Unauthorized Magic is the pilot episode of the first season and series premiere of SYFY's The Magicians. It first aired as a special commercial-free preview on December 16, 2015 ahead of the double episode premiere on January 25, 2016.
Quentin Coldwater - a brilliant, but depressed college student from Brooklyn, NY - learns that magic is real when he is offered admission at Brakebills University, an exclusive graduate school for Magicians. Once ensconced in school, he quickly discovers, first hand, the darker and terrifying side of magic.
This section needs a rewrite
In the middle of New York City, a door opens to reveal a brightly lit forest. Henry Fogg exits as the door closes behind him. He crosses the street to a small park where people are playing chess, sits on one of the benches, and begins to read a newspaper when Jane Chatwin approaches and tells Fogg that "it" is happening, placing a dead moth on his paper. Fogg calmly covers the moth and tells Jane that "they" weren't even at Brakebills yet, leading Jane to insist he hurry their recruitment. Fogg dryly remarks that her ability to think they they have control over anything never ceases to amaze him, but Chatwin insists that she has to try, stating that they don't know anything yet, comparing them to infants, especially "him". Jane gives Fogg a pocket watch, stating it was "just in case", before asking if he still has eyes on 'our boy', to which Fogg agreed before revealing his situation was not great.
At Midtown Mental Health Clinic along the Hudson River, Quentin Coldwater made a quarter disappear, impressing Doctor Jennifer London, who states that he must be a hit at parties. Doctor London then asked why Quentin thought he was ready to be dismissed, reviews the reasons the boy admitted himself to the hospital (citing symptoms of clinical depression). He says he's feeling better, attributing his depression to having been unable to accept the reality of adulthood. When she recommends further treatment he claims that they can't hold him since he has never "threatened to hurt [himself] or anybody else".
At a party, the boy makes eye contact with a girl, whom he appears to know. She motions for him to join her in the group of people she was sitting with. He declines, insisting he needs to refill his drink. Instead, he escapes to a bedroom where he begins reading a book called Fillory and Further Book One.
The boy, Quentin Coldwater, starts narrating the events of the book, describing how three siblings find a portal to another world, called Fillory. Martin Chatwin, the first to find the portal, leads his older brother Rupert, a soldier wounded in the war, and Jane, the family skeptic, through a grandfather clock into the world of Fillory, a land of magic. When they arrived, it seemed that Fillory had called them there in its time of need.
The girl from the party, Julia, admonishes Quentin for reading a children's book instead of interacting with people at the party. He claims to be looking at the book, a first edition, one last time before he sells it. Julia, expressing concern, mentions that she called him repeatedly over the weekend and Quentin lies saying that he was at his dads. She kisses his cheek as a man from the party, later revealed to be James, walks in. Aghast, he jokingly points out that Julia, his girlfriend, and Quentin, his friend, are in bed together. Throwing himself on top of them he yells "Three-way!", and is quickly joined by other people from the party until the bed breaks under their weight.
The next day, Quentin and Julia walk to Quentin's alumni interview for Yale, joking that it's going to be a piece of cake because Yale is only "lesser Ivy-league" and that they would probably take anyone conscious. Instead, they find the alum, dead, and immediately call 911. One of the paramedics gives Quentin a package that was left on the Yale alums' table before they leave. He opens the package and finds a manuscript for the sixth book of the Fillory series, which is only rumored to exist. While Quentin is ready to accept the validity of the papers, Julia snubs his enthusiasm and they argue. They part ways, as Julia has to go meet her boyfriend.
Quentin attempts to thumb through the pages, but a breeze catches some of the papers and he is left running after them. At the same time, Julia arrives at a building and pushes the elevator button for the third floor. Quentin follows the flying pages down a dark alley. The elevator pauses before taking Julia down to the basement, where the doors open to a brightly lit hallway. Still chasing after the pages, Quentin enters a grove of trees, which he follows until he finds himself in a sunny pasture, a collegiate-looking building sitting on the other side. Julia, confused, follows the 'To Exam' sign down the hallway, while Quentin walks up to the entrance of the school. A student is waiting for him at the steps, introducing himself as Eliot and saying that Quentin is late. While leading him to the exam room, Eliot explains that Quentin has been offered a spot to take a preliminary test to see if he will be accepted at Brakebills University.
