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Fantasy gets real.note 

Margo: Magic comes from pain. The best way to get what you want is to be so miserable you don't want it anymore.
Quentin: What kind of system is that? You know, why can't it run on... love? Or cocaine? Or something.
Margo: It's the universe deep-dicking us. Lie back and try and enjoy it.
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The Magicians is a fast-and-loose televised adaptation of the book trilogy by Lev Grossman, airing on the Syfy channel.

Main character Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) has been a fan of Fillory and Further, a series of fantasy books set in a magical parallel world called Fillory, since childhood. Quentin realizes that he possesses magic of his own, and finds himself entering a Wizarding grad school called Brakebills University. The school offers much excitement and adventure and a colorful host of schoolmates, including the bookish genius Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudley), his unfriendly telepathic roommate Penny Adiyodi (Arjun Gupta), the aloof and rebellious Kady Orloff-Diaz (Jade Tailor), and the charismatic and adventurous upperclassmen Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman) and Margo Hanson (Summer Bishil). Meanwhile, Quentin's best friend since childhood, Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve), fails the entrance exam. She gradually grows obsessed with her newly discovered magic, and endangers herself as she immerses further into New York's magical underground.

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When an attack by a mysterious creature called the Beast sets off alarm bells at Brakebills, including blinding the hapless Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy), Quentin discovers that the beloved Fillory of his childhood is not only real, but very dangerous... and he and the others are destined for big things involving it.

The series is a mix of Urban Fantasy and High Fantasy, with the characters splitting their time between the magical land of Fillory and the more mundane fantastic setting of America. It is also a Genre Deconstruction of escapist fantasy — Fillory and Further, in particular, is an obvious analogue to The Chronicles of Narnia. The tropes of works like that and Harry Potter are played with more grit and realism, often at the characters’ expense.

The first three seasons are available on Netflix. The fourth season began airing on January 23rd of 2019.

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Provides Examples Of:

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  • Aborted Arc: About 10 minutes is spent trying to determine Quentin's house before it's given up on and he's listed as "unclear". What house he may belong to is never brought up again.
    • Q's discipline is revealed to be Minor Mending at the end of season 4.
  • Adaptation Deviation: Many minor and major differences here and there, some of the more important ones being:
    • The Beast’s power and its source: six fingers, sacrifice of his “humanity”, some knowledge and a deal with a god (books) vs. six fingers, removal of his “shade”, and drinking from the Wellspring (series);
    • Magic in Fillory gradually waning and becoming unreliable: Fillory was at the end of its life-cycle, dying (books) vs. the Wellspring getting bespoiled (series);
    • The old gods noticing humanity’s use of magic: Julia’s summoning of Reynard the Fox awakened other gods (books) vs. the killing of Ember made them retaliate;
    • Magic being disabled on a global scale: by making changes to the “matrix” upon which the many different dimensions reside (books) vs. some human-looking being walking into various magical places and “sealing” magic shut;
    • Creation of Fillorian gods: a sacrifice of a goddess gives life to Ember, Umber, and Fillory itself (books) vs. Ember and Umber have unmentioned “parents” who apparently care enough about the deicide to retaliate against Earth, Fillory, and the inter-dimensional Library.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In the first book of the trilogy that the show is based on, the entrance exam had a long section devoted to it. Here it's compressed to just showing us that the writing on the exam paper is frequently changing, and Quentin passes while Julia doesn't.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: Inverted. Early in the first book it's strongly implied that Dean Fogg knows who Jane Chatwin is, and is concerned that Quentin had met her. This is never mentioned again in any of the books, and given what we later learn it makes very little sense that Fogg would be aware of her. The show has them working together.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Janet Pluchinsky and Amanda Orloff from the novels get renamed to, respectively, Margo Hanson and Kady Orloff-Diaz. Lampshaded in Margo's case: when the group arrives at the Neitherlands: the librarian calls her Janet, but when Margo corrects her, she simply replies, "This time." - implying that the books and the television series are actually alternate timelines. When Margo's memories are wiped and she's given a new identity in season 4, she is called Janet again.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • Quentin was pretty depressive at the start of the first book, but he kept it bottled up for the most part and had never considered the matter serious enough to seek professional help. At the start of the series, Quentin has just been discharged from a mental hospital.
    • Alice, while undoubtedly fueled by grief over her brother's death, never became obsessed with discovering the truth about how he died and definitely never attempted to summon his Niffin self.
    • Penny didn't have much of a background to account for his unpleasant behavior - and he wasn't being secretly taught by the Beast. Also, in the book he is described as inappropriately enthusiastic, and possibly autistic rather than constantly angry
    • Though Eliot was bullied quite extensively when he was younger, in the novel he never committed Accidental Murder by magic.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • In the novel, Quentin and the rest of the class remain paralyzed by the Beast until he gets bored and leaves; the only one of them who manages to resist is Amanda Orloff, who isn't even able to finish casting a spell before being eaten alive by the Beast. More to the point, Dean Fogg's only involvement in the scene was leading the other teachers in an attempt to break through the enchantments around the classroom and rescue the students. In the series, the characters manage to put up much more of a fight: the Dean actually breaks into the class guns blazing, managing to at least fling the Beast against a desk before having his eyes ripped out; Quentin manages to teleport the Dean's time-controlling pocket watch into his hand and reverse the paralysis spell, allowing the others to escape; Kady tries attacking the Beast with battle magic (though she gets knocked out very quickly); last but certainly not least, Alice manages to cast a spell capable of killing the moth-cloud around the Beast's head, forcing him to retreat. Plus, Penny shatters the mirror before the Beast can try to come in again.
    • Meanwhile, the Beast himself is even stronger than his novel counterpart; in the novel, Alice was able to go toe-to-toe with him throughout their battle in Fillory, dueling him in several different shapes, and even doing enough damage to burn away his signature suit; even the rest of the group put up enough resistance to slow him down (with the exception of Penny who ended up getting his arms chewed off by the Beast before the fight began). In the show's version of the Fillory battle, the Beast manages a near-total party KO without even breaking a sweat. Quite apart from the fact that the god-killing knife was never considered or needed as a means of killing him, this particular battle in Fillory ends with the Beast dead, albeit at the cost of Alice's life and Penny's hands, whereas in the show, he survives.
    • This also happens as a result of the show wildly altering the timeline from the book series. Events that originally took place after Quentin had been studying magic for years now take place a few months into his education, when book Quentin would still be trying to move a marble. This is doubly true for Julia, who spent most of Quentin's first year at Brakebills trying to prove magic existed at all in the books.
    • Dean Fogg in the novels is a fairly realistic portrayal of an academic administrator. Namely, in the books he is a stuffy Obstructive Bureaucrat who sees himself as a gateekeeper whose duty is to prevent students he deems unworthy from achieving their professional or academic goals. In the series, he is more of a clever Trickster Mentor for whom Authority Equals Asskicking.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In the original novel, the hedge wizards Julia teamed up with were pretty sleazy and disreputable, but their initiation tests never involved being locked in a freezer, nor did they ever try to trap Quentin in a nightmare just so they could break into Brakebills. Plus, they never stooped to murder and memory-wiping.
    • Julia was driven to moral extremes by her desire to learn magic, but she never played along (however unknowingly) with any attempts to harm Quentin or Brakebills.
    • Likewise, Penny was undeniably an asshole throughout the first book, but he wasn't responsible for the disappearance of the unpublished Fillory book.
    • Additionally, although Christopher Plover was indeed a child molester, his crimes weren't this extensive.
    • Julia changed significantly as a result of being raped by Reynard; however, she never ever sabotaged Quentin and co's showdown with the Beast, nor did she make a deal with the Beast to get revenge on Reynard - in part because she was never invited to Fillory in the first place.
