During the first four seasons of The Magicians Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) performed a vital role as heartbeat of the series. Creating an unsteady rhythm, Quentin’s dual desires to be a hero and to end his own life, established the hope and despair that kept the SYFY show’s loyal audience guessing. In the beginning, Q was a lonely kid who escaped his pain by reading fantasy novels about the world of Fillory. When he learned magic was real and Fillory existed as a waking nightmare, he set out to save the world that had been his safe haven. Last night, he finally achieved his goal.
MAJOR SPOILERS! STOP READING RIGHT THE F*** NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FINALE.
From the start show’s writers made it clear that the white, cisgender male was not the lead. Subverting the classic hero, Quentin often relented power when he realized his female companions were better suited to play the hero. At the end of season one, when Quentin had the option to be the savior of Fillory and wield an all-powerful blade, despite being High King, he realizes Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) was the more powerful magician. Season four Quentin attempted to save a lover and friend, Eliot (Hale Appleman,) from the demonic god-child who had possessed his body and reconnect with his ex-girlfriend Alice. In the end, he became the hero he always wanted to be when he sacrificed his life to bring magic back to all of the realms.
Speaking as a fan, I often found Q the most tiresome character. Whiny and entitled, it could be frustrating watching him believe so passionately that the right thing would always happen. The Magicians has always championed diversity. Not just race and orientation divided the motley crew. Major life events also kept characters from understanding one another. Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy), a Black man who runs the magical university Brakebills, lives as a functioning alcoholic. Julia (Stella Maeve) was forced into a life of a hedgewitch in order to stop the Beast, where she was tricked into calling a trickster god, who then sexually assaulted her, after which she became a goddess. Penny (Arjun Gupta), seemingly the bad boy with a heart of gold, learned to control his gifts via Martin Chatwin, now known as The Beast (Charles Mesure), who was sexually molested by Quentin’s favorite author, Christopher Plover (Charles Shaughnessy.) The point is the show is stacked with fascinating characters. Why keep coming back to Quentin?
It’s a testament to the quality of the show’s writers that in a series about otherness, they can center a white man most fans found frequently agonizing and bring them to their knees in mourning. Q, like all of The Magicians, transcended his identity. Yeah, he was a mess, but he had heart. He loved out loud. Perhaps some of our resentment was bordered up in the fear of doing the same. Margot (Summer Bishil) — a fan favorite — also exhibits excruciating love. Her fight to protect Fillory and save Eliot this season has been marred with mute animals, solitary rule, and misogynistic desert societies. She faced every adversity with raw passion. Eliot (Hale Appleman,) locked inside his own mind, used trust to survive, doing his best to communicate the things he learned to his friends from inside his prison.
Quentin used his broken heart to navigate difficult times. Magic, his escape, failed to save his father from dying of cancer, turned his hero into the worst kind of villain, and made his best friend suffer immeasurably at the hands of divinity. He’s forced to confront this journey in the penultimate episode. Q reveals that if the “Fillory and Further” books hadn’t existed, he might not have survived. The Magicians fandom is a vital reason it still exists. Each character stands in their own trauma searching for a way to keep living. Everyone seeks to be better than their precious decisions show them to be. Reflecting the importance of fandom, acknowledging the saving grace fictional safe spaces can hold gives permission to all viewers to simply enjoy their passions.
Q ended up representing a new white protagonist, one who could admit his shortcomings. One who didn’t need to be the hero to be a vital part of the story. He contained multitudes, and he did it unafraid of getting hurt. I took him for granted. Now that he’s gone, it’s so clear why he was so necessary. His death was not a suicide. It was a quick-second decision made with love. His gifts, which seemed small and insignificant, were exactly the skills needed to save the world. He fixed a crack and was able to send gods to hell. He blossomed before our eyes. His petals were humility, and in the blink of an eye, he chose to sacrifice his life for those he loved.
The Magicians, well known for bringing people back from the dead, won’t pull the hat trick again. Jason Ralph won’t be returning to the show. His castmates found out on Monday. It’s been an emotional journey. As The Magicians heads into season five, the landscape will be much different. At the end of the finale, Penny tells Quentin that he didn’t just save his friend’s life, he changed their lives. He changed ours too. Farwell Quinten Coldwater. We’ll see you on the other side.
Header Image Source: SYFY