The Magicians season 4, episode 13, “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” opens with Margo (Summer Bishil), Penny (Arjun Gupta), and Quentin (Jason Ralph) trapping the Monster with the incorporate bond, cast with the aid of both hedge witches and magicians on Earth and Fillory. Alice (Olivia Dudley), along with Penny and Quentin, ventures into the Mirror World to trap the twins, but their efforts are foiled by Everett, a member of the Order of the Library of the Neitherlands. In order to save everyone involved, Quentin decides to sacrifice himself, before managing to send both siblings into the seam. Following his death, Quentin is reunited in the underworld with Penny-40, who takes Q to his own funeral, wherein he experiences the meaningful gravity of his absence that weighs upon the lives of his friends.
Long-standing fans of The Magicians were disappointed with the turn of events, which, to an extent, is justifiable. Season 3 had offered a landmark moment between Quentin and Eliot (Hale Appleman) that touched upon genuine, romantic love. As the Monster occupies Eliot’s body for much of season 4 The Magicians prevents the duo from exploring their relationship further, and with Quentin's death, the possibility is lost forever. Showrunner Henry Alonso Myers had explained the show’s decision to kill Quentin, which is doubtlessly intertwined with his unresolved feeling toward Eliot and complicated history of mental health, saying that Quentin Coldwater was a “tremendously important part” of how the rest of the characters evolved (via TV Line), and his death has forced them to grow and look closer into their inner lives throughout The Magicians season 5.
Moreover, Quentin’s death sheds greater light on the mental health issues he was dealing with, and the real, tangible impact it had on the way he chose to practice magic and navigate the dual worlds of Earth and his childhood haven, Fillory. In one of the season 4 The Magician ending scenes, Quentin Coldwater contemplates his decision, saying: “Did I do something brave to save my friends? Or did I finally find a way to kill myself?” The answer to the latter, as the showrunners insist, is a resounding no, as Quentin’s true power lies in his efforts towards gradual recovery, despite batting the nonchalant cruelties of life, both in the realms of the magical and the mundane. However, with Q’s death, the show handles these issues in ways that are irresponsible, to say the least, making the decision seem more like a shock-tactic than a genuine, necessary resolution for a wonderfully complex character on The Magicians.
Though showrunners brought in Lev Grossman to consult on the series, the show has made major deviations from its source material — and not everything has been to the Syfy show's benefit. There are some simple things that were changed, such as King Janet being changed to King Margot to avoid confusion between Jane, Julia, and Janet Pluchinsky. However, there are other major characters and plotlines that were added to the series that weren't in the books at all. For example, Marina isn't a character in the books, she was tacked on to the TV show for no specific reason other than to bend the plot. In addition, Julia had no arc that included the hedge witch group. Ember and Umber's appearances were changed completely for the show, as they are only entities in the novels, and Kady's character was also made up for the series. The ages of the characters are also completely different in the books, with the novels covering over a decade of Quentin's life. After killing off Quentin Coldwater in season 4, The Magicians had few other places to go, and his death greatly marred the series.
Quentin Coldwater's death in The Magicians is another major departure from Grossman’s novels, as in the final book of the trilogy, The Magician’s Land, Q returns to New York City with Alice, while Eliot and Janet (Margo) decide to stay behind as rulers of Fillory. Prior to The Magicians book’s resolution, Quentin, much like in the show, slays Ember and Umber, which imbues him with divine power to rebuild Fillory. At the end of the novel, Quentin uses a seed pod gifted to him by his best friend, Julia, to create a new magical realm, which inadvertently acts as a bridge between Earth and Fillory. In contrast, the season 4 finale comes off as disingenuous, as the implication that death is a happy ending of sorts for a character so fiercely devoted to his craft and those around him. After all, we are more than our tragedies, our pitfalls, and the manifestation of our worst fears, which include ignominy and death.