    • Ember in the books is too afraid to sacrifice himself to save Fillory, but in the show is deliberately destroying it out of boredom.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • The entire main cast in the season finale. In the book, this event was a marathon battle featuring Alice matching the Beast almost move for move with every spell in her repertoire, the rest of the group teaming up to pelt the Beast with magic, and Quentin - though badly wounded - managing to slow the Beast down by summoning a cacodemon into the fight; the whole thing ends with the Beast being slain, at the cost of Alice being transformed into a Niffin and vanishing into the ether. In the show, the entire party is taken out in the space of about thirty seconds, and the Beast survives - in part due to a character who wasn't even there in the books.
    • A first-year Brakebills student was able to bind a niffin. In the books, niffins are virtually unstoppable.
  • Addictive Magic: Julia's behavior in pursuit of magic resembles an addiction to such a degree that people close to her actually believe she has gotten hooked on drugs and she even agrees to go to rehab. It is later explained to her that there is a reason for that:
    Chaplain Richard: The reason you treat magic like a drug, is because the people that taught it to you act like drug dealers. They buy it and they sell it, and they fight and they fuck for it.
  • Adult Fear: Fen and Eliot finding out their daughter was still-born, minus all the fairy drama surrounding the incident.
  • Adults Are Useless: Downplayed since the protagonists are grad-school aged young adults (20s), but the older adult staff at Brakebills is never very useful when it comes to solving the crises of the day.
  • Adventures in Comaland: Quentin is put in one due to a magic spell that makes him think he's still in a mental institution.
  • Affably Evil: The Beast. By the time he takes a consistent active role, he’s somewhat sympathetic, and charismatic. If he didnt have the mountain pile of life-shattering trauma, he would have fit in well as a professor at the school. He probably wouldn’t even be considered the meanest one.
  • Age Lift:
    • Dean Fogg was an old man in the books. Here he's in his late forties at most.
    • On a smaller scale, applies to the main characters as well. Brakebills in the books was a standard college, while in the show, it's a graduate program, making them college graduates in their 20's instead of high school graduates in their late teens.
  • All Just a Dream: The episode, "The World in the Walls." The dream was created/reinforced/focused by magic, but it's still a dream.
  • Almighty Janitor: The bunnies. According to Alice the only thing they can't do is stack things.
  • Alternate Timeline: There are forty because of the time loops. Timeline 23 features in a couple episodes, once in season 2 and again in season 3. In that timeline, Julia got into Brakebills, she and Penny are in love, and Quentin is the Beast (after killing Martin Chatwin), among other changes. They bring Marina 23 and Penny 23 back with them after stopping Quentin.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • An entire class is magically paralyzed as a faceless man stalks around the room, then rips out Dean Fogg's eyes and breaks his fingers when he tries to intervene.
    • When the team visits the Plover house, they find that two servant children are still stuck there, trapped in an endless loop of being tortured and murdered by the owner's sister. Those three are real, but their presence also creates illusions from that day. The children and the sister can interact with outsiders, but the others cannot, since they're just scenery.
  • Anti-Villain: The Lamprey, a Puppeteer Parasite jumping from body to body while hunting down Alice, has a genuine grievance: Alice tortured and murdered all her children as a Niffin. As it learns about Alice's past and family, its train of thought shifts from "how do I make this bitch suffer the most" to "what kind of horrible, broken life did this person go through to develop and restrain a deep-seated desire for the suffering of all that is good" and by the end it has its answer, deciding to invoke a Cruel Mercy as punishment and spare only her mother, the person Alice hates most. Unfortunately, Alice isn't having any of it and tasers the Lamprey to death.
  • Arranged Marriage: As co-rulers of Fillory, Eliot and Margo frequently have to deal with the possibility of alliances being forged through their marriages.
  • Astral Projection: Penny gets this ability as part of being a Traveler.
  • Attention Whore: Alice's parents. They're what drove her out of the house into Breakbills.
    • Even after her death, their grief is still more centered around their needs. He dad wouldn't even brave the meter and a half off the ground he'd need to go to hang a mirror which would bring her spirit peace (he does eventually do it).
    • Her mother is worse, barely able to admit that she was never a good mother to her daughter, still pretending she was a fantastic influence, and even when she finally says the truth leaves the ritual because she "needs a moment".
    • And when the mana flow is cut off in Season 3, they utterly shatter into alcoholism and acting out. There's an entire episode dedicated to their complete mental breakdown.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning:
    • Invoked. In season 2, when everyone (except Penny) become the kings and queens of Fillory, Quentin insists on doing a simple ceremony, since it's kinda important. Eliot was planning to just plop the crown on his head without fanfare.
    • Julia also gets this (after the fact) from Lady Underground. Since the goddess takes a while to get around to explaining to Julia just what’s happening, the speech where she finally comes out and says she’s made Julia either a Chosen One or God Am I, the speech effectively becomes this.
  • Bad Future: The probability spell they use in episode 11 shows them all dying in 7 timelines out of 8.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Victoria looks surprisingly good, considering who had been torturing her for the last several years. Also as a general rule when something’s happening to the lead and secondary cast, whose appearances bounce back after an episode or two.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Discussed by Margo and some talking animals in Fillory. It turns out they want the right to have sex with and marry humans. Her approval leads them to support her as the High King.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Alice gained entry into Brakebills by stealing a set of Alumni keys from her parents, despite the fact that such keys are generally enchanted with a spell to make them impossible to steal.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Alice's parents have enchanted their house to be larger on the inside, which they can reconfigure at will. When magic is shut off in season 3, their house is shown to be a cluttered mess without the enchantment.
  • Bi the Way:
    • Quentin's had hookups with women and a serious relationship with Alice, has had a three-way with Eliot and Margo, and kissed Eliot in an alternate timeline. In 4x05, it's revealed that he wants to pursue a relationship with Eliot in the main timeline.
    • Margo's never shown to sleep with other women, but wasn't above flirting with the female Pirate King.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 4. The Monsters are gone, the villian is dead, magic is free in the world once more. Julia is just a magician again, Alice is the new Head Librarian, Eliot and Margo are reunited and Josh finally got his long awaited "I love you". But Quentin is dead, and his sendoff was both very sweet and very sad all at the same time.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Fairies gestate from eggs that grow off mushrooms.
  • Blatant Lies: “It’s very common knowledge that I’m a good person who lives to help others.” said by Marina Andrieski
  • Bloodless Carnage: Penny’s mentor kills himself with a sawed-off shotgun, which in real life would’ve made his head explode.
  • Bottle Episode: "The World in the Walls" has very few visual effects and takes place mostly in a single location.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Julia was a slightly entitled young woman who was pissed when Brakebills rejected her and took Quentin instead. Since then, she has been used by hedge witches who discarded her once they got what they wanted, at the expense of her friendship with Quentin. Also, she had to watch as Kady's mother, who was in a similar position that she was in, was murdered in a brutal fashion by Marina. All of this sent her to rehab. Then she accidentally summoned a demon who possessed a man and raped her.
    • Penny started off as a major bully to Quentin who stole his book from him and nearly got him kicked out of Brakebills. Since then, he has been through hell, with the Beast tormenting him to the point where he almost killed himself. Also, he found out that Kady was using him to steal things for Marina. While he was willing to help her, she abandoned him and broke his heart once Brakebills found out, so that she wouldn't take him down with her.
    • Marina was still a bitch in season two, but after she ignores Julia's pleas, she heads over to another hedge witch, only to arrive after Reynard got to her first. Then, she comes groveling to Dean Fogg for asylum, who soundly rejects her to protect his students from her. Somewhat humbled and very afraid, she goes back to Julia for help.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Quentin is devastated when he finds out that Christoper Plover, the author of the Fillory books, was actually an abusive rapist who terrorized Martin Chatwin while attempting to brute-force learn magic and travel to Fillory..
