The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3 Review: The Mountain of Ghosts

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So that's the Dark King?

After nearly three episodes of build-up, the ruler of Fillory for the past 300 years was revealed on The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3.

I have to say I have complicated feelings on the matter.

Alice, Eliot, Dark King - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

First off, this is the man who executed Fen and Josh to become High the Dark King.

He may have saved the people from the Takers but killing seemingly incompetent rulers, just to take the throne, wasn't the right answer.

Eliot: You’re a danger tourist?
Dark King: No, mourning someone.
Alice: Who was it? I mean, if you want to say.
Dark King: Well, the love of my life. Died ridiculously young, but he was a Magician, and there’s nothing more dangerous than that. My dreams were so filled with him; I was convinced he was haunting me. So I took his diary up to the top of the mountain and threw it in. I felt a little better, so who knows?

Did he forget -- or maybe he didn't care -- that democracy now exists in Fillory, meaning an election could have been held instead to determine the next ruler.

Or, if the Dark King wanted to do something more permanent, he could have banished Fen and Josh like Margo.

Dark King - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

Both options would have been effective in seizing the throne, with the added benefit being no one needed to die.

However, since Fen and Josh are now alive 300 years in the future, does that negate the Dark King's actions?

Death is so simple, and life is so complicated.

Dark King

He technically never had them executed, but as history has proven, he would have.

I'm not inclined to give him a pass on this, but his interactions with Eliot and Alice have me questioning some things.

Dark King talk - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

The Dark King saved Eliot and Alice -- two strangers at the time -- from the Takers. He shared some of his supplies and even went as far as to guide them the rest of the way.

What's more, the Dark King coaxed Eliot into opening up to Alice about his relationship with Quentin.

Dark King: Have you ever had love?
Eliot: Love, like …
Dark King: Love. It’s OK, you can say anything. I’m a stranger, and you’re drunk.
Eliot: The friend we’re putting to rest.
Dark King: Wasn’t just a friend. Does she know?
Eliot: God no.
Dark King: A torrid secret affair.
Eliot: Nothing like that.
Dark King: That seems a bit selfish then. I’m just saying that seems rather important information that he can’t give her.
Eliot: I mean, why punish her like that?
Dark King: Why spare her? You don’t close.
Eliot: Because she really, really loved him.
Dark King: So did you.

All of those acts don't exactly scream "Big Bad."

At this point, I'm not even sure I'd classify the Dark King as a villain, as viewers have never heard his side of the story. 

There may be extenuating circumstances we, as fans, don't know yet. Whatever the outcome, I'm looking forward to what the writers have in store. 

Alice + Eliot - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

As intrigued as I am by the Dark King, my favorite scenes this episode involved Eliot and Alice's journey to the Mountains of Ghosts.

What started as a pissing contest over who loved Quentin more evolved into an open conservation full of love and grief.

Eliot: What did you mean by not my pilgrimage?
Alice: I mean, I’m here putting my boyfriend to rest, and you tagged along.
Eliot: Right, because I barely knew him.
Alice: You know what I mean. You’re here out of some sort of combination of thinking I’m incompetent and your guilt that he died saving you.
Eliot: You know what, you are way too smart for me to ascribe what you just said to total stupidity, so I’m going to go ahead and file it under, ‘You must be fucking joking right now.’
Alice: No, I’m not. This is hard enough without you judging me every step of the way.
Eliot: Is that how you don’t bicker because that would explain a lot about how you and Q kept falling apart, beyond the obvious of course.
Alice: The obvious?
Eliot: Yeah.
Alice: Like drunk threesomes with you and Margo?
Eliot: Oh, um, solid point, but I was thinking more of that one time when you betrayed all of us, I ended up possessed, and Q died cleaning up the mess.

For years, Eliot has kept his love for Quentin and their relationship secret. Not even Margo really knew the full extent of what was between them.

Since Quentin's death, Eliot has been struggling with his pain, grief, and guilt all by himself, afraid to tell the full truth.

