The Magicians bosses on their 'satisfying discovery' about final season, why it won't be saved
No, we won't see Jason Ralph again before the show ends.
The Magicians will remain true to itself to the end.
On Tuesday, news broke that Syfy's wild fantasy series is ending with the fifth and current season. This means that the April 1 season 5 finale is actually a series finale. Thankfully, the writers were prepared for this eventuality and conceived an episode that could fulfill work for either outcome.
"We knew it was a possibility," co-showrunner/executive producer Henry Alonso Myers tells EW. "[Co-showrunner/EP Sera Gamble] and I wrote the finale, and we tried to craft a finale that was both open to possible futures but also closed off some story lines. We tried very much to wrap up some character stuff while keeping some plot stuff going just so that the show could be satisfying both ways. I think we ended up doing a pretty good job of coming up with a thing that will feel both final and hopefully looking toward the future when people finally get a chance to see it."
"There’s something that feels very keeping in the spirit of The Magicians," says Gamble. "You can definitely see that this is a period at the end of a sentence for them, but we’ve always been a show about entering into all of the crazy, twisted aspects of adult life and the fact that not everything in the finale gets wrapped up in a bow feels very right to me. So, I think it’ll be satisfying. We feel satisfied with it. We feel did what we set out to do. The rest we kinda just gotta leave it up to the audience to see how they feel and what they take away from it."
The news of The Magicians' end arrives almost a year after original cast member Jason Ralph, who played Quentin Coldwater, departed the show at the end of season 4. Unfortunately, fans shouldn't expect to see him again before the series signs off.
"We will not see Jason Ralph again. We love Jason Ralph, but we’re not going to see him again this season," says Myers.
Below, EW chats with all three showrunners about the impending conclusion, why they decided not to take the show elsewhere, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you guys feeling now that the new is out?
SERA GAMBLE: I’ve never quite experienced this before.
JOHN McNAMARA: Honestly, I have a lot of different feelings, but one of them was, “Wow, I’m getting my car washed on a weekday. This is really weird. I must be highly available." [Laughs] We’ve sort of known this was a possibility for a couple months. It’s sad. It’s always sad when something great and fun ends because so few work experiences result in something that you’re proud of that simultaneously in no way felt like work. There’s some shows that I’ve been on that shall remain nameless until my memoirs where the cancellation was a relief. This is not that. This is quite the opposite. It’s all to do with who we made the show with: Syfy, UCP, the cast, the crew, Sera, Henry [Alonso Myers], all the writers, directors. There maybe were some bad moments, but I don’t remember a bad day. There was never fully a bad day on the show. And that is really rare, so it’s worth mourning and moving on — to the car wash.
When you guys came back for season 5, did you know this would be the last season, or did you just suspect it would be and you didn't find out that was the case until recently?
GAMBLE: Well, there was a bit of a fight still to have. These things are complicated processes and every show is a little bit different. Getting into the weeds of the business side of this would be incredibly boring, so just as a blanket statement I will say: There are amazing things about the TV landscape right now and then there are also things that are tricky to navigate and those things can take time. We all came from the same place — that we love the show and we wanted to make sure we were fighting for the show — and then there came a moment that we realized what we really wanted to do was tell our audience that this was happening so that they would have a chance to really enjoy the last run of episodes knowing we were saying goodbye.
What are the challenges with having to juggle writing an episode that works as both a season and series finale?
GAMBLE: We’re used to it, though, because we never presume we’re gonna get a pick-up for another season. Our philosophy as writers has always been to tell the story that we want to tell right now and never assume that there will be another chance. So, we’re pretty well-drilled in that. This one, it felt so exciting that this show has made to five seasons and that the characters have matured so much in front of everyone’s eyes, that we’ve been on this journey with them together because there was just so much meaty stuff for Henry and I to talk about as we were writing this episode and to talk about with the whole room as we were breaking the episode about what we really wanted to say about where they are at this point in their lives.
