The following article contains spoilers
Syfy’s The Magicians wrapped up its first season on Monday night with an absolutely bonkers finale that’s sure to make more than a few fans clamor for what’s next. The show’s story of a group of magical college kids, led by reluctant protagonist Quentin Coldwater, has navigated through its complicated plot, leading to one final showdown with the evil entity known as the Beast. Will Quentin and his Brakebills squad make it out alive? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
In the second part of a two-part interview, we spoke with co-creators and executive producers Sera Gamble and John McNamara about the first season finale, what to expect from season two, and more.
Please tell me about that last scene! Was it always the plan to end the season on such a dramatic cliffhanger?
John McNamara: Yep!
Sera Gamble: It was clear from the beginning that we were going to end with the Beast. We felt that was a juicy enough moment to leave the viewers with. What did you think?
I definitely wanted to see more. It was shocking to leave Quentin that vulnerable and the Brakebills students basically left for dead. Mostly it made me wonder whether it was your plan all along even though season two wasn’t announced until about three episodes into the first season.
SG: I think it would have been pretty fucked up if we were cancelled coming off of that ending. I would feel pretty bad for the fans.
JM: I think it would have been really funny. It would have been the ultimate meta in-joke with Fillory and Further.
The finale seemed to compact a lot of the more explicit things about the show in terms of its themes of sex and violence, specifically with what happens to Julia in the final scene — and even Penny, whose hands get brutally chopped off. Was there any kickback from Syfy about that?`
SG: I have to say that from the get-go Syfy understood the nature of the material. They certainly haven’t tried to censor any of the darker story points. Anyone who really understands the overall story of the season would say it has a lot to do with sexual violence, so it’s the story of Martin growing into the Beast and Julia’s story with Reynard. You take the teeth or the dark soul out of these stories if you take out scenes like that.
The pace of the finale was full steam ahead. Were there any challenges in tying up a lot of the loose ends of the storylines once Quentin, Julia, and the gang get to Fillory and challenge the Beast?
SG: We didn’t feel a lot of pressure to tie things up. From our perspective we just wanted to keep moving the story forward. Our main focus was about where we were with the arcs of the characters and their development.
For example with Eliot, and you could even say this about most if not all the characters, but how much of his story we told in the finale was secondary to moving him to the next place. We’ve been watching his downward spiral for several episodes now, and we wanted to be able to put a punctuation mark at the end of that for now by moving his relationship with Margo along. The same is true with Quentin and Alice or Julia and Quentin, so we tell a lot of story and burn through a lot of plot but we focus on the character when breaking these stories.
I was curious why you made the decision to introduce Quentin’s voiceover so prominently for the finale? Was it just to add more of that meta-narrative theme to the show leading into season two?
JM: To me it felt like the perfect way to close the loop on the meta plot, and to do it with character. I really believe that once he got to Fillory, Quentin would start to write his Fillory book. Christopher Plover’s version is now not to be trusted, Jane’s version is lost and nobody can find it, and Penny barely remembers it.
So Quentin thinks “I’m the hero, I’m going to write the definitive version of the story,” and as often happens when you’re a writer there’s a moment of self discovery where you’re not telling the story you thought you were telling. It turns out he’s actually telling Alice’s story, not his.
We finally get to completely explore Fillory in the finale, both in the benevolent 1940s version and as Quentin calls it, “Fillory 2016,” which is drab and dreary because the Beast has ruined it all. What were some of the challenges in bringing that new magical location of Fillory to life?
SG: Every time we go to a new world we have to reinvent the look of the show, so we kind of had to pick our battles with it. The temptation was to just get right into the episode where you go to Fillory and do as much as quickly as possible to revel in it. We were probably, too our benefit, constrained by the story. The important part was to tell the story of the Beast. The good news is that we’re working on season two now, so we get to explore much more of the landscape of Fillory as time goes on.
What can we expect with season two? Will it still have elements of the first book tied in to the plot?
JM: Ask us again in June!
SG: It’s still the early days of planning season two for us.
How far into development are you?
JM: About a week, so you’re thinking way further into it than we are!
SG: We have a general idea of what season two is in the broadest possible brush stroke, and we even have ideas for season three and a little for season four. But we never consider ourselves to be hamstrung by the chronology of the books.
Luckily we have them all at our disposal, and we go through things in the order that the story demands it. So it’s at the stage in development where it can talk and tell us what it needs. You still might see stuff from book one, you might see stuff from book three — we’re going to pull from everywhere.