Night of Crowns
Note: This episode continues the story of Jules and the aftermath of her rape, along with talk of child molestation–if such talk is triggering to you, skip the sections I mark with a ***.
Let’s do a quick recap of the finale of season one before we get into the new episode, shall we? The Beast turned out to be Martin Chatwin, who proceeded to knock Eliot and Margo out, cut off Penny’s hands, leave Alice bleeding out, and a shocked Quentin to watch as Jules decided to side with the villain of our story because he could help her kill Reynard the Fox, the God who raped her. Things seemed more than a bit bleak for our heroes–so how are things going to go, now?
We start with Quentin running through the forests of Fillory, screaming for help. Again, I have to give credit where credit is due–the forest looks expansive; it’s clear that care and time has been put into these sets and scenery choices. He runs into a woman who lives in a house surrounded by lollipops. Quentin, like us, immediately associates her with the witch from Hansel and Gretel, but she simply says she is a healer and a gardening enthusiast–who will help his friends for one vial of blood. This continues the theme in Fillory that nothing is for free: all things must be traded for in one way or another.
It seems that Quentin didn’t really need to run for help, because on the way back to the Springs, they encounter Alice who healed herself, and healed the others due to her new god-powers,. Penny’s hands aren’t attached, still, but at least he isn’t bleeding out anymore, right? Despite not needing her help anymore, the Healer won’t give back the vial of blood due to her taking time out of her day. She also gives Quentin the wise advice to be careful with strangers, “We only look whimsical.” When she is gone, the others start to discuss what happened, and what they need to do to combat the Beast. While Quentin keeps claiming that Jules isn’t ‘sane,’ and explains the situation, I find it really reductive for him to claim that what she is doing is because of insanity–Jule’s reaction was born out of trauma, not her losing her mind. Quentin, typically, is reducing her as he can’t understand her.
To combat the Beast, Eliot suggests that they drink from the well, despite the fact that it will take away a bit of their humanity with every sip. That idea is taken away from them, though, because Martin has apparently drained the spring so much that Fillory will be damaged if more is taken. Margo doesn’t take this news well, and she is becoming even more nihilistic before–I love it.
Quentin and the others head back to the knife-maker’s house to discuss the next steps in their plan. (Side note: Eliot’s new wife is pretty adorable? It’s good to see that he might like her, too) Going over the books, Quentin states that there should be a library in the castle called the Armory that might contain battle magic for them to use–Rupert apparently used whatever was in there to change the tide of the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. I really like it when this show brings in historical events and twists them in a magical way (Remember Battle Mage Hitler?). To get to the castle they need to find a carriage. Before that happens, though, Penny would really like to get his hands fixed. There is a healing river nearby, apparently, so he goes with Margo.
The others discover that they can’t reach the castle unless there is a literal crown on Eliot’s head–so they must find the coronation place, where the crowns are kept. Guess Margo and Penny will meet them there, because they are dealing with a situation of their own.
At the river, a strange man tells them that Penny has to have his hands sewn back on, and then he must get naked and completely submerge himself in the river. It works, of course, and the man asks for payment for his assistance. Penny…woah boy Penny has a little angry fit over having to pay, refuses, and storms off. Remember how the lady earlier said they should be careful? Penny really should have–the man does a spell on his hands as our two students walk away, which is not good at all.
Now, to a heavier storyline. Martin and Jules appear back in New York in a ball pit. The imagery of childhood is strong when it comes to these scenes, and it isn’t comfortable at all–which is the point.. We are supposed to feel as unsettled as Jules does. They go back to her apartment, where she makes it clear that this is all a negotiation: Martin will get the blade after he has assisted her in defeating Reynard–he also has to promise not to act against her, or her friends, in any way. While the others believe that Jules has betrayed them, it is clear she is still looking out for them, as best she can. Revenge is simply a bigger driver for her, at the moment.
Jules and Martin seal their agreement with a spell, and Martin reveals that Reynard is in Florida–guess our girl and her Beast will be going on a road trip later. One of the most disturbing parts of this scene is when Jules states that she is going out to gain ingredients for their magical net spell… Martin states that he is going to go down to the park and watch children play. The music, along with the way that Martin says the line is so ominous; as if the molested child has grown up to molest children himself. Or at least has some desire for it. I hope they won’t go there, but given how twisted Martin is…who knows.
