SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen tonight’s episode of The Magicians, “Divine Elimination”, turn back now. Spoilers abound below.
Well that’s a bummer. If you’ve read author Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy, you knew tonight’s event was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to gulp down. In the third episode of the Syfy series’ second season, Quentin (Jason Ralph), Alice (Olivia Taylor-Dudley), Eliot (Hale Appleman), Margo (Summer Bishil), and Penny (Arjun Gupta) finally set into motion their plan to defeat the villainous The Beast, but it came at a cost. In the midst of a dangerous battle, Alice overloaded her magic to slay The Beast, but in the process turned into a Niffin just like her brother did years before. This new, dangerous creature then had to be defeated as Quentin reluctantly unleashed his caco-demon, resulting in Alice’s death.
But that wasn’t the only death in tonight’s episode. While the curse was being lifted, Julia (Stella Maeve) was enacting a plan of her own to finally slay Reynard the Fox, with the help of The Beast. But Penny grabbed The Beast before her plan could be enacted, resulting in the death of Marina (Kacey Rohl).
I was recently able to speak with The Magicians showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara for an extended interview about the show, and given everything that happened at the end of “Divine Elimination”, I had to ask what this means for the series going forward. Below, see what Gamble and McNamara had to say about killing both Alice and Marina in the same episode, Quentin’s arc for Season 2, and how this fight almost ended up in the Season 1 finale.
So I guess the obvious question is, is Alice dead?
SERA GAMBLE: Yes.
JOHN MCNAMARA: I like that answer.
GAMBLE: (Laughs) I’ll go even a step further and say if you’ve read the books, you know that that’s how Alice dies in the books.
Well that was kind of my second question. This is a pretty massive plot point from the books, so how soon after you agreed to make The Magicians were you like, ‘Oh no, we’re gonna have to deal with the death of a major character’? Or were you excited about that prospect?
GAMBLE: I don’t know about you, John, but I never think, ‘Oh no’, I’m always excited about killing characters. I love Oliva, I think she’s a brilliant actress and we really enjoy working with her, but I rather enjoy killing characters on fictional television shows.
MCNAMARA: It’s really the closest a human being can get to being God (laughs).
How long ago did you guys decide when this would happen, the big showdown with The Beast? Was there a version where Alice niffin’d out in Season 1?
MCNAMARA: Yeah that’s kind of what we mean when we say that there was a little bit of sliding back and forth during that story. When we pitched the season originally, that fight which is two fights—the fight at the end of episode 13 in Season 1 and the fight that you see in Episode 3 of Season 2, they were originally one fight. As we got closer to that we started to say, ‘This is too much fight for one fight, there are too many elements here, let’s take this apart and really look at all the pieces and make sure we’re telling the whole story,’ and that’s why the biggest showdown happens at the beginning of Season 2.
For a book fan like me, when that happened at the end of Season 1 I was a little underwhelmed, then you get to Season 2 and it’s like, ‘Oh there it is!’
Technically everyone dies in this episode, including Marina. How did you hit upon the murder spree game/curse, and just how twisted are you to put so much death in one episode titled “Divine Elimination”?
GAMBLE: (Laughs) We’re twisted. Henry Alonso Myers, who wrote the episode, clearly took some delight in it. I believe the mechanics of that curse was his pitch, and I think he’s very adept at balancing truly emotional moments with moments of action-comedy, kind of his strange sweet spot that we like to exploit on the show. One thing I really appreciate about the way that he executed the script when he went off to write it is it starts deceptively light. The beginning of the script doesn’t give away the end.