The Magicians Season 4: The Quiet Fascism of the Library

The Magicians season 4 places magic under the authoritarian rule of the Order, and showrunner John McNamara explains the why and how.

When The Magicians season 4 begins on January 23, 2019, it will return to a world that is thankful to have magic back and terrified to have it taken away again. According to showrunner John McNamara, this atmosphere of fear is the perfect breeding ground for fascist rule, and the Library, and Mageina Tovah’s Zelda in particular, is more than happy to step into the role of the benevolent but controlling protector of magic.

McNamara spoke to us from the set in Vancouver about how this new world order snuck up on The Magicians fans and on the characters themselves. “Germany didn’t happen overnight in the 1920s and ’30s. France didn’t fall under fascist rule overnight,” he reminded us. “It’s always a series of very small choices. And what I kind of like about this season is it doesn’t start with armed guards storming in and taking over The Library… That’s kind of a child’s version of fascism.”

Instead, there’s a sense in The Magicians Season 4 that strong rule is needed to protect magic users from themselves. “What you’re seeing is people of the Library, who I think are at heart pretty good people, but they’re perceiving the fact that they don’t have control as the problem, rather than the problem is that there’s always going to be chaos, and it’s how you deal with chaos,” explained McNamara. “They want to eliminate chaos, so they have really good intentions in a way. And I’m not saying that Nazis had good intentions or Stalin had good intentions, but I do believe that it happens in incremental stages.”

The Library definitely has an important enemy to combat in the form of the entity that is inhabiting Eliot’s body, but their miserly, administrative view seems to have lost sight of that, almost becoming an evil themselves in their denial. “We wanted to keep the morality — not ambiguous because obviously there is right and wrong,” McNamara told us. “But… sometimes you do something evil to fight something evil. And then you have to ask yourself, ‘Well, am I now evil?’ That’s an interesting theme that runs throughout the entire season. But The Library is definitely a growing fascist virus.”

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Zelda likely doesn’t see it that way, but Dean Fogg must have had his reasons for agreeing to put himself and Brakebills under the thumb of the Order. “People who live in a fascist regime often are not staying in that regime out of fear. They’re seduced by the power,” said McNamara. “Democracy’s complicated. Fascism’s actually quite simple. You just follow the orders of the leader, and you never question that leader. And if you do so, effectively you’re rewarded immediately and vigorously.”

Viewers should be prepared for some characters in The Magicians season 4 to placidly accept the rule of the Library even as others, like Alice, fight back. “Fascism is like, ‘Look, we took over that building and burned all the books. That was a great night.’ It’s like a sugar rush,” McNamara conceded. “And one of our characters in The Library is pulled into that and walks up to the edge of, ‘Maybe I’ll just be a fascist. Maybe that is better. Maybe it’s a better way to try to keep the world safe.’”

Or maybe not.

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