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The Magic of The Magicians

“Hogwarts for adults” is how Syfy’s new show The Magicians is popularly described – but it’s SO much more than that. I admit the parallels are pretty obvious; both The Magicians and Harry Potter are about a guy who discovers magic and proceeds to go to magic school. Both stories have a truly terrifying, seemingly omnipotent villain. And in both stories, the school teachers seem surprisingly unhelpful in solving problems. But compared to the complexity of characters in The Magicians, Harry Potter seems terribly flat.

Actually, I would argue that The Magicians is rather the spiritual heir to Buffy the Vampire Slayer1 – fully matured. In BtVS, we got to enjoy the everyday struggle of teenagers in a supernatural high school, who underwent mind-blowing character development in expertly crafted season arcs while at the same time being delightfully quirky, nerdy and/or funny. And that’s exactly what The Magicians channels perfectly. Its nerd factor is already fully fledged, and most of its characters have already undergone dramatic developments. There is certainly a lot of potential for a brilliant series arc, since so far only one season of the show has aired.


So, Harry Potter meets Buffy? Well, perhaps when watching the first one or two episodes you might still be drawing comparisons, especially to Harry Potter. But unlike its younger cousins, The Magicians is set at a university; Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, which offers a three year graduate program in magic to (in this case) Ivy League graduates. And with university come all the things that only grown-ups can handle; sex, addiction, mental illness, abuse, gore, swear words… Finally, a show that doesn’t pander to a specific rating, but rather that just bluntly does what it’s supposed to do with full force! The first season gets darker and darker as it progresses, until it finally unveils the gruesome machinations and consequences of its plot. It’s so good that this is one of the very, very rare shows which I definitely want to watch again at some point (perhaps once we’ve seen all future seasons).

Not only does The Magicians have an intriguing plot, it also has some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while. It centers around the very unusual Quentin – unusual for a “hero”. He is socially awkward, he has trouble making eye contact, he is a complete nerd and full of geeky knowledge, nobody seems to get his references and actually he’s quite a fanboy, – OMG he’s me! You could argue that The Magicians puts its primary target audience in the position of the hero, because I’m pretty sure that many viewers will feel the same way about Quentin. He’s a hero us geeks can totally identify with, because many of us have lived a similar life. But at the same time he is also deeply flawed and struggles with all of life’s obstacles. I’m really curious to find out how his character develops in the future2. He is also part of a great ensemble and each of these characters has found a way into my heart by the end of the season in their own twisted way.

I can highly recommend The Magicians to anyone who is a fan of great storytelling, very nerdy, and/or who enjoyed Buffy and Harry Potter. But perhaps it would be clever to wait a year or two, because the cliffhanger that season one ended on was just brutal. How is anyone supposed to wait almost a year for a resolution to THAT?!

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