    • To a lesser extent, Quentin feels this way when he discovers Martin is actually the Beast. He clearly saw Martin as something of a self-insert, which has terrible implications for his future.
    • Pratically everyone feels this way about Fogg after he worked with the Library to control magic and mind-wiped them to protect them from Irene Mc Callister.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: The season 2 finale. Good news? Ember is dead and Fillory is under new management. Bad news? Humans killing lesser gods gets them on the radar of the greater gods, who shut off magic in retaliation.
  • Broken Bird: Professor Mayakovsky who seems like a tough badass but has a tragic past and is actually very frightened underneath it all, something which Quentin points out in the second season. Also the Beast, when we learn his secret identity. As well as Eliot, and Julia. In fact, the whole concept of losing one's shade could be interpreted as a metaphor for Broken Bird Syndrome and the sense of detachment that can be brought on by trauma.
  • Buxom Is Better: Margo comments on Alice's large breasts being her "assets" which she shouldn't hide under her modest outfit.
  • Call-Back: In "The World In The Walls", Quentin starts a flash mob in his "Music Therapy" session, singing "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift. He's hoping that Penny will pick up his thoughts in the real world, remembering how annoyed Penny became with hearing him mentally sing Taylor Swift songs in "The Consequences of Magic".
    • The first season finale's title is "Have You Brought Me Little Cakes?" in reference to Ember's question when meeting Julia and Quentin. The season two finale which focuses on Ember has the title "We Have Brought You Little Cakes".
  • Can Only Move the Eyes: The students in the pilot when Time Stands Still.
  • Captain Obvious: Margo complains of Julia telling them blatantly obvious things in figuring out how to use the god-killing knife against the Beast in the last episode of season one.
  • The Cast Showoff: Hale Appleman, Jade Tailor, Brittany Curran, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Trevor Einhorn, and Rick Worthy are all talented singers. With so much musical ability, it's no wonder the writers keep finding reasons for musical episodes.
    • Bonus for Jade Tailor, who is also a trained dancer who used to perform burlesque earlier in her career. So of course they found a way for her to do a burlesque number.
    • They also found an excuse to have her speak Hebrew because Jade Tailor is half-Israeli and at least somewhat fluent.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • Battlestar Galactica gets it four times over. It's referenced in season three, while Alessandro Juliani, who played Lt. Gaeta, as a brief part as a centaur in season two; Keegan Connor Tracy, who played Jeanne, has a recurring role as Professor Lipson; Michael Hogan, who played Col. Tigh, plays Edwin McAllister; Rick Worthy, who plays Dean Fogg, played Number Four of the human-appearing Cylons.
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer also gets this, as Leonard Roberts, Forrest Gates in Buffy, plays King Idri of Loria. And Felicia Day, who plays Poppy Kline, played a potential slayer named Vi.
    • Gossip Girl also gets it, with Jason Ralph (Quentin) and Stella Maeve (Julia) both having brief roles in the series.
    • Game of Thrones joined the party when Gethin Anthony, who played Renly Baratheon, showed up as the Irish god Aengus.
  • Changeling Tale: In a variant, Fray turns out to not be Fen and Eliot's real daughter, who died at birth.
  • Child by Rape:
    • Julia gets pregnant due to her rape by the trickster god Reynard, and decides to have an abortion. However, he, or it, stops this by forcing the doctor to kill herself. Later a magical abortion is successful, though not without side-effects.
    • John Gaines is a child of Reynard's from his last rampage.
  • Clique Tour: Eliot and Margo point out the different houses to Quentin in the first episode.
  • Color Wash:
    • The Library and the Neitherlands are washed with a desaturated brown/gray.
    • By contrast, the laboratory of the gods is portrayed as a highly saturated forest.
  • Conversational Troping: The characters are Genre Savvy fantasy fans and frequently discuss, lampshade, or converse the happenings around them.
  • Crapsaccharine World:
    • Brakebills looks light and fluffy, but the teachers make only token efforts to keep the students safe, it's not unheard of for entire classes of students to just disappear, and since magic is powered by pain this is actually a valid way of teaching it.
    • Fillory itself turns out rather different from Quentin's expectations.
  • Creator Cameo: Lev Grossman appears in "The Source of Magic" as "Dev Fleischman", an expert on the Fillory novels.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Implied. Although the Classical Mythology pantheon does the plot's heavy lifting, gods from other pantheons are mentioned in the setting as possible sources of divinity-related powers.
  • Condensation Clue: The first smiley-face left behind by the faceless-man entity is drawn as if by an invisible finger on a magically fogged-up mirror.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • The plot often relies on sheer chance to create or solve problems in this universe. For example Penny happens to grab the beast right before they can kill Raynard. If had been delayed even 2 seconds -after Raynard was dead but before Julia gave up the knife-, everyone would have lived happily ever after.
    • This is lampshaded hard, by a literal “good luck / bad luck” spell. While one team needs to benefit from good luck, someone on the other side of the spell needs to absorb all the bad luck. Played for laughs right up until Quinten’s dad kicks it.
  • Cool Boat: The Muntjac, pride of the Fillorian fleet. She's sentient, she's Bigger on the Inside and she can fly! She also has a carved skeleton of a deer for her prow and it looks awesome.
  • Cool Key: The Quest to restore magic involves collecting seven of these, each with their own magical attributes.
  • Cuckoo Nest: In "The World In The Walls", Quentin wakes up to find himself in his old mental hospital and is told that he has been hallucinating Brakebills. The people he meets there are patients and staff. Midway through the episode, it's revealed that Julia and the hedge witches have placed him there as part of a Batman Gambit to gain entry into Brakebills.
  • Cute Monster Girl: The questing beast Quentin and Penny go hunting after.
  • Dark World: Castle Blackspire is a dark, inverted version of Castle Whitespire, set in a Lethal Lava Land underneath it.
  • Deader Than Dead: At first a viewer might assume that Jane is only faking being dead\strangled to get free. Not so much after her head explodes in a shower of blood.
  • Death Is Cheap: Pretty much all the characters died 39 times before the first episode.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Richard is possessed by Reynard the Fox, a cruel trickster god, after he's accidentally summoned.
    • Later Quentin essentially gives Alice the niffin a "time-sharing" form in return for her help.
    • And of course when the Monster possesses Eliot and the Monster's sister possesses Julia
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Quentin becomes genuinely angry with Umber, calling him out for his part in creating the Beast by spurning Martin when he needed sanctuary from his abusive guardian and writing off Fillory as a lost cause.
  • Disappeared Dad: Both Kady and Harriet turn out to have a lot of conflicts with their mothers. No mention/appearance of their fathers though so far.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Julia begs Quentin to get her tested for magic again, and later he dismisses her achievements as "party tricks." She retaliates by trapping him in a nightmare from which people usually never escape. Though in her defense, of course, she didn't know that's what would happen.
    • A man curses Penny's newly-healed hands for insulting him, with the curse being so potent it would poison anyone who tries to cure him. It's later revealed Ember had stolen from the man, leaving him in a foul mood when Penny arrived.
    • Deconstructed when Margo declares war on Loria for tricking her into believing her castle was moved. For starters, it is a war that Fillory couldn't afford to have. Also, when they decide to have a duel instead, Eliot is nearly killed due to fluctuating magic. As a result, Margo ends up making a deal with the fairies to save Eliot in exchange for his unborn child...only to have Eliot rescue himself by agreeing to marry the King of Loria. This ends in Eliot and Fen's child being taken by the fairies and then dying. This also puts a major strain on Margo's and Eliot's relationship.
    • The Monster drags Quentin to Marina's apartment to make him watch as he kills Kady, Penny and Josh before killing him as well. Why? Because Quentin asked if he could have Eliot back after the Monster is done using him.