Eliot - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

Whether it was denial of Quentin's death or fear of hurting those around him, there was only so long he could have carried this burden by himself.

So it's not necessarily shocking that he would unload some of it.

Eliot: I can’t send it, but I can’t just let it go.
Alice: It’s OK. He was your friend.
Eliot: He wasn’t just my friend. I’m sorry. He loved you. Why would I want to take that away from you now? That would be so cruel.
Alice: Do you really think I didn’t know there was more? I knew Q really well, and if anyone was messy, it was him.
Eliot: Yeah.
Alice: He was pretty in love with you.
Eliot: I’m not sure that I’d say that.
Alice: I would. What was I supposed to do, huh? Demand that he only love me. Scream at him to be a less complicated person. I mean, it’s Quentin we’re talking about, and I loved him – the real him, all of him.

However, I never expected that person to be Alice. What's more, I never expected Alice to know there was something more than friendship between Quentin and Eliot. 

I've been trying to think of events where Alice may have picked up on this unspoken thing between Quentin and Eliot. 

Alice - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

Besides the drunk threesome with Margo, we only saw Quentin and Eliot be intimate during the alternate timeline. 

Alice wasn't privy to that or the conversation Quentin and Eliot had afterward.

Eliot: Well, um, there’s something he probably didn’t tell you about: the mosaic. Um, there was this timeline. We somehow remembered pieces of it, these beautiful pieces, and we loved each other for a really, really long time. And, um, so you know, uh, I promptly told him to fuck off, and then, you know, he died for me.
Alice: Eliot. Eliot, I have done a lot of bad things, and I have hurt people. The one thing that I hold on to is that I know deep down that I was just doing my best. Were you doing the best that you could?
Eliot: Unfortunately, at the time, yes. I never even got to talk to him again; he just died.

My best guess is she figured things out during The Magicians Season 4. 

Quentin was adamant about saving Eliot, willing to do literally anything, even cooperating with the Monster, to save his friend. 

Quentin Takes a Picture - The Magicians Season 4 Episode 6

I'm not even sure if Quentin knew the full extent of what drove this intrinsic need for Eliot to be OK, but Alice did. 

She read between the lines and saw there something more between these two, something that went beyond the confines of friendship.

Eliot: I don’t want her to think …
Dark King: Have you ever noticed that people generally think what the hell they want.
Eliot: I’m starting to think you’re a little bit of a shit-stirrer.
Dark King: I just fundamentally believe that the best way to honor someone is with the truth of them. You could give her more of that truth, but you won’t.
Eliot: I just want everyone to remember Quentin however they want to, and to get through the fucking day.
Dark King: I’m just pointing out that what you’ve got in that secret pocket could help her remember the real Quentin.

Despite this knowledge, she still felt the need to assert that her relationship with Quentin was somehow more than Eliot's -- deeper, stronger, greater, anything to signify that Quentin loved her the most.

It wasn't until she was confronted with the truth head on that she let up, finally admitting aloud what she had known in her heart.

It was a cathartic experience for both of them, allowing them to grieve Quentin together rather than separately.

Alice: He’s …
Eliot: I think I almost fucked the Dark King.

It also provided Eliot with the reassurance that Quentin loved him and knew how he felt, something that had been causing him great pain over the past month.

This was something Eliot desperately needed to hear, and it was weirdly fitting that Alice was the one who provided him with those answers. 

Josh and Fen - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 2

Speaking of weird, let's talk about the Josh/Fen hookup.

Remember when I mentioned Fen deserved some love, this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

Fen: Margo, Josh and I only did … six, or seven, or less than a dozen times, give or take. And we would have never, ever would have done it, if we had known …
Margo: Excuse me, I need to sharpen my ax.

And as it turns out what happens in Fillory 300 years ago doesn't stay there, especially when you contract a sexually transmitted curse.

Despite being somewhat random, their hookup makes sense you consider their circumstances. 

Margo + ax - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

They were stuck 300 years in the past, without knowing if they would ever see their friends again.

