Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater in "The Magicians". Picture: Supplied

The first four episodes of the fourth season of The Magicians, Syfy’s cult adult fantasy series, with new episodes coming weekly to Showmax, will have you sitting at the edge of your seat.

The first three seasons were based on Lev Grossman’s award-winning trilogy of bestselling fantasy novels - dubbed “Harry Potter for grown-ups” by The Guardian.

Season four is now in unwritten territory but, thankfully, in the safe hands of showrunners Sera Gamble (You) and John McNamara (Trumbo), “the result is just as spellbinding as ever,” to quote Indiewire.  Critics are unanimous in their agreement: season four currently has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as did season three.  

Here are four ways things have changed this season:

#1. Your favourite Brakebills alumni are now in witness protection

After helping to bring magic back last season, Julia (Stella Maeve), Kady (Jade Tailor), Margo (Summer Bishil), Penny (Arjun Gupta) and Josh (Trevor Einhorn) aren’t being paraded as heroes: instead, they’re in a magical version of witness protection, with new faces, fake memories and no magic. As AVClub says, “How do you keep a show fresh, season after season? One method: Wipe the memories of all of your core characters. The Magicians starts its fourth season off having given our favourite misfit magic practitioners a hard reboot… They find themselves in a range of very earth-bound situations, all of which feel very broad—the spacey DJ, the mean magazine editor, the goofy Uber driver, etc. - until it’s revealed that they’re all based on characters in a pulpy comic book. This being The Magicians, obviously they’re going to be trapped in some kind of pop culture reference.”

#2. Magic is back, but it’s rationed

Magic is now being rationed by The Library, the ultimate bureaucrats, whose attempts to keep the world safe and ordered are looking increasingly fascist. As Den of Geek put it, season four returns “to a world that is thankful to have magic back and terrified to have it taken away again... This atmosphere of fear is the perfect breeding ground for fascist rule, and the Library, and Mageina Tovah’s Zelda in particular, is more than happy to step into the role of the benevolent but controlling protector of magic.” As Marina (Kacey Rohl) says in the trailer, “The vibe I’m getting is very 1984.” Or as The Hollywood Reporter writes, “the tyrannical Library… are probably the Biggest Bads of the entire series.”

#3. Eliot looks the same, but isn’t

Eliot (Hale Appleman) is possessed by The Monster, who’s forcing Quentin (Jason Ralph) to help him hunt gods. As Indiewire puts it, “Appleman as The Monster is a revelation. Never once does he backslide into Eliot mode; instead, through subtle shifts in tone and expression, he becomes The Monster wearing an Eliot suit. This makes his actions even more disturbing as he forces Quentin — whose new identity is a bookish professor named Brian — to be his playmate in murder and mayhem. When The Monster wants to play, woe to those who don’t comply. His retaliation is swift and brutal.”

#4. Alice is in jail, one cell down from Santa

Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is in prison, one cell down from a black, suicidal Santa Claus (Tom Wright). To quote Decibel, “For those who haven’t watched The Magicians before, the show doesn’t shy away from edgy subject matter, but suicidal Santa is definitely another level...”

Fall under The Magicians’ spell

The Magicians has been nominated as Best Fantasy Series by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Movies for three years in a row - and, based on the early reviews, seems on track for a fourth straight nomination this year.

Syfy recently renewed The Magicians for a fifth season. “The Magicians raised the bar at Syfy and has gained momentum season after season,” says Bill McGoldrick, president of scripted content at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment.