The Magicians star breaks down the musical episode, from hungry bears to Margo's evolution
Warning: The following contains spoilers from The Magicians’ musical episode, which aired Wednesday. Read at your own risk.
Bears. Beats. Summer Bishil.
In The Magicians’ Margo-centric musical episode, “All That Hard, Glossy Armor,” Fillory’s deposed high king (Summer Bishil) journeyed into the desert and acquired two ice axes that could expel the murderous ancient monster currently possessing Eliot (Hale Appleman). Along the way, though, she started tripping on lizard sweat (as one does) and hallucinated all her friends singing with and at her as she embarked on the whimsically torturous and emotional quest. The songs included Appleman’s spectral cover of the Pretenders’ “Don’t Get Me Wrong”; a galvanizing rendition of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” sung by Margo, Josh (Trevor Einhorn), Kady (Jade Tailor), Fen (Brittany Curran), and Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy); a surprising climactic cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Storm Coming” featuring the entire cast; and Margo and Eliot teaming up for a haunting version of “Beautiful Dreamer.”
Pulling off an episode of television featuring four musical numbers is rather difficult on its own, but as Bishil explains in the exclusive video above, the experience of shooting this particular hour was almost as crazy and challenging as Margo’s quest, as it involved hungry bears at craft services, battling the elements, and did we mention bears?
“There were a lot of bears,” Bishil tells EW. “Bears showed up to our set and we were still rolling. They were at craft services. It was normal. These bears had been visiting so often and so frequently that we were just like, ‘Oh, bears!’ every five minutes in between takes.”
In fact, one cast member ran off (justifiably) when the bears showed up while they were filming the scene in which Fen, Josh, and Eliot start singing Whitesnake as Margo seduces the foremost. “Trevor Einhorn, who plays Josh, heard that there were bears on set somehow, and he just grabbed his jacket and ran off set,” Bishil recalls, laughing. “We were all like, ‘Yeah, that’s what you do when bears start showing up.’”
Rain also proved to be a big challenge. “It really was like Murphy’s Law: Anything that could go wrong went wrong as far as the weather went,” she says. “There was a lot of rain in what should be a desert. The crew was working crazy hours, coming in way earlier or [staying] later and on the weekend once, to get all the water out of the quarry.”
Below, Bishil opens up about the episode’s song choices, Margo’s evolution, reuniting with Appleman, and more.
RELATED: Summer Bishil on finding the vulnerability and softness in her voice:
On Margo confronting her past:
While out in the desert, Margo is forced to reckon with how her relationship with her father has fueled some of her anger. “It wasn’t something I talked about with the writers, but on the day there were these still images of her father and her as she was developing over the years, and how that created a lot of shame that was projected on her and sort of abandonment from her father because basically she was developing into a woman and it made him uncomfortable,” Bishil says. “I know so many women who have gone through that. So it really struck a chord with me on an emotional level, and I really wanted that to be my through-line for the episode. This real sort of, not self-awakening because she knows so thoroughly who she is, but for the first time just really, really not apologizing for it ever again.”
On how this episode has changed Margo:
By the end of the hour, Margo has not only addressed her lingering grief over her father, but she has also helped emancipate the women of a tribe who were being held down by lies and acquired the axes she requires to save Eliot. You can definitely expect this experience to have a lingering effect on her. “I think it reaffirms her belief in herself, and I think she becomes more unwavering, but that edge is gone,” Bishil says. “She is still who she is when she says exactly what’s on her mind, when it’s on her mind, and in her honesty and her transparency with that. That remains, but I don’t think she feels bad about it anymore. I don’t think she thinks anything is inherently wrong with her in the way she relates to the world anymore.”
On reuniting with Appleman:
This episode is the first time Bishil and Appleman have shared quality screen time since the beginning of the season, because the latter’s character is currently possessed by a monster. “I don’t think I could have gotten through the circumstances of that episode — just the elements and everything we were dealing with on a logistic level — had it not been Hale I was with the entire time,” she says. “We were just excited to do something really different and ambitious together, and be back together.”
In fact, Bishil’s favorite song from the episode is their “Beautiful Dreamer.” “It just showcases his voice beautifully, and I think the version and the tone that he was able to find and that I was able to hopefully try to not destroy is really classy and haunting,” she says. “I explored another voice to have by the end of the episode when she finally does sing that we haven’t heard from Margo before. I really wanted there to be to some softness and vulnerability in that last song.”
The Magicians airs Wednesdays 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.