The Magicians has quickly established itself as a dual narrative, with Quentin and Julia’s fractured friendship as the catalyst for the two halves of the show’s magical world. And while these two sides of The Magicians — the structured learning of Brakebills and the underground amalgamation of hedgewitchery — occasionally intersect, Quentin and Julia are fast becoming the cornerstone from which these two worlds’ animosity will only continue to grow.
“The World in the Walls” showcases the fallout from Julia’s anger toward Quentin in “Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting,” though the episode doesn’t reveal its hand as such. Instead, “The World in the Walls” tackles the familiar TV trope of the dream-sequence mental hospital. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, House, and many more series have all toyed with the concept — a character is led to believe everything else in the series has been a dream and that they’ve really been a patient in a psych ward all this time.
Quentin is the one facing this obstacle in “Walls,” only four episodes into his life at Brakebills, and with his past on medication, in hospitals, and more, the possible reality of this world does start to infect Quentin’s thinking. And while the show is tackling some well-trod territory, it does so in a way that feels appropriate for the series so far, with enough twists to keep the episode compelling.
Initially, he rebels against the notion that this ward is his real home. Even after running into fellow patient Eliot, Quentin tries to call this reality on its illusion when he’s brought into the doctor’s office (which is Dean Fogg’s office re-envisioned). He assumes it’s a dream, the pills hidden in his garbage and retrieved by fellow patient/janitor Penny (who, in Quentin’s mind, has a stereotypical Indian accent) are a plant by his dream to add to the fabric of a fictional world. The doctor is the same one who released Quentin from the real-world hospital in the show’s premiere, all of the windows are blocked out by an obscuring white light, and suddenly Beast-like moths are scattering around every source of light.
They attack Quentin, a vision within a vision of a world, and Quentin is looking for any sign that his suspicions are correct. When he’s settled back into the common area of the hospital, he runs into Alice, who claims she knows this world is a fake, as well, but this is not the Alice Quentin knows. She is instead an unhinged patient with an uncontrollable libido who thinks he is an alien there to save her.
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Another familiar face appears when Julia comes to visit Quentin. She’s supposedly off at Yale with James, engaged to him no less, and now Quentin does all he can to prove this world is a lie. While he could not create a miniature sun in the doctor’s office, here he’s able to shoot off fireworks from his hand, but Julia does not see them. Disheartened, Julia is about to leave, lamenting that she wishes she could have seen the fireworks, which is peculiar because Quentin never actually mentions that his spell produced fireworks. This oddity is followed by a glitch in the dream as Julia’s face twitches with a maniacal laugh, along with a farewell that indicates Julia may not be wholly manufactured by this dream state.
And Quentin’s suspicions are confirmed when Jane Chatwin appears to him within the confines of the hospital (or, alternatively, only further suggests he’s made everything up when a properly dressed English woman materializes in front him). She tells him this is in fact a spell and that the pills he’s taking are only making him forget his real life. The books by his side hold the answer to escape, but of course Quentin wakes up the next morning to find his roommate shredding the pages.
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