4 Things to Like About “The Magicians”

Season 4 of “The Magicians” will be premiering on SyFy and hopefully Season 3 will be coming to Netflix very soon. I’m looking forward to it!

I saw trailers for this show over and over, but it was kinda far down on my “To Watch” list. If that’s you, then don’t make my mistake! Go ahead and watch it when you get a chance.

This show is like Harry Potter Meets The Chronicles of Narnia, but with a college aged cast. Quentin, the main character, struggles with his mental health. When he discovers magic is real, his whole world is ripped in two. His best friend, Julia, isn’t accepted into Brakebills – “Yale for Magic”. He has to build a new support system for himself in this challenging world where he’s told repeatedly that he’s nothing special.

This leads me to the first of the five things that make this show likable- a fresh take on fantasy tropes. After that I’ll tell you about it’s more adult themes, diverse characters, and humor.

1 – A Fresh Spin on Fantasy Tropes

The Chosen One is a fantasy trope that’s overplayed- from Luke Skywalker to Eragon to King Arthur to Harry Potter. This is a pervasive theme in fantasy. Here’s the problem though: your audience is one person among billions. There aren’t very many chosen ones in real life. The Dalai Lama is one of the few exceptions that comes to mind. Being a Chosen One makes a character instantly less #relatable.

Quentin isn’t a Chosen One. He’s mediocre at best, which is a frustrating thing to be reminded of regularly when one is doing their best.

They also touch on portals to other worlds, time travel, mystical /talking creatures, and magic. It’s high fantasy meets an urban setting switching from the unseen, arcane, to modern New York.

The magic is often executed through words and/or physical gestures, making for a compelling universe. It kind or reminds me of the holographic computer interface in “Earth: Final Conflict” that required many gestures. That could just be me though.

2 – More Adult Themes

Speaking of modern, the characters are fresh. They are more mature individuals* with their own flaws. “The Magicians” touches on violence, death, sexuality (hetero and LGBT+), disability, illness, and mental illness.

Sexuality is explored both through individual relationships and through personal growth.

The source of magic, they even suggest, may be emotional pain.

3 – Diverse Characters

From minor characters up to the Dean of the college, Henry, the diversity is encouraging. When he is injured, they touch on his recovery and partial blindness. He’s still useful. This physical limitation doesn’t decrease his value to the cast. As an African-American man, he is the head of the university and well respected.

Penny is one of my favorite characters. He’s funny and has a unique proclivity with his abilities. His power has drawbacks, though. They touch on racism in one episode in particular where he is framed by his ethnicity.

Penny isn’t a token person of color, either.

Eliot is one of my favorite characters. He’s a pansexual upperclassman who is known for being a partier. Despite his dramatic flare, he’s funny and kind. The conflict he faces in Season 2 between his dreams and his duties is something most of us can empathize with, I suspect.

I’ve focused primarily on the male characters. I can’t forget the three most important female characters: Julia, Margo, and Alice. I applaud that it’s pretty even. So often in media women are under-represented. Even though men and women are pretty evenly split in society, women only made up 34% of speaking roles in the movies of 2017, and most of those women were white. The women who do make it into the films don’t have a proportionate speaking part across the board making up about half the screen time as men.

I don’t know the statistics for screen time with this show, but each of the female characters are important. This show passes both the Sexy Lampshade Test and the Bechdel Test.

4 – The Humor

The dialogue is quirky and shows this sense of humor that is irreverent, punny, and self-deprecating.

There are many one-liners and fun little jokes. My favorite is when they have to go over the “Rainbow Bridge”, this named for its array of flowers. I believe it’s Eliot who points out that this is where family pets go when they pass away.

On a side note …

I’ve been told this is one of those instances where the show is better than the books. After the series is finished then I’ll read the books. I’ve found if I read the book first then I don’t like the adaptation, but if I read it afterward then I seem to love it. Maybe that’s just been coincidence.

Either way …

it’s a compelling story. If you liked “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” but wished it was sexier, then check this show out.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. da-AL says:

    hadn’t heard about it – interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dewin Nefol says:

    Namaste Melissa 🙂

    ‘Tis 14 years since last I had a T.V, as such I take a broad interest in reporting of programmes currently available to view – if only to remind myself of what I may or may not be missing and retain degrees of contact with modernity 😉

    Thank you for drizzling intrigue on the cake of my life, from what you have written this show sounds curiously interesting – the mix of ‘old’ and ‘new’ perspectives on ‘magik’ has appeal: fantasy set outside of its more frequent ‘realm’ encourages me to understand more about the series and read into it more deeply.

    Two lines in your write-up fascinated me: ‘The source of magic, they even suggest, may be emotional pain’ and, ‘Being a Chosen One makes a character instantly less #relatable.’ Is it possible you might expand upon the first of these please? I’m not entirely sure I agree with the second line but then I am a firm believer that we are all unique and have destinies to fulfil. By the very nature of our individual actions, reactions, exchanges, thoughts and paths through life we change the world around even if that is just affecting the life of one person: isn’t that sufficient to warrant each of us the title of ‘the Chosen One’? Our being here on Earth may not be of the same significance as might the presence or impact of a superhero/heroine type-figure, or a prophet, messiah, or spiritual leader, but none-the-less it might allow us to believe in the interconnectedness of all life and remind us to be mindful of our actions. Chaos theory supports a notion they call, ‘The Butterfly Effect’: this effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. By my reckoning we are all Butterflies 🙂

    Thank you for an interesting article. Have a wonderful week.

    Namaste 🙂

    DN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Dewin!

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
      I really appreciate you taking the time, and I’m glad it was appealing to you though you don’t watch TV. I probably watch too much!

