The series finale of The Magicians aired last night. It is sad to see this show end its run now when we need new content more than ever. But the finale ended on a note of hope that we desperately need in these dark times. Despite the show’s many deviations from its source material over the years, the end of the show came surprisingly close to the end of the books by Lev Grossman. Let’s dive into the series finale of The Magicians, an episode titled Fillory and Further.
Spoiler Warning For The Magicians Show and Books
Image via Syfy
The Magicians Ends Its Run After Four Seasons
Fans were shocked when an announcement at the beginning of March reported that The Magicians would be ending its run after this current season. However, watching the final episode last night it felt like this had all been planned out. Honestly, this was one of the best series finales to a show that I’ve seen in a long time. It was far from perfect, but it managed to tie up many loose threads that had been left dangling. Every character arc seemed to reach its inevitable conclusion in a satisfying way. And the show also managed to stay true to the spirit of Grossman’s original ending, despite dramatic differences in the final conclusion.
Perhaps cancellation was inevitable for this show that ran on the Syfy channel for four seasons. The channel has become notorious in recent years for cancelling shows in their prime. But it also felt like the show was winding down after shockingly killing off the main protagonist of the novels – Quentin Coldwater – at the end of season three. Because the third book revolves so much around Quentin’s character, I wondered what they would do in a fourth season without him. The answer was to shift focus to the excellent ensemble cast. The ‘minor’ characters in the books became the stars of the show.
THE MAGICIANS — Season:2 — Pictured: (l-r) Hale Appleman as Eliot, Summer Bishil as Margo, Arjun Gupta as Penny, Jade Tailor as Kady, Stella Maeve as Julia, Rick Worthy as Dean Fogg, Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice, Jason Ralph as Quentin — (Photo by: Jason Bell/Syfy)
The Magicians Was A Study In Grief, Trauma, and The Power of Magic
The fourth season of The Magicians was a study in grief and trauma recovery. For a show that has never flinched from weighty topics like mental health, sexual fluidity, rape, and suicide ideation, this felt natural. The characters of Julia, Alice, and Eliot who were closest to Quentin were suddenly dealing with a very personal grief. At the same time, they still had worlds to save and quests to undertake while grappling with their own personal drama.
Much of this final season revolved around trying to save Earth from yet another magical cataclysm. Our protagonists managed to do this, only to discover that their secondary home was the one truly in danger. The magical world of Fillory has been a character unto itself over the course of the show. So it was surprising that the answer to this problem was simply to destroy Fillory, and start over with a new world grown from this season’s deux ex machina – the world seed. Yet in the end, even this decision felt natural. Sometimes worlds must be destroyed, in order for a better one to grow. This lesson is true for all of our remaining major characters. Every single one of them has seen their own personal worlds torn down over the course of the show. But together they still manage to move forward and create something new.
Image via Syfy
Where Do All Of The Characters End Up?
The character of Julia has reinvented herself many times over, from a hedge-witch to a victim, she became a goddess and then mortal again. And in the end she found herself playing the most normal human role – that of a mother. I have to admit that I was a little annoyed with Julia’s storyline this season. She was Quentin’s best friend, and the only character left who loved the Fillory books as a child. But for some reason the show took her out of most of the Fillory plot. She was sidelined with a magical pregnancy plotline that felt unnecessary. However, in the end even this plotline paid off. That magical baby helps heal both Julia, and the damaged Penny.
What is refreshing to see is that having a baby changes the character of Penny far more than it does Julia. Despite the fact that this was not the original Penny (but rather an alternate version from another timeline/universe) it was still satisfying to see his character arc. He went from a rude, self-absorbed jerk, to a selfless, empathetic father. The character of Penny was one that changed the most from book to show, and in the end that deviation was for the better.
The Evolution of The Kings and Queens of Fillory
Alice has also undergone transformation over the course of the series, from a nerdy girl who was the best Magician of her age. She became a magical creature called a Niffin, then became human again. Alice lost her soul, and found it once more. Her character has grappled with identity and self-doubt for years, before finally coming into her own and achieving mastery of magic in this final episode.
Eliot spent the entirety of season three possessed by a demon, and was saved by Quentin’s self-sacrifice. In season four he struggled to come to terms with what he had done, and who he would become. No longer the High King of Fillory, and no longer the flippant boy that we met in the beginning of the series. Eliot became a far more serious and thoughtful character. In the end, it seems that he finally gets some of the happiness that eluded him for years.
The character of Margo may be the one who has had the biggest transformation over the course of the series. She went from being a vain, spoiled girl to a badass fighter, a leader of Fillory, and found love along the way. Dubbed ‘Margo the Destroyer’ earlier in the series, she gets to become ‘Margo the Creator’ in the final shot of the episode.
The Final Chapter For The Chatwins
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Even the troubled Chatwin family gets some closure at the end of the show, in a way that the books never gave us. The Beast came back briefly, only to be defeated by his brother. The Dark King gained some small amount of redemption, and showed that he was never evil. He was just a ‘deluded asshole’ as Eliot lovingly put it. Jane Chatwin remains living peacefully in her bubble outside of time, and her brother joins her in the end. The author Christopher Plover reappeared earlier in the season to give the main characters some helpful information. But even he got his just desserts when he was left unable to speak or communicate coherently. The worst nightmare for a writer who doesn’t know how to do anything else.
The only Chatwin that did not quite get a conclusion was the character of Plumm. She was introduced this season, as she is also introduced in the third book. She got to do some time traveling with Penny, and attempt to warn the main characters of the folly of their plans. It was nice to see her briefly meet with her grandmother (?) Jane in this last episode, despite the fact that she never gets to interact with the other Chatwins.
I feel like the character of Plumm was severely underutilized this season. There could have been much more for her to do, but in a show with so many pre-established characters it is hard to bring in a new player so close to the end and do her justice. We don’t really know what happens to Plumm at the end of the series finale of The Magicians. Presumably she will get to continue her studies at Brakebills, and live her own life while putting her dark family legacy behind her.
How Closely Does The Magicians Series Finale Hew to The End Of The Books?
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Shockingly, the end of the show is pretty close to the end of the books by Lev Grossman. The third book of the trilogy The Magician’s Land, concludes with Quentin creating a new world for himself and Alice. The finale of the show gave us something similar, but in a way the show’s conclusion was more satisfying. We got a new world after all, but instead it was created for the Fillorians who lost their home. It was also a new start as for the main characters who were never really at home on Earth or in Fillory. The new world combined the best of Earth and Fillory, and gives characters like Alice and Margo a new home, and a chance for peace after so much death and destruction.
The Magician’s Land had an open ending, where there was no telling what would come next for Quentin and Alice in their new world. The show has a similar open ending. One that tells us that this series may be over, but the story goes on. All of the characters are left in a place with new lives that unfold before them, with a chance for happiness that they never had before.
The show literally ends with a note of Hope, as that is what Julia and Penny name their daughter. Hope for the future. Hope for a new world beyond death and destruction. There is hope to continue living, loving, and creating. And right now, that hope feels vital to a world watching during the midst of a global pandemic. The lessons of the The Magicians will last long beyond its series finale. To never give up hope, to hold onto magic wherever it can be found. That together we are stronger than the darkest forces that imperil us as a species.
To the cast and crew of The Magicians, I say this. Thank you for the magic.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.