This article contains spoilers for Season 1, Episode 9 of ‘The Magicians’- “The Writing Room”
Quentin’s childhood shattered before his eyes on Monday night’s episode of The Magicians.
After last week’s run-in with the Beast, Quentin with the help of Alice tracks down his copy of Fillory and Further: Book 6 or in this case, what’s left of it – Penny’s recollection. Penny reveals that he took the transcript of the book and tossed it after he finished reading it because he spilled beer on some of the pages.
When Quentin questions Penny about the book, it’s revealed that Jane Chatwin, the heroine of the Fillory books, was able to procure a button for her brother Martin that would allow him to travel to Fillory, because the Fillory gods Umber and Amber kept leaving him behind on Earth.
Believing the button must be at Christopher Plover’s estate in England, where Chatwin children stayed while Plover wrote the books of their adventures, Quentin, Alice, Penny, along with an emotionally distraught Eliot, take a trip across the pond.
The group breaks into Plover’s estate at night only to find the horrors of the haunted house go much deeper than the hauntings that repeated the endless traumas that occurred within its walls. Quentin witnesses first hand that his childhood hero, Christopher Plover, molested a young Martin Chatwin during his stay at the Plover estate.
The Workprint caught up with showrunner Sera Gamble to discuss the major revelation, what it means for Quentin moving forward, and other lingering questions from the first season.
Last week we saw the Beast use Mike to get around Brakebills. Can the same be said for Jane? Is Jane Chatwin really dead?
Yes, that is really Jane Chatwin and we really did kill her in the episode.
Who or what was the younger version Quentin encountered in the premiere?
When we first start to get to know Jane, we get to know the Jane of the Fillory and Further books played by Rose Liston. This is sort of the heroine of the books and she’s the character that has existed on the page for generations of readers. She has been very alive in Quentin’s mind because he’s such a fan of the books. This is the sort of form she takes when Quentin starts to contact Fillory.
What was the discussion in the writer’s room like on approaching this episode?
We knew we were building to the reveal of the relationship between Christopher Plover and the Chatwin children, especially Martin, in this episode from the very beginning. It is something that is mentioned in the novels. A bunch of plot doesn’t technically turn on that revelation, but it is something that really leaps off the page when you’re reading the books. It struck me that it was incredibly useful in terms of insight into The Beast. It also reigned true in a really uncomfortable way. Anyone who has loved children’s books has had that moment when you hear an author might not have been behaving so well in real life.
This is something that was really interested to me about the books and it was part of the reason that John [McNamara] and I wanted to do the show. Uncomfortably rooted in psychological truth. We talked about that in the writer’s room the first week of working on the season. It was something we knew we would have to work our way towards.
What does the reveal of Plover being a pedophile mean for Quentin and the others? Many of their worlds were shaped by Fillory and Further.
It sort of mirrors adulthood where some of the things you held dear when you were a child, you don’t get to carry them into adulthood. That’s one of the themes certainly this season on the show. This is the most pointed example of that.
Is the reason Umber and Amber keep leaving Martin Chatwin behind due to the trauma Plover put him through?
That is the horrible thing that Martin is contemplating. If he used to be accepted by Fillory and by Umber and Amber and now he isn’t, that is a reasonable conclusion for him to draw. It is a horrific conclusion. It’s awful that a child would be going through something like that and would go on to conclude that it had polluted them and made them less worthy. But that again, following the thread of the metaphor felt like it rang completely psychologically true to us that Martin would take it personally and feel like it was in some horrible way his fault that he “wasn’t good enough for Fillory anymore.”
Prudence is a character that wasn’t in the books. Why was Prudence willing to go so far to cover-up Plover actions, even after death?
She’s not in the books. We invented her in order to tell the story. We basically were like, “How are we going to tell Quentin and everyone about what really happened with Christopher Plover and Martin?” We landed on the idea that we would go to Plover’s estate. It dovetailed nicely with the search for the button and once we were there it was like, “Okay, this house needs to be a haunted house. It’s a haunted house episode.”
Haunted house episodes need some ghosts and you know they are the horror show mirror of Jane and Martin. There’s a strong thread of telling stories about siblings and talking about the relationship between Jane and Martin and what was good and unfortunate about it. The fact that Jane was a little bit in the dark as a child about what was going with her brother.
Conversations like that just sort of evolving in the writer’s room in the morning with coffee or in the evening with a cocktail. We ended up getting to a point where we sort of talking about what would be the really twisted, horrific adult version of a relationship like that. What would be one where the one sibling was protecting the other to a truly horrifying and evil extent.
It really is the difference between who we all were as children when we were reading these book and we thought of magic and far away lands as a perfect fantasy world that were only good, wonderful, and fantastic. And now Quentin is in a position where he has to wrap his head around an adult, real life version of understanding what Fillory is. There is no such thing as a place that is only good where you can truly escape. You can’t really escape the stuff inside you and the most monstrous stuff on the show that you see is the stuff that human beings do to one another.
