We start with Quentin in a cage, changed due to the situation with N!Alice. He’s told that he’s dying quickly; his body simply can’t harbor a niffin for much longer.
Back in Fillory, Margo is lamenting that they aren’t well trusted–they are losing soldiers to defection at an alarming rate. The best way to win this fight with Loria, now, is to have Eliot compete in a one on one duel. If Eliot wins, he’ll go down as the greatest leader in Fillorian? history–but King Adry, leader of the Lorians…has won 14 duels. So no matter how much Eliot practices, there is little chance he’s going to win. However, Fen provides Eliot a sword and a spell that might enable to him to win. Despite him not trusting her, Fen is determined to try and make their marriage work. It’s sad to see, really; she cares about him, and their child, and while Eliot does his best–he isn’t straight, and being a dad isn’t something he’s ready for, yet.
Meanwhile, Kady and Penny break Jules out of the dungeon so they can go see Reynard’s son–who is a senator named John Gaines. I will say it’s horrible to see how callous and cruel Jules has become. She simply laughs over killing all the sentient trees like it’s nothing–before losing her shade, she never would have done that.
With both of them trapped, N!Alice is still trying to get Quentin to let her go. Quentin refuses, but also doesn’t want to box her, either. It’s ridiculous. As N!Alice rightfully points out, if he keeps it up, they will both be dead. N!Alice has been one of the most interesting things these season, and I want to give Olivia Taylor Dudley all the credit–she’s been doing an amazing job with the character.
Jules and crew bust in on the senator, and surprising Kady and Penny, Jules wants to just straight up murder Gaines and use his blood. They freak the poor guy out enough that his powers trigger automatically, knocking him out. Which allows Kady and Penny to kidnap him to Brakebills–a felony, but a lesser felony than Jules-murder.
Knowing that without magic Eliot has no hope of winning, Margo asks the sloth what might be able to help him. The sloth says that the fairies could fix the Wellspring, but given what they might ask in return, it might not be worth it. Still, Margo wants to go through with it.
Now what comes is what I think is one of the greatest scenes in The Magicians history: a Les Miserables sing-off. Margo wants to get Eliot prepared for battle, so she gets everyone to sing “One More Day” as they march off into battle. I have to say that everyone’s voices (Hale Appleman, especially) sound amazing. It’s a great scene, and as a fan of musical theater, I’m so glad it exists. They end their song on the battlefield, much to the confusion of the Lorians. Still, the dual starts, and after a short amount of fighting, King Adry runs off into the forest. Which…apparently is allowed? The duel doesn’t end until one of them is dead, so the rules are nebulous.
Back in Brakebills, Jules talks to N!Alice through Quentin; they both want the same thing–freedom away from their confines. If they can manage it, that’s another story entirely. Just as this conversation finishes, the magic in Fillory and Brakebills fails, allowing Reynard (who has been at the edge of the school) in. Everything descends into chaos, as the students scramble to get to safety. Kady gets Gaines into the room, as well, and does her best to convince him of his magic powers while they wait for a solution to the magical ‘brown out’.
The magic failing in Fillory has consequences, as well. Eliot almost wins the fight, but just as he gains the upper hand, the magic fails. That causes him to falter, and instead of Adry running away, Eliot runs this time. A comedy of errors, this duel has been, really.
While this is occurring, Margo speaks with the fairy emissary, who demands Fen and Eliot’s child in return for the Wellspring’s health. The child won’t be killed or eaten, at least, but raised as a fairy. Still, it’s a terrible price to pay… but it is the only price that can be paid. Margo manages to get Fen to agree to the terms, but never tells her to what the terms actually are. It’s manipulative, but frankly, Margo and Fen just want Eliot to be alive–so it gives us the title of this episode–it is a lesser evil.
Eliot has decided to hide himself up a tree, and while King Adry hacks at it to try and get him to come down, they chat about being kings. Through this conversation we find out that in Fillory, Eliot is allowed to have a wife and a husband–no one informed him of this. Which, of course, is something that Eliot is delighted to hear, given that he isn’t particularly interested in women.
Back in Brakebills, Kady and Penny realize that Jules and Quentin aren’t in the safe room. That’s because Jules has made a deal with N!Alice: she must kill Reynard, and Quentin will set her free–whether he likes it or not. Quentin feels understandably betrayed, especially after Jules shoves him at Reynard. In that moment, it seems that Jules almost regrets what she is doing but…it’s too little, too late. I actually feel bad for Quentin in this situation, too, as he refuses to let N!Alice go, despite the danger to himself.
It doesn’t matter, though, as Gaines shows up and he and Reynard disappear off somewhere together–screwing up the entire plan. This isn’t good for anyone, at all. As a result of her betrayal, Kady has Jules put away in the ‘clean room’ where she can’t use magic. She says that while this isn’t Jules’ fault, she just isn’t really human anymore, without her shade. I don’t disagree, but I’m tired of this show treating Jules so horribly; it doesn’t send a good message to sexual assault victims at all.
In Fillory, the fairies fix the Wellspring, and magic comes back–just in time for Eliot to gain the upper hand. But does he decide to kill Adry–no! Instead, he comes back to the castle and announces that he’s going to marry him. “We’re all one big polyamorous family, isn’t it great?” Sure, Eliot–I don’t know if your wife is going to be that pleased, however. Margo is understandably upset over the situation, given what she agreed to, but doesn’t end up telling him about the deal. It’s going to come to a head, though–and it isn’t going to be good.
The last scene has Quentin finally breaking down; he frees N!Alice from his body, and she leaves him without a word, disappearing into the sky.