SciFi Weekend: The Magicians and Counterpart Season Finales; Star Trek Movie Scripts; CW Arrowverse Renewals

Last week featured the season finales of two excellent shows, The Magicians and Counterpart. While I rarely watch fantasy as opposed to science fiction, I found The Magicians to be an excellent show from the start, and the past third season was the strongest yet. The third season does depend upon knowledge of earlier events, and I would recommend that those who have not watched start at the beginning. The sections on both of these shows will have major spoilers beyond the introductory paragraphs recommending both shows.

The second season of The Magicians (finale reviewed here) ended with magic being turned off, leading into a season-long quest to find the keys which would allow magic to be turned on again. My (minor) disappointment in the finale comes from seeing that they technically succeed, but there is no time to enjoy the success. Instead the finale leads into what is presumably the plan for next season. Magic is back, but under the control of the Library. Brakebills is again teaching magic, but is being severely rationed. The memories of  Quentin, Julia, Eliot, Margo, Kady, Josh, and Penny 23 were wiped as part of a deal which left them alive. Julia temporarily had goddess powers, but had to give them up. Alice is a prisoner of the Library as punishment for breaking their deal.  Eliot is under the control of the Monster, has found Quentin, and wants to play.

Entertainment Weekly discussed the finale, and what comes next, with showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The theme of sacrifice was really big in the finale. Why did you decide to focus on that in the finale?
JOHN MCNAMARA: I think that theme is very much in all three of Lev Grossman’s books. It felt like we had reached a point in season 3 where sacrifice is, in a way, unavoidable because the situation is so dire and so enormous and involved a lot of well-meaning but flawed people, as happens in life, and that sacrifice really is one of the key ways in which you make changes to the world in the real world. We always start with, “What would happen in the real world without magic? What if this show was just a drama about college kids? What if these college kids were in an extremely high-stakes situation? Now let’s layer in fantasy as a kind of metaphor for depression, or conflict, or fascism, and then tell the story through that lens.” As Rod Sterling discovered with The Twilight Zone, you can say a lot of serious things about the world but keep it really entertaining if it’s through the lens of fantasy.

With this finale, what did you want to say about the world? 
JOHN MCNAMARA: It’s weird. [Laughs]
SERA GAMBLE: Well, we always had in mind that they would heroically succeed in their epic quest this season, but that they would also lose. Part of the point of telling the story about these particular young magicians is that they have just a little bit of power at their fingertips as they try to move through a world that is so much bigger and more powerful than they are. That’s how it feels to be stepping out in the real and adult world. Sometimes it feels like you have just enough strength to make a little bit of change or to do a little something for yourself and the people around you, and sometimes it feels completely f—ing futile. The tension between those two, I think, is actually part of what defines feeling like an adult. That’s something that tends to organically enter into their stories. When they have a victory, especially when that opens up a door into more life, there’s usually a sh—y part to it, and this was finale was no exception.

At what point did you guys come up with the idea that the season would end with their minds/personalities being wiped?
MCNAMARA: Pretty early on we had this idea of magical witness protection. Although I don’t think we were totally sure of where and when and how we’d use it, but I just know it was an idea we all liked. Once we sort of figured out it would be the coda for the season finale, it felt like it was the right plan. Structurally, you get a satisfying, successful ending to the quest, which I, as an audience, would really want, and then you just get all these ripples, tsunamis of complications that result from that. “Be careful what you wish for” is one of the most common themes of fairy tales, and here we are: Be careful what you wish for, magic is back, and you have no idea who you are.

The biggest twist of the finale was that this monster has taken over Eliot’s body. How did you land on Eliot being the one it takes over?
GAMBLE: We know that the actor who plays Eliot is amazing. When you’re fortunate enough to produce a TV show for a few seasons, hopefully you’re learning lessons along the way about things that work. One lesson we learned in season 1 is that if you have a great actor, really think about that. We learned that when we cast Mackenzie Astin to play Richard. We had it in mind that we would kill Richard when Reynard entered the story and we would have to cast Reynard, but very quickly when we started seeing the dailies of Mackenzie, we realized we were never going to be able to top him. It was hard to imagine someone doing more with the role. At the risk of patting ourselves on our backs, we were right. That was really the inspiration. We talked about that in the room, about how it just meant so much more to us when we were watching Reynard on the screen. There was just this little extra wistful feeling of unfairness that came from the fact that he was inside of the body of this character who was so good and was really being violated.

The stakes are so much higher with this monster being inside of Eliot, someone they care so much about. It really changes their whole approach. It’s not as simple of a question as, “How do we kill this f—er if this f—er is in fact killable?” There’s also the equally important question: “How do we save Eliot, if he can still be saved?”

