'The Magicians' EPs on the Finale & a 'Bigger, More F**ked-Up' Season 4
The Quest of the Seven Keys comes to a close (we think!) tonight as The Magicians wraps up its tremendously entertaining third season.
In the April 4 finale, Quentin (Jason Ralph) and his band of not-so-merry comrades storm The Castle at the End of the World to get magic turned back on.
Ahead of the big episode, we hit up showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara for a preview of what exactly the group will be facing. And from the sounds of it, things are about to get monstrous.
OK, so what are we walking into in the season finale? Where are our players at that point?
Sera Gamble: Well, at a certain point in the season finale, they are on the Muntjac with nothing to eat but leftover tacos. [Laughs]
John McNamara: Yeah it sort of replicates the feelings of being in The Magicians writers' room. The writers are obsessed with tacos. [Laughs]
Gamble: We're also, sort of headed towards the... well, we're sort of walking you into the next stage for Julia's (Stella Maeve) life. Which, as you know from Episode 12, she leveled up in a really major way. So in the finale, we talk about what that means.
And then, after a whole season of watching Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) really struggle to try to figure out who she is and what she wants to do, and whose side she's on, and whether she's on anyone's side, she will take some very significant steps for herself that affect everyone on the show.
When it's "significant," it's usually kind of bad.
Gamble:[Laughs] Yeah, well, it affects everyone! It was so important to us not to make things easy for Alice. Just in terms of the journey of her character. We talked a lot about what happens when you have a bit of a quarter-life crisis, you know? There may come a point where you look back at everything you went to school for and all the stuff that your parents prepared you for, and just maybe you reject all of it. We talked about our experiences with that and it's personal to some of the writers on the show. It's not something where you wake up having a crisis, and then, two or three days later, you're fine.
It was actually kind of uncomfortable to watch Olivia at times, because the torment in Alice was so clear and painful.
McNamara: Just you wait. [Laughs]
Julia's leveling up... is that kind of her reward for what she was put through in the first two seasons?
Gamble: I wish life worked like that.
McNamara: Yeah, be careful of rewards, because they tend to turn into something else.
McNamara: Yup. Dot dot dot... to be continued.
Gamble: So much of what we do with her character and with that storyline, has to do with these long conversations we have in the writers' room about trauma. And the effects a terrible event like hers cause. We try to be careful not to [say] there is a punishment or reward for something like that. With certain storylines like that, we're kind of assuming that, in one's adult life, a certain amount of s**t happens.
And in Julia's case, some very dramatically heinous and terrible s**t has happened. What we're interested in is exploring how people continue and go on, and how the terrible things that happen to you in your life affect you. But I don't think it can really be boiled down to everything that's going on with Julia is a consequence of this one terrible, terrible event. It affects her greatly, it has a lot to do with the circumstances that she's been wrestling with, but it's part of a greater maturing process. Always with our characters—especially on a show where a lot of very dark things happen to people—it's important to us to explore the idea that adult life is much more complicated than just a reaction to any one thing that happens to you.
You have planted the idea that getting the power turned back on—turning magic back on—will also come with negative side effects.
Will those stakes be made even more clear as we get closer to turning it back on?
McNamara: Oh yes.
Will things reverse?
Gamble: Put it this way, we've just spent three seasons kind of making it clear that magic is a mixed bag, at best. If you're a magician, you prefer to have it in your life more than not, and that's something that was really driven home for our characters this season. Not having magic was a good way to have them miss magic and realize how much they've been taking it for granted. But magic has never been an easy or straightforward force.
McNamara: And any version of how things go for them in the finale comes with a mixed bag of consequences. That'll just always be true on the show. We will always find the good and the bad in every new plot development.
How will Margo (Summer Bishil) fare as High Queen?
Gamble: The immediate consequence of her being High King, beyond it just being f**king awesome to see her in that crown...
Gamble: None of it means a whole hell of a lot if they can't get magic back. Everybody's campaign promises—and also just her ability to rule effectively as a magician—depends on finishing the quest and having it work out in Fillory's favor. So really, the first thing she has to do is help her friends get magic turned back on or she cannot be the kind of High King she wants to be.
With Penny 23 (Arjun Gupta) sticking around, how will this impact Kady (Jade Tailor) and Julia's friendship?
Gamble: I have a hard time imagining the women on The Magicians getting all fired up about a guy, in that sort of classic, soap opera way. Everybody has too much s**t going on and, frankly, everyone is too OK with casual, polyamorous sex to really have those kinds of hair-pulling, 'don't touch my man,' kind of stuff. That's not really the show. I think these women are kinda beyond that.
What is The Castle at the End of the World like?
McNamara: Black. Very dark.
Gamble: There may be a monster or two in there.
McNamara: Maybe. [Laughs]
You have given us the dragon stuff, are you introducing new monsters?
Gamble: Oh yeah, dragons are harmless compared to this thing. Here's a tease about the Castle at the End of the World. I'm gonna try to just do a tease here. The thing to know is that, for Quentin this season, he is a quester who has been on a quest, who understands questers on quests. He is a reader of fantasy and science-fiction and he has read Joseph Campbell's 'Hero with a Thousand Faces.' He's an expert in this stuff.
Gamble: He talks about the kind of sacrifices one makes when one is on a quest, and the notion that, when you are on a journey like this, it changes you. So the person you are at the end is different than the person who set out on the quest to begin with. In fact, the person who set out would not have been able to finish the quest, right? So all of that comes to a head in the finale, and Quentin is very well aware of it. He knows it's not gonna be fun for him necessarily. So if he wants to be a hero of the quest, then he's gonna have to solve some problems to do with finding the Castle at the End of the World, getting in there, and what they do once they're inside. And the thing that you'll see in the finale is that Quentin is very ready to step up. He feels personally responsible to get this done, and in a way, that wasn't as true before. This feels like his problem, right?
This is his hero's journey.
Gamble: When we were facing the Beast, for example, there came a point where he had this realization that the best magician should be the one to face the Beast. And that wasn't him, that was Alice. And in this case, it really is about the person who steps up to face the consequences and pay the price. The hero is simply the one who pays the price and Quentin is the one who is willing to be the hero.
There has to be a sacrifice. Can you preview who might be in peril?
McNamara: All of them! Nobody is safe. There's no...
Gamble: Nobody is gonna walk off the last frame of the season finale and onto a lounge chair in Waikiki because everything went so f**king great for them. There will be... there are victories, and there are yet greater challenges. When things end, a bigger and more f**ked-up thing begins.
McNamara: Of course!
The Magicians, season finale, Weds. April 4, 9/8c, Syfy