Once everyone is seated, the man from the first scene introduces himself as the Dean and recognizes that a lot of people must have questions, but at the moment their only concern should be passing the exam. Once the test begins, the booklets are shown to have questions that constantly change. At first confused, Quentin quickly grasps the idea, while Julia tries to ask a question before getting shot down by the Dean. At the end, the potential students hand in their booklets and recieve a card telling them where to go for the final test. After turning in his exam, Quentin spots Julia in line and the two embrace and share the story of how they got there.
In another room, Julia meets with a professor and he explains that the exam was a test of her magical aptitude. She starts rambling about how part of her always knew about her magical ability before the man interrupts and says that she may have had magic at one point in her life, but that that wasn't the case anymore. Heartbroken, Julia asserts that she can't go home now that she knows about Brakebills and magic. The professor explains that she won't remember because he is going to take her memory. Before he can perform the spell, Julia cuts her arm in an effort to stop herself from forgetting.
Quentin meets with the university board, and Dean Fogg asks him to show them magic. After he does some party card tricks, Dean Fogg says he means real magic. Quentin shows frustration and desperation, and suddenly the pack of cards erupts around him and dances in a pattern, before settling down into the form of a castle. Quentin faints in surprise.
Quentin dreams of being in Fillory. Jane Chatwin explains to him that magic is hard, he will need to learn a lot at Brakebills. Even that won't stop the Beast from coming; it wants Quentin and knows he is at Brakebills, and it will find him. He will have to learn a lot to fight the Beast. He is then swarmed by a cloud of moths, and wakes up, in bed in a dormitory room at Brakebills.
Julia wakes up with James in their apartment in New York. She is confused and uncertain, until she notices the word "Brakebills" cut into her arm. She immediately begins searching the web for references to Brakebills.
Quentin meets Dean Fogg in his office; the Dean offers Quentin admission to their 3-year graduate program in magic. Dean Fogg says that the Yale alumnus Quentin found dead was one of their scouts, and the paramedic who gave Quentin the Fillory manuscript was another scout. He emphasizes that Brakebills teaches the tools of magic; what students and graduates do with it is up to them. Quentin accepts, but is alarmed when Dean Fogg asks for his medications, until Dean Fogg explains "You haven't been depressed, you've been alone. And you're not crazy, you're angry."
Quentin goes back to his dormitory room, and finds Penny, his roommate, who is not a welcoming person. Quentin notices that his Fillory manuscript is missing, and accuses Penny of taking it; Penny denies interest in such a juvenile book. Eliot arrives, along with Margo, and they show him around the school, with lots of students happily practicing magic. Eliot summarizes the varieties of magic, which we see students performing: physical, illusions, healing, nature, knowledge, psychics. They notice two students who are subdued or depressed, not gleeful like the rest; Eliot says they are the remains of the 3rd-year class, once twenty and now down to four, and nobody knows really what happened to the rest of the class.
All of the first-year students are in the classroom, being introduced to magic. The professor asks a shy blonde girl, Alice, to demonstrate; she effortlessly causes a glob of glass to turn into an elegant living-looking moving horse. In the back of the class, Penny and Kady are making eyes and suggestive comments to each other. In the next scene, they are enjoying vigorous sex together.
Outside, Quentin, Eliot, and Margo are sitting as Alice walks by. Margo remarks on her as an example of the shy over-achiever, who comes from a family of magicians. Margo invites Alice to join them and make friends, but Alice walks away.
In the cafe, students are studying, including Alice who has many books spread out in front of her. Quentin notices a symbol on a book she is using, and talks with her on how experienced she is. She says it's just that she studies. He is terrified of being kicked out, as he has found a place that means something to him. She says that she has no special advantage, her parents are crazy people who never taught her any magic, there's nothing special about her.
Quentin is on the phone to James; James says that Julia has not been acting normally for a while, she seems engrossed in something all the time. We see her still deep in searching the web. James is throwing a birthday party for Julia, and he invites Quentin. Eliot and Margo hear the reference to a party and invite themselves.