  • Downer Ending: Season 3. Let's see, Penny 40 is still in the Underworld, The Library controls all magic, Fogg is a sellout and a traitor, Alice is imprisoned, and the rest of the team was forced to forget who they were. Oh, and The Monster is on the loose, has taken over Eliot's body, and wants Quentin for its plaything.
  • Dragon Hoard: The dragon of the Hudson River has one, and Quentin and Julia have to give it something to be allowed passage to the Underworld.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • All of the Travelers kill themselves (except Penny) due to the Beast's threats.
    • In season 3, Kady attempts suicide by overdose when Penny dies in spite of her attempt to cure his cancer. Julia manages to save her, and Penny's spirit is still around because he was an Astral Projection at the time.
    • The fourth magical key attempts to do this to whoever holds it, creating a hallucination of the user that embodies all their negative traits. The hallucination then tries to talk the user into committing suicide. It varies in effectiveness based on the person. Some people give in almost instantly like Benedict who throws himself overboard within minutes. Quentin who has struggled with depression for a long time recognizes what is going on and is able to take steps to resist. Poppy seems to be nearly immune, just regarding its harassment as a nuisance.
    • The alternate Quentin, after realizing what he did without a shade.
  • Dutch Angle: The Library is consistently shot off-kilter.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The pilot shows what seems to be a much younger Plover typing at a computer, implying that the timeline had been wildly altered from the books. When we find out Plover's actual history, it seems to be much closer timeline-wise to the books.
  • Elective Monarchy: Fillory becomes one, and elects Margo High King.
  • Emotional Powers: One of the ongoing themes of the series is how trauma tends to increase raw magic potential.
    • Two of the most powerful casters in the series (Julia and The Beast) are both victims of rape.
    • Quentin is the angsty outsider emo kid, and shows well above average magical potential.
    • Subverted somewhat with Niffins, as they are devoid of emotion, and exhibit near limitless power.
  • Erotic Dream: Quentin has one involving Alice as Daenerys Targaryen and Julia as Leia in her metal bikini, while he himself is Indiana Jones. Hilariously, Alice/Daenerys rebukes him for not allowing the two to talk long enough to pass the Bechdel Test.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: Alice has this problem in the latter half of season three and some of season four, due to her actions as a niffin and when she briefly had Julia's god powers. This becomes a Deconstructed Trope as she tries to deal with it by destroying the keys to bring back magic. This only ends up costing Julia her godhood and getting everyone captured and mindwiped by the Library and Dean Fogg. Once their memories return, everyone, including Quentin, is pissed off at her.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Gearing up this way for Season 4 as about the only thing that went wrong with The Library's plan was that it released The Monster from Castle Blackspire.
  • Extraordinary World, Ordinary Problems: Eliot and Margo are unimpressed when they come to rule Fillory and have to deal with mundane problems like taxation, treaties, and agriculture.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Dean Fogg gets both of his eyes plucked out by the faceless man.
    • Julia's doctor is forced into stabbing herself through the eye with an instrument by Reynard, stopping her from performing an abortion.
  • Fake Memories: At the end of Season 3, Dean Fogg wipes the memories of all of the main characters except Alice and gives them fake identities to hide them from harm.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Plover’s sister doesn’t notice when Eliot empties his tea on the carpet.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: A myriad of fantasy creatures show up or are mentioned, both on Earth and in the High Fantasy world of Fillory. Vampires, werewolves, nymphs, gods, centaurs, fairies, dragons, dwarves — you name it.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Against vampires, dryads, etc.
    • Fillorians apparently look down on the land's Talking Animals, despite vastly being vastly outnumbered by them.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Downplayed; it's common for long-haired characters (especially Alice and Quentin) to be shot with one visible ear and hair draped over the other side of their face.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: Prince Ess appears to use his powers to send the castle to his home nation of Loria. He says he'll bring it back if Margo agrees to marry him. Outside the massive hole, Penny went to Loria but couldn't find the castle at all. Realizing the truth, he leaped into the "hole" and found himself in the castle, letting the others know Ess never transported the castle at all but just cast a huge illusion spell.
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • Quentin, Alice, Penny, Eliot, and Margo become this over the course of the first season.
    • Julia and Kady, especially after Julia saves Kady from Reynard.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Tricky... I like it."
    • "You can't un-ring a bell."
    • The archivist copies for Penny the pages he needs, explaining that otherwise he would try stealing them, which would result in the book getting damaged. She's actually pointing out that they are inside a time loop and that's exactly what Penny would do when given the choice.
    • Some images of Our Lady Underground show her holding a baby, giving an oblique hint that she has a son.
    • One episode has Quentin dreaming about having a threesome with Alice and Julia. The next episode, he has an actual threesome...with Margo and Eliot!
  • Foreign Ruling Class: Justified — for some reason, only people from Earth are allowed to become kings and queens of Fillory. Deconstructed too, as these individuals likely don't have any idea how to rule a foreign magical land, and actual "good" monarchs are far and in-between.
  • Four Is Death: The fourth Golden Key creates a hallucination of the holder's worst traits, which then attempts to talk them into killing themselves.
  • From Bad to Worse: “I’ve lived 40 timelines, 39 of which range from the comically horrendous, to the apocalyptically absurd.” Commentary from Dean Fogg. Order of big bad / bad situation tropes...
  • Funny Animals: Fillory has many, of every common species. Apparently many of them also have relationships with human Fillorians.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Of escapist fantasy, most obviously Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. The young protagonists get to go to a Wizarding School and find themselves monarchs of a fantasy land. However, they are consistently unhappy and tortured because of the inherent dangers associated with such magic — Brakebills is ineffective at helping them, their own personal hang-ups and problems lead to bad decisions that have far-reaching consequences, they are colossally unprepared to run a kingdom and come off as The Caligula, and malevolent forces don't hold back against them.
  • Genre Savvy:
  • Geometric Magic: Many of the spells and rituals that are shown in the show use different runes and shapes to create various spell effects. Some even require more than one magician in order to be executed properly.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Not technically a "job," but it seems that almost nothing the Physical Kids do can get them kicked out of Brakebills. While some of this can be explained as the school simply not finding out, Kady faces no consequences for helping a Hedge Witch rob the school and nearly trapping another student in a permanent coma, and Quentin gets nothing more than a stern lecture for experimenting with a form of Magic Dean Fogg explicitly says is not only forbidden to students, but also "forbidden to everyone else" ( he only used it on a puppy, and was desperate to cure his father's cancer, but still...). While Julia's not actually in Brakebills, it seems strange that Fogg says he has no interest in punishing her for her part in the robbery, and she's left alone even after she's no longer under Marina's protection. All of this could be somewhat justified by the fact that Fogg knows Quentin is The Chosen One.
  • Ghostapo: Hitler was apparently a skilled battle magician.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Gold pieces are a currency in Fillory. The show doesn't go into much detail, so it's not clear if gold is much more common there or if the team just keeps trying to buy expensive things, but either way they never have any money on hand. Because Fillory is a magical land, people will accept barter in other forms like magical promises or vials of blood, but only the desperate accept such deals.
  • Golem: Margo finds out an ex-boyfriend made a golem twin of her, which he uses as a sexbot, to her outrage and disgust. She takes it from him and ends up keeping it just in case. She later uses the technique to make one of Eliot which he can control in his sleep, allowing him to spend time on Earth without having to leave Fillory.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: When Julia gets pregnant due to Renard's rape, she decides to have an abortion right away, and this is treated as perfectly acceptable. Kady confides in her that she had an abortion as well (although she's not portrayed as "good" exactly). Julia then gets one from two Korean magicians. Poppy later tells Quentin she was going to have an abortion, but got distracted by attending a ritual and then decided it was a good opportunity to create a dragon-human hybrid.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The Quest of season 3 revolves around the main cast needing to collect seven magical keys scattered around Earth, Fillory, and other locations.
