If you’re a hardcore fan of The Magicians like me, chances are you’ve watched last year’s Season 4 finale. In “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry,” our lead protagonist Quentin Coldwater made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life so magic could exist uninhibited. Needless to say, the choice to kill off Quentin received backlash aplenty in the days after the finale aired. However, we learned that said choice was very much a premeditated one, known only by the Powers that Be and actor Jason Ralph.
Now, axing a lead character who suffers from depression/anxiety and suicidal ideation may come off as problematic. In fact, many fans felt this was a deliberate slap in the face to those living with mental illness. Not to mention, the seeds for Quentin’s burgeoning romance with Eliot (Hale Appleman) had already been planted. There’s not a lot of bisexual representation on TV. Q filled that role to perfection. Some felt his death aligned with the “bury your gays” trope, which tends to run rampant in television.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions and one’s feelings are 100% valid. Not often does a series write off a lead character in which the majority of the plot revolves around them. However, The Magicians went there. Now, Season 5 started off a bit wonky in my humble opinion. There was a Quentin Coldwater-shaped hole residing in the world of magic. But the series quickly found its footing once again and managed to surprise me.
Thankfully, there are several multi-faceted characters within The Magicians realm that are getting their time to shine. Not only that, but the show’s take on the grief process is as poignant as it is respectful. Like handling a delicate teacup, the series gracefully showed us that grief comes in all shapes and sizes. One size doesn’t fit all. Alice’s (Olivia Taylor Dudley) grief trajectory differs from Julia’s (Stella Maeve), as does Eliot’s personal grappling with Quentin’s passing.
Now, I’m just grateful the show didn’t sweep his death under the rug. His presence is very prevalent. It even appears the characters’ grieving journeys will be a story arc on its own.
Ever since the Season 4 finale, I’ve been wanting to put into words just how much Q meant to me. His mental health struggles profoundly resonated with me, as they did with many viewers around the world. I have clinical depression and anxiety. In 2018, I lost someone very dear to me, and I’ve been wandering down my own grief path ever since. I’ve also struggled with suicidal ideation. Thankfully, I’ve found catharsis in art, namely writing and music. Just as Quentin found solace in magic, creativity is my form of magic.
Now, if I were to write a letter to Q, what would it contain? Well, for starters, I believe the letter would serve as a bon voyage. Just as Alice finally got to say goodbye in Season 5 Episode 2, albeit to a golem of 12 year-old Q. Perhaps it would be something like this:
I don’t know if you can get letters where you are, but I’ll write this anyway. Your story struck a chord with me. Watching someone realistically grappling with the ups and downs of mental illness gave me hope. You clambered out of that dark chasm by way of magic, and you found hope through the bonds of friendship. I’ve also learned to foster a strong support system for when those moments of darkness overcome me. Magic comes from pain, just as I suppose art does too.
I hope you don’t view your sacrifice as a suicide. Your martyrdom didn’t stem from a place of pain, but a place of unadulterated love. A love for your friends and a love for magic. Magic now runs freely because of you. You can rest easy in that knowledge. You fought for something bigger than yourself, and that’s beyond admirable. You’re a hero in more ways than one. Never forget that.
Now, I bid you farewell, Quentin Coldwater. Gone but never forgotten. When I think of magic, when I think of hope in the face of despair, and when I think of light amid the blackest of nights – I’ll think of you. You’ve shown me that there’s magic all around us and in us. I plan on making the most of mine.
This article was originally published 1/29/20
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