One of the late-season twists was the Penny from our timeline being replaced by a Penny from another timeline. What went into deciding to introduce this new Penny instead of coming up with a way for our Penny to be resurrected?
GAMBLE: We didn’t want to do the same thing we always did. We assumed that the audience would expect us to save Penny. Of all the characters, I have to double-check the statistics here, but I’m pretty sure we’ve had him near death as much or more than anybody else. We’ve saved him from certain doom several times over the last few years. To be completed honest, when we entered the season we were like, “He’s got the super cancer and we’re gonna have to find a way to fix that [in a way] that feels fresh and feels different.” Because we ask these questions in the writers’ room, one of the questions we asked was, “What if we just don’t save him this time?” Of course, first there’s silence and fear and your stomach drops because you can’t kill Penny; Arjun Gupta is a series regular and we like Penny!
MCNAMRA: And Arjun!
GAMBLE: And both are important to the story. But the beautiful thing about working on a show like Magicians is that you can ask that question and very weird answers will start to present themselves, and very soon we started to realize that the best thing we could do for the character of Penny would be to kill him, and that was a way that we could end the season with something that, we like to think, nobody would ever see coming, which is that a completely different Penny is now walking around with our crew. Someone from a different timeline who has, for the past couple of years, been living an utterly different life than the Penny that we knew…

Looking ahead, what can you tease about what you have planned for season 4? 
MCNAMARA: Most of the cases of the new identities of our characters, their professions, are not what you think they are or what they look like. It looked like one thing, but in about half of the cases, it’s something completely different. We’ve only shown you a sliver of who or what they are, and that sliver is misleading.

Counterpart is part Fringe and part John le Carré  as there is now a new Cold War between two versions of the earth which split apart. There are differences in each. In one there are no iPhones and in the other Prince is still alive, with an attempt to smuggle over his most recent album to our earth. The more significant differences are between different versions of characters from each earth, with some having taken paths which are quite different from their counterpart. The series was picked up for two season, and the season finale leaves mid-story off after key events to be continued in the second season as opposed to being a finale of an arc as on The Magicians. Major spoilers to follow.

For most of the season the show was primarily about the the two Howard Silks (J.K. Simmons), with Simmons doing an excellent job of playing two different characters. The series showed added depth when it devoted an episode to secondary characters. Rather than feeling cheated that the main character wasn’t present, as often occurs when series give the main character a break in this way, the conflict between the two earths was better defined by giving Clare’s backstory and more fully developing other characters.

Over the course of the season each Howard, while having some degree of contempt for the other, wound up becoming more like their counterpart in some ways–which is hardly surprising considering that they are versions of the same person. The season became more compelling when each was in the other’s earth, and the season ended with each trapped, and having to make new alliances. The diplomatic crisis after the attack leads to a look at the control of each side, raising the question of whether the same Management is in control of both sides, or whether both evolved in a similar manner.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Justin Marks:

Howard Alpha kills Pope. How does that change him?

It’s a very big moment for Howard. In a lot of ways, the whole season has been about the areas of overlap between Howard Alpha and Howard Prime. Pope taught Howard Prime everything he knows about the spy trade. And he was blind to the truth about Pope early on in the season. There’s something fitting to the fact that Howard Alpha, in killing Pope — albeit in self-defense — was able to do what Howard Prime couldn’t ever bring himself to do, which is acknowledge that Pope has been manipulating him and that he’s the enemy.

Emily Prime warned Howard Prime about Pope — even giving him the news about his rendition order coming from Pope, and it still didn’t sway Howard Prime.

Yes. And you have to consider the source when it comes to Emily Prime because Howard Prime seems to have such a difficulty forgiving her for past transgressions. When it comes to the relationship between Emily Prime and Pope, there’s no love lost there. So, for her to be the siren warning him, it’s hard for Howard to believe someone like that.

The two Howards are slowly moving closer to the core characteristics of the other. Howard Alpha is becoming more hard-boiled and Howard Prime is showing more vulnerability than he ever has. Is that the whole character arc for them at this point?

Yes. It’s the question that we have always wanted to do: explore this question of which Howard is the true Howard. The answer is it’s a combination of the two and where the center is, is a question that the series wants to figure out by the end of its run. We don’t ever want to place a pin on that map firmly as we go through. At the beginning of the series, the two Howards are very different. One has more empathy, while the other has a little more of a brutal honesty with himself and with the world around him. As the season goes on and they begin to inhabit each other’s lives, they begin to cave in the direction of their other, whether it’s conscious or unconscious. And as they do that, the question is, where do they meet? Do they meet closer to Howard? Or do they meet closer to Howard Prime? So far, it’s unknown. We always saw this show as this Darwinian battle, and Pope even calls it that; it’s between two versions of the same self when it comes to the survival of the fittest. In some ways it’s two sides of the same soul that are fighting to occupy the same real estate and where they land is an anyone’s guests at the end of the first season, except to say that they’re closer together…

Would the old Howard Prime have made the deal with the assassin Baldwin (Sara Serraiocco) when he first crossed over?

