Alright kids, what we have for you today is a recap of this year’s musical episode of The Magicians, “All That Hard, Glossy Armor.” Instead of spending the episode jumping back and forth between various factions of our crew, the episode centers around only two storylines, the first being most of the crew – Penny (Arjun Gupta), Julia (Stella Maeve), Quentin (Jason Ralph), Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), and Kady (Jade Tailor). The second, our girl of the hour – Margo freakin’ Hansen (Summer Bishil).
On the front of the questing crew, Penny reveals what we were left in suspense over last week. The Monster is building a body, yes, but not for himself. He’s building a body for his sister. And as Penny puts it, if his sister got the death penalty and he got prison, which do you think is the bad one? Yeah, let’s not let him build her a body.
Now on the path of not wanting The Monster (Hale Appleman) to complete his task, the questers seek out the remaining God holding a part of the Monster’s sister – Enyalius. Based on Penny’s journey into the Monster’s memory, they gather enough information to determine that he is going by Angus now, and they must find a leprechaun to lead them to him. Yes, you read that right. A leprechaun.
Said leprechaun turns out to be a girl who runs a shoe shop. She leads them into the back room and explains that they must more or less complete an escape room to get to the god. They do, with a lot of thanks to Julia who is still indestructible.
Angus/Enyalius turns out to be a god who thinks happiness is a choice and doesn’t fret much over the fact that the Monster is seeking him out to kill him. Typical godly behavior. He eventually agrees to go into his safe room once he remembers the password. He asks Julia to join him. Turns out all the gods are interested in what she is now. Surprising no one, the Monster shows up and kills Angus.
Back at Club Questers, Quentin’s depression is in full swing. How will he get Eliot back now? Julia and Quentin have one of their heart to hearts. Julia wants to figure out how to become a goddess again, and hopefully help Eliot, but she also wants to keep Quentin close for when that happens. She’ll need him to remember what mortal life is worth.
Back in Fillory, Margo has started her one-woman quest to find the Foremost and retrieve the axes she believes will help rid Eliot of the Monster. This quest takes her through a desert, and when she runs out of water, she does the only thing left to do – she licks her lizard.
Licking her lizard causes Margo to full on hallucinate, setting off the whole crux of the musical episode. She starts off by seeing Eliot. Eliot singing and dancing. Eliot finally leading her to a tribe of people who let her in because she is marked as an enemy of Fillory.
In a tent with a woman, Margo learns that she’ll have to control her emotions there. The desert is alive with red sand that preys on women who get too emotional. As if on cue, Margo watches as a woman rages over her husband cheating on her. The red sand takes over the woman’s husband, but he is freed when a (very large) man arrives with axes to set him free. He is, the Foremost.
That night, Margo uses her feminine wiles on the Foremost. She sleeps with him while a choir consisting of Eliot, Fen, and Josh serenade them with “Here I Go Again.” Afterward, the Foremost says that if Margo wants a pair of axes of her own, she must go out into the desert and fill a bag with black sand. One catch though. Only one of every hundred grains of sand is black, so she must separate them.
All of Margo’s friends make cameos as she walks off to complete her quest. We get Kady, boy can Jade Tailor sing, and even Dean Fogg! Margo spends days sorting through the sand, barely making a dent.
Margo wants to give up and says so to Eliot. She knows that he’s just a manifestation of her conscience, but she doesn’t care. They have a heart to heart and we are given an insight into Margo’s childhood. Her whole life, her dad told her that she could be anything. He adored her. Until she grew up into someone he couldn’t control. Her dad told her she could be anything, so she chose to be pretty, smart, and strong. She didn’t just pick one.
Margo is fed up and rages against the unfairness at it all. Then, the red sand comes. This time though, because of her magic fairy eye, Margo sees the true form of the red sand. A woman. She listens as the woman speaks to her thoughts. The viewer only hearing Margo’s part of the conversation.
The next morning, Margo returns to the tribe’s camp with a full bag of black sand. When the Foremost says that the black sand won’t do anything, that it was just a distraction, Margo explains what she heard from the sand spirit. The spirits aren’t there to hurt women, they’re there to help them. They protect women.
Margo then goes full Magician on the foremost and his right-hand woman. She frees the captured spirits and takes the axes. The protectors arrive and help her and the other women. Once the men are all incapacitated, Margo explains the spirits’ purpose to the women: They’re in charge now.
With her axes, Margo’s job here is done now, and with one last song from Eliot, she sets back out into the desert.
Someone more knowledgeable of all things musical might have a lot to say about the music in this episode, but unfortunately, that’s not me. I liked it; it was good and fun and Jade Tailor really showed her stuff, but that’s about as specific as I know how to get about it.
Instead, I’m going to talk about Margo here. She, and Summer Bishil, really got a chance to shine this episode. While the desert spirit protectors weren’t a plot device that caused too much tension – I mean, we all knew what they were from the moment we saw them right – they set Margo up perfectly.
Margo’s scene in the tent with fake Eliot might be her best scene from the series. She is vulnerable, but still so totally strong and herself. The insight we’re given into her background is just enough to tell us what we need without being an info dump. Girl with a father who loves her but works too much grows up to be strong-willed and said father doesn’t know how that happened.
Tell a girl she can be anything, and she will god damn be exactly what she wants. And that’s exactly what Margo does. This complex character is so visceral because she didn’t choose between the paths laid out for girls (smart, pretty, or strong). Instead, she chose all three. This is the woman who became a king because she’s no goddamn princess.
Here, Summer shines in her portrayal of this strong, badass woman, but she tips her scale when Margo goes off on the fact that she’s always angry. Margo knows exactly who she is, and while we may praise her for it, the only thing Margo sees that she’s done right is being Eliot’s friend. And because of that, she’s failed the only good thing she thinks she’s done. Talk about heartbreaking.
But Margo’s fire and anger helped her survive the desert. It’s what guided her toward the axes. And it’s what’s going to help her get her best friend back.