The Magicians, Season 4!

Season Four of Syfy’s adaptation of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians starts tomorrow. I am excited to see where this season goes, given how things were left at the end of the marvelous Season Three.

I was skeptical of The Magicians when it first came on. I really wanted to like it, because I loved the idea so much, although I didn’t exactly love the books. I thought it was a concept that would lend itself to an image-based-medium, and I was right about that. I worried that the showrunners would pick out the weaknesses of the books to focus on.

When I learned that Sera Gamble was attached to the show, my uneasiness grew. I knew nothing about her background except that she worked a lot on a long-running fantasy show called Supernatural. Supernatural started off as a kind of blue-collar X-Files (with lots of staff from that very show) and started sliding into a kind of twisted, rich-white-male fantasy of working class people, filled with misogyny and protagonist-centered morality –“Well, we want it so it must be okay.” I mean, if I found out it was a show Donald Trump watched faithfully I wouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t want The Magicians ruined by a misogynist, even a female one, especially given the character arc of the character of Julia.

And as good as the first episode was, they didn’t reassure me. Julia’s magical initiation is a sexual assault in a bar bathroom. Couldn’t you do any better? A couple of things kept me watching; Jason Ralph as Quentin; Jade Taylor and her also faux “blue collar” battle-mage Kady, and Arjun Gupta as Penny. Penny was a character I could never connect with in the first book. He is supposed to be some kind of nemesis for Quentin but he seemed barely there for me. No one would describe Gupta’s interpretation as “barely there.”

And I kept watching and even with the early stereotyping (Alice as Sexy Bookworm with Issues; Margo, at least at first, as the Giggly Sidekick of the Gay Guy), because the acting and the dialogue were so good. And the show got better and better.

It turns out I had — I was going to say “nothing to fear,” but that’s not exactly true. I had little to fear on the misogyny front. Certainly the writers can’t get over the idea that Every Sperm is Great, but otherwise, by Season Three the show’s plot is powered by strong and surprising women.

Julia’s arc was well-done, and entrusted to the capable hands of Stella Maeve. If the resolution was rushed in the final three episodes, it isn’t the first time that’s happened. Margo had been growing steadily as a character, but as a deposed Queen of Filory and a duelist in a war of wills with the Fairy Queen, she grew and found her own power. She is no longer Eliot’s sidekick. The Fairy Queen is an adversary and a villain for most of the season’s storyline, but we respect her. She is a true leader, even if a ruthless one.

I can even forgive them the Peach Girl, Quentin’s Disposable Wife in Episode Eight. Peach Girl, who isn’t even given a name, is simply a vessel for Quentin’s son (Every Sperm is Great, remember). She’s a too-familiar prop-wife. I forgive this because of the character of Fen, who is Eliot’s prop-wife, introduced as a plot complication, not a character, and who grows in Season Three into a powerful, smart, funny, flawed woman who knows her own strength. I don’t know how this happened, but I’m glad it did.

Season Four sets us up to expect terrible and wonderful things from Hale Appleman, the actor who plays the multi-layered Eliot. Eliot also had a life-changing character arc in Season Three, and when Season Four opens tomorrow, it will be like he’s a different person. Appleman had unfolded the character of Eliot with discipline and sensitivity, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

This entry was posted in Television Tuesday, TV Shows. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *