The Magicians EP on season 2: 'The odds aren't exactly in their favor'
The last time fans saw The Magicians, the Beast (a.k.a. Martin Chatwin) had defeated them not just once but 39 times. Fortunately for the characters at the center of the adapted Syfy series, luck is on their side. Not only do they manage to recover from the brutal blow they were dealt by Julia — who chose to team up with the beast rather than slay him — but Fillory (the magical world they discovered) has granted them another chance to go up against him.
With so much in store for Quentin, Alice, Margo, Eliot, Penny, and Julia in the second season of the show, EW caught up with executive producer Sera Gamble to get the scoop on what’s coming up.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The times we got to see the Beast last season, he was really brutal and killing people. This season we see another side of him. Did you know what that would be like going in?
SERA GAMBLE: We did. We spent a lot of time talking about different aspects of his personality. By the end of season 1, the audience had a pretty good understanding of his motivation in Fillory. He started out as a scared young boy who was trying to find a safe place, but over time, the deal-making and power he had to take to make Fillory safe and permanent for him corrupted him and started to turn him into the evil, murderous character that we met in the pilot. So going into season 2 we knew we had these interesting personality aspects that are in friction with one another, and that he was a character that liked to soft-shoe his way into a room. So extrapolating from that, he really does like to sing. There’s a couple of musical numbers with the Beast.
Did you feel comfortable being able to do that after last season’s Taylor Swift number?
You couldn’t pay John McNamara enough to stop writing musical numbers into The Magicians. You’ll see Charles Mesure singing very, very well in episode 2, because John wrote that episode. Later this season he wrote a much more massive, cast-of-thousands type of musical number set in Fillory, with swords and banners and singing and dancing. He’s just a hardcore musical fan, and this is what happens when you give him the opportunity to do it.
From what you’ve mentioned about the Beast, or Martin, it sounds like he and Julia would have a lot in common in terms of their experiences.
That’s something we make pretty explicit in the first episode of the season. Julia and the Beast have conversations, of which the top of the list is: “How do you stop a god?” Because that’s what Julia needs from the Beast. But they also talk about how Martin learned to cope with the massive trauma of being abused as a child, which is something we saw had happened to him. Because he’s aware that Julia is going through a similar trauma because of the attack with Reynard. The Beast actually lays out for Julia how exactly he dealt with his trauma and he has suggestions for Julia about how she might do the same.
It seems like he definitely recognizes something in her, but does she relate to something in him?
I don’t think Julia wants to be friends with Martin. I think she needs him. Reluctantly she sees his point when he points out similarities between the two of them. But for her, it’s a practical matter. It’s about the life or death stakes of trying to stop Reynard. And if that means having to essentially make a deal with the devil, that’s what she’s willing to do. That’s how she sees her time with the Beast.
In terms of Fillory, Eliot is High King there. How is he adjusting to that?
Well, Fillory is not well suited for a High King like Eliot — they haven’t even invented champagne yet! [Laughs]. He has so much work to do. It’s so much more responsibility than Eliot was anticipating. What is really fun about season 2 is that Eliot runs up against everything he never wanted in his adult life starting with monogamy, and moving on to all of the really tedious and at times overwhelming responsibility of being a king. But he also, because he’s forced to take on this role, he discovers aspects of himself he might have never otherwise have known. He’s not entirely shitty at being an adult. He’s just been avoiding it.
What about Margo? What’s in store for her?
She has her own struggles. She’s High Queen of Fillory. Frankly of all the characters, she’s the one best suited to be the ruler of the kingdom. She’s practical, strong, very intelligent, and ultimately when her heart and her head are both screaming at her, she’s the one that goes with her head. But it’s difficult. Fillory is a patriarchy, so Margo runs up against some pretty elementary sexism in trying to get things done.
It’s very strange. We were breaking season 2 fairly early in the election season and the nickname “Fillory Clinton” is actually in the books. [Author] Lev [Grossman] gave her that. And there was Hilary Clinton running for president! So we worked that name into season 2, but by the time we’d been cutting the last few episodes, the election had gone in a way none of us had predicted. So it rings a little differently than when we wrote it. There’s actually a lot about the election in season 2, and our thoughts on power and gender and responsibility. So while we all spend a lot of time talking with great concern about what’s happening in real life, The Magicians gave the writers an opportunity to explore some of our anxieties in a more fun and fantastical way. [For example], there is a character or characters who viewers will encounter in season 2 who are very brash and egocentric and consider ruling to be about entertainment rather than more altruistic or truly populist goals. There’s people who see ruling as helping the common man, and there are people who see ruling as more of a reality show. We have that conversation in season 2.
Alice had all this godlike power at the end of last season. Will she still have that going into season 2?
She does. [But] it’s not a permanent situation. She got a little power up, and it won’t last forever. So it puts a clock on all of them. They have to figure out how to utilize the power that she temporarily has or they’re going to lose their advantage. A huge part of getting to know Alice in season 1 was hearing about her discomfort with her natural ability. Her secret was that she’s never fully stepped into her potential because she’s so uncomfortable with it. This only exacerbates that feeling. It’s something Quentin sees her struggling with and they talk about. It’s something that he tries to encourage her to get past because it’s a necessity for all of them. She really has to step up.
And how is Penny doing? Last we saw him he did not have his hands.
Penny is pretty f—ed up. [Laughs] His goals become really clear because his hands are in a box. That’s the problem he wants to solve, but it’s not one that he solves easily or all at once. It creates a bit of a domino effect in Penny’s life. What you’ll see as the episodes go on is it cuts to the core of a question that Penny has to ask himself. In season 1, we saw a guy who wasn’t even particularly interested in becoming a magician. It was cool, but he was living a life that really wasn’t about that. He had to go to Brakebills and learn how to master magic because he was burdened with this very dangerous gift of traveling. And now, because the tools of his magic have been taken away, he has to answer these very important questions: Do you want to become a magician? How much does this mean to you? How much effort would you put into recovering it?
How is Quentin adjusting to everything that’s going on in Fillory?
Quentin is the character who is genuinely the most excited about being crowned king of Fillory. It’s what he’s been dreaming about since he was a young child. But as with everything with The Magicians, we explore the difference between what you dreamed of as a kid, and what the reality is when you’re an adult. So there are things about ruling Fillory that are fun or interesting for Quentin, but most of the time he’s discovering that it’s not what he thought it was going to be.
Seeing as the Beast defeated everyone pretty badly last season, how does it affect the way they’re going up against him this season?
They’re trying to learn from their mistakes because he beat them pretty soundly. They are aware that they have one more shot and they already have outlived any expectation. The Beast has killed them 39 times in a row, so the odds aren’t exactly in their favor.
How will Julia working with them affect their approach?
It depends on who you ask. There are definitely characters in that group who say, “We understand that Julia is going through something really difficult and intense, but she’s made her bed and now she has to lie in it.” Then there is Quentin, who is lifelong friends with Julia and cannot help but feel a connection with her and a sense of protectiveness. It’s not okay with him that she might be collateral damage when they go after the Beast. It’s a really difficult situation for Quentin and Julia. They don’t necessarily want to hurt each other, but they are essentially each standing in the way of each other’s goal.
The Magicians season 2 premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.
Based on Lev Grossman’s book trilogy, this fantasy Syfy series follows the adventures of students at Brakebills University, a graduate school specializing in magic.