Major spoilers for the Season 4 finale “No Better to be Safe Than Sorry,” can be found all over this article. If you haven’t caught the episode yet and really, really hate spoilers, now is a great opportunity to bail.
The Magicians Season 4 was a particularly enjoyable season of the Syfy series, ultimately closing on a note that I and I think a lot of fans probably didn’t see coming. Jason Ralph has exited the series after the fantasy drama has killed off his character.
Ralph plays Quentin Coldwater on The Magicians. He’s the main character on the ensemble series. He’s the character we followed when we were first being introduced to magic and Brakebills and he’s often at the center of whatever plot is happening that week, although the other leads are always up to shenanigans too.
According to the co-showrunners on The Magicians, it was simply time for Quentin to move out of the narrative frame, as Jason Ralph was getting a little restless on the series. Per John McNamara:
We actually had a very open and kind of great conversation at the end of Season 3. We always want to talk to the actors. ‘How did you feel about the season? What were your favorite things? What do you want to do next season?’ We had a feeling that Jason was beginning to sense that he’d explored a lot of that character and had grown a tremendous amount in terms of how that character’s journey unfolded. [We had a] discussion with him on Skype. It just became really clear to Sera, myself and Jason that the best next step for this character would be the kind of death that we had laid out for him that eventually formed this climax.
In his comments to TV Line, John McNamara revealed exactly how the process of deciding to kill Quentin off of The Magicians came about. According to the co-showrunner, Jason Ralph was on board from the get-go, so there were no hard feelings regarding the exit, as well.
If you watched The Magicians early on and fell out of the narrative at some point, or if you simply love spoilers and haven’t watched the episode yet, basically there’s a lot of complicated stuff going on.
A quick rundown: Margo has been dealing with a personal journey in Fillory while Josh has been holding down the fort with new High King Fen. Quentin has mostly been trying to keep the monster inside Elliot from murdering Elliot, while Alice has been trying to get back into her friends’ good graces and deal with the magic cap from the library. Penny and Kady have been trying to help the hedge witches related to the magic cap. Julia’s been dealing with losing her goddess powers but not her invulnerability while working with Quentin on the Monster problem.
Last night was the Season 4 finale and in it Quentin helped to take down the monsters that were inhabiting Elliot and by now Julia’s bodies. He saved the day.
Then other baddie Everett tried to destroy the Seam and Quentin sacrificed himself to repair the Seam's entrance, leading to his death due to some magical rules that are complicated to explain but involve no magic in the Mirror World. Later, he got to watch his own friends remember him while in the underworld with Penny-40.
Allegedly, original series writer Lev Grossman was on board with the storyline, as The Magicians showrunner John McNamara also recounted to EW.
[Grossman] said, ‘I think that’s a really great idea. First of all, I would never see that twist coming. Secondly, it leans into what the books are about.’ The books are fantasies about reality, and one of the real things we deal with in life is how do we handle death, how do we handle tragedy. Certainly, we’ve dealt with that on the show but never with the kind of depth that we do in this episode, and it’s going to carry over and resonate throughout Season 5 and probably the whole series.
In this show, death doesn’t always have to be an ending. There’s the Penny from now and the Penny-40 who now works in the underworld. It’s possible that somehow, sometime Jason Ralph could make a return on the series, but the way things seemed to pan out during the Season 4 finale, that’s not the plan.
He finally realized he did matter to the universe and to his friends and took off into the afterlife. Co-showrunner Henry Alonso did mention Jason Ralph could come back in other forms, possibly, but John McNamera also said that we’ve seen “the last of you will see of Jason playing Quentin.” It doesn't look like there will be any death take backs like other shows have employed.
The Magicians has already earned a renewal for Season 5 and I’m interested to see where the series heads, particularly given that although Quentin died, the show ended on a relatively peaceful note. It’s a lot different than when the characters had their identities hidden at the beginning of this season.