Penny (Arjun Gupta) and Marina (Kacey Rohl) find themselves imprisoned by a magician desperate to send them to their home dimension in "A Timeline and Place", one of the more interesting examinations of the multiverse on SYFY's The Magicians to date.
Stoppard is a horomancer, someone who creates magical devices to manipulate magical energy. He is also desperate to get Penny and Marina back to the 23rd timeline, since their presence in the 40th timeline is causing severe disruptions to spell casting.
Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) finds herself in Modesto, California, after following clues in the World Book to find out "where she is supposed to be.".Alice finds a room to let from Sheila (Camryn Manheim), who somehow manages to "find" things that she is looking for.
Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Julia (Stella Maeve) continue to help the Monster of Blackspire Castle (Hale Appleman), in hopes of finding a way to help Eliot claim control over his body. The Monster has picked up some bad habits from Eliot's body, though, and Quentin realizes that he may run out of time before the petulant Monster destroys its host.
Margo (Summer Bishil) finds her scorched earth style of diplomacy ineffective in negotiating for a cure to the allergies that are affecting the talking animals of Fillory. Josh (Trevor Einhorn) tries his best to help, but quickly realizes that he's a lone ship in the path of hurricane Margo.
"A Timeline and Place" ambles along at a pleasant pace; it has a story to tell, and the writers want to make sure that it's told properly. There's a lot of timey-wimey dimensional jargon being thrown around, and if the writers tried to push that too fast the whole episode would have fallen apart quickly.
Arjun Gupta gets to stretch a bit in this episode, and we get to see the differences between the Penny 23 in contrast to Penny 40. Penny 23 is still cocky, arrogant, and abbrasive, but he is far more driven by doing the right thing.
"A Timeline and Place" also serves as a temporary redemption story for Alice, as she sees the good magic can do when wielded by people with positive intent. Dudley and Manheim have a great energy together, and Manheim's Sheila is one of those characters that you can't help but root for, although I have a feeling that's all going to collapse.
Let's jump into some spoilers!
It's so great seeing Camryn Manheim on The Magicians! Sheila feels right at home in this universe, and her enthusiasm in learning magic to fix things for people was so earnest and sweet. I love how Alice seemed so nervous about teaching Sheila, worried about things breaking down due to its influence. Their work together was wonderfully sincere, and seeing Alice find a moment of absolution was a long time coming.
I'm sad that it's not going to last, though. The Library is on to Sheila, and Hedge Witches used the newly-flowing magical currents in Modesto to pull off a terrorist act. Poor Alice isn't going to take that well!
"This body hearts tequila."
A simple line, delivered whimsically, and I had no idea where that would head. Eliot's body is craving drugs and booze, and the Monster is too bored to fight it. Great scenes, played with fearless intensity by Ralph. Q is not losing Eliot, and his staring the Monster down was classic Quentin.
Gupta showed much more range than I have given him credit for in the past, but it definitely deserving of mentioning now. The nuanced differences between Penny 23 and Penny 40 were hard to spot before, but seeing them face-to-face made it pretty clear. It's subtle but effective work, and it's hard not to think Penny 40 is setting up Penny 23 for a fall.
The different dimensions were a blast, too. Dimension 23 doesn't have any magic, and it's drab and lifeless looking. There was another dimension that restricts magic, and it was so lacking in luster that it was oppressive.
Summer Bishil must make the writer's room so damned happy. Every episode they find some new and spectacular way to expand Margo's insanely inventive and profane vocabulary, and this episode took that to a new level. Margo's attempts at saying "Codswal" warrant several views alone!
We're headed towards certain peril as the Monster continues to assemble its "God Body." Here's a look at "The Side Effect," set for Wednesday, March 6th, on SFYF:
SYFY's The Magicians stars Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Rick Worthy, Jade Tailor, Brittany Curran, and Trevor Einhorn. The series' fourth season is executive produced by John McNamara, Sera Gamble, Chris Fisher, Henry Alonso Myers; and Groundswell Productions' Michael London and Janice Williams.