  • Great Big Library of Everything: The Library of the Neitherlands, which contains all knowledge (including forbidden knowledge in the Poison Room) and even has an Underworld annex.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: The world is stuck in a loop because the outcomes so far have been failing to satisfy the wielder of time magic. Quentin has managed to drug Dean Fogg 27 times while inside and die 39 times. The fortieth loop is the last because said wielder is killed.

    H to P 
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Renard's children with (unwilling) human women are demi-gods, and apparently quite powerful because of it.
  • Have You Seen My God?: The gods have largely gone AWOL at the start of the story. Tracking one down for plot-relevant reasons is difficult, moreso after The Old Gods shut off magic in retaliation for the deaths of Ember and Umber.
  • Heroic Suicide:
    • John compels Kady to kill him so she can collect his divine essence and use it against Reynard.
    • The fairy queen later permits her dissection in a deal which will protect her people forever.
    • Quentin struggles with this since he's been in and out of hospitals for suicidal depression for most of his life. This question comes to a head at the end of season 4 when he actually does this to save the universe from a megalomaniac dictator. Penny puts his worries to rest after showing Q his own funeral.
      Penny: I think you know your answer now. The story for them, it's just starting. But it won't be the same story. Because of you. You didn't just save their lives. You changed their lives, as much as they changed yours. You didn't want to leave all that, did you?
  • Here We Go Again!: The end of season 4 for Margo and Eliot. Apparently someone calling themselves the Dark King took over Fillory in the time they were away. Just another day in paradise.
  • Hidden Villain: Late in season 2 it becomes clear somebody is purposefully causing chaos throughout Fillory but it isn't until Ramifications that it's revealed to be a bored Ember. In a speech by him in the last episode it's revealed he was involved even more deeply than anticipated, having nudged events just so to ensure even the minor conflicts occurred.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: A group of Brakebills students tried to use time travel to kill Hitler, only to be thwarted because Hitler was a battle magician.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Reynard the Fox has these.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The way they confined the person who was suspected to be Beast himself sockpuppeting another body would’ve made more sense if they were dealing with someone demonstrating accidental bursts of magic. Admittedly, even Hannibal-tier restrictions could’ve potentially been insufficient, but deciding to not even try them was just negligence.
    • Eliot and Margo are terrible as rulers of Fillory due to their tendency to continually make impulsive decisions without collecting all the facts first, such as declaring war out of spite, agreeing to a duel without knowing the opponent's capabilities, and seeking to strike a bargain with fairies in spite of being warned against it.
  • I Know What You Fear: The first Golden Key has the power to create illusions of the holder's greatest fear. For the leader of villagers on After Island, it's a giant shadowbat; for Eliot, it's his father.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • During Quentin's nightmare, he finally gets a spell to work, producing some miniature fireworks for Julia, except no one can see them. She quietly says "I would have liked to see the fireworks." He didn't say what he was trying to do. This is the first hint that this is the real Julia, and that she's behind all this.
    • The first clue that the collector of Fillory memorabilia is actually Umber is when he talks about Jane being the Watcher Woman, a detail never revealed in the novels.
  • Interspecies Romance: Some Fillorians are evidently in relationships with some of the talking animals. Margo has a Bestiality Is Depraved response upon finding out.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Kady, Penny, Quentin and Alice turn into geese at the end of their test, flying to Antarctica in that form. Later Quentin and Alice become foxes in Antarctica - they even have sex that way.
  • It Amused Me:
    • Near the end of season 2, Ember begins messing up everything in Fillory, including turning half of the royal court into rats. He them nearly destroys all of Fillory out of boredom.
    • While a niffin, Alice tortured and murdered every child of a magic Lamprey. She refuses to explain why whenever asked until the Lamprey itself confronts her. She admits that it wasn't for the sake of knowledge but simply because Lampreys make "pretty lights" when they die, and torture makes them prettier.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Eliot disillusioning Alice when she tries to make them go back inside the haunted house. She'd already almost died once trying to save/bring back her brother, and now she wants to risk all their lives again without even any prior preparations.
  • Kill It with Fire: Shade-less Julia solves the problem of a recalcitrant sapient forest by burning it down.
  • Kill the God: Possible but extremely difficult, with most information on how to do it being carefully hidden. Julia's plot in season 2 focuses on killing Reynard while Quentin's plot ends with Quentin killing Ember after he killed Umber.
  • Land of Faerie: The Fairy Realm exists and is separate from Fillory. It's where the Fairy Queen holds court before she follows Eliot and Margo back to Fillory. Season 3 reveals it to be maintained by one of the Golden Keys, so it collapses when the Queen gives the key to Margo.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia:
    • Students who fail to enter Brakebills get their memories wiped. In Julia's case, this fails and she remembers enough to become obsessed with doing magic.
    • Later on, she herself asks for fake memories to be implanted to forget about Reynard the Fox.
    • When Julia thinks she needs to tell the truth to boyfriend James, Marina strikes first by making James forget he ever met Julia.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Marina spent most of season one terrorizing Quentin, Julia and her friends, controlling others with her power, and getting away with killing Kady's mother. In season two, she goes on the run from the fox god Reynard and teams up with Julia, only to be tortured and killed by Reynard while Julia is busy with the Beast.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • Quentin explains that The Castle That Isn't There is invisible for "budgetary reasons" because "the royals had spent their entire seasonal allowance and then realized they still had a castle to build."
    • When asked how long The Quest will take, The Great Cock responds that it'll take about a season. It does, in the production sense.
  • Literal Metaphor: The test to get one of the keys involves a set of colored tiles and a large frame the object of which is to create a mural which "reflects the beauty of all life". Quentin and Eliot spend decades working on it during which time Q gets married, becomes a father, loses his wife, raises his son with Eliot, sends his son on to his own future, grows old and buries his friend. In other words, they build a rich and beautiful life atop the mural frame, thus solving the mural.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • The librarian from the Neitherlands isn't allowed to lend Penny any books without a library card. However, there's apparently no rule against her making photocopies of the relevant pages.
    • As Fillory’s high king, Eliot is not allowed to leave it. So he creates a clone and drives it when his primary body is sleeping.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: A sad yet constant theme throughout the series. Quentin and Alice are the most heavily exemplified version. In 4x05, he says he loved her but that simply wasn't enough.
  • Magical Abortion: Julia and Kady talk about this as a possibility after the former gets pregnant by rape. However, it turns out spells that cause abortion are very dangerous, with side effects like erasing the woman's uterus, so they decide a regular medical procedure is a safer idea. After this doesn't work as Reynard forces the doctor to kill herself, she gets a different magical one from two Korean magicians that is successful. Unfortunately, it has the side effect of severing her shade.]
  • The Magic Comes Back: The primary plot arc of Season 3 is to get magic back. The Season 3 sees the group reactivating the flow of magic in the universe, at a cost. Alice destroyed the original Seven Keys but Julia was able to recreate them by giving up her divinity. As magic begins flowing into the universe again, Fogg, who has teamed up with Irene and the Library, turns up and magic is siphoned off to be controlled by the Library who decides who gets to possess magic and who doesn't and how much.
  • Magical Gesture: Most spells require extremely precise hand gestures, which can be mimicked if you pay attention. Most spells also only require the gestures. Some thought has clearly gone into choreographing this trope also, as the Beast's knuckle-cracking gestures make his hands look disturbingly deformed, in contrast to the smooth movements of humans' casting.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Partially at the end of Season 2; the Old Gods react to Quentin killing their (extremely spoiled) sons by instructing the God of Plumbers (no really) to disable mana flow on Earth and Fillory permanently. Nobody can draw mana to cast, all enchantments are disabled, and anything powered by mana is dying. However, this doesn't negate the powers of magical creatures or disable things created by magic (which, thankfully, includes the delicate and complex physics balancing equation keeping a Flat Earth with millions of orbiting asteroids from collapsing on itself). Julia and the Fae are their own power sources, so they can still use magic, and Penny's Traveler teleportation works independent of his ability to use magic.