No, not at all. And would Baldwin have made the deal with him?

Being in our world has profoundly changed her as well, especially since she witnessed her doppelganger being killed. She now wants this storybook life. But can she truly find that? Just who is the real Baldwin?

When it comes to Baldwin and her counterpart Nadia, she saw in Nadia someone who clearly at the beginning of that second episode, had a somewhat of a contempt for her other and we play with it a lot in these characters. There’s an extent to which they covet what the other has, or what the other has done or has endured or not endured. The reveal is that both of them suffered that same trauma and Baldwin questions why her other was able to overcome that trauma of watching their father die and essentially being complicit in the act by not trying to save him. How is it that Nadia was able to do what she did and then the reveal that Baldwin had turned her pain outward to the world as a killer. She wears her scar on the outside of her clothes, so to speak. Nadia had turned her pain inward toward herself and Baldwin realizes at that moment that you are born back against your own trauma; that there is no escape from it. And if there is no escape from it, then isn’t it likely that she can possibly fight against that and erase it and create a new identity for herself. That’s what she’s doing: She’s going to try to build a new identity and that’s what she tries to do, to mixed success, in the first season.

When Clare meets Peter in the hospital after the intentional car accident, she realizes he has cast his lot with her, that the accident was his way of setting up an alibi for them, so in a way she owns him now. As a result, putting Peter in charge of the Indigo investigation is like the fox guarding the hen house.

Yes. Clare becomes what she needs to be in order to survive. If she needs to be Baldwin’s lover. she’ll be Baldwin’s lover; if she needs to be Quayle’s wife, then that’s what she’ll be. She is at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to the birth of this child. A child born of two worlds is a very complicated thing that she probably did not see coming when it came to stretching her loyalties. Quayle is the father of her child and he is the reason she is still alive because it’s her mission to handle him, to run him, to siphon intelligence from him. So she is just as much a victim in this marriage as he is. They’re both victims of this pretentious idea of a marriage where they were both using each other for their own separate needs. For Quayle it was ambition, and for Clare, it was this man who is well connected, who she was going to steal intelligence from. Moving forward, both of them have a lot to learn when it comes to finding a truth. But they are moving toward each other in a strange way. And the power dynamic continually shifts as it does in every marriage.

Let’s talk about what is probably the most unusual conference call in the history of TV between the two worlds.The very unusual tech involved is virtually identical. Are the members of management on both worlds the same people?

That is something that is potentially being suggested. The answer is a lot more complex and it’s an answer that our second season really wraps its arms around: Who is management? What is their history? What is the history of the crossing and the history of the Office of Interchange? How did it really form in the first place and why? And how it developed over the decades. We understand why Indigo is driven toward some sense of revenge against our world. What we haven’t yet seen a lot of is how Indigo also came about and what its connection with management is. At the end of the first season, we wanted to introduce the idea of management in a way that wasn’t what we would otherwise expect because in the second season management is a kind of character of their own.

The show is a metaphor for the Cold War, and the crossing is very similar to Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin in the early 1960s, especially when the infiltrator dies in the no man’s land in between. Is the crossing your modern version of the Checkpoint Charlie scenario?

Yes. The whole season, allegorically speaking, I would call Berlin 1961, right as the wall was about to go up. That’s the story of the first season, where there’s clearly a Cold War brewing in every respect, but the wall hasn’t quite officially been drawn. The second season is the Cold War after the Berlin Wall has been formed and how people start to draw battle lines and how they escalate the spy game in light of the fact that diplomatically we are more hostile toward each other.

More in an interview with The New York Times:

This is a show which would benefit from freeze-framing, especially when it comes to the Crossing. Or even with the zany Management set-up in the finale.

I really hope people do freeze-frame. I want to invite people to watch it on that level of detail. I wanted the show to feel like a Robert Altman version of science fiction more than Fritz Lang. Altman left all these windows open where you could see Lyle Lovett wandering around in the bushes back there, and you’re like, “What is he doing and why is he doing that?” It feels like the frame is alive more than just its four borders. One of my favorite things to look at in freeze-frame are all the Interface documents, all that code. That’s the kind of stuff we really live for, because the weirder, the more out there, the more zany the concept is, the more rigid the execution has to be.