Back in the merry ole land of Fillory, Margo and Penny meet back up with the group to head over the rainbow bridge to reach the coronation area. The entire shot of the bridge is beautiful, and it is interesting to see that the actual area where the coronation occurs is stark and lifeless, at the edge of the sea. There is a dead man there (he was waiting a long time), guarding the crowns. He is very reminiscent of the Grail Knight from Indiana Jones–and funnily enough, his name is the Knight of Crowns: there is no way the visual is coincidental. To gain the crowns, though, he asks them to answer very arbitrary pop-culture questions from the 1990s. It’s a great, funny scene, which brings some levity to the situation. Hell, we get to see Eliot quote Dirty Dancing with some deep passion that had me laughing hard.
Quentin insists that they have a ceremony, and really, the scene is incredibly touching. They say apologies for what they have done to one another, and it truly shows how far this group as come, and how important they are to one another. They each have a new title now, as well. High King Eliot the Spectacular, High Queen Margo the Destroyer, Queen Alice the Wise, and King Quentin the Moderately Socially Maladjusted. All very fitting for them, I think.
Penny thinks it’s all a bit of bullshit, and after having his hands go ‘rogue’ a couple times, decides to go try to get his hands fixed (again)–this time alone. It doesn’t go well–the stranger basically tells Penny to go fuck himself, because actions have consequences. He also alluded to some position our Earth dude will have in the future. I am not surprised over that–Penny is meant for great things, but he needs to get his attitude under control.
Some Quentin and Alice relationship drama happens (they aren’t getting back together but they kiss still), and honestly I don’t care. While I am fond of Alice, their relationship issues are minor compared to the big picture. What is amazing, though, is that Alice starts to tap into her God-powers and proves that she can do amazing things already. Watching her really start to stretch herself is wonderful to see, and I hope she breaks out of her magic (and human) shell more in the future.
Eventually we do reach the castle, were we find that a family called the Piquicks have been running things in the Earth children’s absence. I really like this addition; unlike in the Chronicles of Narnia stories, there wasn’t really anyone to fill the vacuum of rule besides evil people. The Piquicks start informing their King (poor Eliot) of issues within the kingdom, while the others go into the Armory–where…well. Almost every bit of battle magic has been stolen. The answer as to who (or why) is in Brakebills. Something tells me that Brakebills has been stealing magic from Fillory.
All of them get ready to go back–except Eliot, who, of course, can’t go due to his pact with Fillory. He has much he has to do…but it is heartbreaking to see him say goodbye. He is worried that with how different time passes between Earth and Fillory, he may have to live his days alone. I can’t say I blame him. The acting of Hale Appleman is amazing in this scene; you can truly feel his anxiety.
Back in New York, Martin explains to Jules that his constant molestation made him gain an understanding of how life is: you are either powerful or weak. In truth, that is a way that some sexual assault survivors cope. It has, however, become very twisted in Martin’s mind, turning him into someone who is more bent on giving others pain. He’s clearly damaged, and I really hope they give him a more sympathetic side–because right now it’s feeding into tropes I don’t like. He tells her to get over it but Jules answers him bitterly and throws what he has done back in his face.
Here is where Martin becomes much more manipulative. He starts to explain carefully, softly, about her Shade (akin to a soul), and that if he removed it, she would be much more at peace–after all, it only hurts her now, and she will most likely never love again. So if Jules cuts herself off from her emotions (like he has) she will feel much better. She refuses, thankfully.
Later that night, however, she can’t sleep (while Martin watches Rick and Morty–ha!). Martin starts to try and manipulate Jules again, and even does the spell to remove her shade just to get her know how it feels. For a moment I was genuinely worried that she might give in–the allure of not feeling more has to be strong for her. Thankfully, she tells him to put her Shade back, because she needs it. I don’t know if she will always be able to resist the pull of Martin’s offer, because while he does as she says, he tells her that Reynard still wins, if she can still feel.
That is the true feeling of an abuse survivor–that to still feel the injury, the trauma, that the abuser wins–but Jules needs to realize that the pain can give her strength, as well; cutting herself off from emotion can only lead to more tragedy, in the end.