The Magicians is the show that you watch when you’re still cursing Owl Post that you never received your Hogwarts letter, while you sit in the closet waiting to be whisked away to Narnia. It’s the show you watch when you’re still the kid that believes in magic, but also an adult who knows that magic can’t fix everything – and that real life sometimes isn’t as glamorous as the fantasy books make it out to be. It’s the show you watch when you root for the underdog who knows these things, and still seeks to make the world a better place, one good – or extremely bad – decision at a time.
The Magicians is an American SyFy television show, adapted from the adult novels by Lev Grossman. As stated, it’s Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia, with a healthy dose of real-world problems piled in to the magical ones, making the characters relatable, lovable, and sometimes frustrating.
If you’re sweeping through Netflix, wishing for something to make you feel empowered, like your favorite fantasy movies and books did, this one’s right up your alley. And, if you need a little extra convincing, here are five reasons that you should give The Magicians a try.
Reason One: Each Hero Has Their Own Journey
As Game of Thrones, and other pioneering shows have demonstrated, a great approach to storytelling is the feature of an ensemble of main characters, and storylines. This eases the sometimes monotonous transition from one storyline to another, and allows a ‘pick your hero’ type feel when you’re needing to relate to the character you’re reading about.
The Magicians takes this approach by featuring seven (sometimes more) would-be heroes and their unique storylines, that always tie together to tell a broader story in beautiful ways.
Each of the seven budding magicians come from a unique background, with different aspirations and reasons to study magic, and are brought together and torn apart as needed to build their characters and grow.
Quentin (Jason Ralph) is an introvert who felt like his only place was in the otherworldly and seemingly fictional land of Fillory in his favorite books. Feeling like he was destined to never fit in, Quentin found himself in and out of inpatient care for depression and his detachment with reality. Once he discovers the world of magic is real, he begins to finally feel that he has a purpose, whereas his childhood best friend, Julia (Stella Maeve), feels betrayed to not be accepted into the world she and Quentin fantasized about as children, and seeks her own path and adventure to learn magic, at whatever the cost.
Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil) are upperclassmen at the magical university of Brakebills, who thrive on being young, irresponsible and the life of the party, usually drinking away their problems- until the consequences affect more than just them, and they are asked to make sacrifices they’d scarcely thought of prior.
Penny (Arjun Gupta) is your resident ‘bad boy’, whose reason for distance is more than just angst. He’s packing some serious world-altering magic that could put his life at risk at any moment. Hesitant at first to make friends or use his powers, he opens up to Kady (Jade Tailor), misguided and lost as well, and together begin to tear down walls that help them become a vital part of saving the world.
The final piece to the team is the ‘Hermione’ of the group- but, don’t be fooled, Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudley) has her own reasons for coming to Brakebills, and though knowledge helps in school, it can also be a very dangerous thing.
Together, this unlikely group of friends learn how to become adults, learn magic, become heroes, and maybe just save more worlds than their own.
Reason Two: The Characters are Relatable and Human
Tying right into number one is a continuation on characterization.
The Magicians realizes that everyone has flaws and asks: why should heroes and villains be any different?
Perfect protagonists and downright evil antagonists make scenarios easy to guess, almost like a robot playing a game of chess. A clear line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ strips down humanity.
The Magicians explores the reality that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are full of greys, and that behind every decision lies a reason that brought the character to that point.
The result? Face-palming as your favorite ‘hero’ makes the stupidest decision of their lives because they’re human, and crying as you find out why the ‘villain’ felt that they had to make the decisions they did.
This is humanity, and these are the lines that say, “hey, we’re just little humans, we’re not perfect, we’re trying our best”. To be fair, Superman probably mismatched his socks sometimes, too.
Reason Three: Representation
Representation is huge, and, until recent years, almost entirely unheard of on television. There were the occasional exceptions to this rule, often used as comedic relief; however, in today’s television- a large part of viewers want to see people on screen that they can relate to. They want to feel like they have a voice- and why shouldn’t they?
More and more new shows are adding a wider variety of characters from different backgrounds, with different lifestyles, and different views- to make the world inclusive as it should be. The Magicians does this beautifully.