At the party for Julia at a wild nightclub, Quentin, Eliot, and Margo arrive, but Julia isn't really into it. Julia stops by the bar, and a man (later named as Pete) smiles at her. Julia and Quentin talk outside; Julia tells Quentin she remembers Brakebills, and shows him the word she cut into her arm. She says "tell them they were wrong about me", "tell them to test me again." Quentin says she needs real magic abilities to get in, she shows him a little magic, but he's not impressed; she's got potential, but it's not enough for serious magic; she should find something else to do in life, "it's OK if it's not your thing."
In the nightclub's restroom, Julia is the subject of magic attacks, things flying around, and then finding herself stuck to a radiator. Pete opens the door, smiling, and shows that he has magical power; released from the radiator, she does likewise. She accuses him of being a stalker, rapist, something, and he says no way, he's nothing like that. "We've been watching you for quite a while now". Julia says "Who's we?"
In the Brakebills library, Quentin is studying, and hears knocking on a door he hadn't noticed before. He opens the door and walks through into Fillory. There, Jane Chatwin tells him you don't decide to go to Fillory, it decides, and it wants Quentin there; if he avoids it, it'll kill him; he likes Brakebills and the chance to learn magic and be with magical people, but Brakebills isn't the point, he won't be there long, he needs to seek answers so he can fight. He notices a symbol on a stone, she thrusts his hand into it...and he wakes up at his desk in the library, the symbol apparently burned into his palm. He remembers it as the sigil he earlier saw in Alice's book.
Quentin, with a bandaged hand, meets Alice and asks her about the symbol; she brushes him off until he shows her the symbol in hand. She says the symbol means "Contact the other side," and he should meet her later. She needs to do a summoning, but first she needs a book that was removed from the library shelves years ago; the Dean has it, and it needs to be stolen. He's reluctant to do anything risky, lest he be kicked out of school; she offers tutoring and course help, whatever he needs, but since he's involved in "this" he needs to be involved for real.
In Penny's dorm room, Kady and Penny are studying, but Penny is too distracted to study. He says he's hearing voices, and he needs to go find them. Kady comes with him.
Quentin and Alice meet in the classroom, collecting materials and reading references for the summoning, and Quentin notices the symbol on his hand is gone, Alice says they are trying to contact her brother Charlie, who died at Brakebills 5 years ago; nobody will tell her how he died, so she wants to find out. That's why she's at Brakebills, for Charlie, not because she loves magic. She realizes they don't have all they need for the ritual, and Penny and Kady walk in. Penny says he thinks they need extra hands; Alice says that's right, they need 4 adepts.
Once the spell is complete they look at the mirror in the corner of the room, expecting a result. Nothing. They clean up and leave. After they leave, the mirror briefly shows a mysterious fog, then a drawn smiley face.
Julia and Pete are in a rundown area in New York. He advises Julia to ask politely, to ask questions, and to be careful. He goes to a locked door, rolls up his sleeve and shows the star tattoed on it to a watcher behind the door. The door opens, and they go in.
In the Brakebills classroom, a professor is lecturing on alloys. At exactly noon, the clock stops. Outside, Dean Fogg sees his watch do the same, and dashes in to the classroom. Inside, everyone is magically paralyzed, all but their eyes. Out of the mirror steps a man, with a cloud of moths obscuring his face, surrounded by moths. He walks slowly around the room, gestures and apparently kills the professor. Dean Fogg walks in and casts magic at the man; they cast magic at each other. The man overpowers Fogg and pulls out his eyes. He walks in front of the frozen Quentin and says "Quentin Coldwater...There you are."
- Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater
- Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker
- Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice Quinn
- Hale Appleman as Eliot Waugh
- Arjun Gupta as Penny
- Summer Bishil as Margo Hanson
- Jade Tailor as Kady Orloff-Diaz
- Rick Worthy as Henry Fogg
- David Call as Pete
- Michael Cassidy as James
- Wayne Pére as Professor Van der Weghe
- Laura Fraser as Female Professor
- Tembi Locke as Doctor Jennifer London
- Esmé Bianco as Jane Chatwin
- Rose Liston as Young Jane Chatwin
- Anthony Marble as Martin Chatwin/The Beast
- Seth Meriwether as Young Martin Chatwin
- Brian Beckman as Rupert Chatwin
- Krystal Tomlin as Physical Kid
- Kim Ormiston as Psychic Girl #1
- Misty Ormiston as Psychic Girl #2
- Alexandra Lucchesi as Rainbow Girl