The season 4 finale of Syfy’s fantasy series, The Magicians, ends with Quentin Coldwater sacrificing himself. Why did the show kill him off?
The Magicians season 4 killed off the show’s main character, Quentin Coldwater – but why? Based on the eponymous trilogy by Lev Grossman, The Magicians had a lot of build-up going into the season 4 finale, which ends on a heart-wrenching note, as Quentin, also known as Q, sacrifices himself for his friends – a scene that is beautifully-shot, replete with an acoustic rendering of a-ha’s Take On Me, which lends a special kind of somber melancholy to the show’s narrative.
The Magicians season 4, episode 13, “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” opens with Margo (Summer Bishil), Penny (Arjun Gupta), and Quentin (Jason Ralph) trapping the Monster with the incorporate bond, cast with the aid of both hedge witches and magicians on Earth and Fillory. Alice (Olivia Dudley), along with Penny and Quentin, venture into the Mirror World to trap the twins, but their efforts are foiled by Everett, a member of the Order of the Library of the Neitherlands. In order to save everyone involved, Quentin decides to sacrifice himself, before managing to send both siblings into the seam. Following his death, Quentin is reunited in the underworld with Penny-40, who takes Q to his own funeral, wherein he experiences the meaningful gravity of his absence that weighs upon the lives of his friends.
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Long-standing fans of The Magicians were disappointed with the turn of events, which, to an extent, is justifiable; season 3 had offered a landmark moment between Quentin and Eliot (Hale Appleman) that touched upon genuine, romantic love. As the Monster occupies Eliot’s body for much of season 4, it prevents the duo from exploring their relationship further, and with Quentin’s death, the possibility is lost forever. Showrunner Henry Alonso Myers had explained the show’s decision to kill Quentin, which is doubtlessly intertwined with his unresolved feeling towards Eliot and complicated history of mental health, saying that Quentin was a “tremendously important part” of how the rest of the characters evolved (via TV Line), and his death has forced them to grow and look closer into their inner lives throughout The Magicians season 5.
Moreover, Quentin’s death sheds greater light on the mental health issues he was dealing with, and the real, tangible impact it had on the way he chose to practice magic and navigate the dual worlds of Earth and his childhood haven, Fillory. In one of the finale’s ending scenes, Q contemplates his decision, saying: “Did I do something brave to save my friends? Or did I finally find a way to kill myself?” The answer to the latter, as the showrunners insist, is a resounding no, as Quentin’s true power lies in his efforts towards gradual recovery, despite batting the nonchalant cruelties of life, both in the realms of the magical and the mundane. However, with Q’s death, the show handles these issues in ways that are irresponsible, to say the least, making the decision seem more like a shock-tactic than a genuine, necessary resolution for a wonderfully complex protagonist.
It is also interesting to note that Quentin’s death in The Magicians is another major departure from Grossman’s novels, as in the final book of the trilogy, The Magician’s Land, Q returns to New York City with Alice, while Eliot and Janet (Margo) decide to stay behind as rulers of Fillory. Prior to the book’s resolution, Quentin, much like in the show, slays Ember and Umber, which imbues him with divine power to rebuild Fillory. At the end of the novel, Quentin uses a seed pod gifted to him by his best friend, Julia, to create a new magical realm, which inadvertently acts as a bridge between Earth and Fillory. In contrast, the season 4 finale comes off as disingenuous, as the implication that death is a happy ending of sorts for a character so fiercely devoted to his craft and those around him. After all, we are more than our tragedies, our pitfalls, and the manifestation of our worst fears, which include ignominy and death.
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