'The Magicians': Everything we're saying goodbye to as the long-running, irreverent fantasy series ends
"Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed." The line that began the journey that Syfy's 'The Magicians' just ended tells you everything you need to know about Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph). He was invisible and he believed in magic.
Quentin always believed in something better. That somewhere, out there, was magic and a place he belonged. It's that desperation that put him at the heart of the story, that despite the irreverence everyone else had towards magic and Fillory, Quentin always believed in wonderment.
For a show about magic, there was actually very little in the way of pure wonder. There was an absurdity. There was fun. There was joy and insanity and a lot of emotionally resonant moments for very well written characters, but there was very little in the way of actual wonder.
In fact, 'The Magicians' goes out of its way to undercut any sense of wonder you could hope to find. Magic comes with caveats. Fantasy lands come with strange bureaucracy, and the gods themselves turn out to be self-indulgent, ego-driven people with little in the way of plans.
Santa Claus (Tom Wright) himself is a gruff, grumpy man who swears at the drop of a jolly red hat and wears clothes more scruffy than festive.
Time and time again, ‘The Magicians’ drives the point home that growing up means accepting everything that's screwed up about your dreams but embracing them anyway. Nothing is whole, nothing is pure, nothing is untainted — but that doesn’t mean any of it is unworthy of love.
'The Magicians' set itself in cynical worlds and then featured a protagonist who kept faith in wonder, in friendship, in hope and in magic. Quentin Coldwater never stopped believing and he never stopped fighting for what he believed in.
The show was his story, to begin with, but it wasn’t long before the sharp writing of 'The Magicians' made the other characters far too interesting for it to just be Quentin's show.
Stepping off the garden path laid down by Lev Grossman's books, the show has been a wild ride all of its own. Heists, musicals, recurring gags ever-increasing heights of absurdity grounded by characters who are each, in their own way, very lost, and looking for a place they find home.
While the Season 5 finale was clearly not written to be the definitive series end, it is fitting that the characters find the ultimate home is not a place to be discovered, but one that they create.
The new Fillory is a world that they only manage to create by accepting everything inside of them — good and bad — and adjusting for it.
By recognizing that their world wasn’t perfect, and visualizing the best of all possible worlds, sharing them, and opening up the World Seed with both open minds and hearts. It, finally, IS a world of pure wonder — and exploring a world like that is the subject of a different kind of show entirely.
Inspired by Lev Grossman's books, Sera Gamble and John McNamara pulled off a show of great complexity, filled it with heart, and managed a show that weighed faith against fears of very real disappointments and saw faith win out.
'The Magicians' is a show that brings out the comfort to be found in the wreckage of shattered dreams and it has been embraced by one of the most passionate fandoms currently out there. The show had spectacle, great performances and knew exactly where to draw its audience's eye for maximum effect.
'The Magicians' was a magic trick. It was noticed, loved and it will be missed.