The TV show features an ensemble of potential heroes, rather than a singular protagonist. Women are front and center, and not placed behind their masculine counterparts. Main characters stem from different cultures, there is LGBTQ representation, there is representation for people of color, there is representation for the blind, as well as the deaf/hard of hearing. There is never an underlying statement in this show that any one of those characters is ‘less than’ any of their counterparts. The show features a ton of diversity, inclusion and equality- which sends out the message that heroes and villains can be anyone, and that all humans have potential for greatness.
Reason Four: Because We Grew Up Waiting on Our Letter From Hogwarts
“Not much can be said about what magic is and what magic is not. It is real and it is not for everyone. It is not the answer to all of your problems, although it could very well transform them into opportunities. It is one thing to know of magic, it is another thing to be a Magician. Magic is born of the notion that our world, governed by its laws of physics, which keep us trapped on this isolated rock, is limited; incomplete. At Brakebills we take students who have that notion and teach them to transform it into something tangible, hopefully without blowing themselves up in the process.”
Who doesn’t want to believe in magic? To this day, people are disappointed that an owl didn’t woosh through their window and plop a Hogwarts letter into their lap. So, to stave that disappointment, we lived vicariously through Harry (or Ron, Hermione, Draco, you have it), learning spells that we could one day use to vanquish our own Voldemorts. We were absolutely certain that it was a mistake, of course we weren’t Muggles.
Others of us followed along with Luke or Leia, Kirk or Spock, Bilbo and Frodo, Daenerys, Tyrion, and all of the other heroes of these magical worlds- because they are where we belong, who we grew up with, and magic is real as long as you believe in it.
Quentin Coldwater, one of the many protagonists of The Magicians, is much the same way, growing up in a book world of Fillory, which he later discovers is real. Who doesn’t wish for that reality? (Unless, of course, you’re ending up in Panem, but that’s a story for another time).
Magic lives on in The Magicians, combining elements of the beloved stories we grew up with, with a new flare all of its own, and the right amount of reality to immerse you completely.
It’s also geared for young adults and adults with a 14-and-up rating, making it ideal for many who grew up learning magic from Harry in middle and high school, to a graduate setting in good timing, allowing us to grow with magic.
(14+ Rating due to violence, substance use, sexual content, difficult themes and language. The show is also not trigger-free.)
Reason Five: It’s Not Just a Washed Up Storyline
The Magicians is full of successful elements of its predecessors, but delivers a story and experience that is all its own- from its characters, to its worlds, and even to its magic.
In books like Harry Potter, and Divergent, you are sorted into houses that are based off of your personality- so you are grouped with like-minded individuals. The Magicians focuses more on the magic type that you are most fluent in (although a magician is certainly capable of more than one magical skill). Brakebills school sorts students into the different magical elements, defined as: Natural, Illusion, Knowledge, Physical, Psychic, and Healing.
As well as the ability to become acquainted with several different types of magic, some of these six branches veer off to uncommon traits, such as Penny, who is a Psychic, but also a traveller, which grants him the rare ability to travel between locations and even worlds.
Another difference in the world The Magicians, is the way the spells are cast. The method used is called finger-tutting and does not require wands or weaponry. The primary way to cast is through spells, and hand motions and symbols, making a magician’s hands very valuable.
Magic also isn’t the cure-all for problems in this series, and can sometimes worsen a problem or have horrific consequences. Not following the typical ‘magic-comes-with-a-price’ trope precisely, it does encourage the fact that one must follow their heart and use their brain, and not rely on magic to fix everything. This leaves a lot of real-world issues for the protagonists to tackle, atop the magical ones. These problems can be difficult to watch, though they reflect on issues that can be brushed passed on many shows for their touchy nature. Triggers for this show include assault, sexual violence, death, trauma, mental illness, and other heavy hitters, making it punch its points hard, and heavily, leaving its cliffhangers that much more intense.
If you’re not ready to give up the world of magic,but prefer to continue to grow up with it, this series is a great place to start. Pick a hero (or a villain) and learn their stories and magic, mature with them, and change the course of multiple worlds, just as you did with all of the heroes that came before.
Seasons 1 and 2 of The Magicians are available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
Season 3 of The Magicians is currently airing on SyFy Wednesdays at 9/8C.
Based on the adult series, The Magicians, by Lev Grossman.