People lose faith, they get lonely, and things happen.

Referee: Fencicle, what is your persuasion?
Fen: I mostly date humans.
Referee: Are you a female? And you Janet?
Margo: Duh.
Referee: There can, of course, only be one female centurion.
Josh: An Act III twist.
Referee: For all the obvious reasons …
Margo: Um, not obvious to me.
Referee: I know dear; that’s one of the reasons. You spar by the light of the glorious double full moon tomorrow night.
Fen: Tomorrow night?
Margo: That’s no good. I’ve got plans.
Fen: Me too. I mean …
Referee: Gravest apologies, but it’s the schedule.
Margo: Chuckle buddy, I have a sexually transmitted curse. Sun goes down tomorrow, I go wolf. This guy goes wolf.
Fen: Ember’s balls.
Margo: And her too for some reason. That what you want here? Sure to be entertaining. Probably be everyone in here’s last show.

Is that a good enough reason? Who knows?

However, Josh and Fen's guilt was compounded by their belief that Margo never gave up on them. 

In their mind's, they not only betrayed their friend but lost faith in her, something that was worse.

Fen - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

Josh and Fen were ready to grovel for Margo's forgiveness yet the tables were turned when Margo revealed she was going to let them die for Fillory.

There's no good way to let your friends know you were all set to leave them in the past and be executed for Fillory, but it's not a great follow up to admitting you genuinely thought you had killed one of them.

Margo: Eliot sent the letter. I was going to let you die for Fillory. Kings, we have a job and we put it first. Right?
Fen: So, you didn’t save us, and then you stabbed me. Am I a fool? No, no, really, am I?
Josh: No more than me.
Fen: You’re a lovesick idiot.
Josh: Hey.
Fen: I went into battle for you, thinking you gave a single flea on a donkey’s ass for any of us, thinking that we owed you something. Stupid me.

This entire thing is a huge cluster-fuck, and I don't see Margo being forgiven any time soon.

Hooking up behind your friend's back pales in comparison to letting said friends die. 

Margo is going to be in the proverbial werewolf cage for quite some time, but based on this image below from one of the promos, things won't stay frosty between the lovers for wrong.

Margo + Josh - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

Elsewhere, Julia and Penny made some progress in their quest to stop the surges -- or rather some progress in identifying when a massive one will come and wreak havoc on the entirety of earth.

Worse, they only have two weeks to save humanity, which is pretty steep odds.

Josh: OK, so I got some kind of bad news. Fillory has two moons, and if either of is full, then wolf time.
Margo: So one of them’s full soon?
Josh: Both are, tomorrow night, which is why your wolf PMS is acting so bad now.
Margo: I’m about to be a double werewolf?
Josh: It’s OK because there’s still cages. I checked, so it’s totally fine.
Margo: It’s not fine.
Josh: You’re doing great.
Margo: No, the skin hardening spell I keep trying to cast, so I don’t get flayed alive, only stuck to the left half of my body. And also, I want to murder everything.
Josh: Oh, uh more than usual?
Margo: Yes, in fact.
Josh: Well, maybe just some deep breaths, and you know, you got this.
Margo: Fuck breathing. I’m too annoyed to breathe, but I like you anyway. Thanks for the cheerleading wolf boy.

I'm sure the whole gang will work together to stop the apocalypse, but I'm more interested in discussing what constitutes a hero.

How many times do you have to risk your life and save the world? Once, twice, thrice? More than that?

And at what point is it OK for you to step back and let the next generation take on the heroics? If that even allowed?

Zoey - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

For Zoe, she's not willing to go diving head first into danger. 

She and her sister Daniella already stopped the apocalypse their senior year, thus freeing them from the responsibility.

Julia: So, while you’re waiting.
Penny: God, that’s always a great idea, but I really do have a headache.
Julia: No, I need a ride.

In addition, they also paid a hefty price when they lost their sister Beth.

