Heists and Complications: The Magicians, “Plan B”

“We’re emotionally advanced. We can hold resentment and sympathy for a person at the same time.”

“Emotionally advanced” might be a stretch, but the second part of this Eliot line is absolutely applicable to our ragtag band of magicians, who have learned, to some degree, to compromise—and to cooperate. Imagine what they might’ve done if they’d figure this out a bit sooner! But now, Fillory needs money almost as much as Julia does, so everyone’s on the same side.

Sort of.

Spoilers for the season so far below!

Two main things drive this episode: The Scooby Gang’s all back together, plus Julia, and working toward a common goal—and Q’s dealing with something he hasn’t told anyone else about: Alice. Or what’s left of Alice.


Who is the “I” who speaks in Alice’s form, now? Is it something not at all Alice, but that has her memories? Is it like vampirism on Buffy, where sometimes people lost all their humanity, and sometimes they didn’t? Whatever it is, this Alice knows how to push Q’s buttons and obviously has knows everything Alice knew—and a whole lot more. She’s the un-Alice, the one who says every nasty thought Alice might’ve had. Manipulative, sly, conniving, and still with Alice’s face.

It’s a rough spot for Quentin, who knows there are few options unless he can figure out how to turn her human again. Leave Alice in his tattoo-trap to torment him. Set her free, to wreak who knows what kind of ruin. Or trap her in a box, like she tried to do with Charlie. He wants her to be her again, but “The math will never add up, Q,” she says. “You’ll never get that girl back. Everything that’s missing burnt up when I became this.”

Whatever he does, he’s stuck with something that looks like the ex-girlfriend he feels guilty about. That haggard look on Jason Ralph’s face is entirely earned. He can’t stop and grieve. She’d just make fun of him for it.

Alice comes and goes as she sees fit, but, curiously, seems unable to get in Quentin’s way—which is convenient, given that she could really have fucked things up this week. What kind of monkey-wrench could a niffin throw into a bank robbery plot? I almost wish we’d gotten to find out. But this way, at least we get her immediate reaction when Julia asks for Quentin’s help with the bank heist: “Oh my god, yes.” It’s the happiest niffin-Alice seems all episode. This seems, you know, telling.

The bank robbery, while tons of fun and set to a perfectly quirky heist-y score, made “Plan B” feel a lot like “Divine Elimination” in the way it mixed hijinks with problems. What happens is important—they steal enough money to help Fillory and Julia, hooray!—but not as important as how it happens. Julia and Kady take refuge at Brakebills, where Fogg is surprisingly wiling to let them in. This throws them back into Quentin and the gang’s orbit, which works out … better than it might have, though not without a few bumps and accusations.


Penny: “For Julia? The psychopath?!”
Kady: “The victim of a fucking rape by a trickster god!

And it throws Kady and Penny back together for a gloriously perfect bit of library sex. (Ugh, but you know the books were watching.) This is their apology to each other, their connection, their acceptance of each other’s failings and quirks. Talking about it would only be weird for these two.

Plus, talking is Margo’s specialty. Of course this girl robbed a bank in high school. Probably it was just practice for whatever kind of mayhem she got into as a freshman Physical Kid. Her joy in being the leader is so apparent here—her delivery of every bit of bank-robbing lore, her effectiveness, her comfort at being the brains of the operation. Sure, lots of things go relatively wrong, but are any of them Margo’s fault? Hard to say: We don’t know who made the levitation belt. (Penny could’ve picked his feet up, but the instant the weight of a bar of gold came up, I knew this was going to be trouble.)

Everything about the heist is structured to remind us of what these characters are good at: Margo’s a leader. Penny can’t do magic, but he can still travel (and naturally, he always wanted to rob a bank). Kady is a total badass with battle magic and a solid punch. Eliot can be relied on to have something unexpected yet effective up his sleeve. (“The wrecking ball is a weapon of peace.”) Julia’s always working on something on her own.


And Quentin? Quentin has Alice. Who can fix everything for them in 15 seconds. Being a niffin has its advantages; does your burnt-off humanity get replaced with magical know-how? She’s too smart; she knows exactly how to appeal to Quentin, to strike the right deal, to promise she doesn’t want to hurt anybody. She’ll be good. They can do word-as-bond.

This is all an utterly terrible idea unless Quentin tells everyone else it’s happening (and possibly even then). And that’s underscored by the way that, after Alice’s magic gets the door open, Quentin still trips the wards, screwing them again. There’s always a trick with a niffin. She can help, but only as long as it suits her. The minute she gets control of that body, she can definitely hinder.

We’ll have to wait and see what niffin-Alice gets up to—and what’s happened to Eliot, about whom I am so very, very worried. But Julia, at least, is free of the demigod fetus. I’m not sure how I feel about the introduction of the mudang, the magicians who deal with Julia’s problem. They’re presented as a last resort, people with whom you shouldn’t do business, and that seems like a dicey way to present your show’s first magicians that appear to have an entirely different magical culture. If this was meant to represent the way the magical world can be racist, just like the muggle world, it was somewhat poorly done.


But these magicians are clearly powerful. The Brakebills professor says she’s been trying to get one on staff; the dokkaebi spoon-goblin was not fucking around (RIP, haxon-paxon, we hardly knew ye); and in the end, they did succeed at ridding Julia of Reynard’s spawn.

But there was a complication.

“This is exorcism. That thing is not human. The longer it’s inside you, the more tangled it gets with your essence, and the harder it is to help you, you understand?”

Just how tangled are we talking?


  • Of course you can’t just take back a declaration of war, but bless Eliot for trying. Why does the royal councilor seem weirdly stoked about the idea of a war?
  • “Have you seen the Twilight movies? Specifically the last one.” OH GOD NO.
  • “Ember shitting in the power grid really screwed us in a cornucopia of ways.” Written out, that line doesn’t look half as funny as the way Summer Bishil delivers it. She’s really coming into her own this season—Margo is a far cry from the girl who just flounced around playing coy.
  • “PS, we still hate you. But it’s the 21st century. It shouldn’t be this hard for a girl to get an evil demigod abortion.”
  • Eliot on Mission: Impossible: “That movie was stupidly unrealistic. It’s so much easier to just levitate.”
  • “Librarian, neckbeard, and white privilege.” Just when I think I can’t love Margo any more.
  • “I need its spoon!”
  • Another week, another super awesome Kady punch.

Molly Templeton is seriously, truly, really worried about Eliot.


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