I’ve been patiently waiting for the premiere of The Magicians ever since I found out that my beloved fantasy novel would become a tv series. I thoroughly enjoyed the book more than anticipated with my first read through, and I will say the show definitely left me feeling a bit mixed about how I felt. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great show but there are quite a few differences, some good and some bad. Keep reading to check out my thoughts and review on The Magicians as a tv show.
Full Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of the books and have chosen to review the title with prior knowledge of the story in mind. I’ll be talking about what the show did right and what the show did wrong, as well as making comparisons to the book the title is based on. The article will contain spoilers for future episodes of the show as well.
What an interesting ride The Magicians took us on. The first episode introduces us to the main character Quentin Coldwater. Quentin isn’t your average run-of-the-mill “chosen one” hero that embarks on a quest when finding out that what they once loved and always wanted was available. In the novel and in the show, Quentin is the guy that can’t ever truly be happy, he’s very complex yet exceedingly simple. The show and book follow Quentin as he finds out that the use of actual magic is real, he matriculates and discovers just how hard it is to do magic. On top of that, the story revolves around Quentin and his obsession with a series of magical children’s novels called the Fillory and Further series, think of it as the Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter of the real world. Quentin struggles with finding a place to fit in, his addiction with a world that he isn’t sure actually exists, and the realization that magic is real, and what that means to his future.
Now that you know what the show is about, let’s talk about the first episode. If you’re looking for an interesting show to fill your Monday night TV slot, and you’ve got an inkling for a little bit of magic mixed into an everyday scenario, then The Magicians might be just what you’re looking for.
One of the things that the book (and so far the show) does so well is portray characters that are relatable, even in this fantasy world. The show allows for its characters to take magic as seriously as they want the viewers to. Magic isn’t some fancy and folly “swish and flick” of a wand, it’s the tedious work of a group of intellectual students performing intricate motions and memorizing inarticulate incantations from difficult and dead languages performed in the most precise manner. It’s a complicated feat if there ever was one. Each character takes the notion of magic, its existence and its practice as serious as any viewer who has been thrust into this world would. The best part though, is that these characters are broken in one way or another. This sort of character development allows for a very real feeling to the surreal reality the characters in the show face.
The show also decides to place the stories of Julia and Quentin as parallels to each other, which does wonders for viewers, because the descent of Julia’s life and decisions will provide for a lush and visual separation from Quentin and his proper magical upbringing. The Chatwins (the children from the magical land of the Fillory and Further novels) are much more prevalent at the beginning of the show than they are in the books, and the spells cast in the show, while easy to believe, are sometimes a bit too watered down compared to the books extravagant (at times) spell casts. The only other big difference I have noticed is a missing character (Josh, who may have been replaced by another female) the new name for Janet (Magrot, since there were too many J names in the show) and some scene changes and a few character refinements (though most of them were welcome changes), though some of these changes are so vastly different from the novel like what happens to Dean Fogg, that it’ll keep readers interested to see where the show is going. The actors in the show have proven themselves almost perfect iterations of their novel counterparts (with the exception of Alice in my own opinion) and the cast is so enjoyable to watch that it makes up for some of the slower moments within the show. I was a bit disappointed with the presentation of the different magical groups, but it’s a small complaint in the grander scheme of things.
All together the first episode was a ton of fun. The show covered quite a bit of the book (a little over 100 pages of backstory and school information compressed into an hour) while ending on an intense cliffhanger. There were a lot of characters introduced within the hour, and a lot to process and a few dull moments within the first hour, though that’s to be expected with some show premieres. The title overall was a great jump into a relatable universe, and its set viewers up for an intriguing and amazing ride with what’s to come.
Did you watch the first episode? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @WTFGamersOnly. Stay tuned next week for less of a comparison and more of a review on episode 2 of The Magicians.