Possible spoilers ahead!
It wasn’t that long ago when Syfy shows were, (for the most part), for all ages. But over the last year or two, Syfy shows have become a little darker, edgier, and basically, more ambitious.
One of the network’s latest effort is an adaptation of Lev Grossman’s book trilogy, “The Magicians.” Some people will see the new series as nothing more than a rip-off of Harry Potter, and there are similarities: Both star misfit boy/young adult introduced into the world of magic; both have a magical school and an ominous villain trying to destroy the lead character.
But that’s where the smililarities stop. “The Magicians” is very different than Harry Potter, for example: The Potter books/movies never had floating dorm sex or mystic narcotics, or someone ripping somebody’s eyes out.
“The Magicians” centers around awkward loner Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) a high school kid that spends his weekends at a mental health hospital and his weeks ducking real world interaction. His best friend is Julia (Stella Maeve), who is always looking out for Quentin, while also trying to get him to grow up.
Quentin’s obsession with the children’s fantasy story “Fillory and Further” (think Chronicles of Narnia but evil) keeps pulling him away from real adult relationships and responsibilities. When both Quentin and Julia find themselves at Brakebill University, the grad school for would be magicians, their worlds are cracked open by the realization that magic is real.
While Quentin passes the entry exam, Julia fails her and is mind wiped and sent home. However, Julia takes matters into her own hands, and is able to remember everything that happened at Brakebills, and she wants another shot at getting in, at seemingly any cost.
Meanwhile, Quentin meets a flurry of new characters at school and makes quick friends with Eliot (Hale Appleman), mean girl Margo (Summer Bishil), and is intrigued by magic wunderkind Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley).
We also meet an unknown enemy called The Beast who has his sights set on Quentin. His brief appearance gave the pilot episode one of its best moments, and we see some great use of magic.
But, because the first hour of the pilot tries to hit multiple plot points at once, the show misses a huge chance at world building. Instead, we’re hit with a juggling act of various storylines while intriguing, slow things down to a crawl. I would have preffered to find out how some of these characters ended up at Brakebills. Or even a little backstory about the school itself.
Most of the performances in the show were good. But I found Jason Ralph’s Quentin to be rather annoying. For one thing, he looks to old to be a high school kid. Seriosuly, look at the guy, he looks like he’s in his thirties.
But even beyond that, Quentin is always jittery, and most of the time he has a deer in the headlights look that quickly gets old. He’s always complained about not fitting in, and now that he does fit in, he doesn’t change at all? I find that odd.
Since Quentin (and sadly not Julia) is going to be the series’ main protagonist, I can only hope he outgrows his more annoying tendencies as the series unfolds.
Look, I haven’t read Lev Grossman’s books, so I can’t tell you if “The Magicians” is faithful to his work or how it deviates from it. All I know is that I liked much of what I saw in the pilot, from the premise, to the villain, heck, even the special effects were surprisingly good.
And while I admit I had a couple of issues with the pilot episode, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see more.
“The Magicians” final score: 7.5