First published in Press Pass LA on April 4, 2017
Author: Ariel Landrum
Syfy’s The Magicians, described as “Harry Potter for adults,” has created an immaculate second season, drawing audiences in with dazzling visual effects, witty humor, and intricate plots. What keeps them staying, however, are the dynamic characters who make honest and life-shattering mistakes that hit close to home in the real world. Based on Lev Grossman’s bestselling novels, the fantasy series follows an eclectic group of spellcasters as they grapple with timeless questions about relationships, purpose, and self.
At WonderCon 2017, cast members Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwater) and Stella Maeve (Julia Wicker) joined executive producers Sara Gamble and John McNamara to discuss where the show is headed and tease the season’s last three episodes. Attendees were also treated with clips that previewed upcoming events, including that of a sardonic dragon with a disdain for millennials. Through these clips, aficionados of the books began to piece together major plot elements missing in the first season due to the writers fleshing out the characters for the general public.
Both Ralph and Maeve expressed their pride in the current season as they found their characters growing, challenging them and their acting skills. Quentin is faced with supporting and forgiving his best friend, Julia, while simultaneously accepting that he must let go of his relationship with Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor) as she works on discovering herself. Julia learns to humble herself as she realizes the mistakes of her past, which have figuratively and literally brought her to the Underworld.
Maeve then addressed the audience, “You are not alone,” she exclaimed as she began to discuss the show’s two most difficult and controversial topics: rape and abortion. Julia, in an attempt to find a higher power to guide her in Season 1, is instead manipulated into witnessing her friends brutally murdered and then herself sexually assaulted by a demon. In Season 2, she receives aid from the Brakebills crew and must face aborting the demon spawn, which has left her without her shade (essentially a person’s soul). The showrunners voiced how the current political climate, which may make someone experiencing similar traumas feel unsafe, compelled them to tell Julia’s story.
Very much mirroring the show, the darker themes of the panel effortlessly transitioned to humor and laughter. When asked if the actors have stolen anything from the set, the two joked, “Of course!” In the cottage scene during the first season finale, a leather jacket was lying off in the corner, and in between takes, Ralph would put it on. He would pop the collar up and strut around the set, believing he was the epitome of cool. The actor now wears the jacket every day. After nodding to the final three episodes, Maeve said that The Underworld isn’t what everyone thinks it will be. Amid the shoot, she took a brochure she noticed advertising The Underworld, which made her laugh with the tagline “Relax, you’re probably not going hell.”
The crowd also learned that there may be more musicals in the future. In the show’s first season, a very small musical number featured a trapped in a mind spell Quentin reaching out for help to his psychic friend Penny Adiyodi (Arjun Gupta) by singing a Taylor Swift song. Fast forward to season 2, episode 9, and magic enthusiasts found Fillory’s High Court charging into battle armed with the Broadway musical song “One Day More” from Les Misérables.
Although singing may challenge some cast members, learning choreography is not new. Gamble and McNamara were grateful that Grossman’s books detailed the intricate tutting movements needed to cast a spell. Ralph and Maeve joked how although the moves are getting easier, sometimes they are “adapted cause our hands just don’t bend that way.” Some of the sophisticated hand movements included actual American Sign Language, which one deaf enthusiast stated drew him into the show. He expressed his joy in seeing how he communicates with the world shown on TV.
The panel ended with a comedy reel featuring the cast not only missing their marks and forgetting lines, but without warning, burping between takes and then rating each other’s disgorge. Viewers can catch season 2, episode 24, “The Rattening,” on Wednesday night, April 5, 2017.