HENRY ALONSO MYERS: I think those people who love The Magicians’ Land, which might be our favorite book in the series among the three of us, are really gonna be satisfied with it because it touches on a lot of stuff from The Magicians’ Land.
McNAMARA: Spoiler: I think one of our best scenes is when the dragon burns the throne. It’s incredibly cool and original. I think the fans will go crazy for it.
GAMBLE: Yeah, we were going to do all of this character stuff but Henry is weirdly obsessed with dragons and he was like, “Look, we only have so much money for digital effects, so we’re just going to burn this f—ing thing down literally.” [Laughs]
McNAMARA: We did it with stop-motion sock puppets, though. [Laughs]
MYERS: Which was a choice. [Laughs]
You mentioned the possibility of taking the show elsewhere in another interview. How deep into that process did you get, or did you realize pretty early on that might not work?
GAMBLE: We’re fighters in our nature. We feel a responsibility of the show and to the hundreds of people who work on the show to really, really try to do everything we can for it. Then, there’s also a responsibility to make sure we find a home that’s really appropriate for The Magicians creatively and financially. That’s a difficult needle to thread. That’s why the success stories that you get to write about [aren’t] that frequent, because there are so many aspects to a deal like that around a show that are immensely complicated and that, frankly, showrunners don’t have much to do with when those deals are made at the beginning. So, I got quite an education in the ins and outs of platforms and even where people are going with shows these days and what the landscape looks like right now in this quarter of 2020. But there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for the show. That’s how we felt for the last five seasons and that includes making sure it would only land at a home that would enable us to make the show that we’ve been making.
McNAMARA: Which is the reason we passed on a very nice offer from QVC. We just didn’t want to sell vacuum cleaners during the series. It just felt wrong.
As evidenced by the show, you all consume a lot of pop culture. Did you look to previous finales for inspiration or guidance?
MYERS: I can’t speak for my partners here. I can say I thought a lot about the shows where I really liked the finale, but ultimately, I feel like the show has to be the show. It has to be your approach to the show and in that sense, it’s more about telling a story about the specific characters that we’re dealing with than it is anything else. That to me was the true north of this: We’re going to tell the story about these characters and that’s what’s going to make this unique and specific.
As Sera mentioned, this show has been about entering into adulthood. What message do you hope to leave the audience with at the end?
GAMBLE: I think that’s actually a little spoilery. I will say that as we were working on it, we all were speaking so much about the journeys of the characters, the development of all these relationships of different kinds over the life of the show, and favoring those arcs really over giving you… I mean, there’s some plot satisfaction. There’s some cool s—t that blows up for sure and some cool fighting and stuff, but we knew that story would continue, that we weren’t going to wrap all of the plot up neatly in a bow. The thing that really stood out to me as I was writing scenes and tossing them back and forth with Henry was that the difference between their lives before the story we started telling on The Magicians and after is that they have each other. It has been a five-year story about all of the friendship and love and brotherhood and sisterhood, good and bad, in all the flavors, in this handful of young magicians. When I realized it was so much about that they are now really this tribe together, I realized it didn’t matter if we tied every plot bit up because you know that they will fight for each other. You’ve been watching the show and you realize that. For me, that’s the satisfying discovery of all of season 5, really. This has been a season that’s about these characters in different configurations realizing how much they rely on each other and how important that is.
Is there anything else you want to add?
MYERS: All I can say is that while this is tremendously sad news and this has been one of the best jobs of my life, I spend my time actually being grateful because I know how rare it is to make a show like this, that’s as weird and fun and crazy as this. So to get to that for five years is really a rare, rare privilege in this business. That’s what I’m thinking about today.
McNAMARA: I think what we’re all attracted to — and when I say all of us, I mean the writers, my two partners, the directors, the crew — is there’s kind of a binding force and it started obviously with Lev [Grossman]’s books. For me, to try and boil it down, it was, “Life is short. Life is precarious. Life is wonderful. Enjoy every sandwich.”
The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. 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.