Synopsis of 2×01: The gang searches for a new deus ex machina after Julia hijacks their last one to force the Beast into helping her kill Reynard the Fox. The gang meets the Knight of Crowns to earn their crowns and the Beast offers Julia tempting alternatives to easing her pain.
Knight of Crowns, the aptly titled season premiere, begins with a panicked Quentin dashing through the magical forests of Fillory, a la traditional horror film damsel in distress fashion. He comes across a hut surrounded by lollipops and is welcomed by a witch who calls herself a “healer and garden enthusiast.”
The specific fairy tale reference (I’ll let you guess which one) is just as obvious and pained as you would think and in most cases I would not stand for it, yet in this case I did. In the end her help is unnecessary. We’re welcomed to a flashback of Alice coming back to life and healing the rest of the group, except for Penny’s severed hands.
Julia and the Beast discuss their agreement: the Beast helping Julia kill Reynard and receiving the blade upon the latter’s death. The gang returns to the home of Elliot’s wife, whom is actually beginning to grow on him. Fortunately so, because a lifetime of a loveless marriage in a far away prison of a world seems like too bitter a pill to swallow.
Quentin brings to everyone’s attention an “armory,” a collection of books, rather than weapons, that are so powerful and contain so much knowledge that they may as well be weapons. In other words, say hello to this season’s deus ex machina. Pretty daring to introduce it so early, but I have faith that it may prove to be otherwise.
The Beast and Julia head to a crime scene and they become a gifted detective pair. Now how interesting would that be to watch? A powerful magician with a monstrous past and essentially lacking a soul solving criminal cases alongside a revenge-driven magician cursed with the power of a god, all to track down the god who “blessed” her for an excruciatingly inhumane price. That sounds like the next SYFY hit to me. But I digress. The Beast and Julia find a mysterious, yet all too familiar clue to track down Reynard.
Back in the world of Fillory, Penny and Margo meet a questionable “watcher of the river” as they heal Penny’s hands. Penny doesn’t hesitate to give the man a lengthy shaming session for trying to con them out of gold or labor, especially since, as Penny says, the river is a natural resource and public property. They leave, but not before the man discreetly performs a mischievous spell on Penny’s hands. This will come into play later.
The gang finds the knight of crowns, an extremely old man who apparently died waiting for the next rulers from Earth. To be given their crowns, they are tasked with passing a test on trivia only a true earthling would know. Hilariously so, it is all comically vague pop culture from the 90’s. Elliot is out of his element until he challenges the knight of crowns to ask him about Patrick Swayze, to which the knight responds awestruck: “You know of Swayze.” By way of answer, he recites the climax speech from Dirty Dancing word for word.
What follows next is a spontaneous crowning ceremony. Through Penny’s inevitable eye-rolls, the kings and queens are crowned. For the first time, Quentin and Alice discuss the failure of their relationship due to Quentin’s infidelity.
The Beast initiates a particularly revealing confiding session and suggests that Julia rid herself of her “shade,” a part of the soul that feels pain and essentially makes you human. He even offers to help her get rid of her shade. She considers it, but turns it down.
After a treat of the Beast watching Rick and Morty, we see the gang search the armory at Castle Whitespire. If the big bad soul-less villain of the first season’s arc expressing jovial amusement from Rick and Morty fails to elicit a rise of glee from you, I implore you to make yourself familiar with the aforementioned series as soon as possible. Unfortunately for the rest of the gang, their deus ex machina is nowhere to be found, but in its place is a clue of where to pick up the trail: Brakebills.
Elliot and Quentin share a heartwarming talk, mostly to calm Elliot’s fears, since they both know this could be their last time seeing one another; considering time differences between worlds and all that jazz. Julia and the Beast share another meaningful conversation as well about him helping her and it ends with the Beast showing her briefly what she would feel like without her shade, only for him to place it back.
Did the season premiere leave more to be desired? I suppose. The episode performed moderately in providing focus to each of the characters without leaning too heavily on any one in particular. Julia is once again split from the others and her story is told separately although simultaneously.
Did the season premiere make some mistakes? Yes, mainly introducing a possible weapon of mass destruction so early rather than pinning the heroes’ success on their own abilities. My only other qualm is the ease with which every task is completed. Regardless, this was a promising return to the series and may have provided an even better framework for this season than did the series premiere for the first season. Tune in for more next week.