We recapped this week’s episode of The Magicians with Hale Appleman to mark the watershed moment for his character.
For Eliot and Quentin, the episode begins with another clue. Thanks to Quentin’s obsessive research skills, they have reason to believe that another key can be found back in Fillory. They simply have to solve a mosaic puzzle that resides there. The task? To create a design with tiles that is supposed to ‘reflect the beauty of all life’. So, you know. Simple. Not vague at all.
The prize at the end of this puzzle? “A key to greater magic.”
You can see why Eliot is ready to jump at the chance to chase this clue. But what they both soon come to realize is that it isn’t as simple as that.
When the two arrive in Fillory, they instantly realize that they haven’t just returned to the magical realm. They went back in time.
After they arrive, we learn pretty quickly that Eliot and Quentin are going to have to commit a good portion of their time to this task. Like, maybe the next 40 to 50 years of their lives…
As soon as they lay their eyes on the mosaic in question, they realize they have quite a challenge ahead of them. But it gets worse. Not only are there hundreds of thousands of patterns to try, they can’t create a single one with magic…
Year after year slips by, and before you know it the two wind up dedicating the rest of their lives to finding this key.
This quest thing is a bitch.
What this means for us as audience members, though, is that we get to see these characters in a space they’ve never been before. A domestic bubble of quiet happiness. Something almost unheard of in the world of The Magicians. This rare opportunity allows us a special look into what these men are made of, who they become, and where they might be headed in the future.
Lucky for us, we were able to spend some time chatting with Hale Appleman about each of these things – plus more!
We started by speaking about how far Eliot has come in terms of his willingness to commit to this quest despite everything it requires of a person. Appleman agreed instantly, “Eliot is willing to see this through no matter what it takes. Which isn’t something you could have said about him in the first season or at least the first few episodes. He was, uhh… not that reliable.”
Throughout the episode we see little glimpses into their life. How they’re coping, or not coping, which eventually leads into a larger montage of their full time together. But we were instantly curious about how these moments came together and what it was like filming such a broad scope of Eliot’s life. “Here’s the real truth of the script that we got,” Appleman began. “It existed in more of a structured format than what you see in the final edit.”
“So that montoge you see, was also a collection of a lot of little scenes that were extended and that had a little more dialogue and a lot more nuance between these two characters. Hopefully that montage retains the essential elements of what our writer Mike Moore created. I think it does. But what Jason and I had to work on was a little bit more material than what you actually see.”
Appleman went on to explain that he and Jason took great care to unpack this episode from beginning to end to make sure they hit every beat they wanted to. “[Jason and I] worked through the script together several times. And really thought about each stage they were going to be at during every different moment, and how we wanted to examine and express our characters together. We were very thorough in, you know, really discussing what we felt was important for the whole shape of the episode and make sure that we did all the moments that we wanted to hit as characters. Sometimes those moments make the cut and sometimes they don’t and that’s just the nature of TV.”
Something that got refined a bit between shooting and the final edit? “There was a lot of stuff and a lot of build up to some of the crucial moments,” Appleman said. “Like the moment where they kiss. There was a whole scene that led into that moment that sort of established you know, Quentin being the aggressor in that situation. Quentin needing that physical comfort from Eliot at that point.”
While working on the mosaic, Eliot and Quentin start to build a life for themselves in Fillory. Eventually, Quentin falls in love with a woman named Arielle and they have a son together named Rupert. (And yes; Appleman also suspects the name is a nod to Rupert Chatwin. How could Quentin miss the opportunity to name his child after a character from his favorite book?)
We don’t see Arielle and Eliot spend much time together on the show, but Appleman believes that the two had a close bond. “I think that they were family. I think that they were essentially in love, you know, with each other. There was a familial bond there. I think that her child also became Eliot’s child. And yeah. I think they were family.”
“I think that they were family.”
Tragedy strikes pretty quickly though when Arielle passes away and their nuclear family slips down to three. Eliot and Quentin are left raising Rupert on their own. For the next 20 years, he lives with his two dads until we see him move out and start a life of his own while Eliot and Quentin stay behind to continue working on their puzzle.
Although Rupert is, in a strange way, Eliot’s second child, we asked Appleman if raising Rupert might influence how he treats his daughter, Fray, in the future. “I mean honestly I think that’s a really astute point,” Appleman begins. “I think that Eliot is suspicious of Fray as his actual daughter. But over the course of this season you’ll see little moments where he warms to her a little bit because I think that they do have a connection.”
“He tries,” Appleman stressed. “For some reason with Fray it’s still really difficult for him because she’s difficult. So they’re a little difficult together. But he does try. He has moments of tenderness.“
Establishing that father daughter connection isn’t without hope if Appleman’s enthusiasm is any indicator. After stressing his genuine love for the actress playing Fray (Madeleine Arthur), he showed a strong interest in the two getting to spend more time together. “We’re really lucky to have her on the show. I love working with Madeleine. I wish that we had even more than we had this season. I just think she’s terrific. I would love for Fray and Eliot to go on a quest together!”
Not that he’s trying to push any sort of narrative agenda or anything but, “You know – in good faith. That would be really interesting to see what a true bond between them would really look like and I wonder if that’s in store for us in future installments.”
If this experience has the potential to affect Eliot’s relationship with Fray, we had to ask if it would affect any of Eliot’s other relationships. “You know, I don’t know that it necessarily changes his relationships with anyone else? I think it more solidifies the bond between Quentin and Eliot. It’s a real benchmark episode for these two characters.”
“In every future episode,” Appleman continues. “Fans of the show will have this episode as context for how close these characters are and how much they actually do understand one another.“
And that bond is a powerful one if we base it off of the actors thoughts on these two characters. “I think it’s fated that they ended up together,” Appleman shared. “Living out the end of their days. I think that’s not an accident. I think that it’s fated for them to have this kind of connection. I think Quentin and Eliot – both in the books and in the show now – have a deep understanding of one another. Or at least a kind of cosmic connection; soul connection. There’s a deep brotherhood and a deep love there and I think that’s very important to showcase. And I think that both of these characters have an understanding. One of those unspoken friendships, in which you don’t really have to explain yourself. You just understand who they are and take them for all of their flaws and all of their great attributes.”
Eventually, Eliot makes the ultimate sacrifice to attain the key he spends his whole life looking for. He passes away. And as Quentin is burying the body of his lifelong partner, he discovers one golden mosaic tile hidden within the dirt.
As soon as the puzzle is solved and the key is retrieved, Jane Chatwin shows up ready to take it off of Quentin’s hands. He reluctantly hands it over, because he knows she needs it to protect the world from The Beast. Because, you know, he lived through that part. But Quentin also knows that he can send a message to future Margo as well. He can point her in the direction of the key, now that he knows Jane had it all along.
We don’t want to get caught up in all the timey-wimey schematics, but by Margo interrupting the paradox, the alternative timeline is disrupted. Which means Eliot and Quentin never go back in time, Quentin never meets Arielle, and Rupert is never born. The twist however? Eliot and Quentin somehow remember their time together in Fillory. Even though technically… it never happened.
“I think that part of what’s interesting about a show like The Magicians,” Appleman had to say. “It takes these characters on all of these wild rides; and sometimes those experiences are defining experiences for the character and you can’t undo what’s happened. You just don’t, as a person, or a good character, or as an audience member, don’t rewind time. And I think that builds a really long withstanding yarn, story, that is all the fabric of the show and the fabric of these characters and their actions.”