[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 4 finale episode of The Magicians.]
The Season 4 finale of The Magicians completely and fundamentally changed the DNA of the show by killing off Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), and though we're devastated, we now have to ask the question: Where does the show go from here?
Plenty of series have killed off their main characters over the years (with varying degrees of success), and while it's slightly worrying that we'll no longer be able to see this story through Quentin's eyes, The Magicians might escape from this major shake-up intact. The show has plenty of stand-out characters and fan-favorites left to keep the audience engaged in the show. As long as Elliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil) continue to be their fabulous selves, will the show really change all that much? Yes and no.
It's undeniable Quentin filled the "Chosen One" archetype that not many existing characters will be able to fill (the show was even self-aware enough to call him out on it a couple of times). His fanboy mentality allowed the audience to identify with a guy who just desperately wanted to be magical and go on some noble quest to prove his worth. He also had a way of grounding the series very firmly in the real world since Quentin was usually the first to point out when something was ludicrous or impossible. That's not to mention he was also the glue that held the group together since their love (or tolerance, in Penny's case) of him is what united all of them.
The one person who could properly step into the shoes of a skeptical but idealistic narrator is actually one who received a lot more screen time in Season 4: Josh Hoberman (Trevor Einhorn). While Josh doesn't have the same quiet persistence that made Quentin so lovable, he did prove this year that, when given the opportunity to hang with the adventure squad, he could hold his own. It's hard not to be charmed by Josh's "lovable doofus" vibe, and so long as it's tempered with some solid character development next season, we're confident he can step up and become just as integral to the group as Quentin was.
Another possibility for filling Quentin's shoes involves adding a new character to the story who serves a similar purpose: uniting all these different people under one purpose. We can't really imagine a new, nerdtastic Brakebills student coming into this group out of nowhere, but the show's epilogue did hint at another possible option.
When Margo and Elliot returned to Fillory, they discovered they'd returned 300 years later, when Fillory was ruled by "the Dark King." And if that doesn't get you jazzed for next year, we don't know what will. Rather than uniting under a common friend, our heroes may have to unite against a common enemy next year if this Dark King turns out to be as malevolent as he sounds. This kind of foe obviously won't take Quentin's place in the traditional sense; rather, it will shift the narrative in a new direction the show has never taken before.
The show's future may feel up in the air right now, but at least we know one thing: Quentin's death will have a profound impact on next season's storyline and its characters. Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Julia (Stella Maeve), and Elliot, in particular, will no doubt have their own grief arcs where they learn to live without the man they all loved deeply and who changed their lives so much. Whether those journeys end up being self-destructive, despondent, or altruistic, time will tell.
One thing is certain, though: Someone else from Brakebills needs to spend the summer reading and re-reading the Fillory and Further books because, without Quentin's encyclopedic knowledge of Fillory and its ever-evolving oddities, these kiddos are going to be well and truly f---ed next year.
The Magicians' first three seasons are streaming on Netflix.