To Zoe, she and Daniella have already fulfilled their "heroics" quota, meaning they are no longer required to help out. 

Julia - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

Julia, though, doesn't see it that way.

She and her friends have saved the world many times and have lost friends in the process, but she is still willing to fight the good fight.

Eliot: Well, your subjects are rightly grateful.
Margo: For sending that letter, a.k.a. that thing I totally didn’t do. You did.
Eliot: Why split a hair? Let them bake cookies.
Margo: Lie cookies?
Eliot: It’s not a lie. You saved them through me, your advisor, acting on your behalf.
Margo: Nice retcon.
Eliot: Then as a wise king once said: ovary up. Let your subjects be inspired by a simple, uncomplicated story. That’s what the people want.

While she is willing to take on whatever the world throws at her, Penny seems ready to hang up his cape.

He wants a "normal-ish" life with Julia when all is said and done, but I don't think that's possible.

Penny - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3

For one, it's "The Magicians," and the apocalypse looms around every corner, but also I don't think Julia is capable of letting go, especially in the wake of Quentin's death.

She only has magic because she lost him, and I believe she's going to do whatever it takes to repay Quentin's sacrifice.

Penny: I’ve been thinking about what Zoey said. It’s a valid question: When do you save the world enough? Look, I’m with you on anything, but I gotta be honest: If we survive this one, I want a life, Julia. Ideally with you.
Julia: Yeah, I want that too.
Penny: I’m not sure you do, and that’s OK. Right now we got shit to do, but if we don’t die, we gotta figure this out.

This is an unattainable goal, as Penny has mentioned, but Julia's always been stubborn and persistent.

I don't think she'll rest until she feels she has done something important enough to "earn" her magic.

 This desire may cause a strain in their relationship, the beginning of which was seen this episode.

Kady - The Magicians Season 5 Episode 2

Some stray thoughts: 

  • Did anyone else notice that Sean Maguire played both Sir Effingham and the Dark King? Does this mean they're the same person and secretly want to help the main characters? Or is it all a ruse to make sure they fail? I have so many questions that need to be answered.

  • Kady was absent this episode, and while the subplot involving the stole book depository wasn't missed, she sure was. You gotta love the tenacity and badassery of that girl.

  • What kind of parent allows their children to play with knives? Sure, they were "child's play" knives, meaning they wouldn't actually hurt you, but it seems like a bad parenting choice on Fen's father's part. Then again, he married his daughter off to some stranger, so who knows?

  • Is anyone else curious why Eliot didn't just readdress the letter to the Underworld, where Quentin could have safely gotten it without risk of changing the timeline? Wouldn't that have been a simpler solution, or is it that once the stamp has been placed on a letter, it can only be used for that letter and not placed on another one?

So what did you think Magician Fanatics?

What's the Dark King's deal?

Have Alice and Eliot truly accepted Quentin's death.

How long will Margo be in the doghouse werewolf cage?

Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. If you happened to miss the latest, have no fear. You can watch The Magicians online right here at TV Fanatic.

We sure would appreciate a follow of our new Twitter account as we work to rebuild our audience! 


The Mountain of Ghosts Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (31 Votes)

Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.

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The Magicians Season 5 Episode 3 Quotes

Eliot: Where are you going, and why are you dressed like a goth survivalist?
Alice: Fillory, just quick.
Eliot: What’d you got there?
Alice: Nothing. I did a thing; this is a byproduct. I just have to take care of it.
Eliot: Alice, do you need help? You seem a little bit distressed.
Alice: I’m fine. I just have to do it alone.

Eliot: Well, your subjects are rightly grateful.
Margo: For sending that letter, a.k.a. that thing I totally didn’t do. You did.
Eliot: Why split a hair? Let them bake cookies.
Margo: Lie cookies?
Eliot: It’s not a lie. You saved them through me, your advisor, acting on your behalf.
Margo: Nice retcon.
Eliot: Then as a wise king once said: ovary up. Let your subjects be inspired by a simple, uncomplicated story. That’s what the people want.