Photo: Eike Schroter (Syfy)
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So, how many of you Googled whether or not this show had been renewed as soon as the episode ended? The good news is, yes, it has been renewed for a new season. The bad news is, that doesn’t mean Quentin is coming back.

Yes, to triumphantly close out its fourth season, the show let its titular magician squad finally come up with a plan that worked pretty much as planned, only to have the finale’s big sacrifice be Quentin’s. As things progressed, it was hard to predict who would be the one to take the fall. Kady and Zelda were in rough shape. Penny had done something unforgivable to save Julia. Alice had come awfully close to redemption. Someone was clearly doomed. It just didn’t seem likely that the show’s ostensible main character would be the one.

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If there is a problem to having to write off the main character during a finale, it’s that this season’s Big Bad is dealt with a little anti-climactically. After a full season of watching Monster Eliot menace the team, he and his sister are axed out and imprisoned shockingly easily, at least by the standards of this crew, which is perpetually creating ambitious plans that fall apart. But the upside is that probably a quarter of the episode is left to say goodbye to Quentin.

On a show that makes frequent trips to the underworld and has had a number of characters die only to be brought back in another form, it’s easy to wonder if Quentin will be coming back. But the show’s farewell is prolonged enough and thoughtful enough that it seems fairly unlikely. Having original Penny walk him through the steps of accepting his death also serves the purpose of helping the viewer come to grips with it as well. And the group’s farewell song to him is so heartbreaking that it would frankly be fairly cheapening if the next season was all about bringing Quentin back from the dead.

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The framing of his post-death anguish over whether his sacrifice was meaningful or simply a final submission to his longstanding mental health issues also felt both true to who Quentin is and true to the ethos of the show. The Magicians has always suggested there’s no escape from your real problems, no matter how much you’re living out your fantasies, and this has been especially true of Quentin, who, pre-Brakebills, constantly needed to escape into his fantasies. He’s not really that person anymore, as evidenced by the prior episode, where he struggles to summon his own pure love for the concept of Fillory, but he still needs to hear that what he did was a sacrifice, and not a selfish act. It’s a very rare show that would feature someone acting this heroically, and then questioning his own heroism.

True to Magicians form, of course, the farewell gets deeply meta, as the finale still has to set up next season’s conflicts. So we learn that Alice is going to be running the library, and Eliot and Margo are going to have to rescue Fillory, the multiverse’s most frequently rescued place. Are Josh and Fen for real dead? What about Tick??

But somehow the show is going to find a way forward. While the action has never focused solely on Quentin, he’s remained the main character, and has generally anchored whatever the A plot might have been. The ensemble has always been strong enough that Quentin didn’t need to be the most important person all the time, but it’s still going to be interesting to see if someone else gravitates toward the center.

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There’s a lot that we won’t get to see Quentin do, sadly—the suggestion that he and Eliot could have been an ongoing couple feels a lot more like fan service now in the aftermath of his character’s death. And the rushed nature of his reunion with Alice makes a lot more sense in this context. There was never actually going to be a conflict between which of these pairings was Quentin’s true love. Nor will he ever have to figure out how to be happy in a world where he just gets to live with magic. Given that he was often the one having the big picture quandaries about magic and Fillory and the bonds of their little group, will all those things still be important? It’s going to be a very different show when it comes back.

Stray observations

  • Which was funnier, “If you need to touch butts, make it quick,” or Alice’s response: “How does she know our thing?”
  • I’m glad that Margo got to be the one to strike the killing blow to save Eliot. It was distressing when it appeared at the end of the last episode that she would be absent from the action because of Josh.
  • If you’re into that kind of thing, here’s an interview where the showrunners talk about this choice and give some firmer answers on the character’s future.
  • It’s tough to fit everyone’s special moment into a farewell episode, but it was especially sad that Quentin and Eliot don’t get a moment together, given how hard Quentin worked to save him.
  • Jason Ralph did really great, compelling work as Quentin. Whatever else the show does, I’ll miss his performance.

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