Thankfully, showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara excel at big, risky storytelling. After leaving fans’ jaws on the floor with the season three finale, they’re ready to dive back into the show from a whole new angle. But if I were you, I wouldn’t pick your jaw up just yet.
Spoilers from season three follow, FYI.
At the end of the last season (all of which was huge and thrilling and, hey, you need to watch it), the majority of the characters were forced to drink a potion that made them forget everything about who they were, replacing their memories and entire personalities with new ones who are unaware of the existence of magic. To make matters worse, The Monster possessed Eliot (Hale Appleman), overriding his identity completely, and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) was placed in what I’m going to call magic jail. To say the least, that’s a lot to deal with in a show called The Magicians.
As panel moderator Felicia Day put it, “Do you know where these weirdoes are going?”
McNamara said this was a question he got constantly from the network.
“It was always ‘What’s going to happen in season four? What’s going to happen in season four?’” he said. “I don’t know, why don’t you pick the show up and find out?”
Luckily for us, they did, and now the writers are dealing with the consequences of this choice.
“We rely on the idea that it’s good to run out of story,” said Gamble. “If we don’t know where things are going, that means you, the viewer, don’t know what’s coming. So then we just have to get back in the writers room and do the work to figure it out.”
Based on the teaser shown at the panel and discussions I had with the cast and producers in the press room, this multi-faceted cliffhanger is not something they’re going to pave over. Season four is really going to revel in it.
“At this point in the process [of season four], we’re about five episodes in, and I still haven’t seen Eliot,” said Appleman.
It’s a big deal to replace a fan-favorite character with an inhuman monster that Appleman describes as “a 9-year-old without empathy or impulse control.” Fans will be desperately waiting to finally get Eliot back — if that even happens.
The same goes for all of the characters who’ve lost their identities. As Gamble and McNamara shared, this isn’t just a simple case of amnesia. These are whole new people the cast are portraying, with new careers and attitudes.
“They see themselves in mirrors and they have completely different faces,” said McNamara.
“We have two different sets of characters,” added Gamble. “We have the ones you know and love, and then we have the ones who look the way they look on the outside.”
For the show’s stars, this brings the challenge of embodying a new character, while still maintaining echoes of the original. It’s a challenge every actor I spoke to was not only prepared for but actively excited by. So much so that it seemed to make Dudley jealous.
“I was like, ‘I still have to be Alice?!’” she joked. “I want to see Alice in sweatpants, Alice who gets a massage. I want to see a montage where she tries on pants but she can’t put her legs through two holes because she wears so many skirts.”
This kind of humor and enthusiasm ran throughout the cast and showrunners at SDCC. Their infectious energy has me just as excited for this new season as the promise of the story itself. The cast and writers seem like they can truly do anything, and that’s a rare feeling for a TV show.