This The Magicians Recap Contains Spoilers for Season 3 Episode 4: “Be the Penny”
After missing Penny for most of Season 3 due to illness (which is fair), The Magicians finally does right by me and devotes the whole of Episode 4 to my favorite character in “Be the Penny.” Things happen to other characters, too. But we’ll get to that later. Oh, and the chocolate Cheerio transition happens again.
Thoughts on being the penny:
From the creators of #WWHGD (What Would Hermione Granger Do) and #WWMTD (What Would Mia Thermopolis Do) comes #BeThePenny. And if you’re a frequent reader of these lousy recaps (or you know me as a person yet refuse to read my recaps) then you know that I am ALL HERE FOR BEING THE PENNY.
But our Magicians Penny. Not the bunch of pennies found in a ghost’s pocket or the penny you find on the street that people say is “good luck,” but you don’t pick up anyway because what the hell are you going to do with one cent, and perhaps this is exactly why this whole generation is salty as hell. I digress.
Penny gets to be our stranded narrator for all of Episode 4
“Be the Penny” is told in its entirety by Penny Adiyodi. I mention his last name because, during his informal wake at the Physical Kids’ headquarters, nobody can remember his full name. As you may recall from “The Losses of Magic,” Penny astral projected out of his body while the tumor-extracting demon tried to cure his super cancer. Unfortunately, the procedure was unsuccessful, leaving Penny’s soul to wander in the astral plane.
None of his friends can see him, and from what he overhears, it’s clear that his friends could barely see him at all while he was alive. However, Penny understands it’s his own distancing that has kept those who could care about him completely in the dark as to who he is and what he represented.
For Margo, Penny is an unfulfilled bang. Quentin respected Penny but couldn’t consider him a friend since he always felt Penny hated him. Since Julia didn’t even go to Breakbills, her interactions with Penny were few, so we can’t expect her to have too many feelings (plus she’s still getting those back) about the whole situation. Alice is too busy processing her dad’s death and the part she played in it to really interiorize Penny’s loss.
This episode is narratively all over the place, so for the sake of making this recap make sense, we’ll go by characters and major situations. Hang in there, Fillorians.
Penny becomes a penny, a Margolem, and a candle in the wind
As bleak as the situation looks for Penny, there is one person who can see him. And that is a peeping-tom by the name of Hyman Cooper, another traveler, who used to project out of his body to creep on girls in the 1920s. One day, somebody hid his body (well-deserved) and has now been stuck in the astral plane for almost a century. I must admit that the first thing I thought when I saw him wearing a uniform with yellow accents was: “Oh. my. god. Cedric Diggory.” But I’ve since disassociated. Cedric would never.
At first, he serves as a commentator of all the things Penny has missed. He points out how there’s always been a budding romance between Julia and Quentin who he believes are the #OTP of this show. (In my humble opinion, this show doesn’t really have OTPs). When Penny brings up Alice, Hyman assures him she’s just the “Ms. Grundy” of this universe, which made every Riverdale watcher scream. Syfy’s balls know no end. Hyman assures Penny that his thing with Kady is good. The term I’d use is “emotionally charged” as she almost overdosed on heroin after losing Penny–at least explaining her lack of tears during Penny’s wake.
As achingly old-fashioned and perverted as Hyman is, he does try to help Penny (mostly to get him off his back). Hyman explains the only time he managed to make contact with the living was when he projected into objects. To practice, he suggests Penny projects into a penny, which results in many puns and jokes that might’ve irritated me more than they did Penny. (And that’s saying a lot). In a desperate attempt, he projects into the Margolem but only succeeds at scaring his friends and proving that Todd (who had her in his closet) is just another creep.
The candle in the wind scene we’ll save for another section.
Quentin, Dean Fogg, and Julia visit the McAllister family home
After doing some Fillory and Beyond reading, Quentin and Julia head to a hidden dorm room that has been haunted by a ghost for decades. The dorm room had been buried with magic because the ghost of Lance Morrison, a student who committed suicide there in the 1940s, has been haunting the place ever since. Hyman warns Penny that the ghost is dangerous, so he follows Julia and Quentin to the dorm. Once there, all three of them witness a replay of Lance’s death.