  • Magical Incantation: Magic items usually require an activation phrase, in addition to a longer incantation to create the item in the first place. A binding box was activated with the phrase "I bind you" repeated in Turkish and English, but making it took a month-long incantation.
  • Magical Land: Fillory, which is basically Narnia without the villains. It is a whimsical fantasy land with many magical creatures, accessed by portals, and destined to be ruled by citizens of Earth. Also, there's a whiff of opium in the air, which Quentin considers a cheating way to get you to like a place.
  • Magically Binding Contract: The "Word as Bond" spell is a binding contract between two individuals which cannot be broken by any means. Julia makes one with the Beast, promising him the god-killing knife in exchange for his help in killing Reynard. Quentin agrees to make a contract with Alice as a niffin to grant her temporary control of his body while she's sealed inside him.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Everything from defeating the Beast to ruling Fillory to restoring magic to the world falls into the purview of the main band of plucky grad students.
  • Mass Hypnosis: Unknowingly utilised by a demi-god on a crowd to make them support him.
  • Mercy Kill: After entering her mind with magic, a comatose patient asks Julia to kill her. She refuses, but Richard gives an overdose to her once Julia tells him this.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Played straight with Quentin's death. The gang magically sings A-ha's "Take On Me" while throwing mementos of his life into a fire. Most are openly weeping or trying to hold back tears.
    Penny: Appreciate the level of sincere grief, dude.
    • Subverted with Penny's death. Everyone sits around awkwardly, no clue what to say. Q can't pronounce his last name. Even Kady says she barely knew him.
    Penny: I seem to remember when I kicked it, you laughing.
  • Mind Rape: Which also counted as a suicide-by-a-human.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The season one finale "Have You Brought Me Little Cakes?" big time. Quentin snarkily narrates about how he and Julia enter Fillory in its heyday, with Fillory being just as beautiful and magical as the books that they had read. They even joyfully discover that they are minor characters in the books that help Jane. But once the Watcher-Woman (AKA Jane Chatwin) sends them to present day Fillory, they find that the land isn't as lush and full of life as it once was. And then Ember gets rid of the memory patch that Marina placed, making Julia remember her incredibly horrific traumatic experience with Reynard. And then the gang encounters the Beast, who manages to brutally defeat Alice, Penny, Eliot, and Margo.
    • In "Divine Elimination", the gang start off being cursed, which results in them hilariously plotting to kill each other. After Penny saves them, they head off to kill the Beast, only for Alice to turn into a niffin, kill him and turn on the others. Quentin has to kill her to save them.
  • Muggles Do It Better:
    • Battle magic is extremely powerful, but difficult to learn and harder to use, since it requires a very specific mindset that is hard to get into on demand. On Earth most magicians just use guns, and in Fillory they use swords and bows—though those might be enchanted, since magic is so ubiquitous there.
    • Abortion magic exists, but it's centuries out of date due to even the most primitive muggle methods being better. Kady mentions that even the best abortion spell has a good chance of erasing the mother's uterus in addition to the fetus.
    • While magical wards are common, after a certain point they become too complex for their own good. Alice's parents, two of the greatest magicians on Earth, have a perfectly normal electronic lock on their study.
  • Mundane Afterlife: The afterlife is just like the real world, a concession to the limited imagination of the beings sent there.
  • Mythology Gag: The librarian in the Neitherlands greets Margo by the name Janet, her name in the novels, and indicates that this was her name in previous iterations of the time loop.
  • Necessarily Evil: Between his trauma and dumping his shade, The Beast treated this as a necessity to keep from “destroying himself.” Considering he’s able to confront a terrifying god one-on-one, he’s probably telling the truth.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Ember's Take That! move to the Beast in the form of pooping in the wellspring has caused more problems than it should have, including possibly helping to destroy magic in both Fillory and Earth. Then again, it's not like he cares either way.
    • Julia's continued persistence in going after Reynard and using the Beast has resulted in her betraying everyone and causing Alice's death.
    • The cast plotting to take over Fillory from Ember works, but they have to kill him and the greater gods retaliate by shutting off all magic that comes from the wellspring.
    • Eliot tries to kill the entity in the Castle at the End of the World, despite it being something even the gods themselves could not stop. All he does is kill its host. It takes over his body and tracks down Quentin, looking for a new plaything.
    • In season four, Kady learns about the Library unwittingly putting tracking spells on the dewies that the hedge witches have, which is also killing them. She tells them all about it and urges them to come together to fight the Library. Unfortunately, this leads to a few rogue hedges blowing and killing four Librarians. Now, the Library knows about the spells affecting the hedges and wants to kill them purposely, seeing them as a threat.
  • No Budget: Invoked with The Castle That Isn't There.
    Quentin: The truth is, the castle was constructed to be invisible primarily for budgetary reasons. The royals had spent their entire seasonal allowance and then realized they still had a castle to build, so they figured builder's grade material is just fine if you can't see it.
  • Noodle Incident: Alice mentions she somehow lost her virginity while fully clothed.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. When a magical book needs blood to work, Margo uses her... well, you know. Penny is unhappy at this. Margo notes they're lucky it was her time of the month.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: As of the end of Season 4 Quentin Coldwater, the meloncholy protagonist and emotional heart of the story, is dead and gone, passed on to whatever afterlife awaits him.
  • Obstructive Bureaucracy: The library in the Neitherlands runs on one. Franz Kafka wrote The Trial after a week there.
  • Odd Friendship: Type-A Julia with emotionally messed up Quentin. This is deconstructed once Quentin is accepted into Brakebills and Julia isn't. Let's just say that Julia's inability to accept that fact leads to a lot of problems between the two.
  • The Old Gods: Alice discovered during her time as a niffin that there exist old gods who created both the multiverse and the lesser gods such as Ember and Umber. They generally ignore mortal species as harmless but after the death of the aforementioned gods, their parents shut off human magic.
  • One Head Taller: Eliot is significantly taller than every character but Penny, but especially with Margo and Quentin. He does the whole routine of resting his head on theirs when they hug on different occasions.
  • Order Versus Chaos:
    • Umber and Ember are respectively gods of order and chaos. They joined forces in creating Fillory because their natures would balance out and create something more than they could alone. After Umber fled and the Beast died, Ember has free rein and begins wreaking havoc for his own amusement.
    • Their actions apart from each other show why the balance between them is so important. Alone, Umber creates worlds that are perfectly ordered and utterly bland. Ember by contrast terrorizes and tries to destroy Fillory.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Fairies are all pale and wear light-colored clothing. Aside from that, they look basically like humans, though also grow from mushrooms. They fit many of the folktale cliches, such as making exploitative deals with the humans, or switching others for their children.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: It turns out that Fen and Eliot's real daughter didn't survive birth. An odd variant happens to Quentin and Eliot with the alternate timeline of "A Life In The Day".
  • Out of Character: In one scene Penny asks the doctor what "necrotizing" means. Given both Brakebills' strict entry requirements and its extensive curriculum coverage, it's very unlikely that he would’ve needed an explanation on that.
  • Outside-Context Problem: After two seasons dealing with magicians, the Beast, and gods, nobody is prepared to deal with the "plumber" of the old gods who shuts off magic throughout the multiverse.
  • Personalized Afterlife: There are multiple versions of the underworld and incoming souls are sent to whichever they subconsciously expect.
  • Pet the Dog: Marina of all people decides to save the life of a hedge witch who was neurotically cleaning up the aftermath of a botched ritual with four homicides and a rape. This is the equivalent of a mob boss thinking "Yep, this guy did too much in one day".
