A Very Different Kind Of Magical School

MagiciansHitting stores and digital download today is Syfy's first season of The Magicians. If you're not familiar with the series, it's based on the novels of Lev Grossman and follows two friends as they are about to head off to college. Quentin Coldwater, who has spent his life feeling disconnected from everyone except for his one dear friend Julia Wicker. The two grew up on a fantasy book series called Fillory and Further. Both Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Julia (Stella Maeve) get tested for a special school called Brakebills University… think of it as a college version of Hogwarts with a lot more partying.

That whole thing is the first ten minutes of a very intriguing series. There is a lot going on, something that seems like a prophecy involving Quentin and fellow freshman Penny Adiyodi (Arjun Gupta) but turns out to be something even more twisted by seasons end. That's kind of what I loved about this series… no matter where you thought it was going, it went a different direction and it was far more twisted than I would've expected. The Magicians pushes the twisted envelope.

The cast is filled out with what appears to be two-dimensional characters at first, but later are fleshed out greatly. Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is the super smart girl that magic comes easy to. Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman) is the enigmatic older student who takes Quentin under his wing. Margo Hanson (Summer Bashil) is Eliot's bestie and a bit of a bitch. And there's Kady Orloff-Diaz (Jade Tailor) who starts as a love interest for Penny but again takes some twisted turns.

But you can't have a series like this without a destination and an opponent (I learned that from Aaron Sorkin's new class). In this case, now that he knows magic is real, Quentin wants to find his way to the magical world of Fillory… at first based on the stories he loved growing up, and then later to stop The Beast. The six-fingered Beast (where is Indigo Montoya when you need him?) is never clearly shown, but rather has a swarm of moths flying around to obscure his face at all time. He's extremely creepy and scary… and seems to be far more powerful than anyone at Brakebills, including Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) who get's his ass kicked very early on.

The strength of the show is the writing first. There are things dropped into episodes that just seem odd, like Quentin singing a Taylor Swift song in his head and Penny hearing it psychically. It seemed like a throw away moment when it happened only to become a major thing a few episodes later. And the show does that a lot. The second strength are the characters. Like I said above, a lot of them seems like two-dimensional filler, but we learn so much more about them that you really care about them by the end of the series. A good example of that is Eliot, who seemed to be aloof, only caring about the next party but by the end of season one he's my favorite character.

There are weaknesses as well. The show starts off very light (except the very end of the pilot) and gives the impression it might be an extended version of Harry Potter. It is definitely NOT that. So I could see viewers tuning out before the fourth episode which is where everything started to click. The series is worth watching all the way to the finale. But that's where my big problem comes in. I hated the finale. For some reason the writer did twelve good episodes in one format then changed everything up in the finale. Its all over the place, jumping time back and forth and leaving the series with a disappointing ending. Nothing resolved. I'm looking forward to season two so I can get the finale out of my head and move forward.

The Blu-ray has some nice bonus features including some deleted scenes, a gag reel and The World of the Magicians feature. This is a series I am happy to add to my collection and will definitely share with friends.

About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.