Peaches and plums, Supa-Fans! If you’ve watched SyFy’s totally amazing television adaptation of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, you probably understood that reference. If not, we’re envious that you have a chance to experience it all for yourself the first time around.
Yet regardless of whether you’re familiar with the hallowed halls of Brakebills University and the majestic flying forests of Fillory or not, one thing is certain — it’s probably time for you to settle in on the couch for a grand viewing of one of our all-time favourite series.
Adapted for television by Aquarius creator John McNamara and Supernatural and You showrunner Sera Gamble, and based on Grossman’s best-selling trilogy of fantasy novels, The Magicians follows the brilliant yet deeply troubled Quentin Coldwater as he discovers a secret world of magic being taught at Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy.
Suddenly thrust into a world he barely understands, Quentin’s troubles extend far beyond demanding class schedules and complex spell work. When it turns out that Fillory, the magical realm from his favourite childhood novels are real, Quentin and his newfound friends are forced to confront a deadly threat far beyond their inexperienced imaginings.
With the original author, Lev Grossman, set to join us at Supanova in Sydney (17-18 June) and Perth (24-25 June) to promote his Silver Arrow children’s book series, there’s no time like the present to (re)acquaint yourself with The Magicians. And, to make things a little more interesting, we’ve also uncovered a few magical things for you to watch out for as you make your way back through all five seasons.
A SPECIAL CAMEO FROM LEV GROSSMAN HIMSELF
While the television adaptation of Grossman’s novels makes a few notable departures from his original books, the author himself manages to make a cameo appearance in the show’s second episode. When Quentin tries to explain the Fillory and Further books to Alice, he shows her a recording of a documentary that explains the tragic backstory behind the fictional fantasy series. Narrated by a scholar noted as Dev Fleischman, the academic in question is none other than the creator himself.
This cameo would also set the stage for Grossman to make an appearance in another of his works, the 2021 Amazon original movie The Map of Tiny Perfect Things which also features a distinctly familiar time loop.
BRAKEBILLS IS A TECH FREE ZONE
While it is never explicitly explained in the show, the computer Quentin uses in episode two is the only use of technology ever shown on Brakebills grounds. Sitting by itself in a room filled with warding crystals, the Brakebills University campus is depicted as a distinctly technology-free zone. Not even mobile phones seem to work on Brakebills grounds, and instead, the University hosts a single payphone as its only other means of communication with the outside world.
Though viewers are never provided with a reason for this, fans of the books will recognise this as a callback to Grossman’s assertion that magic has the tendency to interfere with the workings of modern-day electronics.
BRAKEBILLS HAS A SUDDEN CAMPUS CHANGE
Both in the show and the original books, Brakebills University resides hidden by magical wards in upstate New York. For filming purposes, the show first turned to Tulane University in New Orleans to film scenes for the pilot episode. However, for the remainder of the series filming moved to Canada and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver would later stand in for the magical college.
A MARGO BY ANY OTHER NAME
Bold, brash and gifted with a foul mouth and equally acidic wit, Summer Bishil’s Margo Hanson quickly became one of the best characters in The Magicians during its original run. Not a princess or a queen, she’s a KING in every sense of the word. Yet in Grossman’s original books, Margo’s character went by another name entirely, that of Janet Pluchinsky.
Apparently, the show’s creators felt with the show already having characters named Julia Wicker and Jane Chatwin, a third female character with a J name might lead to confusion. Instead Bishil’s character was renamed as Margo, but if you keep an eye out the show does drop a few nods toward her previous identity.
When Margo first enters the Library of the Neitherlands, the librarian Zelda greets her as Janet. When Margo later corrects her, Zelda says “this time”, suggesting that in other timelines she still retained her original name from the books. Later, in season four, Margo also goes by the name Janet Pluchinsky when she has her memory wiped and is supplied with a whole new identity.
RECURRING APPEARANCES FROM A VERY GIFTED BRAKEBILLS PROFESSOR
The way magic is represented in The Magicians is distinctly different to the way it is depicted in other shows and movies. While incantations still play a role, the spellwork taught at Brakebills is often reliant on a series of increasingly complex hand gestures. Thankfully, during the filming of the series the actors had the benefit of being taught these gestures, or “tuts”, by dancer and choreographer Kevin Li.
If you’re feeling adventurous enough, fans of the show can even learn the choreography of the show’s various spells from Kevin’s Instagram account.
However, after perfecting your spells, also be sure to keep an eye out for Brakebill’s own talented Professor Li, who also makes a few blink and you’ll miss it appearances during seasons one, two and four.
These interesting titbits are just a taste of the magic which awaits you on your next viewing of The Magicians, with all five seasons currently available to stream on Prime Video, along with Lev Grossman’s equally captivating movie The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. Meanwhile, come and meet the creator himself, Lev Grossman when he arrives at Supanova in Sydney (17-18 June) and Perth (24-25 June), with tickets now available through Moshtix.