LGBT Fans Cry Foul At Magicians’ Death Scene

Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman) and Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) / Image via Syfy

Warning: Spoilers For The Season 4 Finale of The Magicians.

The Magicians’ Season Four Finale

Last week, Syfy aired the season four finale of The Magicians. Coincidentally, last week was also that time that The Magicians ostracized a fraction of its fan base. For, you see, the writers decided to kill off Quentin Coldwater. Who was, arguably, the lead role.

Yes, I must admit that I am a week late to this conversation. I had fallen behind and have only now binge-watched the last three episodes of the fourth season. Imagine my surprise, then, when I caught up and found out that Quentin died.

For those who haven’t seen the show/season (and still wish to read this article anyway), The Magicians is a fantasy series airing on Syfy. The show, which is based on a book series, follows a group of mid-to-late 20 something New Yorkers as they discover the existence of magic, go to the Yale-like grad school version of Hogwarts, and battle a series of evil monsters, Gods, and magical creatures.

Among the show’s cast of characters was Quentin Coldwater, a man dealing with mental illness and suicidal thoughts. In addition, the later seasons of the show started to explore Quentin’s sexuality and expressed his mutual love of a female flame in fellow character Alice Quinn and significant life partner Eliot Waugh.

Unfortunately, that storyline and character found its end with Season 4 episode 13 “Broke My Heart.” In it, Quentin sacrifices himself to protect his friends and the universe from a potential evil. And in writing his death, the show’s writers ended up betraying many of their fans.

And for those thinking Quentin could still come back, it looks like that’s not true. The show’s creators and Jason Ralph confirmed that the actor has officially left the show.

A statement from the executive producers:

“…Before we began this season, we entered into a creative conversation that included the writers, executive producer and director Chris Fisher, Lev Grossman, our partners at UCP and SYFY, and Jason Ralph. The choice for Jason to leave the show was arrived at mutually, with much respect for the story, fans of the show, and a shared sense of deliberate, essential creative risk. We want The Magicians to visit strange and fascinating new places and we know we can’t get there by treading the same garden path others have before us. So, we did the thing you’re not supposed to do—we killed the character who’s supposed to be “safe.” In real life, none of us are safe. 

When we first met Quentin Coldwater, he was in a mental hospital, contending with painful questions of life and death. This season, we saw the rare opportunity to complete his arc, bringing him to a real understanding of the incalculable value of his own life. Quentin, and we, got to see the truth: There is no such thing as a Minor Mending. The smallest action can ripple out in powerful ways we may never fully know.”

Fan Outrage

Here’s the thing, many people have gone to Twitter to express their outrage at the death. Many see it as the writers committing the incredibly annoying “Bury Your Gays” trope.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ characters are still only a fraction of the characters we see on tv shows. Yet, LGBTQ characters are often killed more frequently than their straight/cis peers. For instance, Autostraddle is continuously updating the list of lesbian and bisexual female characters killed on tv since the 1970s. The current number is 204.

Think of it like two jars of marbles. The straight marble jar is full. As such, when you kill off a character and take away a marble, you still have a large number of marbles. Meanwhile, the LGBTQ jar is less than half full. When you kill off a large chunk of those characters and take a handful of marbles away, you’ve got a pretty empty jar.

In addition, season four of The Magicians carried an overarching theme of diversity and perspectives. One specific episode, titled “Side Effects,” carried the message that the white male is not always the hero. It seems that the show’s writers are focused on making the show more inclusive and not the stereotypical white savior storyline.

This goes along with how the show has already been running for years. From season 1, The Magicians has made a conscious effort at being different from the book series. The show has totally sidestepped whole book plotlines and filtered in fragments of others at its will.

As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the season ended with Quentin’s death. This brings the message that no one’s safe. Anyone can die and the tv show is actively trying to be its own thing.

Image via Syfy

My Reaction

But how should we react to this change? While I’m not as angry as some other fans, LGBTQ or otherwise, I do admit feelings of shock and betrayal at this finale. As a writer, I applaud the show’s boldness in taking the story in an unexpected direction. But as a fan, I can’t help but feel stunned.

And here’s the thing. I liked Quentin Coldwater. Yes, as a queer person of color, I wish to see more diverse stories that don’t rely on the white male protagonist. But, that doesn’t mean I want the end of all white male perspectives.

In addition, the show already has a host of wonderful LGBTQ, female, and racially diverse characters. Many of which hold more importance and narrative pull than Quentin ever had. So, the celebration of these characters does not warrant the death of the white guy.

It seems that in this mutual crusade for representation and diversity, we’ve all ended up hurting each other. The show’s writers felt the need to actively and aggressively fight against the white male perspective. They then killed Quentin off despite his character arc being that he was a white male of average non-importance.

Meanwhile, fans of the series focused on the qualities that made Quentin unique. Namely, his blossoming bisexuality and his mental illness. As such, they focused on his death being the death of a queer character and a man battling with suicidal thoughts. Instead, of seeing the entirety of the character.

Quentin Coldwater

Quintin Coldwater was a geek and a nerd. He was an academic with self-esteem issues. He was a hero for daring to dream and act despite being terribly aware that he was average. He was a man who lost the innocence of magic but fought to bring it back. He was funny guy, a lover, a good friend, and person. Yet, he was a person who became a tool to multiple agendas.

All of this is to say, I’m shocked and am still processing the death of a character that I didn’t even realize I cared this much for. And while both sides have totally valid points in this discussion over Quentin Coldwater, let’s all take a moment to mourn the man and character as a whole. Yes, he was LGBTQ and he was a man battling mental health. Yes, he was a white male protagonist and a perfect tool for a shock factor change of story. But most importantly, he was a good character. And he will be missed.


Update: This article has been updated to include the quote from executive producers confirming that Jason Ralph and Quentin Coldwater have officially left the show.

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