[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “The Magicians” Season 3 finale, “Will You Play With Me?”]
While the season-long quest for all of the Seven Keys is technically over, the ordeal for Brakebill’s erstwhile students is not. In the Season 3 finale of “The Magicians,” Quentin (Jason Ralph) and his friends were just about to succeed in restoring magic to the world when the faction representing the Librarian (Mageina Tovah) activated the fairy-powered Syphon device and diverted the magic to the Neitherworld Library.
Now, instead of having free-flowing magic, it’s so closely rationed that Brakebills instructors can barely perform simple demonstrations. Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy), who had betrayed Quentin & Co. to help the Librarians, is similarly frustrated with his limited access to magic. The timing couldn’t be worse because an all-powerful demon only known as the Monster or Thing has been unleashed upon the world with no one the wiser. The Monster is “something that simply wants… and needs to be constantly catered to.”
As for our young heroes, their lives were spared, but a spell Fogg put on them has rendered them impotent because they no longer know who they are. Instead, they’ve been given new identities that have no connection to their past. In the episode’s final moments, we see each of the students’ new lives and personas, and Quentin is, of course, some sort of book-toting hipster named Brian. But when Eliot (Hale Appleman) approaches him and seemingly knows who he really is, things turn dark fast. It turns out that the Monster has taken Eliot’s guise and demands that Quentin play with him. And by “play,” he means to take out his wrath on those who’ve wronged him. Fun.
Eliot and the Monster
“We can neither confirm nor deny whether Eliot has survived or will survive the situation,” said Gamble. “I’m like the grizzled old war veteran of possession stories in the writers’ room because I worked on ‘Supernatural’ for seven seasons, and it was a show about a lot of different kinds of monsters, but demons were in the central mythology. So, the mechanics and rules of possession happened to have been a conversation that I’d had for about 1,000 hours of time.
“One of the things we talked about was how very, very perilous it is to put a powerful, magical creature of any kind into the body of a mere mortal,” she said. “As soon as you see Eliot, if I were watching, I might be excited because he’s interesting, but also I’d be very, very worried for Eliot.”
In a way, this fate seems like poetic justice for Eliot, since he’s the one who had interfered with Quentin’s plan to guard the Monster through eternity by shooting it. That prompted the Monster to hop bodies, eventually landing in Eliot’s. While the Monster does not yet have a name, Gamble noted, “In the first scene in the writers’ room, I kept calling him Joe.”
The New Personas
While we only get quick flashes of most of the students in their new lives, the longest sequence is with Margo (Summer Bishil) and Josh (Trevor Einhorn). In this life, we see that Margo is still a fabulous and stylish (loving the bangs) woman, but goes by the name Janet, who gets picked up by her Uber driver, who is Josh as his new identity Isaac. There’s a brief flash of recognition when the two finally look at each other, but then it just as quickly passes. Apparently, Margo and Josh are still in there somewhere.
“Put it to you this way: For all you know, Dean Fogg did that to you yesterday. And today, you woke up and you thought you were a TV reporter,” Gamble said. “Maybe for a moment you were at Starbucks getting what you think is the latte you drink every morning, but really it just started this morning when the sun kicked in. Maybe you have contact with the barista and for just a split second, you had a feeling of déjà vu and maybe déjà vu actually an echo of your previous identity before a powerful magician fucked with your head. That’s kind of what we’re saying.”
Many of these new identities seem random, and that’s by design. A suited-up Julia (Stella Maeve) is giving a presentation in a boardroom, Penny (Arjun Gupta) is a DJ, and Kady (Jade Tailor) appears to be a drug dealer.
“Some of the professions that you’ve seen that look like one thing are in fact, another thing,” said McNamara. “What I tried to do is actually give them all lives that would put them in a certain amount of discomfort and not be a great fit because … this is a spell that Dean Fogg puts on them, and he has to do it very quickly and under duress. I was conscious of the fact that these characters were not choosing their own Witness Protection identities. They were quickly chosen by Dean Fogg. I think we have a kind funny explanation of why they are what they are. It’ll be an interesting reveal in Season 4.”
Once the show returns, how each of the students wake up to their real personas will vary. Penny’s revamped life looks pretty enviable, sort of like a “Magicians” version of the real-life Scottish DJ Calvin Harris. Unfortunately, like Harris (who once famously dated Taylor Swift) Penny is destined for a rude awakening or will just have to “Shake It Off.”
“This is a slight spoiler, but whatever. Arjun is the one who is the least going to want to leave because he really was a successful DJ. He’s really famous,” said McNamara. “It’s like if you told Calvin Harris, ‘Yeah, you’re actually a grad student at Columbia,’ or ‘You’re a fucking graduate student at a college that no one’s ever heard of.’”
Season 4 Realities
Despite those earlier hints, details about Season 4 will be mainly kept under wraps for now, although McNamara did confirm that Quentin’s father will have his cancer return “early in Season 4” since magic has returned.
Gamble said, “We’re just a couple weeks into being in the writers’ room. We’re having some really exciting, fascinating conversations … because one thing that the show tends to do is be weirdly timely. [For example,] we’ll think we’re just writing a random god in Fillory who just happens to treat his political position as reality TV, and then lo and behold, that will be a situation that is dominating the news cycle. So, I think we can say that Season 4 is more like that than ever.”