by Trista Holmes
Note: there are a few spoilers if you haven’t seen the show.
Welcome to Brakebills…
This phrase started Quentin Coldwater on a journey he won’t soon forget…if he survives, that is. After his acceptance into the prestigious college, Quentin, and his best friend Julia, part ways when she is denied entry. This sets the tale of the SyFy television series The Magicians into motion.
Upon entering Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, Quentin meets Jane Chatwin, thus learning that his favorite novels as a child, Fillory and Further, about a fictional, magical world, may not have been as fictional as he once believed, and in fact poses a threat to humanity.
The part of Quentin is played by Jason Ralph, who perfectly channels the demeanor of the awkward college student, as written in the novel by Lev Grossman. Although his character is a bit insufferable, Ralph’s portrayal is right on the money. On the other side of the pendulum is the acting of Stella Maeve, whose acting falls flat in every seen. The character of Julia is robustly written, but the delivery just doesn’t flow well from Maeve.
As Quentin’s and Julia’s friendship becomes…strained (putting it mildly), a cadre of supporting actors fill the void in terms of onscreen friends. Penny, a telepath, and also Quentin’s roommate, Alice, who inherited magic from her parents, Eliot, a lovable magician with a drinking problem, Margo, who I like to think of as Eliot’s sidekick, and Kady, who serves as a semi love interest for Penny, but later befriends Julia after leaving Brakebills.
Season One circles around Quentin’s discovery of Fillory, the magical land he adored in books, but when he comes face to face with Jane Chatwin, he realizes the real Fillory is very different. She warns him about a person called “The Beast,” and leaves a sigil branded into his hand, spurning our chain of events into motion. There are a couple of callbacks to some other supernatural television series, such as in the episode “The World in the Walls,” where we see Quentin in an institution where all magic considered delusion and fantasy, very similar to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again.”
Season Two brings a bit more than clarity into the events happening in Julia’s life, while still adding richness to the main story of Quentin and his friends. The childhood friends eventually reconcile, and they discover who “The Beast” actually is. In this season we also see that even magic is affected by pollution, as a less than savory wellspring causes magic to fail, both in our world, and in Fillory. There’s a hint of Narnia within the second season as, in the style of C. S. Lewis, we see Eliot, Quentin, Alice, and Margo all crowned as kings and queens of Fillory. In my opinion, Season Two, yields a bit more of a heavy feeling. It’s difficult to get through, and the heaviness is palpable.
If you’re looking for a supernatural, gritty, gory television series to binge watch, you may find it in The Magicians, which this year had its third season and has been renewed for a fourth. The writers, directors, and cinematographers are definitely not shy about the amount of blood packs that are busted on set. Thankfully, the on screen chemistry between the actors ratchets up significantly as the series wears on. The show is dusted with enough of an otherworldly energy that would keep any magic loving fan intrigued, and creepy enough to cause a couple of jumps or gasps from even the bravest sort. The story itself is full and rich, which is a complete tribute to the book, and the series writing could stand to be layered a bit more. All in all, The Magicians is a solid series, and will certainly give you that little extra chill factor for your Halloween season.
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