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.
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.