The Magicians finale had a little bit of everything that made the show so utterly itself. It tied beautifully back to Fillory and the Chatwin family, a time loop took viewers by surprise, and friends made sacrifices to save humanity (and all the other forms of life, like singing pigs and fairies). But most importantly, after five seasons of navigating trauma, mental health, and grief, The Magicians ended with hope.
Quite literally, actually, because that’s what Julia (Stella Maeve) and Penny (Arjun Gupta) named their baby girl. Little Hope Quentin became a symbol for the rebirth and growth that took place in the final episode and that capped off seasons of crisis after crisis.
The solutions to the group’s problems this season—and over the past five seasons—kept escalating outward to affect more and more people. Instead of just Brakebills or magicians being affected, entire worlds could have come to an end when the door to the underworld opened and let out the dead. (It’s hard not to read too much into that while watching the finale amid a pandemic.) To solve these ever larger problems this season, the friends got into fights with the moon, tried to kill an unkillable king, and attempted to prevent the actual apocalypse more than a few times.
And in the finale, they succeeded at the impossible task of ending Fillory and creating a new world to save Fillorians, and everyone else. As if that weren’t enough for a finale, Julia also had her baby, and after a scare from Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy), both Hope and Julia got healthy. Eliot (Hale Appleman) learned to be open to a love he deserves. Kady (Jade Tailor) went on to be a leader among hedge witches. Josh (Trevor Einhorn) made the best sandwich in existence. And Margo the Destroyer (Summer Bishil) became Margo the Creator.
Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Fen (Brittany Curran), Josh, and Margo created the replacement world for Fillory, and the show ends with the group figuring out this strange new place with fields of bacon and knife trees. The last scene of the series epitomizes a lesson from the show when Margo says, “You guys know our lives are about to get even weirder in some insane way we can’t possibly predict?”
That’s the great gift and message of The Magicians: life goes on—and it gets weird. Grief and trauma can feel endless, like being stuck in a time loop forever replaying the worst. The Magicians has repeatedly provided hope by showing that, eventually, the loop ends, and people can emerge on the other side even if they fall back into a cycle again later on as grief or trauma can often resurface.
These themes of navigating trauma made The Magicians a particularly fitting show for its time. Mental health and the effects of trauma have become more openly discussed over its run, and right now much of the world is experiencing grief as the effects of a pandemic become known. The Magicians finale felt like a balm as friends and lovers committed to each other and committed to doing their best to save others and face the unknown, as so many across the world are doing now.
Every time the friends hit a roadblock, they tried to find a solution. When their situation seemed insurmountable, they solved the problem in front of them and moved on to do the next best thing they could. In times of crisis, this line of thinking can be a way to salvation. When the problem is too big to comprehend, much less solve, focusing on what’s in front of you and what actions must directly come next is a way to get through it, even if that action is as simple as eating a margherita pizza. Taking one step at a time can lead to saving yourself, your friends, and entire worlds.
Another lesson from The Magicians that took Alice years to learn is that accepting yourself can provide strength and make moving forward easier. Alice was among the greatest magicians Brakebills had ever known, but to truly own her power, she had to accept the bad parts of herself along with the good as a way to control her circumstances for casting spells. Accepting what is, when the world is falling apart and you can’t keep it together, is a brave and necessary thing. Accepting your internal self when your external circumstances are unreliable and ever changing is sometimes the only thing you can do.
“Shit’s never what we think it’s going to be,” Julia says in the finale. Penny knows the truth when he responds: “Occasionally it’s better.”
That doesn’t mean that death and tragedy won’t come. The Magicians has shown that with the deaths of Quentin, the original Penny, and, in the finale, Zelda. But there are unimaginable joys and beauty, too.
The Magicians was better than I ever imagined it could be. It was a constant surprise, it was a beautiful world to inhabit for a while, and I will miss it—just like Fillory itself.
Rae Nudson is Chicago-based writer and critic whose writing has appeared in Esquire, The Cut, and Hazlitt, among other publications. She is working on a book about how women use makeup to help define their roles in society. You can follow her on Twitter @rclnudson.
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