If there ever were a place that gave random genre series a chance it’s SyFy. The now 24-year-old network regularly presents hungry viewers with new sci-fi, supernatural, and fantasy entertainment to feast upon. Over the years, SyFy shows like Battlestar Galactica and Z Nation have gone on to great pop culture success. Often, though, the magic doesn’t come together and shows like Flash Gordon or Aftermath fizzle fast. Between the Expanse and Dark Matter, SyFy is locked in with solid science fiction. So, to balance things out they added The Magicians last year. Season two of the magic/fantasy story approaches. But if you’re not caught up, you’re probably wondering if The Magicians is mesmerizing or all smoke and mirrors?
Based on novels by Lev Grossman, the easiest way for me to describe The Magicians is like this: It’s Harry Potter: The College Years. Take Hogwarts, make it look like Ivy League, call it Brakebills and that’s the magic school in this universe. Take Hermione and give her a tragic loss in her past that she’s trying to correct. Ron is of Middle Eastern descent and uses drugs to calm voices in his head. And Quentin Coldwater (“Harry”) is the budding hero who is possibly bi-polar and a man-child.
The basics of The Magicians is this: Quentin and his friend Julia grow up in love with a storybook called Fillory. Fillory is basically a wink and nod to C.S. Lewis, including furniture which serves as portals to an alternate world. Magic is said to come from Fillory and while Julia grew out of such childhood fantasies, Quentin held on, learned “normal” magic tricks, and was diagnosed with mood disorders. One day, lo and behold, Quentin and Julia step from our world into the world of Brakebills and a series of events, destined to happen, begins to unfold.
It’s easy to compare The Magicians to Harry Potter. However, the two are little alike. There are no wands in The Magicians, for instance. Instead, most spells are cast a little slower and often with wild hand gestures. I like to picture the actors behind the scenes having to learn all the intricate movements. But the way magic is created in The Magicians is a unique aspect of the show that I find fun and exciting.
On the negative side of things, season one plods along at times and falls short on the world-building front. Intricate hand gestures and some expository lore aside, sometimes things feel matter-of-fact or glossed over. Parts of The Magicians feels rushed, other parts feel a little too by-the-numbers. And if I said any single negative thing about the show it would be: uneven.
I’m sure by now you realize this isn’t a glowing review of The Magicians, but it’s not a bleak one either. The second season of The Magicians begins tonight at 9 P.M. on SyFy. So, if you enjoy genre shows of this nature, binge watching season one (available on Netflix) is worth it. While The Magicians has it’s flaws, it ends strong, opening the door for season two to expand on the show’s raunchy style of magic.