Am I alone in anything that’s labelled a “SyFy Original” automatically makes me cringe in disgust? I think that is a deeply seeded notion based on the shows and movies typical of the channel while I was in college. They were beyond ridiculous. Do you remember the Skeleton Man? Yeah, that had a very big part in my skepticism going into The Magicians. I mean, c’mon. Even the premise sounds so Harry-Potter-rip-off. Maybe even Harry Potter and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. And the main guy, Quentin? Oh, good God, what a cringe-worthy emo boy. Here, watch the trailer:
It’s about magic being real in the world we live in today. But they’re older students and I assumed that meant they insert random sex stuff and try to make it edgy. And it has the budget of a SyFy show. Seriously. I went in just knowing this was going to be a festering turd.
I Was So Freakin’ Wrong.
They do have random sex stuff. And some of it is forced, it’s true. There is even a character that makes my husband and I argue over which action is her stupidest and can she top it? How on Earth can Julia be that freakin’ stupid? And yeah, the emo boy, Quentin, is basically all the things you’d expect. He’s pretty annoying, be warned going in. But I can’t bring myself to care about any of that. Because in every single episode I’ve seen there has been at least one moment that has made me laugh out loud. Most of the time, I laugh until my sides hurt.
Because there’s a hilarious opportunity that most fiction gets wrong when imagining magic in our world: The absurdity. Of course centaurs (who are totally real) would be called Bronies. Of course when you get pregnant, you find out by a talking rabbit screaming “PREGNANT!” in your face. That’s your magical pregnancy test. You hold the bunny and if it screams pregnant; you are.
There is no Chosen One.
Basically every fantasy show or book ever has this premise: There can be only one. Or one is going to stand alone above the others. And this show starts out following Quentin so closely that you think it’s going to be him. But as the show progresses, they focus on other characters more and more so you’re not sure it’s going to be Q anymore.
In fact, the show sets you up several times to think “oooooh, this is where she comes into her powers!” or “Oh yeah, he’s totally going to kick ass now!” But no. There is no magic wand. I mean that literally. There are magic items, but even in a world where magic exists, they don’t have all the cliches you come to expect. That’s not to say they don’t have some. But the beauty of them is that the show will broach these cliches with tongue in cheek. They come as close to breaking the fourth wall as they can without actually talking to the viewer. It’s brilliant.
And it is Edgy.
You don’t want to watch this show with your kids. There’s a shit ton of profanity. (Which is entirely appropriate for the scenarios and I’m now sort of resentful that Harry never said “WTF?!”) There’s floating magical sex. There’s magic induced orgies and threesomes. Some do seem a bit randomly inserted. Most seem applicable.
There is a fair amount of fighting. Surprising amount of blood and guts. But that doesn’t ever feel forced. And there are some subplots that are heart breaking that involve sexual abuse and rape. None of which seem gratuitous. They all serve to further the plot. It actually does connect you further to the show.
The Actors Love Their Characters
And it shines through. I watched a Comic Con Panel with the cast of the Magicians and was honestly surprised how much the cast lived in their roles. You can tell who films the most with each other because their bonds are obvious. The best friends on screen are the best friends off screen, too. And it shows. They ask a question to the panel “Who is most like their character?” and they can’t decide. Every time they think they decide, another actor says or does something accidentally in character. Each time someone says they’re like their character, they absolutely gush. They love their characters. They are their characters. They were cast perfectly.
And FYI, I don’t really like Stella Maeve much more than Julia.
The Series is based on Books
I haven’t read but I have listened to the first two on Audible. The series is still in my cart on Amazon. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, but when I actually pick up a book … my kids mostly survive on fruit snacks while mommy neglects them egregiously. the show and books are dramatically different so you can definitely enjoy both separately. The show does the humor a bit better and the books, somehow, make Julia more emo.
So get to it.
Seasons 1-3 is on Netflix. It’s all on Amazon. Most is on Hulu. And Sling. YouTubeTv, too. If you have On Demand, it’s there, too. And the new episodes of season 2 are airing Wed at 9/8c starting tonight. They’ve renewed it already for season 5, so yay.
If you have a slightly crass sense of humor, enjoy absurdity and magic: This is for you, man. It really is. And if you need a bit more, here’s a recap of season 3 and a preview for season 4.