Warning: The following contains spoilers for Wednesday’s The Magicians.
The Magicians might need a (temporary) new title after Wednesday’s Season 2 finale.
After Quentin and Julia killed the capricious god Ember, who planned on destroying all of Fillory, the old gods sought retribution by turning off magic. Following a two-month time jump, a small group of Brakebills students, Quentin and Alice included, were left to study magic theoretically in the hopes of its eventual return. But not everyone lost their abilities: Julia revealed a small spark of something magical to her pal Q.
Meanwhile in Fillory, the not-so-kind fairies sought to invade and conquer Eliot and Margo’s realm.
Below, executive producers John McNamara and Sera Gamble discuss why Ember is an “insidious evil,” where Julia’s abilities might come from and how the gang’s relationship to magic will change.
TVLINE | In a season where you had Reynard the Fox and The Beast, was Ember the alpha Big Bad?
JOHN MCNAMARA | I would say yes. While The Beast had a large effect on the misery of Martin Chatwin, Quentin and his friends, and Fillory, and Reynard really affected Julia and her circle of friends in a miserable, violent way, Ember — through whimsical, kind of careless, narcissistic boredom — was going to destroy an entire world. He’s going to commit genocide. So I don’t think badness gets bigger than genocide. [But] I could be wrong. There could be something else.
SERA GAMBLE | Tune in for Season 3! [Laughs] Just the fact that you’re asking this question at all highlights the fact that the structure of Season 2 is a little different than Season 1. When you meet The Beast in the pilot of The Magicians, it’s clear that there’s a classic Big Bad arc to that season that we followed and commented on in our meta, Magicians way. Coming into Season 2, it was very important to us to switch that up a little bit and not give you that same linear Big Bad structure. We didn’t want you to know who the endgame was when you came in for the first episode of the season.
TVLINE | Ember is also a very different kind of villain. Reynard and The Beast are very classically evil villains.
GAMBLE | Yeah, the fact that Ember does whatever he wants based entirely on his mood and whim of the moment, in a certain way, that’s more sinister to me. The more we wrote [The Beast] and the more we understood his motivation, I found him really quite sympathetic. I wouldn’t say what he did was good. He got pretty damn murdery as time went on. But he started out as an abused child, and he’s a human with human motivations. Even Reynard, by the end of it… listen, I don’t want to minimize the extreme dickery of being Reynard the Fox, but at the same time, you kind of get where he’s coming from from a familial standpoint. Ember, to us, is a more insidious kind of evil, because if he’s bored, he’ll just erase you. It’s not even that deep for him.
MCNAMARA | Imagine a United States president who is born into incredible privilege, who’s lived his entire life fighting not only a kind of inner self-hatred, but an outer boredom, who’s then given ultimate power over life and death. Can you imagine that president? Do you have to?
GAMBLE | [Laughs] We thought it was fiction when we started writing the show.
TVLINE | Going back to Reynard, is he still a threat? Will we see him next season?
MCNAMARA | He’s alive. You never know.
GAMBLE | I think it’s fair to take Our Lady Underground at her word that she intends to deal with him. She’s certainly powerful enough to do so.
TVLINE | The guiding principle of the show is magic, so what excites you about exploring a world without magic?
MCNAMARA | The same thing that excites me in a James Bond movie where he gets into so much trouble with M that they take away his license to kill and he has to go rogue. Or the same thing that excites me when you write a love story and, suddenly, in the middle of Red Square in 1917, the two lovers are separated. The essence of drama. You give the audience what they want, you make them love it, and then you take it away. … Magic was, more or less, taken for granted [in the first two seasons]. When they get magic back — because let’s not kid ourselves, it’s called The Magicians — they’re all going to have a very different relationship to magic, informed by having lived with its absence and the quest to reinstate it.
TVLINE | Julia is the only one who still has some magical ability. After everything she’s been through these last two seasons, was it important for you to give her a little bit of happiness and hope?
MCNAMARA | I don’t really care if she’s happy, myself. I do think life is a balance of light and dark, and she’s certainly had a lot of darkness. So it makes sense that she would acquire abilities that perhaps are based on how much she’s suffered. Suffering at the hands of a god may have had something to do with it. We haven’t decided yet.
GAMBLE | I felt like after a season of seeking out Reynard at great, great personal cost and great cost to those around her who were helping her, it was important to see her turn a page. But whether or not that is one and the same with this strange ability to do a little bit of magic, that remains to be seen. At the very beginning of that scene, when Julia embraces Quentin, and they’re happy to see each other, and they have a certain dry resignation about their shared hand in what has happened to magic, it’s much more, in that moment, about the fact that you’re looking at a Julia who feels a little bit more whole than she has been throughout this season. Her shade is back, she clearly has found some coping mechanism. She doesn’t look like death warmed over in that scene. Some of that might be about her secret and about the magic she can do. To me, a lot of it is about Julia and just what she’s been through that season. So long story short, I wouldn’t hinge everybody’s happiness on that little piece of magic, because if there’s one thing you should know about Magicians, it’s that having magic doesn’t make you happy.
TVLINE | We got a hint of that, that she did something bad while she was a niffin. How much of that niffin side is still in her?
GAMBLE | That’s the question, right? We promise to get way, way into that in Season 3.
TVLINE | Penny and Kady are the only characters that we don’t see after the time jump. Is that a bad sign?
GAMBLE | You’ll see them again, if that’s what you mean.
TVLINE | Has their situation gotten worse, and that’s why they weren’t there?
GAMBLE | Worse than assuming a mole-like role, once again, in order to help Penny without telling him, and worse than, “You have magic terminal cancer”? I think we gave them plenty of bad stuff. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Do the fairies still have magic?
GAMBLE | Yes. As Friar Joseph mentioned in the scene with Alice, it appears that magical creatures remain as they are. We will get into that in Season 3.
TVLINE | Are all the fairies as malevolent as they seem?
MCNAMARA | I don’t think they have a lot of empathy or pity for humans, [let’s] put it that way.
Magicians fans, what did you think of the season ender? Grade it via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your pick!