Imagine if you will that that you live in a world where everything is murky and miserable. But then one day you discover that magic is real and that you are one of the select few people who can do it. Everything is great! Except that you then learn that magic isn’t so great, in fact it’s simply the gateway into some very horrific things and it makes your life more difficult then it was before you got into magic. This is the best way I can think to describe The Magicians, a show based on the trilogy of novels of the same name by Lev Grossman, The Magicians follows a group of students as they attempt to become magicians and to save themselves from an encroaching threat. Light spoilers follow after the break.
The series opens with one Quentin Coldwater, a depressed college student who obsesses over his favorite book series Fillory and Further (A sort of Chronicles of Narniaesque series) and wishes that the magic in the books was real. He ends up getting his wish when through a series of events he gets accepted into Brakebills College, where he gets to learn how to become a magician. Unfortunately for him things become complicated fast when he and several other students who include Alice Quinn, a mousey intellectual, Penny Adiyodi, an easily annoyed jerk with Telepathy and Teleportation abilities, and Kady Orloff-Diaz, a snarky tough girl, all get targeted by the Beast, an eldritch abomination that came from Fillory, the realm that was the subject of the books and the source of all magic. Quentin and the others, along with a couple of older students Eliot and Margo, then spend the series learning how to do magic and trying to figure out how to kill the Beast before it kills them.
As an A-Plot this story arc was largely decent, it did a long while for to find it’s footing but it did and it was pretty great by the end. There were some major hiccups though such as pretty much every character on the show being very unlikable at the start but that problem eventually solved itself by varying degrees by the season end. Particularly notable in how unlikable he was was Quentin himself who was a very whiny self centered ass who took until nearly the end of the season before I finally started warming up to him. The reason this is notable is because he’s the main protagonist and the main protagonist shouldn’t be someone I dislike seeing on my screen for most of the season.
Also in the problematic department were the characters of Eliot and Margo who lacked sufficient reason to be so heavily involved in the shows main plot. Eliot did end having what could considered a good reason to go after the beast he never really seemed motivated by this reason to be so heavily involved. Margo’s even worse as the series least developed main character there was never really any given explanation for her involvement and was just kind of there as the series went on.
Then there’s the school itself which doesn’t see whole lot of development in the series and seems to play less of a role later into the season as the main characters are never seen in class after a while. There’s also a significant lack of teacher characters as only the schools Dean Henry Fogg and outsider mage Eliza have any real screen time on the show with any others not playing any real significant role.
That being said there were some good characters, namely Penny who was my favorite character on the show. His jerkass tendencies aside he had probably one of the most developed story arcs on the show even if said arc involved repeated bad things happening to him and by the end of the show he’s the only main character who really had his shit together.
Which brings me to one Julie Wicker, the series perpetual B-Plot character. Julie is a childhood friend of Quentin’s who also finds Brakebills. Unlike Quentin however Julie doesn’t get accepted into the school and has her memory wiped of the event. However she manages to make herself remember and spends the majority of the series attempting to find another way to learn how to do magic.
Since Julie is for the most part unaware of the Beast her story arc plays out a bit differently then the main Brakebills one. This show had the idea that magic was a drug and it manifests the most in Julia’s story arc which resembles a junkie attempting find a fix. That thread was strongest part of Julia’s story arc but unfortunately the rest of it was probably the weakest part of the show as largely felt like it was meandering and pointless most of the time as well as being disconnected from the rest of the shows events. Granted this last part was thanks to Julia and Quentin’s strained relationship as well something fairly horrific Julia does to Quentin early in the series. Her story arc does eventually connect with Quentin’s very late in the show and is a lot better for it but until it happened it was the weakest part of the show.
Contentwise this is a very dark and very graphic show that deals with a variety of subjects in addition from the magic as a drug metaphor mentioned above. Depression is a major theme on the show as Quentin suffers from it throughout the story and in fact is in a mental hospital at the start of the show because of it. However learning magic rids Quentin of his depression so much that he spends a good part of the show making sure he never loses it out of fear of going back to the way he was before.
Besides that there is a lot of sexual content ranging from innocuous stuff like learning to communicate in the bedroom to darker content like pedophilia and rape (Anyone with sexual assault triggers should tread carefully with the season finale) and does not shy away from the horrors of either of those things.
In addition the show has some very graphic deaths and mutilations the worst of which involving a poor rabbit (If you feel strongly about animals getting graphically killed on screen tread carefully around Episode 8).
Overall I liked the show, it started off kind of weak and not everything worked as well as it should have but it was a strong showing and I’m glad that SyFy picked it up for a second season. What about the rest of you? What did you think?