From here Quentin has to kind of figure out what Fillory is really. The childish illusions have been left behind forcibly and now he has to figure out what is magic and what is Fillory really.
It appears Plover was trying to find a way into Fillory in order to escape this world and be with Martin. Was there more to Plover looking into getting to Fillory?
In Plover’s mind the main problem with his interactions with Martin is that people don’t understand. I don’t know that he considers himself to be a terrible person so much as someone in a very particular situation, one that could be solved by going somewhere where no one could judge them, which is the single most horrifying thing he could be saying to Martin who is holding out hope that there is this one place that he can escape to and be safe. Now there is this man who is encroaching, leaving him no place to hide.
What brought about Julia’s journey into entering Keira’s mind?
We’re interested in moving Julia to the next place. For a long time this season she has been very angry that she was not able to go to Brakebills and that a formal magic education was denied to her. In her mind it was really unfair. She can’t wrap her mind around it.
One of the important things we wanted to do was start to introduce her to people who have found another way. Richard is a really interesting magician who is doing progressive interesting things with his magic, but he was trained at Brakebills. Kiera, who [Julia] meets in this episode, is an incredibly powerful, quite brilliant magician who is completely self-educated to give Julia in essence a role model. Someone who can show her that she could really get beyond Brakebills, that there is surely more than one way to become and expert in your field.
We all know its true. College is awesome. It certainly makes it easier to get a hold of the nuances of what you want to study, but there are brilliant people all over the world that figured it out on their own. That seemed key to us in bringing Julia to kind of the next place in her development. It was to give her the opportunity to start to let go of the idea that she will never be a master magician because she didn’t get into Brakebills.
The importance of it wasn’t the spell that she as working on with Keira, but moving past needing Brakebills in her life?
The spell is important too because in essence they are using a version of the spell she used to get into Quentin’s mind in episode four. It’s a direct mirror to one of the worst things she did as a hedgewitch. It’s right up there with standing by and not being able to save Hannah being the other heinous thing hanging over her head. She is genuinely very remorseful for what she did to Quentin and she says so in her way. Richard is offering her and opportunity to use the same spells she used for morally questionable reasons to do some good.
Has Julia found her redemption in helping Kiera die or is her road to self-forgiveness still laid out in front of her?
Julia will be circling this stuff in many ways as she gains experience and moves to new heights as a magician. This is a new door for her to walk through and its one where she will get to meet the types of magicians that hang out with Richard. People who have much higher aims than the hedge witches who were hanging out with Marina and Pete. These are people who are more ambitious, who are better magicians frankly, and whose aims are more mature and genuinely altruistic. That’s sort of like a new world and a really exciting one for Julia. One that challenges her in a good way.
Eliot has taken big emotional hit with last week’s revelation that the Beast was controlling Mike. He lashes out at Alice and the others at the end of tonight’s episode. How will this affect his relationships with the others?
It’s key with what is going on with him and something that we continue to explore in the next several episodes. The fact that Margo was out-of-town when this happened is another thing that is weighing on him that you’ll see in upcoming episodes. It’s a bit of a perfect storm for their relationship that they have been fighting, that she left, and this unfortunate timing that this terrible thing happened to and with Eliot while she was gone. He is someone who has always coped not by sitting down and chatting about his feelings, but by partying and trying to drum up a good time for everyone. He pushes things away harder and harder and faster and faster. We’ll see how that unravels for him.
In a previous episode we learned that one’s connection with magic grows around the hardships in one’s life. With everyone suffering in their own ways, what does this mean for the group moving forward? Can we expect their magical abilities to grow?
These things work the best when they mirror true about how humans are in the real world. If you took magic out of the story, what would be true? If these were young artists, scientists, or athletes and you put them through something that forces them to grow uncomfortably and to face themselves in a new way, of course that will come out in their work. That will enable them to reach for things that they were unaware of, that was outside their experience. It’s just a metaphor that we brought down to the idea of magic. The idea that who you are as a human and the expansion of your soul directly correlates with the kind of magic you can do. They’re focused and the mission is becoming more and more important to them. They understand the menace of the Beast on a level they didn’t before.
In the first episode the Beast knew who Quentin was. With four episodes left will viewers learn about the connection between the two?
We will answer the question of why and how he knew who Quentin was in the pilot. It will all become clear. We will definitely reveal it.
The episode ends with Penny touching the button and transporting to what the viewer can assume is Fillory. Can we expect to see what happens to Penny next week?
Next week you will see exactly where the button took him. We will pick him up right after his disappearance.
The Magicians airs Monday nights on Syfy at 9/8c.