Showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara explain why the show won’t continue.
Extremely bad news for all The Magicians fans out there: the Syfy series has been cancelled after five seasons. The Season 5 finale that airs on April 1st will serve as a series finale, as Syfy has opted not to move forward with another season.
While those of you intimately familiar with how The Magicians is made may be panicking right now because you know the show wrapped production last year, as it turns out the showrunners had a inkling this could be the end. As a result, the Season 5 finale was written so it could also potentially serve as a series finale should the show not continue.
Based on the trilogy of books by Lev Grossman, The Magicians first premiered on Syfy in April 2016 as an anchor for a rebranding of the network, aiming to get back to its Battlestar Galactica-esque roots of dramatic, critically acclaimed storytelling. And while those first couple of seasons hewed closely to the books, the writers quickly found their own groove and The Magicians grew into one of the best shows on TV. A grown-up Harry Potter with magic and creatures, but also a maturity with how it approached each character. Mental illness, depression, and addiction were frequent themes explored on the series, but it was in friendship and collaboration that the characters found their way forward.
So why is The Magicians ending? Creators Sera Gamble and John McNamara spoke to TVInsider about the cancellation, revealing that the show simply became too expensive:
John McNamara: It played out kind of the way it’s played out almost every season. With the exception of Season 4 into Season 5, we never knew whether or not we’re going to get picked up. It was always a discussion—never really about the creative—about the financials and you always know, with any show, that there’s this kind of fine line between what it brings in and what it costs. Sera Gamble: And as the creators of the show, we understand that. We had the sense going into this season that Syfy, in particular as our first platform, was kind of hitting the point of “The cup is full and there’s no more room.” McNamara: It’s not going to necessarily expand in terms of revenue, it’s not necessarily going to contract in terms of revenue, but it is going to cost more.
Initially, they tried to explore other options to keep the show going on a different platform, but McNamara says nothing was the right fit:
“We were aware that it was definitely not going to go forward in Syfy [when writing the finale] and that we were then going to want at least try to make a run at other platforms… None of them seemed in the end like a perfect financial or creative fit. And so we reluctantly just decided, ‘Well at least we have this season finale that was crafted to also be a series finale.’ It was kind of always going to pull double duty.”
Gamble said the cast was obviously emotional when learning that the show wouldn’t be moving forward, but understood given the show’s longevity that this season could be its last:
“Everyone is pretty savvy about how the business works. All the writers, the actors, our whole team. And so coming into this season, everyone was pretty level headed and aware that we had hit a certain point in the lifespan of this kind of show. And people were really emotional about it, but in many ways, that was because we’ve created a family over the last several years that really wanted to do right by the show. So aside from the musical that came out of John’s moment of denial, we tried not to indulge in any denial about it. We wanted to make sure it was a really satisfying conclusion. And so when [co-showrunner] Henry [Alonso Myers] and I wrote the finale, there really wasn’t a difference in approach to writing it because I honestly never counted on there being another season.”
As for whether the show was running out of steam, viewers can attest that The Magicians really proved in Season 5 that it could weather any storm. The Season 4 final saw the exit of protagonist Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) from the series (and the ratings did decline as a result), but the writers took that absence and ran with it, concocting a season that’s just as creative, compelling, and emotional as before.
Gamble and McNamara agreed that The Magicians isn’t ending because they ran out of story, and as for whether the fans could convince another outlet to pick up the series, McNamara isn’t ruling anything out:
“Obviously, neither Sera nor myself we’ll be like, ‘Boo, no, forget it!’ I kind of feel the DNA of this show has always been a kind of happy surprise that resulted from a kind of a happy accident… We never operated from a place of thinking we know what’s going to happen next. We just don’t. We kind of have to accept, again, the idea that television can be kind of analogous to life: It can be really unfair but it can also be incredibly surprising. So we just like wait and see what happens.”
Unfortunately, streaming services are currently focused on “shiny and new” rather than continuing existing series. Once upon a time Netflix made a name for itself by picking up cancelled shows, but now it’s not uncommon for a Netflix original series to be cancelled after two or three seasons. So it feels unlikely that Netflix would pick The Magicians up to continue on, despite the fact that many fans watch the show on that particular streaming service.
Which is a bummer, because The Magicians has consistently proven capable of churning out creative solutions to significant story or character problems. Five seasons in, the show showed no signs of slowing down, and as a big fan of the series myself I’ll be disappointed not to see these characters continue on. Although I’m heartened and thankful we got as much story as we did, because in the age of #PeakTV it’s incredibly difficult for any series to break through the noise. The Magicians not only broke through, it became the life of the party—for those who were cool enough to find it.