Margo would be one of the best characters on The Magicians if only the show gave her a reason for being on the show. Syfy’s series, which is reminiscent of Harry Potter with sex and drugs, is heading into its second season, and here’s hoping it does more justice to its most interesting characters this time around. Margo (played wonderfully by actress Summer Bishil) suddenly found relevance in the Season 1 finale as one of the kings and queens of the bizarro Narnia-esque realm known as Fillory, but Season 2 needs to prove that her newfound prominence isn’t a fluke.
Margo’s is a bit of a contradiction. She’s an obvious foil to protagonist Quentin Coldwater and Alice Quinn’s self-doubt. Margo is someone who knows that magic is real and is confident in her ability to wield magical powers when she needs to, often for personal gain (and humor). She and her bestie Eliot Waugh (also played with a glorious swagger by actor Hale Appleman) are the ones who get Quentin used to life at the magical Brakebills University by being so humorously blasé about all of the weird shit that goes on. But therein lies part of the problem.
Her character seems to be nothing more than a scene-stealer for the sake of being a scene-stealer. Bishil is undeniably magnetic in every scene she’s in, and appears as the smartest magician in the room. No one else could make kidnapping the first year Brakebills kids and forcing them to take part in magical hazing olympics quite as entertaining as Margo. Her quips could only be matched by Eliot’s purposefully glib witticisms. Their pseudo-jealous exchange in “The Mayakovsky Circumstance,” in which Margo casts a spell to get rid of Eliot’s new boyfriend — “You wished my boyfriend away!” “Boyfriend? He was just random cock.” — is a particular highlight.
To an extent, Bishil and Appleman’s fiery internal dynamic is the point. Their characters have a deep, friendly connection that doesn’t seem romantic or fully sexual. They’re just intimate. It’s what made seemingly ridiculous moments like their threesome with Quentin Coldwater in “Remedial Battle Magic” somehow plausible. They’re spoiled magic kids out to fuck and do spells.
But for all the fun moments, Margo lacks a legitimate importance to the overall narrative of the show, and so it’s hard to justify why she’s caught up in trying to kill the Beast with the Brakebills squad. She’s there to crack jokes, and while those jokes are definitely worthwhile, she’s kind of just a tagalong that doesn’t matter outside of her connection to Eliot.
The first season did try to give her some spotlight with the “Margo-lem” storyline in “Homecoming”. That episode saw her dealing with having to eliminate a doppelgänger who was conjured by a jilted ex-lover. But, again, that had nothing to do with the main story, and she remained sidelined until the finale.
In the final two episodes of Season 1, Eliot is forced to marry a Fillorian blacksmith’s daughter as one of the bargains that the Brakebills kids make to ensure they can kill the Beast. Eliot, so used to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on Earth, can never return if he takes up the mantle of High King of Fillory. His sacrifice gives him a purpose, and even if she’s crowned one of the lower Queens of Fillory, it gives Margo purpose as well. She has to find her own solitary identity now that she’s thrust into this position of no longer being in control at Brakebills. It’s almost as if over the course of the first season the audience had to discover this along with Margo’s own insecure journey.
Margo will have to learn some patience in the same way the audience learns a bit of narrative patience leading into Season 2. Being crowned Queen Margo is probably the best thing that could have happened to her. She’ll no longer take her magical powers for granted, and the audience will no longer take her for granted either.