Fans of the novels won’t be disappointed.
This interview contains spoilers for The Magicians Season 3 premiere, titled “The Tales of the Seven Keys.”
Thanks to the help of a bunch of message-delivering bunnies, all of the magicians are finally on the same page, despite being separated by the loss of magic on Earth and Fillory on The Magicians. The Season 3 premiere brought everyone up to speed — both the characters and the audience — as everyone adjusted to life without magic. Everyone, that is, except for Julia (Stella Maeve), who shared her spark of mysterious, lingering magic with Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Josh (Trevor Einhorn) as a source of hope for the otherwise hopeless and depressed magicians.
The lack of information surrounding Julia’s continued use of magic led her and Quentin to a minor god, although the only real answer he could provide through his hard-partying, drunken state was that there might be a secret backdoor to magic… somewhere. What was actually helpful was Eliot’s (Hale Appleman) attempt to track down the White Lady (Emma Dumont) to grant his wish to rid Fillory of the Fairy Queen (Candis Cayne) and all her terrifying subjects, only to accidentally find and petition the majestic Great Cock of the Darkling Woods (Faran Tahir) instead. The Great Cock promised to help Eliot with his fairy problem … only after Eliot embarked on a season-long epic quest to save all of magic. No big deal, right? Eliot’s resigned expression while accepting his obligatory life-or-death mission said it all.
By using the Fairy Queen’s preferred method of communication sans magic – aka sending raspy, whispering bunnies to different worlds as the Fillorian equivalent of creepy voicemails – Eliot was able to send Quentin and Julia to the New Jersey Public Library to find a book with no author. That magical book detailed the beginning of their quest, the Tale of Seven Golden Keys, ripped straight from Lev Grossman’s novel, The Magician King, upon which the season is based. Quentin then relayed the first chapter (the only visible chapter in the book so far) through messenger bunnies back to Eliot in Fillory: they need to find seven magic gold keys, and whatever they unlock will help restore magic.
As for everyone else, by the end of the season premiere, Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) was doing some pretty shady things while on the run from the mysterious lamprey demon hunting her for revenge, and Penny (Arjun Gupta) was still dying from his magic-induced super cancer while Kady (Jade Tailor) searched for a way to save him.
As the Great Cock told Eliot, the quest for the seven keys will take a season to complete, and the adventure has only just begun. But in a sit-down with IGN to discuss what’s ahead for Season 3, Maeve and Dudley warn that The Magicians’ interpretation of Grossman’s second novel is not what fans will be expecting.
“It is a very different journey,” Maeve says. “It does utilize the ship, the Muntjac.”
For those who haven’t read Grossman’s books, the Muntjac is a Fillorian Deer class sea vessel, a living ship that will become a major set piece for The Magicians this season as the quest takes the group across the seas to distant and unfamiliar lands outside Fillory’s borders. But the quest “is not like the way it is written [in the book],” Maeve adds. “It’s sort of like our show creators’ take and spin on that.”
Dudley explains that because the books are “told mostly from Quentin’s perspective, it’s kind of limited on other characters throughout the whole book series.” Therefore, in the first two seasons, the television adaptation expanded the world beyond Quentin.
“On the show, we go so deep into all the characters that at this point, the story is going to sound different because we know so much about so many of these people,” she says. “The fans will be really happy when they see the Muntjac and there’s a lot of stuff from the book in this season, for sure. But I just think the show has progressed past the books because it’s had to.”
Maeve agrees, adding that they “had to fabricate a lot of additional things for storyline purposes for the TV format.” But she promises that “the boat is insane!”
“I hope that fans of the books are happy with the way that they depicted the Muntjac,” she says. “Our set dec[orator] did an incredible job and our designer was awesome. It’s really cool.”
Since the Muntjac becomes such a central location, aiding the magicians on their quest, Dudley teases that fans will see all the characters hop aboard at some point throughout the season. “It’s our smallest set, and having everyone, when we’re all working together on the Muntjac, it’s tight quarters which is really cool,” she says. “It adds to this journey that we’re all stuck on this boat, going on a journey. We go all over the place.”
While all the characters on Earth and in Fillory weren’t left in the most reassuring positions in the premiere, it was heartwarming to see how close Quentin and Julia were in their search for answers about magic. After everything they’ve been through and how damaged their friendship became in the first two seasons, it seems like they’re finally back to a good place, and Maeve reveals that it’s only going to keep maturing from this point.
“In the beginning of the season, they’re partnered together and they’re trying to figure out why Julia possesses this spark of magic and how to grow it, how to see what they can do to manifest more of it and give it to everybody,” she says. “Is it an endless surplus or is it this small, finite detail? They question that in the beginning and then they, instead of teaming up, separate. So we get to see them apart from each other, both on these journeys to try to figure out the one source of this thing.”
But she says that separation isn’t a bad thing — it illustrates how comfortable they are in their friendship that they can go their own ways and trust they’ll be able to succeed even without each other.
“There is a maturity in that in a sense of we know what we have to do,” Maeve says. “And even though we can’t do it together at this moment, we’re still doing it together metaphorically, just in different places. Our energy can be [expended] far and wide and we can still create the solution for the problem. There’s a gravitas to their friendship.”
And as for Alice’s dark beginning to the season, letting a vampire drink her blood in an alley for information on an early warning alarm for when a lamprey demon is near, Dudley teases that this will be Alice’s toughest season yet (if you can imagine that).
“Alice has been through a lot of shit,” Dudley says. “This season, it was so funny because I felt very confused. As the actor, I’m very in the dark the whole season with Alice which I’ve never felt before. The showrunners kept saying to me, ‘That’s good, that’s how Alice feels. She doesn’t quite understand what her life is about anymore and what does anything mean.’ And I was like, ‘That’s how I’m feeling. I don’t understand where the story is going, I don’t know which of my castmates I’m supposed to be working with.'”
That confusion ended up working out for Dudley “in a really beautiful way” as she finished filming the season, Dudley says: “She’s going through a quarter-life crisis and doesn’t know. But like a really major one. She’s died a couple of times, she had magic and then no magic. It’s interesting to see where she is this season. I think that she’s not going to lose any of the stuff that she learned when she was a niffin. It was fun to explore what had happened to her as a niffin and the repercussions of that.”
Alice as a niffin definitely made some enemies, and Dudley confirms that Alice has been irrevocably changed by everything she did during that time. Whether it’s for the better or for the worse has yet to be determined.
“I think there’s a part of her that will never change, as much as she wants it to or doesn’t want it to in some areas,” Dudley says. “She has forever been changed from that experience. Part of her wants magic back and part of her doesn’t; part of her is afraid of what will happen if she has magic again.”
The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Syfy.
Sydney Bucksbaum is a freelance journalist covering TV and film. Talk to her on Twitter at @SydneyBucksbaum.