      For the first statement you mentioned, about pain and magic, the character Quentin struggles at one point with his father’s illness.
      In the Harry Potter universe there is a game called Quidditch that the students play competitively.
      In response to that, seemingly, there is Welters – a game where the teams compete using magic to take over the squares on the board. While Quentin is playing this, he draws on that emotional pain and is able to open a black hole. They comment how deep pain is what empowers him to do this. A few other times throughout the series they mention pain as well.
      Here’s a YouTube video of that particular scene:

      As far my second statement, I should have probably clarified that I’m looking at this from the writing angle.
      I also believe in the interconnectedness of existence. It’s that very belief that makes the “Chosen One” trope so difficult.
      In fantasy writing and TV there is a recurring trope called “The Chosen One”, where in all of the world there is only one person that can save the day, or be worthy. They are set apart and often the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. These characters often have prophecies about them, special treatment, enemies/allies for no good reason, super lucky or talented, or have amazing aptitudes inexplicably- like Anakin Skywalker of Star Wars being incredible at flying and building, and using “The Force”, or Harry Potter being an all-star Quidditch player and inheriting a fortune and speaking a difficult snake language without even studying. These things get explained away, but I can’t use The Force and I can’t speak an ancient snake language either. Like Shel Silverstein, all the magic I’ve ever seen I’ve had to make myself (imagination).

      On TV Tropes’ website they say:
      “These characters have been chosen by some force and they are now the only ones capable of resolving the plot.”

      https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheChosenOne

      On Reedsy, here’s an article that delves into this trope as well and they say:
      “1) The Chosen One
      A character who is alone capable of fulfilling an important purpose, and whose responsibility is to resolve the plot’s main conflict — which will often be to save the world.”

      https://blog.reedsy.com/fantasy-tropes/

      I hope that clarifies my intent better. With believing that all life is intertwined and that ripples throughout our world are caused by many things, it’s hard to accept that only one person can effect change.

      Also, with an audience in mind, it’s easy to look at a Chosen One and see the contrasts between them and average people and be taken out of the story.

      I hope that clarifies.
      Thank you so much for reading.

      Namaste! 🙏🦋
      M.R.R.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dewin Nefol says:

        Namaste MRR 🙂

        A pleasure, thank you for such a detailed and focussed response 🙂 I abandoned the T.V as it began to occupy far to much of what little time I had of an evening. It is only when I have rare chance to stay in hotels that I watch the T.V – each time I do I feel as if I’ve just stepped out of the Dark Ages and cannot quite understand the sorcery of this magical box of moving pictures….how do the people get inside??! 🙂

        Ah thank you, I see and subsequently understand more about this ‘black-hole’ conjured by Quentin – it is as if he projects his despair into a concentrated single point creating a singularity of sorts – a little like a magnifying glass does when orientated towards the Sun. As far as magical powers go, this is certainly a very effective weapon, which has the added advantage of allowing him to ‘vent his spleen’ 🙂

        Thank you very much for providing the clip, it gives me a much better understanding of the ‘feel of the T.V show.’ The scene depicted is really quite intense.

        The explanation you provide regarding the ‘Chosen One’ trope is clear and concise – again I understand the differentiation between reality and fantasy suggested at in your article. Perhaps this is what intrigues me about this series, that the membrane between what is real and what is magic is stretched so thinly that lines are blurred…that the Chosen can operate within either realm and do so within a contemporary setting. Sci-fi is already a fantasy world and the characters operational within it are therefore fantastical as well – there is no perceived separation. I am of course a Harry Potter fan – what wizard isn’t?? 🙂 – but the ‘magic’ always feels as though it takes place on the other-side of the mirror in a different ‘dimension’….it is a world set-apart from that in which I exist. The Magicians allows me to comprehend the characters as human-beings right up to the point where they become something ‘other’.

        You write, ‘Like Shel Silverstein, all the magic I’ve ever seen I’ve had to make myself (imagination). ‘ dare I suggest that to a writer the experience of entertaining magic – or being magical with words – is no less real than the keyboard keys we depress to express that magic outwardly 🙂 I might even confess that such was the intensity of writing my book that there was no clear differentiation between the world in my head and the world I inhabited…on several occasions that existed as one: what played out in reality had already been written in advance as fantasy! I loved every second of it! lol 🙂

        Thank you MRR for sharing discussion and for introducing me to The Magicians. It most probably won’t have me rush out to buy a T.V, but I’ll certainly seek out further opportunity to views more of it in piece-meal format on-line.

        Enjoy the remainder of your week. Take care, happy writing! Be magical!! 😀

        Brightest Blessings. Namaste 🙂

        DN

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hope as well have a wonderful week!

        The Magicians is based off a book trilogy by Lev Grossman, so perhaps that would be a way for you to enjoy it. 🙂

        Do you go to the cinema? I don’t very often, but I do enjoy it from time to time. I think it’s better than television in many cases.

        The point of Harry Potter feeling so separated makes a lot of sense. I think that’s why I’ve enjoyed Rowling’s movie, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” so much – it’s the wizarding of Harry Potter but in a prequel set in New York City.

        All the best!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Dewin Nefol says:

        Namaste MRR 🙂

        Thank you for the book title and author. I’ve an audio-book library that is ever-expanding but always in need of a new title. I’ll see if this is available, thanks 🙂

        I am an occasional cinema-goer, and always enjoy the experience. Animation and Film was one of my degree majors: love of the moving-image continues. I agree the experience of cinema is far better than T.V: ’tis far more immersive and intimate.

        Magik’s forays into the modern world doesn’t always work as an idea but when executed well continues to please both heart and mind! 🙂

        Take care MRR. Live in Love, Go in Peace.

        Namaste 🙂

        DN

        Liked by 1 person

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