For some reason, I missed season one of The Magicians when it aired on SyFy.
OK, I didn’t really miss it so much as tune into the first two episodes, set a season-pass and then had it stack up on the DVR. And then I promptly deleted all the episodes halfway through the season because there are only so many hours in the day.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when the show showed up on Netflix and I decided to give it another try.
Boy, I’m glad I did.
Based on a trilogy of novels by Lev Grossman, The Magicians follows a group of friends who are studying to become magicians at Brakebill’s School for Magic. The series is described as “Harry Potter for adults,” but I think that’s doing a great disservice to both series. The Magicians owes more a debt to the C.S. Lewis Narnia series than it does to Harry Potter, if only because our main character, Quinten Coldwater grew up reading a series of Narnia-like books and has always dreamed of visiting the magical land described there.
Like a lot of shows today, the show has an arc and a seasonal big-bad. In this case, it’s a threat called the Beast. A six-fingered magician, the Beast shows up in episode one and is a looming threat over the entire season, bringing our team together to try and stop them in order to prevent their own deaths.
The series unfolds at Brakebill’s with Quinten and his friends studying magic and trying to up their game to take on the Beast. Meanwhile, Quinten’s life-long friend Julia fails the entrance exam to Brakebill’s and is sent back to the real world. Unfortunately, the memory wipe used on her doesn’t work and she spends much of season one trying to reconnect with magic and get back into the world that Quinten is exploring.
The series takes a couple of episodes to really get going, but once all the pieces are in place it quickly starts knocking things down, barreling like gang-busters toward the season finale. I’ll have to say that I enjoyed the heck out of the last few episodes and I’m glad that I reset the season pass for season two so I won’t have to wait to find out what happens next.
The series takes a page from the Buffy-verse. Instead of using the supernatural as a metaphor for growing up, The Magicians uses the supernatural as a metaphor for being a grown-up.
The series goes some dark places and pushes our characters into corners that they can’t easily wriggle out of. It’s also interesting that the series drops the f-bomb a lot — at least in the streaming version, that is. I’m fairly certain that SyFy is one of those cable stations that won’t let that one out onto the airwaves just yet, so it should be interesting to see if and how the actual aired episodes deal with it. (I can’t help but wonder if the sound drops out every time our characters swear if this may or may not get distracting after a while).
The series has also encouraged me to pick up the novels again and read the trilogy this time. There are certain differences between the TV series and the movie (Quintin and his friends are older when the TV show begins, one of the characters is renamed to reduce confusion (apparently there were too many female lead characters whose names started with J) and it’s been interesting to see how and where the TV show and the books differ.
If I’m a bit vague, it’s only because I don’t want to spoil too much…and yet I do. Because the season ends on a cliffhanger and I really want to talk to someone else who’s watched it and go, “Can you believe that?!?”
And if you’ve seen season two, please don’t tell me anything about it just yet. I’ve got four episodes stacked up on the DVR to get to but may not be able to watch them for a couple of days. And I really don’t want to know.