The Magicians Deserved Better Than To End This Way

The Magicians Deserved Better Than To End This Way
The magicians celebrate an impromptu Christmas morning. (Photo: James Dittige, Syfy)

This was not supposed to be the end and you can tell. Syfy’s announcement that they wouldn’t renew The Magicians after five seasons seems to have left the showrunners scrambling to complete season-long and series-long arcs in one 45-minute episode. The result is a series trying to make the best of a bad situation, with a rushed final episode that still leaves us on the promise of something more.

“Fillory and Further” should have been a TV movie. It’s the only way they would’ve been able to get through the three or more episodes worth of storylines needed to close out The Magicians the way this awesome show deserved. This whole episode moves by at breakneck speed, powering through major reveals and landmark moments with barely a moment to react before moving onto the next. It’s hard to say how much of this was as a result of needing to finish the convoluted story arc built up over the course of season five and how much was added to make it a series finale, but I’d guess it’s about 50/50.

We do get a few moments of peace in the beginning, as Santa has recreated Christmas in the apartment so the magicians can spend a few moments together opening gifts (unbeknownst to them it’s the last time they’ll all be in the same room). Santa privately reveals to Alice that he already gave her a present: He was the one who put the World Seed page into Quentin’s desk because he wanted her to have a quest of her own. It was never Quentin’s at all. And then, they’re off! Julia’s water breaks and she and Penny arrive at the Brakebills medical facility to deliver in time to see Katy dragging in Dean Fogg, who was kicked out of the drug zone before he was ready. We don’t even see Julia experiencing labour; the baby’s already popped out in the next scene.

Eliot (Hale Appleman) shares details on their final plan. (Photo: James Dittiger, Syfy)

Margo, Eliot, and Josh head to Fillory so they can rapture the population into a seahorse’s tummy to keep them safe for the World Seed that Alice, Zelda, and Fen are preparing. Everything seems to be going according to plan, but things take a turn when the Dark King, Rupert Chatwin, absconds with Eliot and forces him to open the gate to the underworld so he can be united with his lover. Sadly, it’s not a happy reunion: It turns out his brother Martin (a returning Charles Mesure), better known as the Beast, had been playing Rupert the whole time so he could escape hell. Bringing back the Beast—the gang’s first Big Bad all the way from season one/two—was a brilliant move. If only he’d been on screen for longer than 10 minutes.

Again, it felt like every milestone in this episode was glossed over because there simply wasn’t enough time. You had the long-awaited return of Rupert, Martin, and Jane Chatwin, but they’re never in the same scene together. We see Alice recoil at the Beast’s voice as she remembers the trauma of how she became a Niffin to bring him down, but then she’s immediately running for the portal to Brakebills and it’s never mentioned again. Margo and Eliot don’t even get to say goodbye. The most egregious one for me personally, though, is skipping Julia’s childbirth. Given Julia’s history of sexual assault, and how having a child on her own terms helps close a major chapter in her life, it felt wrong to have it happen offscreen.

Even though that’s the one that bothers me the most on a personal level, it’s by no means the worst offender. That honour belongs to the fact that the series exposition dumped an entire timeline. Julia seemed to be dying after Dean Fogg severed her psychic connection to the baby, so Penny asked Plum Chatwin to take him back in time so they could save her. Only Plum couldn’t do that because…dun dun dun, they already did. They’re already in the second timeline because the previous one faired so much worse. Of course, we just have to take her word for it because we don’t see any of it, except for a spot of tea with Jane Chatwin.

Now that we know things were already fucked and this is the last chance, everybody bands together to make it actually work. Zelda sacrifices herself to close the portals in the Neitherlands, which forces the Beast and his dozen-or-so dead army folks to wander around Fillory menacingly until Margo turns back the clock to destroy the planet and…kills them? It’s not clear what happens to all of them. We see the Beast get crushed under a beam but, like, where does he go? Technically, he’s already dead and we certainly don’t get a moment to pop back and see what Hades is up to. Luckily Margo is rescued by Penny just before Fillory is gone for good, thanks to him taking on the psychic connection to his baby, Hope. His traveller powers work now, so long as he’s holding her.

Give Fen (Brittany Curran) a martini and knives and she’s all over it. (Photo: James Dittiger, Syfy)

The final thing for them to do is recreate Fillory, so they turn to Fen to tell the story of the world she called home. But Fillory kind of sucked sometimes, so Fen chooses to tell the story of the place she’d like Fillory to be, free of arranged marriages, deadly dangers, and the lack of knife trees. The World Seed listens and begins to grow. Then, just like that, Margo, Josh, Alice, and Fen are gone—swallowed up by the world they helped create.

I’m guessing this was supposed to be the cliffhanger, but desperate times call for desperate measures. So instead, we get a whopping eight minutes dedicated to the end of The Magicians. Fogg, now seemingly forced to hold a cat for the rest of his life to protect his sanity, chats with Professor Lipson about what our fave magicians are up to. Eliot is a professor at Brakebills and shares a romantic moment with Charlton, now possessing the body of Hymen the pervert ghost (with his enthusiastic permission). Katy is leading the hedge witches, and Julia and Penny (and baby Hope) are on a quest to find the rest of their friends.

The series ends on Margo, Alice, Fen, and Josh, who’ve found themselves stranded in their newly made world. As Margo is crowned the High King of New Fillory by Fen, she presses the button to bring her people into their new home. You’ll notice one thing that’s absent from this recap, and that’s Quentin Coldwater. Unfortunately, Jason Ralph did not make a return for “Fillory and Further,” and that’s probably going to upset a lot of fans. But it’s not the only thing that upset me about this episode.

The Magicians gave us five excellent seasons and Syfy owed them a better sendoff—there were so many great stories left to tell. I can’t help but think about shows like The Good Place—which gave us a full episode dedicated to their final goodbyes—or Steven Universe Future, an entire show about what happens after Happily Ever After. The Magicians deserved an ending like that, a happy exit instead of a missed opportunity. Only time will tell if we get to see the story continue in the future; I have my doubts but I’ll continue holding out hope. Somewhere out there, there’s a new Fillory—filled with bacon fields, pizza ovens, and the promise of a brand new day.

A scene from season 4"s ‘No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry,’ the last episode featuring Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater. (Photo: Syfy)

Random Musings:

  • I am really sad this series is over. The Magicians was solid, a show that pushed the envelope to have more swearing on cable television and gave us fascinating, complex characters. And musical episodes! I’m going to miss it.

  • I had to laugh at the moment the Beast brought like 10 dead guys out of the portal and said, “Don’t worry there’s more on the way later.” Translation: They didn’t have the budget for more extras.

  • It would’ve been nice to see OG Penny again too, especially since the Underworld was in such shambles the last time we saw it (Hades was in mourning and playing the Untitled Goose Game in his pajamas). Maybe we could’ve seen him running the Underworld, serving as Hades’ proxy while he worked through his grief?

  • I understand why they brought the Dark King/Seb to Jane’s plane of existence instead of killing him—after all, they’re family and have a lot to catch up on. But we never got to see him and Eliot get it on and that’s a crime.

  • Look, I love cats. I have a couple of my own. But if I had to hold a cat for the rest of my life to retain my sanity, I would fucking lose it.

  • Ovary up.