'The Magicians' Season 4 Monster: Who Exactly Is the New Big Bad Villain?
Exploring the nature of the Monster with the actor who plays him.
One time on The Magicians, a twelve-fingered magician strangled his own sister by possessing someone else to do the deed, and yet somehow, the big bad antagonist of Season 4 is even more menacing. The Monster takes the root of all evil to the extreme, giving The Magicians an opportunity to ask profound questions about the nature of evil while still having lots of fun in its typical irreverent and groundbreaking way.
The Monster is a godly being with no real name, and it’s currently inhabiting the body of Eliot. Inverse visited the set of The Magicians Season 4 in November and spoke to the Monster himself, or rather actor Hale Appleman, who referred to his new character as “the dark shadow of the inner child that feels neglected,” adding that he “doesn’t necessarily recognize his own darkness.”
Here’s what we do know about the Monster. It was created by the Old Gods and imprisoned for millennia inside the Castle at the End of the World. It’s described as a being that just “wants.” Every time we see him — or “it” — he wants to play a game.
"I had some fun revisiting Psycho. I always love Norman Bates as inspiration. — Hale Appleman
The final scene of Season 3 saw the Monster (as Eliot) find Quentin, who like the rest of his fellow magicians, was transplanted into another life and had his memory erased by a spell. Considering this creature can do whatever it wants with a subtle gesture and has the emotional maturity of a kindergartener, we should all be very afraid.
To make the Monster as believable as it is scary, Appleman looked to classic scary movie villains who shared his character’s immaturity.
“I had some fun revisiting Psycho and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” Appleman said. “I always love Norman Bates as inspiration too, his sort of innocence and need for co-dependence.”
Appleman also looked to the Golden Age of Hollywood in developing a specific cadence and speech affectation. As a result, the actor does something odd with his voice that he likens to Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The idea was to have this strained, unnatural fabrication to the voice with emotional fragility simmering under the surface. It adds an interesting — and surprising — facet to this new antagonist.
“This character is not necessarily what you would expect,” Appleman said. “He has a childlike innocence, and even though he doesn’t have the tools to communicate or connect with people, he kind of wants to.”
The Monster is a ruthless being capable of murderous whimsy, but at the same time, it’s quickly apparent that he’s also a victim that’s been imprisoned for an unfathomable amount of time.
“He’s obviously apolitical,” The Magicians co-showrunner John McNamara said of the Monster. “He’s a child that’s been held captive for thousands of years, who’s been manipulated and lied to. He isn’t necessarily consciously evil.”
McNamara explained how he was once enthralled with Jeff Bridges’ performance in the film Jagged Edge, in which he plays a widowed husband who inherits his dead wife’s fortune. (Spoiler: He killed her.)
“What absolutely holds the movie together is his performance, which at times seems so innocent and so victimized,” McNamara said.
The Magicians actor actually met Bridges at one point and asked how he pulled off the role. In response, Bridges said he researched the nature of evil in various books and eventually came to a shockingly simple realization: “Evil is greed without boundary.”
What would a person be like if their innate self-interest was never checked by any sort of boundary? The Monster cannot be killed. As a non-corporeal being, it can simply move between host bodies. And it can slit a person’s throat with the subtlest of gestures.
As a result, we see a kind of arrested development that makes for an interesting character remarkably similar to Kilgrave from Jessica Jones Season 1, a man who grew up with the power to command anyone to do anything. The Monster is kind of like that, except even more childish.
“The Monster is an even simpler version of that principle,” McNamara said. “He is greed without awareness. He’s not aware that other people are alive. He’s oblivious.”
When asked outright if the Monster would win in a fight with the Beast, the big bad from The Magicians Seasons 1 and 2, McNamara was quick to answer.
“The Monster would just eat him alive.”
Here’s a clip from the premiere episode of The Magicians.
Inverse was invited to attend a set visit event for The Magicians in November 2018. Expenses for the trip were paid for by NBC Universal.