  • Phony Psychic: Margo and Fen encounter an older woman pretending she is the Green Hood, a famed seer. Her seer act is pretty lame, and Margo sees through it almost immediately, though Fen takes a bit longer. She gets them to do yard work for her in return for a prophecy until Margo has had enough. It turns out that the real Green Hood had used her house in dreams, and grew annoyed over the constant pilgrims coming in messing up her property, deciding she'd take advantage of this as a result.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Eliot and Margo. Although they stretch the definition of "platonic" (in that they once have a threesome with Quentin, among other things), they're decidedly not each other's love interests and in fact enable each other's romantic and sexual liaisons. Despite this, they have compatible hobbies and interests, are constantly in each other's company, co-rule Fillory together, and remain stalwart best friends throughout the show.
  • Polyamory: Alice's parents turn out to have a man named Joe as their "third". Eliot also calls the outcome of his two marriages a polyamory, although his wife’s lack of agreement makes it at least somewhat dubious.
  • Portal Pool: The Neitherlands is just many fountains leading to different worlds.
  • Portmanteau:
    Dick: Margo, I... I needed you. You broke my heart. The only way I could repair it was to create my golem... of you.
    Eliot (high): A golem... of Margo. A Margolem!
  • Power Perversion Potential: Kady and Penny use their magic to levitate so they can have sex in mid air. Quentin and Alice's first time is after turning into foxes in Antarctica.
  • Psychic Block Defense: Magicians can place wards in their minds which prevent psychics from reading their thoughts. Kady is exceptionally good at it, such that it takes a demigod to actually get through them. Quentin seems to lack even a rudimentary one, which is why Penny is always so annoyed with him. Penny offers to teach him how to block psychics just so that Penny doesn't have to listen to his stupid thoughts any more.
    Penny: Taylor Swift? Really?
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Reynard, or the fetus, forced the doctor Julia went to have an abortion from into suicide.
  • Psychic Link: Golden Key #5 links the minds of the questers, but only at certain points.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Nosebleeds are often a sign that magic is taking a physical toll.

    Q to Z 
  • The Quest: The subject of the third season — Eliot is given a quest to collect seven magical keys that will return magic to the world. Probably. It is lampshaded and discussed thoroughly.
    The Great Cock: In order to do that, you must travel to a land where you are no king, no Magician, just a vulnerable man.
    Eliot: Honestly, that sounds like something I might really fuck up.
    The Great Cock: Yes, or it wouldn't be a quest.
  • Race Lift: Dean Fogg, described in the books as white, is black here. Penny, also described as white, is Indian American. Margo (formerly) Janet) was also white in the books. Summer Bishil is of white and Indian descent.
  • Rape as Drama: Reynard rapes Julia when he possesses Richard after she accidentally summons him.
  • Rape by Proxy: Reynard possesses Richard when Julia accidentally summons him, raping her in his body.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Quentin frequently questions what the point of magic is if it can't be used to solve real problems, like cancer.
  • Religion Is Magic:
    • Gods can be prayed to for power, which is similar to normal spellcraft but distinct. Julia describes it as having the spell cast on her, rather than by her.
    • Alice mentions that every culture in history has a way of dealing with ghosts, and Eliot corrects her, saying they have ways of preventing ghosts. It seems he's talking about religious funeral rites.
  • Restraining Bolt: The fairy slave has one which takes the form of a neck band. It starts killing her when she casts a spell until Julia stops this.
  • The Reveal:
    • Eliza, the woman who knows more than she has a right to, turns out to actually be Jane Chatwin. On a smaller scale, the Watcher-Woman is also Jane Chatwin.
    • Additionally it was initially believed that the Beast was Christopher Plover. But he is actually Martin Chatwin.
    • The chaos unfolding in Fillory for much of season 2 is perpetrated by none other than the god Ember, who now intends to destroy the world.
    • A full season after the fact it turns out Quentin told Eliot he wants them to be a couple, and Eliot rejecting him is Eliot's worst memory.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: Sufficiently powerful magicians can sense when the timeline has been altered. Dean Fogg, Amber, and the Beast are all aware of the time loops.
  • Ruling Couple: Although Alice and Quentin are also monarchs of Fillory, Margo and Eliot do most of the co-ruling as High King and Queen.
  • Santa Claus: Santa is imprisoned in the Library with Alice.
  • Sapient Ship: In Fillory, there are ships with minds of their own. Even more, one ship is apparently capable of raping another (how that works isn't explained).
  • School of No Studying: Downplayed, and possibly handwaved. The students are rarely if ever shown in class, yet they do a lot of studying to solve plot-related issues. Considering they quickly escalate to killing Eldritch Abominations and gods within what's presumably still their first academic year, the school might argue the students get themselves educated by getting out of trouble.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • Kady does this when she learns that her mother is dead and that Brakebills knows she was spying for Marina.
    • This may explain why Marina was alone and without her hedge group in season two, after she had killed Kady's mother.
  • Secret Test:
    • Julia is locked in a freezer with another rookie hedge-witch and has to figure her way out. When she does, she tells Pete (the supposed proctor of the test) that she doesn't have to prove herself to him. The "rookie" hedge-witch was actually an expert and she organized the test to see what Julia was made of.
    • The comatose magician Julia needs to talk to traps her in a Buried Alive nightmare to see if she's worth dealing with.
      Julia: What is it with magicians and tests?
  • Seers: The bearer of the seventh Golden Key gets visions of the future.
  • Sex for Services: Julia lets Pete have sex with her in return for information.
  • Sex Magic: Quentin and Alice have to use this in order to help Penny get back from the Neitherlands.
  • Sex Slave: Kady was sold by her mother to Marina to work off a debt, and she's forced to seduce some professors for information on things which she can steal to repay it, essentially making her this.
  • She Is the King: Margo is elected as the new High King, since apparently there aint no rule saying a woman can't hold the title.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several references to the Harry Potter series.
      Eliot: Nothing to see, you louche little degenerates. Avada Kedavra!
      Physical Kids: Whatever, Eliot.
    • In "The World in the Walls," Alice thinks she's trapped in a situation like the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage." She refers to it as "a cage, a menagerie"; "The Menagerie" was a two-part episode that reworked the pilot footage. Fogg thinks she's talking about a Lost in Space episode and Quentin corrects him.
    • Fillory, a magical world where children can enter through mundane objects and it let's in only some of them, is quite reminiscent of Narnia.
    • Quentin has an Erotic Dream where Alice is Daenerys Targaryen, Julia is Slave Leia and Quentin himself is Indiana Jones.
    • When Julia enters Keira's mind, she finds herself in a coffin, which she compares to a situation Uma Thurman found herself in in Kill Bill.
    • Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid: Julia mentions it at one point.
    • Conan the Barbarian (1982) gets quoted by Margo in "Divine Elimination" after she succeeds in killing Eliot, Quentin and Alice under the influence of a curse.
    • Groundhog Day.
      Dean Fogg: Can you imagine, Quentin, how many times we've had this exact conversation? You've managed to slip truth serum to me twenty-seven times, twenty-seven ways, and I'm quite sick of it.
      Quentin: So, what, this is just some giant, blood-soaked Groundhog Day?
      Dean Fogg: You always bring up that fucking movie. I still haven't seen it. Now it's a point of pride.
    • Penny's dream-hopping is frequently referred to as some variety of Inception.
    • Josh, saving the group from the Neitherlands magicians, tells them "Come with me if you want to live." He Always Wanted to Say That.
    • Penny compares the magical mob daughter Sylvia to Meadow in The Sopranos, earning a groan from her at being so old. And then corrects him on the name.
    • Margo and Eliot, knowing that the Fairy Queen is spying on them, discuss their next move in a language she can't understand... pop culture references. In a handful of minutes, they work out a plan entirely in nods to Battlestar Galactica (2003), X-Men, Gossip Girl, The Police, The Craft, A Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The subtitles explain what they mean.
      Eliot: Whatever your Marsden "xoxo's", Cersei "xoxo's".
