The Magicians: Arjun Gupta on the Neitherlands and Penny’s Grief

Carole Segal/Syfy
Carole Segal/Syfy

The mystery surrounding Fillory and The Beast is amping up on The Magicians. Last week Quentin (Jason Ralph) learned the terrible truth about his hero, Christopher Plover, and his connection to the ill-fated Chatwin children. While they weren’t able to save the children from their tormented afterlife, they were able to find a magical button that acts as a doorway to Fillory. That is, until an overconfident Penny (Arjun Gupta) disappeared with it.

The TV Junkies had a chance to chat with Gupta about what’s in store for Penny, his heartbreak over Kady (Jade Tailor) and the show’s commentary on how we deal with emotions.

TTVJ: In the next episode Penny enters some place called the Neitherlands. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Arjun Gupta: The Neitherlands is a strange, crazy world. It’s the world between worlds. You come to learn that it should be a huge Grand Central of a world, but there’s many dangers there. The biggest is that he’s in another world and he doesn’t know how to communicate with Earth and how to get back. There’s no Wi-Fi there, so you can’t really send a text. So his whole journey is, “How do I get home?”

TTVJ: One of the great elements of the show is Penny’s relationship with Quentin. They’re such a contrast with one another. How do you think that relationship has evolved since the premiere?

AG: I think that one of the big ways it’s evolved is there’s starting to be some begrudging affection that I don’t know that either of the characters would admit to. They do seem to end up helping each other a lot. I think that each character is starting to see behind the mask and beyond the defences. Penny is starting to see that Quentin is not entirely useless, that he also has some hurt in his life and he’s not this privileged, whiny little white boy, which is how I think Penny saw him to begin with, and seeing that he’s more than that.

I have this theory about Quentin and Penny and who they will end up being to each other. There’s a strong bond there that I think they are fighting against and I think you’re starting to see it. I think in Episode 8 when Penny’s stabbed, you see some really beautiful moments between the two of them. Quentin is the only one that knows, who can see that Kady and Penny had a real thing. Quentin sees that and I think it shows that they get each other on some level, and I think that you’re starting to see it more and more.

That will continue to evolve, but I don’t think you’ll ever lose how much that Penny thinks that Quentin is a nerd, and a bit of a douche. I hope we never lose that because it’s too fun.

Carole Segal/Syfy
Carole Segal/Syfy

TTVJ: You know, I do think that’s a really strong aspect to it. They’ll always be a contrast to each other, but they complement each other too.

Yeah, I think you’re right. I have a blast doing those scenes together. I love working with everyone in the cast, but I love working with Jason, we have a really fun time together. Shooting Episode 9, it was the first time in awhile that just him and I were doing scenes together and they were really fun.

The writers are crafting really great moments for us. In the next episode, Penny has to rely on Quentin, he has to reach out to him, and that puts Penny in an incredibly uncomfortable position, but it also leads to some very hilarious situations for the two of these characters. It’s going to be talked about. [laughs]

TTVJ: Penny’s been quietly dealing with his heartbreak over Kady, but will we be seeing more on his feelings about that in the near future?

AG: Yeah, the way that they’re exploring it is that we increasingly start to see Penny be more reckless. I think that you’re starting to see him descending into a place of further and further despair. There’s not a lot of time to process in the situations these characters have, and yes, I think you see it, but it won’t be talked about. It’s the way that you see Penny shift, and how he’s trying to cope with the grief, because that’s what it is. It’s grief, while at the same time being thrown into further and further craziness, which leads to something quite climactic in Episode 11.

TTVJ: Mental health is a major theme throughout the season, and we’ve seen Quentin and Julia dealing with issues of depression and addiction. Do you think Penny falls within that umbrella of mental health issues?

AG: I think that every character does, because every character is so disconnected in some ways from love, and love of self, to be more specific. Penny’s tragic flaw is that he has an inability to be vulnerable and intimate with people, and that is his deepest desire, and I think that’s what’s most tragic about what happens with Kady, is that this was the first person that he feels ready and safe to open up to, and he does and then that’s where the betrayal is even more profound for Penny.

Penny is someone who has been kicked out of his home, from the safety of parents where you should feel the most safe, at an early age and forced to live on his own. While I don’t know that there’s anything diagnosable, from the standpoint of addiction or depression, I think that everyone is dealing with emotional health issues.

I don’t think that Julia (Stella Maeve) is clinically addicted; she is substituting magic to fill a void. Every character is trying to fill a void, and they’re filling the voice in many different ways externally, and none of them know how to do so internally, and that is something that is incredibly poignant to what the show speaks to, which is a commentary on the world right now. It’s this desire to externally fill what should be filled internally. There are no external solutions to internal problems.


Will you be tuning into Penny’s journey home on The Magicians? Sound off in the comments below.

The Magicians airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Showcase and Syfy.