Warning: This article contains spoilers from the Season 2 finale, “We Have Brought You Little Cakes,” of The Magicians.
Poor plucky children of Earth. No matter how hard they try to fix things, they always seem to make it worse. Case in point: In an attempt to save Fillory from the random acts of chaos bestowed on it by Ember, who was growing bored of his creation and planned to end it once and for all at any moment, the gang conspired to kill the obnoxious ram god in the Season 2 finale. Unfortunately for them, and every other creature and magical entity that draws power from the wellspring, gods — even a foul-mouthed grotesque one like Ember, as it turns out — have parents, and those parents aren’t keen on humans making big moves, especially ones that result in their children’s deaths. So they sent in the “plumber” to turn off all magic. Or at least most magic, as it seems Julia might be able to muster some mojo.
To try to get to the bottom of Julia’s flickering fingers, Yahoo TV chatted with executive producers/co-creators Sera Gamble and John McNamara. They also discussed a few other finale plot points and inspirations, and dropped the slightest of teases about where things might go in Season 3. Read on for an added guest appearance by Summer Bishil (Margo) as well.
The last few episodes were action packed: Ember killed Umber, they killed Ember, Kady killed Renard’s son to harness his power, the Goddess Julia’s group had been courting showed up and ended up being Renard’s mother and asked Julia to let her deal with him, the Lorian king was turned into a rat and his son attacked, the fairies became prominent players and showed up in Fillory, Alice isn’t a niffin anymore, magic was turned off, Julia was reunited with her shade, someone Alice screwed with as a niffin wants revenge, Penny was poisoned and is dying, Alice and Quentin hooked up again… Was it always the plan to jam so many details into the finale?
Sera Gamble: Oh, yeah, we get bored really easily.
John McNamara: We actually had to cut some stuff.
SG: [Laughs] True. There’s so much material in the books, and the books spawn so much new material in the form of ideas and conversations and connections that we make in the room when we are writing scripts and planning seasons. So this is us kind of showing restraint, really.
Was there any one character or plot point that you are most excited about exploring more in season 3?
SG: Well, we have a bit of an embarrassment of riches, as you said. But as we were moving toward the finale of Season 2, it’s probably obvious to anyone watching it that we were talking a lot about the American political system in the writers’ room. We wrote the finale before the election, but during election season. We would be talking about the debates and the rallies and the news, and we would be theorizing about what would happen. By the way, none of us are psychic. We all got it totally wrong. But something that is really interesting to us now, that we want to continue to explore next season, is the idea that basically your choices have consequences. When you play with immense power that has consequences. And essentially, the magicians are these very young people who found themselves in a position to start to learn extremely, extremely powerful things. And I don’t think any of them were really thinking about the effect to which they were playing with power when they killed Ember or took over Fillory. But now, Season 3 will really be about the very adult consequences of that, because it’s often true that we reach for something when we’re young, we get all tangled up in it, and we don’t realize we made a massive, adult problem for ourselves until it’s too late.
We started the season with the main crew separated by betrayal and by different missions or simply because they were stuck in Fillory. We had talked about them eventually coming together, and yet where we end, they seem to be separated once again with some of them in Fillory, some at Brakebills, Penny in the library. Was that intentional again?
JM: Yeah. I think what’s great is that they’re separated, but they obviously are unified by a single goal even though they’re millions of miles apart.
SG: They need each other. They are always stronger together.
Will Season 3 use Book 3 as its framework?
SG: Yes, but there’s plenty of material [left] in Book 2 that we’re going to grab and put in Season 3.
JM: So far we have only taken one little thing out of Book 3.
SG: I must say we are huge fans of Book 3. It’s always really delicious when you’re reading a trilogy and it does the opposite of run out of steam. It just gets better and better and better. We’re excited about getting to that stuff, but we’re not there yet.
JM: That will more inform Seasons 4 and 5.
SG: We’ve never felt ourselves to be strung up on the chronological order of the books, or to follow the exact ways that Lev [Grossman, the author] took people from plot point to plot point, because the television show functions very, very differently from the novel for obvious reasons. And at this point, we have kind of a canon of history for our characters that’s a little bit different than some of the stuff in the books. We both are still very much with our noses in the book, but also, we have two seasons of show history that we’re following. So it should be quite recognizable to fans of the books, but also its own creature at this point.
Margo seemed to make many of the poorest decisions this year, and I am wondering if it is easier to pin things on her character given that she is not a direct descendant from the books.
SG: She is though. Margo is as much Janet in the books as Penny is Penny in the books. We’ve expanded all of the secondary characters for the show. And Janet in the book makes decisions people don’t like all the time. That’s who she is.
JM: Janet is somewhat a villain in Book 1. So Janet and Margo are probably closer in tone and voice than Penny and Penny from Book 2 are. She is not so much an amalgamation as she is a deeper exploration of the same character.
I thought the loss of her eye and the blinged-out patch was a pretty awesome twist.
SG: How iconic is that eye patch? We’re pretty stoked.
Can’t imagine how that conversation went. Like, “Hey, Summer, btw, Margo is losing an eye and now you have to wear an eye patch for the rest of eternity. Cool?”
JM: [Laughs] There was no conversation.