      Subtitles: Whatever your eyes see, the Fairy Queen sees.
    • Quentin in the 23rd timeline kept the guise of the Beast and compares himself to the Dread Pirate Roberts. Bonus points for him having six fingers at the time.
  • Sibling Murder: Ember, enraged on realizing Umber fled Fillory and left him behind, crushes his brother's throat.
  • Sissy Villain: Parodied. One of Eliot's one-liners has him scaring a tour guide while looking like his usual dandy self by saying "I'm a super villain. Now talk". Of course, the irony is that Eliot is the campiest guy in the group but he's also definitely one of the heroes and a good guy.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: A magical version. On one side, the elitist Brakebills magicians are in luxurious mansions and cottages where it is always sunny; on the other side, the hedge witches dwell in deserted industrial buildings of a grimy New York City. For bonus points, Brakebills magicians (well, at least Eliot and Quentin) are condescending towards their slob counterparts. Also, the hedges seem to be bitter toward the Brakebills magicians, partly due to their elitism, and also due to their rules which the hedges don't seem willing to follow, based on the fact that Kady learned battle magic from them, as well as Marina's willingness to use magic to harm/kill others.
  • The Sociopath:
    • This seems to be how people end up after losing their "shade", to go by Martin Chatwin and Julia.
    • Niffins also behave in this manner, calmly killing even the people they once loved. This is because Niffins lose their shade when transforming.
  • The Soulless: The loss of a person's shade appears to leave them like this, with the usual lack of empathy. Niffins lose their shade upon transforming, and Julia loses her shade due to a magical abortion severing it in the process.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Penny when he gets volunteered into the Plover house.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Maybe not that sudden, considering that anyone in close proximity to the Beast automatically and immediately drops on the survival chances list, but still.
  • Take a Level in Badass: Julia, after summoning Our Lady Underground. Alice, after drinking some unsavory power-upper.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • A nearly impossible test that ONLY cares about whether it's completed successfully? Then use magic to cheat. That’s the point.
    • Running from an Ax-Crazy rapist god? Don’t kill the big bad. Take them hostage and use their guidance to get some insight into how to fight the god.
    • Big bad using a massive power source in the form of a water well? Have a god defecate in the well, rendering the water unusable.
    • Fight to the death between kings that doesn’t end tragically? Both opponents realize the other is hot and gay, and wed as outlined in the rules.
    • Want to be High Queen of a patriarchal society? Just become a female High King. An in-story example, since the process involved the voters literally taking a third option of two choices by writing the ruler in.
  • Telepathy: One of the two specialties of Penny. Because of that he was first affected to the Psychics' crowd. Much to his displeasure.
  • Teleportation: Penny's other specialty. He is a Traveler, a rare kind of magician.
  • That Wasn't a Request: Umber cheerfully asks Quentin if he wants to visit his pet world and give some feedback.
    Umber: Care to take a visit? Make some notes?
    Quentin: [stammers] I...uh...I...
    Umber: I'm sorry. But you're acting like I'm asking you. Whereas I am a god and you are a hairless monkey. So nod and say thank you.
  • The Topic of Cancer: When Quentin finds out that his father has cancer, he wants to use magic to cure it, but is told that it is one of the diseases that magicians have not been able to cure. Cancer is part of the patient's body changing rather then an outside virus or bacteria, and magic cannot distinguish between the two. Using magic to change one's own body is extremely hard and prone to Body Horror results. Trying to cure cancer is more likely to kill the patient outright.
  • Thought Crime: Penny gets kicked out of the Library because he was thinking about breaking the rules and trying to steal a book.
  • Third-Person Person: The Binder always refers to himself this way, or "he", and claims not to know what Margo's talking about when she calls it out.
  • Three-Way Sex: Quentin, Margo and Eliot have a threesome while "high" on emotion magic.
  • Time Travel: Jane Chatwin has the power to make time loops. It is later revealed that this is because she possesses the third Golden Key, which has time travel-related powers.
  • Truth Serums:
    • Quentin drugs Dean Fogg to find out who Eliza really was. Dean Fogg admits that, out of forty time loops, Quentin has managed this in 27 of them.
    • Eliot drugs the drinks of his inner circle to find out who's responsible for turning half of the castle's inhabitants into rats.
    • One of the powers of the second Golden Key is that anyone holding is compelled to tell the truth — while holding it, Rupert's boyfriend was compelled to confess his love.
  • Urban Fantasy: Mixed with High Fantasy. The scenes on Earth mix fantastic phenomena with normal American city life.
  • The Underworld: A modernized version, presented as a waystation for souls that haven't yet moved on, and only accessible to mortals through Gatekeepers like dragons.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Penny when recounting what he read of the missing Fillory novel. To be fair, he was drunk at the time.
    Penny: It was a dog. [..] No, wait. Not a dog. It was a pig. [..] Wrong. No. What was it? Back up.
    Quentin: Ah, for fuck’s sake!
  • Vagina Dentata: Margo claims she has them to deter her horny underage husband.
  • Villain Decay: The Beast’s performance in second season becomes rather tame compared to the first one. The magical contract that the plot has written him into often makes him only be able to walk in a funny manner and get on peoples’ nerves with his singing routine.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Messenger rabbits. Cute and fluffy world-hopping bunnies. Their hoarse voices are more suitable to chronic alcoholics with tonsillitis.
  • Was Once a Man: The Beast was once Martin Chatwin.
  • We Are as Mayflies: The gods, who are immortal, are dismissive of the characters' attachments to the mortal realm — Hades to Penny, while discussing his billion-year contract with the library, and Iris to Julia, when she ascends to godhood, both tell the respective characters to disregard their attachment to their friends, since to them, they'll be gone in a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things.
  • Wham Episode:
    • “The Writing Room” Surprise! Your idol is a horror freakshow of one of the worst sorts, and all you want to do is kill him again. Also, this starts Julia’s goddess arc, though it gets a lot worse before it gets better.
    • "Have You Brought Me Little Cakes?" has everyone in Fillory, and Eliot becoming the High King. However, he is now unable to leave Fillory as a result. Also, Julia has a memory block by Marina which Ember removes, resulting in her remembering that her group was tricked in summoning Reynard the Fox. He kills everyone but Kady (who is saved by Julia) and Julia (who he rapes). Quentin gets the chance to power up and kill the Beast, but he gives that power to Alice instead. However, after the Beast nearly kills everyone, Julia, who also has that power, captures him and leaves, making a deal to spare him if he kills Reynard with her.
    • "Divine Elimination" ends with the deaths of Marina, the Beast and Alice.
    • "Ramifications" reveals the source of all the chaos in Fillory is none other than Ember, who's using his newfound freedom to wreak havoc.
    • "We Have Brought You Little Cakes" ends with Ember and Umber dead, which causes the old gods to shut off all human magic. Despite this the cast still has to deal with magical problems as the fairies invade Fillory, the Lamprey is hunting a depowered Alice, and Penny is trapped in the Neitherlands Library.
    • "Will You Play With Me?" upsets the status quo again — the questers succeed in restoring magic, but the Library hijacks their efforts and starts rationing magic, and they are mind-wiped and given new identities. Meanwhile, the Monster isn't dead and has apparently possessed Eliot.
  • Wham Line: “I’m not the [broken] bone. I’m the fear.” -Reynard (imaginary)
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Niffins. Essentially the result of a magician losing control of their powers, Niffins are immensely powerful and almost entirely without rational thought, as Charlie demonstrates.
  • Wizarding School: Brakebills University is a graduate school for magicians.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The rate isn't very clear, but overall, months can pass in Fillory while only a few days pass on Earth.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Quentin cheats on Alice with Eliot and Margo while high on emotion magic. Alice later has sex with Penny in revenge.
  • Zero-G Spot: Kady and Penny have sex in mid air, though it's done by levitation here.

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