If you thought last year’s Taylor Swift “Shake It Off” number was insane, you better prepare for what “The Magicians” Season 2 has in store.
While Quentin (Jason Ralph) deals with the consequences of housing Alice’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) niffin inside his body and Julia (Stella Maeve) hunts for Reynard’s (Mackenzie Astin) demigod son, a whole different kind of quest is happening in Fillory. Thanks to Margo’s (Summer Bashil) declaration of war on Loria, Eliot (Hale Appleman) is forced to challenge King Idri (Leonard Roberts) to a one-on-one duel to avoid an all out slaughter.
The only problem? Eliot has never handled a sword in his life.
Naturally, that made for a perfect opportunity to pop a musical performance into the episode, as Margo plucks up Eliot’s courage before the fight. We spoke with “The Magicians” showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara about how they pulled this musical number together, and how exactly this duel to the death could possibly play out in Eliot’s favor.
What made you guys want to do a huge musical number like ‘Les Miserables’ after last year’s Taylor Swift number?
McNamara: Well first of all, Sera really didn’t want to do it. [Laughs]
Gamble: Let’s be honest, I never want to do musical theater.
McNamara: I literally started writing this script for [Episode] 9 with Al Lipson*, and it was outlined and broken, and there was no musical number in it. After a scene with Eliot, where he’s understandably really nervous, I was thinking what could he do — what could Margo do to kind of soothe his nervousness? I knew that Hale Appleman had a great tenor voice, and I started thinking he could sing to himself. He could do like a few bars or something … This was when I just sort of stumbled across [One Day More] — not being a huge “Les Mis” fan. I thought, you could sort of justify it that this is Margo’s way of kind of getting his mind off it, the same way that if you’re going to take a really big test, your friend comes over and you watch a rerun of “Laverne & Shirley” or something.
And that’s when it turned into this huge performance?
McNamara: It’s such rousing, marching into death music … it started small and just got bigger and bigger and bigger. And bigger. I didn’t change anything. I was not allowed to change a word, I only cut some of the stanzas that didn’t apply. We had to cut all the Javert stuff because it just doesn’t apply even though I think it’s wonderful.
Gamble: Producing it became really fun. There was something about planning it — the enthusiasm grew just throughout the cast and crew, and we all were very excited to be able to pull it off.
Do you think Eliot has started to really grow into his King role?
Gamble: Yeah, not only is he growing into it, he’s sort of redefining it. I think the mark of a true king is that you decide what that means because you’re the f***ing king. Right? As time goes on, Eliot and Margo also, they start to realize that power means you define how you rule. I think we see that in a big way in this episode, just in the way that he ends up solving the problem of having to duel with King Idri. That’s him showing complete agency and a level of comfort with his position that he didn’t have at the beginning of the season.
What can you guys say about where Julia is at mentally now in regard to her shade and Reynard?
Gamble: I think mentally, she’s never been stronger and clearer actually. The happy byproduct of having lost this essential part of herself in this botched surgery is that all of the pain and the trauma she was fighting through has been removed, and that’s certainly a double-edged sword and there are parts of that, that are not great for her. But she is thinking clearly and she’s more tactical and more strategic than she’s been able to be so far this season because nothing is standing between her and being completely present in the moment.
Christopher Gorham mentioned that his new demigod character was kind of a metaphor for white privilege. What can you guys say about that?
Gamble: I mean his character doesn’t even know that he has privilege. He’s someone who has enjoyed, let’s call it a very strong tailwind.
McNamara: Yeah, and that would be because his is a magical creature, and he has no idea.
Gamble: He just thought he worked very hard for everything he had. It’s not like he’s a slacker, he ran for office like everyone else.
McNamara: It’s like Jimmy Stewart finding out he’s Rosemary’s Baby.
We know why Julia wants to find him, but can you tease why Reynard is looking for him too?
Gamble: He’s his son, and it’s obvious that, that really means something to Reynard. That’s something that he’s interested in ever since he heard that this person exists.
McNamara: But we don’t want to give anything away. It’s the surprise that is fun.
Now that Quentin knows his body is breaking down from housing this niffin, is there a choice for him to make?
McNamara: There is, and he makes it this episode. It’s a very hard choice. It’s a choice that does not have a good ending, no matter what he chooses. But I think he makes the only choice he really can make by the end.
“The Magicians” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.