‘The Magicians’: Shelving is my discipline

The Magicians
“The Side Effect”
March 6, 2019

“You are trapped in your POV.  You have a classic case of white male protagonism, Derek.”

Derek has been in the Underworld Branch of the Library for three weeks.  Penny 40 has called him into his office for a little … mentoring.  He tries to impress on Derek what a gift people’s books are.  How important they are.  Penny says they can allow you to see other points of view.

“Once you start seeing that, you’ll find that the story doesn’t end the way you think.”

“And the most important characters aren’t who you expect.”

Penny hands Derek a sheaf of pages from Librarian Zelda’s book. They go back to the time before Modesto just after Alice’s escape was discovered. Recriminations flew over the appropriateness of holding Alice in the Library to begin with. Zelda wondered if Head of Regulation Cyrus was suggesting they should have killed her …

“And Santa Claus?!!”

Head of Personnel Phyllis Kaylee from Firefly is so sorry for laughing.  It was not at all funny.


After the meeting, Head of Circulation Everett told Zelda he understood her interest in Alice. He could see something of Harriet in Alice, too.  He suggested that Zelda should take more time to grieve her daughter, but the Librarian insisted she was fine.

Fine but for the aural hallucinations of a high pitched whine and the sound of breaking glass.

“So, you’re telling me the Head Librarian, a member of the Governing Council of The Order, is having a nervous breakdown?”

Derek says they should get a message to Everett, but Penny explains it’s not their job to intervene—for a lot of good reasons he does not elaborate on.  He tells Derek that being in the Underworld branch provides a new perspective. They can see the bigger picture.  It’s not their job to stop the living from doing what they do.

Penny suggests they move on to an easier story.  Derek thinks it belongs to Margo, but this story isn’t about her.  It’s about Fen and her sometimes upsetting but almost certainly prophetic dreams.

Derek says he gets the point of these stories now—all women are just one emotional crisis away from a psychotic break.


After Penny gives Derek a refresher on the Library’s workplace policies, Penny asks if he remembers what Kady was doing at this time?  Derek is like, didn’t she just peace out for three episodes?  

Oh, Show.  Clever, clever Show.

Penny hands Derek another set of pages.  Kady was solving Detective Sam Cunningham’s old cases.  She wasn’t ready to just drop that life.  She told Julia she couldn’t go back to being a sidekick who was only in the group because of Penny.  She needed her own path.

“I want my life to feel like it’s about me.”

Also, consider the rent-free, swanky and cloaked from evil bitches penthouse Kady’s contribution to the Monster effort.

Speaking of that penthouse, the rent was due. Kady answered a pounding knock on the door to meet her landlord, the Baba Yaga.  


The surly and vengeful spirit of a Slavic witch told Kady to pay what was due in two days time—one Webster’s weeping healer, one totem of the plump pelican, and one bag of holding—or have her marrow boiled into soup.

This would be what Marina 23 meant when she told Penny the penthouse was more trouble than it’s worth.

Marina had already acquired the totem so Kady turned to her old hedge witch contact Pete for help.  He was a guy good at finding things and happy to help if it yielded an introduction to a legend like the Baba.

Derek observes that Kady has moved on.  And that Penny doesn’t look as happy about that as he says he is.  He also wonders if there’s some connection he’s supposed to be seeing between these stories.  Penny tells him to keep reading.

They jump back to Zelda, who was delighted to report to Everett that, according to Alice’s book, she had forsaken magic and moved to Portland to live a civilian life.  The choice was a surprise to Zelda, but she said it wouldn’t be the first time Alice had walked away from magic.

Everett was surprised to learn Alice had recently gotten a dog.  He always thought she was more of a cat person.  The offhand remark sent Zelda to Portland where she learned—but didn’t reveal—that Alice’s book was a lie.

After taking Kady to the (actual) black market where she wheeled and dealed for the bag of holding, Pete connected her with his friend Gordie who knew a guy who had the creepy doll that cried healing tears.

Only Duke was dead.  Kady went into detective mode.  Pete was like, whatever Cagney.  He found the doll and then helped himself to the Dewey in Duke’s pocket.

At the penthouse, Kady thought Pete’s case of flop sweats was just nerves at meeting the Baba.  Then she noticed the bruises on his arm—the same bruises she observed on Duke.

Gordie diagnosed Pete with a case of bad spell interaction.  Something was clashing with one of Pete’s personal enchantments, possibly a cursed object.  Kady handed Gordie the Dewey and, with a lick, he identified cobalt, an element common to most tracking spells.  

Derek is like, plot twist! The Library, in its quest to find Alice and Nick, are responsible  for hedge witches dying!  Penny says they don’t know that yet.  Zelda had some other things on her mind at the time.  Like visions of Harriet appearing to her in mirrors pleading for help.

