The Magicians A Timeline and Place Review

Episode 6 of The Magicians, “A Timeline and Place,” addresses the long festering question: what the hell is the original Penny (AKA the Penny from Timeline 40) doing? Last time we saw him was in Season 3, where—stuck in the Afterlife branch of the Library—he had a chat with Hades that convinced him to take on the role of a Librarian in the eternal (and infernal?) institution. Thankfully, actor Arjun Gupta has remained on the show playing the Penny from Timeline 23—a more subdued, melancholic version of the character who is also in love with Julia instead of Kady. Fans, however, miss the original Penny, and after many episodes we finally get a glimpse of him in his new Librarian persona. Even better, we get to see a conversation between 23 and 40, a trope that has been done on other shows, but is still enjoyable here, and even a little bit bittersweet when Penny 40 tells 23 to let Kady know that he still loves her, and that he’s sorry.

How did the two Pennys meet? It starts when a practitioner of horomancy (AKA time travel) called the Stoppard kidnaps Penny 23 and Marina 23. The Stoppard sends them back to their original timeline because (as we later find out), the presence of Penny and Marina in Timeline 40 is screwing up the magic that’s keeping the Stoppard’s mother alive. Immediately after being transported back to their original timeline, however, Penny and a delightfully psychopathic Marina steal the magical McGuffin that controls time from the horomancer. Penny has second thoughts about returning to Timeline 40, however, after they discover doing so will kill the Stoppard’s mom.

In order to prevent Marina from returning, Penny 23 steals the McGuffin time-controlling box and ends up in an “in-between” place. It’s in this place where the two Pennys meet, and Penny 40 tells 23 that he must return to Timeline 40 for reasons too complicated to explain. Penny 23 resists, but ends up doing what Penny 40 orders. He brings Marina 23 along for the ride as well, and by the end of the episode, the two are back in Timeline 40, with the seed planted that Penny 23 will follow 40’s guidance and “do what he says” (who exactly “he” is, and what 23 will be asked to do, we don’t know, though my money’s on it being something the Eliot-Monster asks for).

Other mini-adventures occur this episode as well. First there’s Julia and Quentin, who are in full “we need to save Eliot” mode, which takes them to an Egyptian exhibit in hopes of finding something to help them translate the hieroglyphics found on the stones the Eliot-Monster keeps pulling out of the gods he’s killed. At the museum, a drunk Eliot-Monster appears (tequila is also his friend) and reanimates a mummy, who hilariously translates the hieroglyphics on a white board, letting them know that another stone exists in a dead Egyptian god, whose tomb was raided centuries ago. The storyline takes an un-funny turn at the end of the episode, however, when a drug-craving Eliot-Monster plans to overdose his host’s body, and is only stopped by Quentin threatening to walk away (and willingly let the monster kill him). The Eliot-Monster, however, appears to have grown to like Quentin enough not to kill him and walks away, agreeing not to harm his host’s body. The monster’s need for Quentin is apparently growing, and it will be curious to see how much the evil entity will cling to Quentin as the season progresses.

Another mini-adventure happens in Fillory, where High Queen Margo has issues of her own—all the talking animals have stopped talking, including the lizard locked in her birth box that would likely tell her her destiny. With coaching from Josh, Margo tries to take the diplomatic route with the ruler whose land grows the beets needed for the animals’ antidote. And she almost does it, until Josh mentions Eliot and she goes back to her ruthless ways, threatening the Queen with the beets and then lashing out at Josh in her anger and grief (she doesn’t know Eliot’s alive yet, since the gang can’t communicate via talking bunny), quenching any potential spark the two may have had with each other.

And then there’s Alice. She’s on her own again—after escaping from the Library and saving Quentin’s life, she casts a spell using the World Book and ends up in the sleepy town of Modesto, a place that the World Book says she belongs. As it turns out, her landlord Sheila can do magic, and Alice tentatively embraces teaching her (after warning Sheila away from the Librarians who show up at their door). When the two clean up Modesto’s water supply after opening up a leak of ambient magic, Alice becomes open to the idea that magic can do good things. We viewers find out in the last scene of the episode, however, that amping up the ambient magic has also allowed some hedgewitches to blow up the Modesto library. Poor Alice (and everyone in that library)! Will she ever be able to use magic without harming others, or learn the lesson that she isn’t the one who should decide where and how magic is used?  The way this season is going, my bet is that she’ll have to suffer a lot more before she fully breaks bad (again) or is redeemed.

And so we head into the back half of Season 4, with Penny 23 back in our favorite timeline, Margo grieving for Eliot while Julia and Quentin work to save him, and Alice off on her own still mucking things up whenever she uses magic. Where we go next is unclear (I’m wondering what Kady’s been doing these last three episodes, for one thing), but it feels like we’re at a tipping point, one where the gang may eventually come back together to save Eliot, destroy the monster and, if they’re lucky, release the Library’s grip on magic as well.

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