who may help or hurt them on their quests, for example? I expect the young Chatwin Traveler that took off earlier this season and/or the math sisters will make an appearance in some way for either the Fillory or Brakebills quests. And also Kady, of course, who was sadly missing for this week's episode. Where will her story fit in? We have five more episodes to find out.