Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Magicians (Season 1)

What's it about?

Quentin has reached a plateau with his life, though one could argue that he's never really been headed anywhere in the first place. He just doesn't seem to fit in the normal world and he's never understood why. All he has is his favorite childhood book Fillory and Further and his magic tricks. However there is one entrance exam he tries and passes and it turns out he has now been admitted into a magical college where magic is real and maybe he does actually fit in after all. 


Growing up in the age of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, I originally passed up this series as another imitator bent on catching some of the hype. However after a recommendation from a good friend, I gave it a shot and was quite pleased. 

The series is from the Syfy channel, so admittedly low budget as recent TV shows go. The first episode in particular is a rocky start to the series with no seemingly likable characters save for the small story in the background. However what they may not have in effects they make up for in plot and character chemistry and the characters quickly start to grow on you, showing likable characteristics and suddenly you're invested.  I will admit that the Fillory books caught me from the get go and from there I learned to love the characters and the quirky plot. 

Bearing a striking resemblance to the Narnia series by CS Lewis (which was apparently intentional) Fillory is a world made of magic that Quentin and his friends have dreamed of for almost all their lives. It made them all very easy for me to connect to on a personal level. Also, while I wasn't too wild about the college setting for training the Magicians, I had to admire that the school tried to take a non-sided approach to teaching magic, no matter how much that caused them to crash and burn. Like any college, the school just lets you know how to use your powers, it doesn't tell you to use them in a specific way. Well, until the world starts to collapse, then some professors are forced to take a position and stand.

A word to the wise, the show has quite a few triggers throughout the episodes and isn't for the squeamish. From animal mutilations, to lobotomy, to mind control and violence when certain characters are attacked or killed. With the lack of budget compared to other high profile shows, these moments are still given quite a bit of care so they don't come off as cheesy or pointless.  Each time they were used they seemed to help the narrative or at least be needed and not pointless gore padding. 

The show also does a good job of kicking some very well know tropes out the window. The nerdy sidekick girl is not the virgin to be won, the main characters don't all make it into the school and even the seemingly brainless and conceded upperclassmen end up making you fall in love with them. I didn't expect to like these characters as much as I did. And, without revealing too much, I am quite happy about where the end of the first season put Quentin. It's not often that male heroes are allowed to still remind children of wonder with some of their innocence in tact. 

While this school doesn't have the pomp and circumstance of Hogwarts, it still has its own distinct flavor and it's a place I think I'd actually be more comfortable in. A frat/dorm system set up based on abilities rather then the houses format of Hogwarts seems a little more inviting. And there is some competition between the groups, but not to a huge degree. 

Final thoughts:

Overall I fell in love with this series, but I don't think I would have had I just sat down to watch it without getting the recommendation first. So if you like the world of urban fantasy and you have always wanted to cast magic, try this. You may end up falling in love with it just like a good book. 

Now I need to go find season 2 and I need to check out the series of books it's based on. 

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