SG: The actors don’t know that the stuff is coming. We tell them we need you to go to rehearsal so you can fly in a harness, for example. That needs advance warning. Guess what? You’re going to fight with a sword, so here’s your sword-fighting instructor. Good luck.
JM: Or quick question: what’s your vocal range? How many octaves can you sing?
SG: Exactly. Those are good hints. But you’re going to lose an eye?
JM: Nah. No need to ruin our fun.
SG: She didn’t know until she read the script, but Summer has yet to disappoint us. She is game for anything we throw at her, and she makes everything we give her better. So she’s really fun to write this kind of stuff for.
Summer Bishil: I don’t know if Sera remembers, but I love Samuel L. Jackson [who wears an eye patch as Nick Fury]. I would joke on set with the other actors that I was trying to channel him, and they would always look at me and be like, “I don’t understand where you are going with this.” When I got the eye patch, I was like, “Oh my god. It is happening. I’m just like my hero.” It didn’t really throw me. You would think I would react in a vain way, but it wasn’t this big thing. I was like, “Okay, cool, she loses an eye and gets an eye patch.” I thought it was really cool, a gift to be honest, and made Margo so much more of a character. I realized some cool affectations I can use now that she has the eye patch. There will be more side eye. If you normally rely on your eyes to help tell the story, and suddenly you have only one, you have to come up with other ways to illustrate your points. I have to learn to use my body more. I think it will make me grow as an actor.
JM: I do think that having shot for eight days with an eye patch, we do owe her a slightly better eye patch that she can see through.
SG: So she doesn’t get vertigo. That’s our next goal.
JM: I felt bad. It was like a real eye patch. She was like, “I’ll do my best, but I have no depth perception.” And hopefully our costume designers can design an eye patch to look opaque, but it is, in fact, see-through.
SB: I think next year they will add a little slit I can see through so my eye doesn’t become lazy by the end of the day. That was a little strange, going home and seeing one eye smaller than the other. It is not the most comfortable thing to wear in the world, I’m not gonna lie. It throws off my balance a bit, and that can be hard because my costumes are so elaborate and most of the time Margo is in heels.
John, Sera told me you are responsible for the musical numbers, and I am assuming you would like to do more in Season 3?
JM: Yeah, I am gung ho to do more. What I like is to try to find something organic, an organic reason for the character to sing, whether they’re the secondary character like The Beast or the primary characters like Quentin in 104 or Eliot in 209. Each musical sequence has gotten bigger and more complex, and so I have to say that I’m kind of itching to do it on a larger scale. So if we can come up with the proper dramatic and/or comedic reason to do a large chunk of an episode, or perhaps a whole storyline within an episode, maybe five or six scenes that are entirely musical, I’d love to. But the trick is…
SG: [Laughs] Our line producer just broke out in a cold sweat somewhere and he doesn’t know why.
JM: I’m sure you’ve heard [that] when we first delivered the Taylor Swift number in 104 to our overlords, they had grave doubts. They did not gloss over the cost of paying Taylor Swift all that money. The network said, “Can you please promise not to do that again?” And I said, “Absolutely not. We’re going to do it again and bigger.” I know there is a sort of mini zeitgeist of other shows doing musical numbers. I haven’t seen them. The only episode I’ve ever watched is the Buffy one, “Once More with Feeling,” which is a benchmark still. Mainly because Joss Whedon wrote original music and lyrics. The world can feel safe to know that I will not be doing that, because I have no talent for either. If in Season 3, we pull off a nice four-beat musical subplot, it would be interesting in Season 4 to actually find a composer who knows how to write for characters. I would love to get the authors of Fun Home and say, “Do you guys want to do something that is just totally silly and ridiculous?” I’m talking like two or three years down the line, but original stuff would be interesting.
I assume the storyline with Marlee Matlin is far from over. Will she be back next year?
JM: Yes, yes, we love her, and that’s the plan pending her schedule.
SG: We don’t own Marlee Matlin, so we can’t promise anything. But we love her. We really enjoy working with her and that storyline is not finished.
Anything else you can talk about that you have planned for next season? Will we find out more about Joseph or the niffins?
SG: You’ll hear more about what’s happening to the whole magic world. We’re formally opening the Season 3 writers’ room tomorrow, and we have some work to do in the first week about that timeline for Season 3 and where we plan to go. We have to come up with the broad strokes. I mean, when last we saw Joseph, he made it clear that he and his species are not long for this world. If magic is off, then niffins have no power source. It’s like fish being pulled up out of the ocean. They will be gasping for breath. His future doesn’t look so good. We will figure out the details of how we tell that story once we get in the writers’ room. A lot is still up in the air.
It ends with Julia showing Quentin that she may still have some magic reserves. Does she?
JM: Obviously, we can’t answer that.
SG: She has no idea what is happening when she shows Quentin. He has no idea either. So your question means that you’re exactly where they are when we start Season 3. No one knows… yet.
The Magicians will return to Syfy next year.
Read more from Yahoo TV:
Superheroes, Spells, and Sexual Abuse: A Conversation With Melissa Rosenberg and Sera Gamble, EPs of ‘Jessica Jones’ and ‘The Magicians’
15 Genre Shows That Helped Shape TV Today
31 Genre Show Producers on the Heart of Their Series