Despite Gavin telling her the idea was stupid, insane, and impossible, Zelda had to find a way to help Harriet.  And since Gavin was responsible for trapping her daughter in the Mirror Realm, he couldn’t say no to helping, no matter how much he might regret it later.

Derek jumps to another story and is confused.  Why are Margo and Josh in a fight? He thought they were an unlikely, yet heartwarming thing?  Penny tells him to pay attention to Fen.

They were in the throne room pouring the beet juice on Margo’s mute birthright lizard. With a shrieking scream, the lizard burst into flame.  Fen realized she might be dreaming, so she took Josh’s advice.  She took a deep breath and tried to push her finger through her other hand.

The dream stopped.

Fen spotted a figure hovering in the shadows.  Fen chased the green-cloaked woman through the halls of the castle before tripping and falling outside in the forest.  And then she woke up.

Fen raced into the throne room to stop Margo from immolating her lizard.  Margo was less than convinced given that Fen’s intel was coming from a dream. Josh encouraged her to keep an open mind.

“You wanna risk the life of your lizard, or is that a relationship you’re willing to set fire to as well?”

Fen was certain that answers were to be found with the green-cloaked lady in the Fuchsia Forest of Corian’s Land. And after awkwardly stumbling through her big speech—Fen noted she’s not usually the one giving them—she announced she was going there.  That was a thing that was happening!

Kady was much more comfortable in the role of grand speech giver.  When Pete finally woke up she had him gather as many of his hedge witch friends as he could.  Kady told them about the tracking spell and showed how many of them were marked.

One of the witches bitterly blamed the Library.  She said they make the Deweys and they don’t give a shit about what happens to hedges.  Kady agreed.  The Library was trying to find someone and they were all just collateral damage.

But she suggested that if the hedges could stop screwing each other over long enough to work together, then it wouldn’t be the Library’s story anymore.

It would be their story.

The hedge witches liked what they heard and wanted to subscribe to Kady’s newsletter.  Whitley told her about a leaky Library pipe in Modesto and said they should use it to make the assholes pay.  Kady could not stress strongly enough that doing so would only give the Library a reason to wipe the hedges out.

Whitley agreed to sleep on it.

And then she helped blow up the Modesto Library anyway.

Zelda was crushed at the news that four members of the Order were killed.  And devastated by the consequences of her tracking spell. Everett tried to hand wave the hedge witch deaths as unforeseen interactions, but Zelda reminded him that the whole point of using the trackers was to avoid having to hurt anyone.

Zelda blamed herself, but Everett praised her for showing the true danger that the Library was in.  He said her trackers might provide a solution.  Keep an eye on the hedges so that the flame of knowledge might be protected—no matter the cost.

Everett told her it was an awesome responsibility, but who better than the Order to bear it?  And there was no one he trusted more than Zelda to be fair and right.

There was no one Zelda trusted more to help her than Alice.

Derek replaces the pages on Penny’s desk and tells him he’s seen enough.  

“To counteract a lifetime of cis-het fratbro bias?”

Penny seriously doubts that.  Derek pushes back and asks Penny what the takeaway is supposed to be.  Penny patiently explains that Zelda doesn’t know it yet, but what she just set in motion in going to change the Library forever.  The same with Fen and Fillory and Kady and all of magic.

Penny tells Derek that when you file people away as sidekicks, you don’t realize their importance to the story.  And this story belongs to a lot more people than Derek might think.

Derek listens to Penny with a full body attitude of whatever SJW. 

Penny passionately concludes by telling Derek that where to shelve a book is not a little thing.  It’s telling the world what and who to value.  Is any of this getting through?

Derek allows that it’s well said.  And he thinks Penny has earned the right to move up.

He switches it up on Penny and notes that, while he knows so much about him and his friends, Penny never asked Derek how he died.

“Arrow through the chest.  During the Crusades.”

american gods

Derek says he’s actually Penny’s supervisor’s supervisor.  He admits that they really thought the story was all about white guys back in his day.  And he fully sees the irony of a white guy giving Penny this test, but he says the ladies upstairs love a twist, so.

Derek tells Penny he has earned a promotion.  He’s clearly ready for the next level—Secrets Taken to the Grave.  Penny is going to collect them.

Penny walks down a hallway and stands opposite the elevator. The door slides open.  

“Hey.  Been a while.  Welcome to the Underworld.”

The Magicians airs Wednesday at 9/8 p.m. on SyFy.

Whitney also watches Supernatural and Legacies.  Follow her on Twitter @Watcher_Whitney.

3 thoughts on “‘The Magicians’: Shelving is my discipline

    1. I assume they will use her more in the finale and maybe next season. Otherwise, it’s just a distracting cameo.

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