Well, that ended badly. The show has cast off predictability to throw a major wrench in the beginning of season two, leaving fans stunned and confused. Let’s see what happened—but first, a warning of spoilers ahead:
When Quentin, Alice, Penny, and Margo return from Brakebills to Fillory, they find Eliot acting very strangely. In turn, Alice, Quentin, and Margo also begin a descent into paranoia and wanting to kill each other. It appears there’s a curse on the Fillorian thrones, and once they sit on them, they get a little regicidal. As usual, it’s left to Penny to figure things out. He and Fen team up to devise a plan to end the curse neatly and easily: they get some injections, thinking that killing everybody then reviving them with atropine (or its Fillorian equivalent) will be the easiest way to flush out the curse. Let’s just say that the issue is resolved, but things get really Pulp Fiction-y. Back to killing the Beast, then, yes?
Meanwhile, we discover that Marina is attempting to cast the spell to summon Reynaud again. It proves just how gutsy Marina is, willing to essentially be bait for Reynaud and trusting that Julia will be able to carry through with the plan.
Of course, the Beast is really their secret weapon. Things get horrifying when Reynaud finally shows up and does an unspeakable thing to Marina’s cat before starting in on her. He’s a horrible little cannibal, and I don’t think the audience expected anything different. But honestly, the internet could not even with the cat thing. You know how upset people got over the idea that the dog was uncomfortable in a rehearsal for A Dog’s Purpose? Just imagine if the dog was flipped inside out! That’s basically the idea and it’s literally as horrible as it sounds.
Of course, Julia gets interrupted in her attempt to kill Reynaud when Penny comes through, grabs her and the Beast, and whips back to Fillory. That traveling ability is really working out well for him, I’ll say. Alice is warming up the spell that literally stopped World War II (the Rhinemann Ultra, which Eliot thinks might be a strange beer) and the others are preparing a simple first year spell that is supposed to keep the Beast in place while Alice wails on him. The teamwork is definitely there, now that their weird curse has worn off, but everyone’s had to lean way too hard on Alice to be the one who has her act together. Most of them even released their cacodemons during the stupid delusional fights over the throne earlier in the episode, so their backup has been exhausted. The plot is hammered into a fever-pitch by this point, and when Alice misses a coup de grace shot at the Beast, it feels both inevitable and impossible. Really?
With a brief comic relief interlude, the episode comes to a screaming halt with Alice becoming a niffin in her rage to end the Beast (which she does, spectacularly) and then realizing that since she’s a niffin, she hates everyone and wants to kill them. Quentin is the last one left with his cacodemon and deploys it against Alice. The episode ends with her appearing to be dead (or as immobilized as a niffin gets) and the gang sorrowfully dealing with the aftermath. Queen Alice the Wise no more?
I personally felt like the writing here forced the action back into the momentum it had towards the end of last season: frenetic, emotional, and slapstick in places. There’s a scene with Alice and Quentin heading towards the Beast and dumping their soggy emotions on each other; alternating anger, frustration, and longing that does a lot for Alice’s character development. In other places, we see the strange running gag of “Penny’s broken hands” come back at an inconvenient time, distracting from everything else that’s happening in the foreground. This was a real emotional rollercoaster of an episode that makes you wonder how they’re going to pace things for the rest of the season!