First, a young Rupert Chatwin comes in to give Lance one of the seven keys for safekeeping or something. He warns Lance that the key has the power to reveal things as they are, which results in Lance and Rupert making out (which must’ve scandalized Hyman’s 1920s soul). In the following scene, Lance’s father comes in and murders him for the shame he has brought upon the family. Penny tries to use the opportunity of having two ghosts present to get Lance’s father to speak Penny’s name, but Julia and Quentin escape before Penny can get it out of him.
Knowing that the key must still be in the McAllister family home, Dean Fogg devices a plan in which they invite themselves over to Irene’s house to show them how one of the students still possesses some magic. They throw in Quentin as bait while Julia searches the house for the second key. Once she finds it, we see that behind her are fairies that must be working as slaves at the McAllister home. #Radical.
Kady and Alice try to decide what to do with Penny’s body
One must never forget a cardinal rule taught to us by Cage the Elephant: there ain’t no rest for the wicked. As soon as the library finds out Penny has died (thus breaching contract), they reach out to Kady, who’s currently recovering from a near-death experience at the Breakbills hospital. They inform her that a professional corpse eater will come to dispose of the body, chaining Penny’s soul to eternal servitude to the library. The only other option is to burn Penny’s body before the seventh day (where his soul would technically detach from his body) to send him to the Underworld.
Neither option sounds particularly enticing, but Kady is struggling with making any decision. She doesn’t want the responsibility, but Alice is keen on not letting Penny’s soul eternally run library errands after her experience as a Niffin. In the end, Penny takes control of the candle, *queue Elton John* and sets his body on fire.
Eliot returns to Brakebills after being chased by cannibals
Somehow, the doorway from the Muntjac led the Fillorian royal family to the fountains in the Neitherlands. Without magic, however, the fountains lead nowhere, and a group of cannibals are out on the prowl to catch stranded fresh human flesh. Penny overhears their conversations and tries to warn Eliot. However, none of the Waugh family members (including fairy-raised Frail Human) can see him.
Once Eliot realizes what’s up through his own devices, he tries to use the magic key to summon a beast similar to the one Father — used to scare the villagers of –. Unfortunately, the key is ruled by fear, meaning it materializes one’s biggest fear. So, who do we get? Eliot’s homophobic father. Eliot ends up feeding the apparition of his father to the cannibals after even Penny admits that Eliot’s life might be more fucked up than his own (which we know nothing about).
Just in the nick of time, Eliot remembers there’s a way to escape through the library. (Penny was trying to tell him, but we know how these things work). Eliot’s long-awaited return to Brakebills occurs as he runs into the Physical Kids’ dorm, bolting the door as soon as his family is inside. He explains some cannibals are still after them, which garners very little confusion. In comparison to the confusion created by Eliot introducing the squad to his teenage daughter.
As hectic and life-threatening as Eliot’s storyline is, he’s the one to deliver any hope for Penny’s future. When Julia and Quentin let Eliot hold the “Truth” key, he announces he doesn’t feel any different, except that he notices Penny’s presence in the room. Which to Eliot means nothing, since word had not reached him of Penny’s passing. Penny is over the moon that someone can finally see him, but of course, this is where the episode ends.
Did I love a Penny-dedicated episode? Yes. Did I find all the “truths” being revealed (like clandestine 1940s romances, a suicide-turned-murder, and the McAllisters owning fairies as slaves) enticing? Yes. Now, I could’ve cared less about the cannibal arc, although it was worth it to see Eliot’s dad. This episode was genuinely fun, even if we know by now that in the world of The Magicians no one’s really dead until they’re dead.
The Magicians is off to a greater start than any of us could’ve predicted. Thus far, it’s found a steady and effective voice which works perfectly. They’re able to deliver painful plot points like Kady’s overdose, Eliot’s daddy issues, Lance’s story, and Penny’s “passing” with both weight and comedy in a way only this show knows how to do.
“Be the Penny” Episode Vitals
Biggest Annoyance: Nobody being able to see Penny
Favorite Moment: When Eliot sees Penny
Funniest Line: “Right now, I just want to be 23 and not know what I want or what I’m doing.” – Alice “The Truth Speaker” Quinn