Let's Take A Moment To Celebrate Janet From 'The Magicians'

by Shaun Fitzpatrick

As a longtime fan of The Magicians (both the book trilogy and SyFy’s amazing TV adaptation), I’m always asked, “Quentin or Julia?” It’s commonly accepted that fans pick a side: they either relate more to neurotic, privileged Quentin or scrappy, ruthless Julia.

The debate can get pretty heated, because in a lot of ways it’s more than just picking a favorite character. It’s picking a life you relate to more. Quentin learns “proper” magic at an Ivy League-esque magic school, never wanting for anything (though barely able to keep his clinical depression at bay). Julia is rejected from that school and learns magic on the streets, becoming a magic junkie before cleaning up her act, only to be subjected to a horrifying sexual assault. The Quentin-vs-Julia debate brings in questions of privilege, addiction, and trauma, and reveals a lot about the mindset of a fan.

All of which is great, but honestly: am I the only one who feels like Janet/Margo (Janet in the books; Margo in the TV show) might be her Magicians soulmate?

That’s right, I excuse myself from the Quentin/Julia conversation because, in my heart, I know the character that truly reflects who I am is snarky, cutthroat, boss-bitch Janet (Margo, played by the amazing Summer Bishil, for fans of the TV show). Even though she doesn’t get the same amount of attention as the other characters, she is sneakily the best character in the series. Why, you may ask? Let me tell you.

1. All hail the queen of snark

Whether you’re reading the books or watching the show, you can always look to Janet/Margo for a good quip. Sure, she’s got a dirtier mouth than a perverted sailor, but that’s part of her charm. No one but Eliot can keep up with her wit, so when the two of them go at it, it’s a thing of beauty. My personal favorite? When the two are competing for mentors in season one’s “Mendings, Major and Minor,” her best smack talk is, “This is going to be the one spanking you don’t enjoy.”

2. She’s basically running Fillory single-handedly

In the books, it seems like the others are constantly running off, leaving Janet to make sure Fillory doesn’t burn to the ground. For the most part, though, we never really see what she’s up to (more on this in a minute). In the TV show, we get a better look at her role as High Queen of Fillory, and it’s pretty much what you would expect: she wears fantastic gowns, declares war on neighboring kingdoms, and makes sure Eliot doesn’t get himself killed. That last one is harder than you might think, since it seems like TV Eliot is hell-bent on getting himself into one dangerous situation after another. Thank god Margo is there to help him wake up from a magical coma and restore Fillory’s wellspring before he’s chopped to bits by a rival king (even if she does have to barter away his unborn baby to do it).

3. She may secretly be the craziest and most powerful magician of them all

Remember in The Magician’s Land when Janet suddenly becomes an ax-wielding winter goddess? Well, apparently while everyone else was running around, she was learning some sort of crazy battle magic while she annexed a desert. And sure, maybe she shouldn’t have gone all manifest destiny, but in her defense, the desert people she ran into and ultimately conquered were total jerks. Her story about almost dying and being called a whore by their leader, before magically beating him into a pulp and stealing his weapons, definitely makes you think twice about messing with Janet. Seriously, has Quentin ever done anything as badass as that?

4. She may have a sad back story…or she may just have fully embraced her inner bitch

The moment I really fell in love with Janet was when she explained her childhood with mean, neglectful parents to Eliot. Typically, this would be the “a-ha!” moment. Of course Janet is the way she is because she had a bad childhood! She just needs love! Then, Eliot realizes this:

“For all the years of his life he’d spent with Janet, he’d never really known her, not deep down. Sometimes he looked at her and thought, Gosh, I wonder what’s underneath all that anger, all that hard glossy armor?Maybe there’s just an innocent, wounded little girl in there who wants to come out and play and be loved and get happy. But now he wondered if maybe that little girl was long gone, or if she’d ever been there at all. What was under all that armor, all that anger? More anger, and more armor. Anger and armor, all the way down.”

There’s something kind of amazing about a female character who’s just allowed to be angry and bitchy and snarky, without having some sort of sad story or secret heart of gold. She doesn’t have to have a reason to be who she is, she just is. And what she is is High Bitch of Fillory, and I love her for it.