coming of age

[TV Review] The Magicians Season 1 (2016) ★★★★☆

Quentin frozen by The Beast in The Magicians season 1

The Magicians takes on a magical epic adventure with very adult themes.


The Magicians is a supernatural, horror, fantasy, adventure, Syfy Original series. It’s a mix between Harry Potter, Narnia and Supernatural. With a magical University, a magical land out of a book called Fillory, and with dry and sly humor it’s a magical journey for (young) adults who want to keep their inner child alive. 

It’s adventurous, fun, witty and with well-developed characters. But it has some grave en intense themes as well, like child molesting and rape. It’s a series that jumps right in and before you know it, Fillory is as real for you as it is for our group of Magicians, but innocence might be lost forever.

The first season consists of 13 episodes each with a duration of 43 minutes. It has a big story arc, and side stories and quests that in the end all come together. It’s very magical, fantastical, and epic, but doesn’t forget how hard the ground actually is when you fall. 


Plot

Quentin Coldwater is a real nerd. He rather reads his old fantasy books for children about Fillory than party with his friends. All his life he has struggled with his mental conditions and he doesn’t feel like he belongs. He is about to go to Yale, when he gets a magical invitation from Brakebills, a University of Magic. Just like his childhood best friend Julia. He passes and she fails. 

While her memory is being wiped, which she magically counters, Quentin starts his new life and makes friends with Alice, Eliot, Margo, Kady and Penny. They each discover their own natural strengths and talents but Brakebills and The Magicians are threatened by a magical evil man called The Beast.

Julia is sucked into the dangerous and malicious magic of the Hedge Witches. But most important of all, Fillory is real and it has everything to do with The Beast and Quentin’s destiny and Julia’s tribulations. 


Why you should watch it

This first season jumps right into all the magic stuff and Quentin is in the center of it all. His nerdy and careful but (trying to be) heroic approaches are exactly what a fresh new series needs. He’s neither a typical nerd nor a typical hero, not a child nor an adult. And although all of his new friends seem to fit in some stereotype, they become fleshed out and well-developed characters who each bring in something fresh to the series. 

It’s all about magic. Magical worlds, the different uses of magic, the use versus the faith in magic, childhood dreams coming true, a sinister adversary, the good side of magic and the bad side. Like Dean Henry Fogg said at Brakebills, they are just here to teach and learn. How you use it, is your own choice. By all means, if you want to conquer the world, go ahead. This fresh approach to fantasy, and themes like sex, feminism, and real life evils like rape and child molesting, makes it an adult series.  

These serious themes are a big part of the series, but there is also room for humor and playfulness, romance, typical problems related to college and students, friendships, enmities, betrayal, and of course, passing tests at Brakebills. 

Compared to the real world, the hidden University is magical and its setting and art decoration gives it a magical touch. But Fillory is where the real magic is. It’s a wonderfully and beautifully created land, but not as friendly as written down in the books. It has a few surprises up its sleeve. 

Julia’s story, her search for real magic is a difficult one that gets her in contact with the wrong people. People who abuse magic for power and are into some dangerous stuff. They treat magic like drugs. But in order to make up for her mistakes, Julia is unknowingly sent on a wrong path, leading to great suffering. It’s a very hefty storyline, not easy to watch, but it gives the series a realistic touch and a cruel atmosphere that contrasts the fun magic Quentin experiences. 

But it also takes on horror tropes like being locked up in an insane asylum which isn’t real, or a haunted house, but it also creates fantasy tropes like The Order of The Library that is very magical, in-between worlds, like The Neitherlands, and all sorts of Gods and creatures. It’s a combination that works very well and it opens up a new magical universe that is very gripping and highly addictive. 


My favorite part

Actually my favorite part is a spoiler, so I won’t tell, but I can tell it has everything to do with the Chatwin childen from the Fillory books, Fillory itself and Quentin. Huge twists in the second half of the season, change everything. Suddenly it shows a whole new take on everything that has happend and it is was very cleverly done. 

The journey into Fillory is the best part of the season, it’s where all the magic becomes really real and the story begins. It’s like walking into a fantasy or fairytale story, and this first encounter is magical and amazing.

The humor is witty, a bit naughty without being offensive, sly and dry and sometimes a bit sardonic. The remarks and one-liners are great and add to the vivid story. I also like the fact that nothing is ever black or white, it’s mostly a grey area, where you have to make choices as best as you can. That makes the villains of this series not just one-dimensional evil people, but human beings, betrayed, abused or worse.  


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★☆

Epic factor: ★★★★☆

Drama factor: ★★★★☆

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


Read more about The Magicians:


Cast and crew

The Magicians is based on the book with the same name written by Lev Grossman. It is created by Sera Gamble (Supernatural) and John McNamara. It stars Jason Ralph (Quentin), Stella Maeve (Julia), Olivia Taylor Dudley (Alice), Hale Appleman (Eliot), Arjun Gupta (Penny), Summer Bishil (Margo) and Jade Tailor (Kady).

Music: Will Bates. Cinematography: Elie Smolkin. Production companies: Groundswell Productions, NBC Universal Television, Universal Cable Productions. Original network: Syfy. 


Check the trailer below