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The Magicians’ heroes are going on an ‘emotional journey’ in season 2

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It’s going to be a more musical show

The Magicians NYCC 2016 panel
The cast and showrunners of Syfy’s The Magicians, with panel moderator Aisha Tyler (left), at the Hammerstein Ballroom during New York Comic Con 2016.
Samit Sarkar/Polygon

How will The Magicians move forward after the shocking cliffhanger that ended the show’s first season?

Well, one of the themes of the show is that being able to perform magic doesn’t solve your problems. And for the Brakebills students, things only get more difficult from here.

The main cast of The Magicians, the TV series based on the trilogy of fantasy novels by Lev Grossman, met at New York Comic Con yesterday to discuss the show’s second season, which premieres in January 2017 on Syfy. Encouraged by panel moderator Aisha Tyler, the actors — along with showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara — divulged a few details on what’s in store for our heroes.

[Note: The following contains spoilers for the first season of The Magicians.]

The Magicians NYCC 2016 panel - Stella Maeve / Olivia Taylor Dudley
Stella Maeve (left) and Olivia Taylor Dudley during the Magicians panel at New York Comic Con 2016.
Bryan Bedder/Syfy

Let’s take a step back and recap the controversial conclusion to The Magicians’ first season. Julia, looking for revenge after being raped by the Reynard the Fox, makes a deal with the Beast to hunt down the trickster god. She steals the weapon that her Brakebills friends were hoping to use in their fight against the Beast, leaving them helpless in the battle. The Beast spares Quentin but cuts off Penny’s hands, and knocks out Eliot, Margo and Alice.

Julia’s betrayal thrusts the group into chaos just as the characters are confronting a literal new world in the form of Fillory, said Olivia Taylor Dudley, who plays Alice: "They’re on a downward spiral, and then this season, they have to try to come back up."

Dudley added that many of the relationships between the characters "will be burned for a long time," but in the meantime, "You’ll get to see everybody find new relationships." That includes Dean Fogg — actor Rick Worthy noted that his character will continue advising the Brakebills students, and added that "there’s a little bit of romance coming for me in season two."

Eliot and Margo had one of the closest relationships on The Magicians, but they drifted apart somewhat over the course of the first season. Now, with Eliot being occupied by his position as High King of Fillory, Margo — who is named Janet in the books — has to figure out who she is without him.

Summer Bishil, who plays Margo, said the character holds her own in the second season even as she’s confronted with "exceptional circumstances"; she got the nickname "Fillory Quentin" in the process of filming, for everything Margo has to put up with. "You definitely see more of the Janet from the books," Bishil said, describing her character as a confident, capable magician in her own right.

Penny is alone, too, having been left at Brakebills South by his love interest, Kady. Now, said actor Arjun Gupta, Penny has to make a decision about whether to pursue magic (which, in the universe of The Magicians, is conducted primarily with hand motions). The character isn’t changing too much, however — "Penny still hates everybody," Gupta quipped. Kady is fending for herself in the real world, presumably, and actress Jade Tailor said during the panel that "you get to see [Kady] go through more of an emotional journey" in the second season.

The Magicians NYCC 2016 panel - Sera Gamble / John McNamara photo
Sera Gamble and John McNamara, showrunners of The Magicians.
Bryan Bedder/Syfy

The year of experience that showrunners Gamble and McNamara have with the ensemble cast helps bring those emotions to life, they explained. McNamara said that "this season, for me as a writer, was much easier" because he has a better idea of each actor’s range and was able to write to their strengths. The season will represent some of McNamara’s personal interests as well: Because he’s a huge fan of musicals, we’ll see "several musical numbers" next year, said Gamble.

Music isn’t the only aspect of The Magicians that’s expanding in season 2. McNamara said that creating believable versions of magical realms like the Neitherlands was a challenge "especially in season one, when we didn’t really have as much money." It’s good, then, that the budget is increasing, since so much of the second season takes place in Fillory. "I didn’t want it to look like bad Robin Hood," said McNamara.

Gamble and McNamara also hinted that plenty of battles lie ahead in the second season. According to Gamble, the writers realized that they had to slow things down toward the end of season 1, to focus on Julia’s storyline. A massive battle with the beast is the climax of the first Magicians book, but Gamble said "there was just too much fight to do in one season finale" — and the season 2 trailer that the audience saw at the end of the panel indeed featured a lot of magical fights. We’ll see how it all shakes out when The Magicians’ second season debuts in January on Syfy.