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‘The Magicians’: Quentin is the feminist fantasy hero fans have been waiting for

For a long time (a long, long, long, long, long time) the fantasy genre has been a bit of a boys club. It’s typically all noble heroes on dangerous quests to slay dragons or destroy rings, who occasionally have a female sidekick tag along to do a whole lot of nothing.

In recent years, we’ve gotten awesome female characters like Hermione Granger or Cersei Lannister, who defy the standard patriarchal molds with their wit, brains and capability. Still, they’re not typically the main characters, and certainly never the heroes of the story, which is kind of alienating to female fans. After all, we’ve seen the tons of male characters take up the mantle of “Chosen One” and win the day — fantasy is literally chock full of it.

Maybe that’s why “The Magicians” Quentin (Jason Ralph) is such a refreshing change of pace?

For most of Season 1, we assumed Quentin would be the standard chosen hero, unexpectedly thrust into a high stakes situation where the fate of the world relied on his willingness to reluctantly step up to the plate. He fit all the qualifications. Nerdy? Check. Estranged family? Check. Secret magical abilities that take him by surprise in a coming of age tale? Check.

RELATED: ‘The Magicians’: Jason Ralph & Olivia Taylor Dudely talk Alice & Quentin

When you put Quentin into the typically male-driven fantasy formula, you get one perfectly engineered “Chosen One.”

Over the course of his first year at Brakebills, Quentin exhibited some pretty cool, but not extraordinary abilities, and yet we still expected him to pull a metaphorical rabbit out of his hat (or maybe not so metaphorical — you never know with Fillory) at the last minute, dazzling us with his hidden powers. After all, he was teed up pretty perfectly to save the day.

That’s where “The Magicians” flipped the script in the most awesome of ways.

In the Season 1 finale, Quentin makes the mature decision to hand the day-saving responsibilities over to his girlfriend Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), essentially taking a knee on hero duty. As he sees it, she’s got more raw talent, more dedication, and just generally more know-how than a guy who just started learning magic a few months ago, so she’s clearly their best bet to defeat The Beast (Charles Mesure). Just like that, Quentin brought his own “Chosen One” narrative to a screeching halt, and shifted the focus of the story onto a female lead rather than the typical male hero.

Sure, the show is still largely about Quentin and his quest to master magic (not to mention his nerdy fanboy adventures in Fillory), but how often do you actually see a hero defer to a heroine in fantasy? Practically never. That move alone would have been enough to win a place in the hearts of female fans forever — but Quentin didn’t just stop there.

In Season 2, he’s spent exactly zero percent of his time regretting his choice to step out of the limelight and let Alice take the lead in what he had always assumed would be his story. She’s got the God juice, the Beast-killing magical spell, and fate of Fillory hanging on her shoulders, and all he’s done is be totally supportive. He’s encouraged her, apologized for his shortcomings, and offered to help bear the burden in any way he can.

RELATED: Wednesday cable ratings: ‘The New Edition Story’ wins second night, ‘The Magicians’ hits series high

In case you missed it, that’s exactly what the female lead typically does for her ruggedly handsome hero.

While you weren’t looking, “The Magicians” pulled a pretty awesome role reversal and became an absolute rockstar in the fantasy genre.

Maybe that’s why Syfy’s new darling defied the odds by miraculously (some might say magically) gaining viewers in its second season, instead of seeing the typical decline in ratings from one season to the next. By deviating from the overdone tropes fantasy fans have seen over and over again — including LGBTQ characters whose sexuality isn’t their only defining traits, fierce females who take no prisoners and also enjoy fabulous cocktails, and a whole lot of expletives that are totally appropriate for the setting and situation — they’ve managed to snag a slew of new fans, while also keeping old ones totally enamored with the show.

We honestly can’t wait to see what Quentin does next because whatever it is, we’ve got a feeling it’s going to raise the bar even higher for fantasy heroes everywhere.

“The Magicians” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Syfy.

Category: TelevisionTV Shows: The MagiciansCelebrities: Jason RalphTV Network: Syfy

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