For the Crossing, everyone wanted to turn the lights up and let it be seen. I said, “No, let’s pull out all of these lights, and make it really dark, and leave people craving more detail.” If you freeze-frame it, look at the dead center of the Crossing the details on the walls speak to the origins of the Crossing. Management, we had so much fun with that. We found the two strangest, most brilliant actors to play the respective Operators on either side in the finale. What kind of governing body protects the Crossing between two parallel worlds? The second season focuses in large part on the history and origins of Management…

The reveal that Claire Prime had taken this deep cover assignment to impersonate Claire Alpha was a major shock, not least of which to her husband, Peter Quayle, which continues that theme of men underestimating women.

I don’t think there’s anyone less qualified to have the job that he has than Peter Quayle. The person whose job it is to look for people who’ve infiltrated the organization doesn’t realize the woman he’s been sleeping with [is a mole]. There is a black comedy here, in Peter Quayle’s character, because Quayle — this philandering, underqualified, good-looking young guy — is a manifestation of privilege. We get to turn that inside out. And in the satirical manner of the last episode, Peter Quayle gets everything he ever wanted at the worst possible time.

I want to fill in Mira, the woman who trained Claire at the Indigo school for sleeper agents, because their ideology is a very important story for us in Season 2.

What about Emily Alpha? She figured out all the intrigue before anyone else did, and then spent the season in a coma. But now she’s starting to wake up.

There is always a temptation when you have that wife in a coma to idealize her, which is a little misogynistic, too. The only way we could convince Olivia Williams to do this show was to pitch her the two-season plan of who both Emilys are, and that the woman in the coma is in fact much more complex than any other character. Both Emilys, those are job descriptions that are typically reserved for the George Smileys of the world, the James Bonds of the world. [During filming] Olivia was walking through one scene with another male character, whose position is actually underneath her in the hierarchy of the show, but even then, the background actors look at the male she’s walking with and sort of nod, “Yes, sir” to him, not realizing that she’s the one who’s actually in charge in that scene. The clichés that abound, they speak to a certain gender norm that we didn’t want the show to reflect.

There are also interviews with J.K. Simmons here and with Harry Lloyd (Peter Quayle) here.

It is not certain if there will be (or even should be) further movies in the current Star Trek series. There has been talk recently about a script from Quentin Tarantino, which might provide a change. Zachary Quinto revealed on Entertainment Tonight Canada that there are actually a few scripts under consideration. From Dark Horizons:

Right now the future of the films are uncertain. The current cast contracts reportedly ended with the underperforming “Star Trek Beyond” in 2016, though several have expressed a desire to return including Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto.

Speaking with Entertainment Tonight Canada this week, Quinto offered an update on what’s going on with the films at the moment and revealed there’s up to three scripts in the works for the film:

“First of all, I think there’s a couple of scripts. Because there was a script being written before Quentin Tarantino came up with his idea for a potential film. And so I think they are kind of developing more than one. So I don’t know what is going to happen. Quentin is off doing another movie.

So, I feel like we are in a state of anticipation. All of us are really excited about the idea of working with Quentin on a Trek film, but I know Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, who wrote the last film, are writing a script and there are another set of writers writing a script. So I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Before the Tarantino reports, there was talk for a fourth film effectively closing out this alternate timeline “Star Trek” and would do so by bringing back Chris Hemsworth’s dead George Kirk from the 2009 film – the destruction of his ship the U.S.S. Kelvin being the incident that caused the alternate timeline.

I wouldn’t mind if the alternate timeline was dropped for future movies.

The CW Network has announced the renewal of most of their shows, including the entire Arrowverse:

ArrowThe FlashSupergirlDC’s Legends Of Tomorrow and Black Lightning have all be renewed, as well as Supernatural, which is currently the network’s longest running series with Season 14 on the horizon.

Non-genre shows that have also been given another season include Jane The VirginCrazy Ex-GirlfriendRiverdale and Dynasty.

In a statement, CW president Mark Pedowitz said: “As The CW expands to a six-night, Sunday through Friday schedule next season, we are proud to have such a deep bench of great returning series for 2018-19.

It is noted that iZombie and The 100 are missing from the list. They might be waiting until iZombie completes its current season which is now airing. The 100 has not started its season yet so the lack of an announced renewal is not surprising.

Hopefully it is not a sign that Amazon is moving away from quality shows. They have announced the cancellation of Mozart In The Jungle after four season.

Killing Eve begins tonight on BBC America. It sounds like it might fill in the gap on the television schedule for spy shows with The Americans soon coming to an end and Counterpart being done for the season.

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