If you like the fantasy genre, you’ll like ‘The Magicians’. If you love subverted tropes, strong female characters and an ironic take on the concept of ‘whimsy’, you’ll love ‘The Magicians’.
The TV show, based on the first book of the same name, has been described as being a ‘Harry Potter’ – but for adults, booze-guzzling, cynical adults. In my view, it is that, yes, but so much more…
Disclaimer: I read the book trilogy about two years ago and devoured them. It’s rare that I get engulfed in a book so quickly, but there I was, nose deep in its pages, quickly turning page after page to discover what happened next on Quentin’s ridiculous journey. When I heard that there was a TV show – I was ecstatic – finally other people who appreciated my love for these weird little books.
Having said that, I couldn’t find anywhere to watch it. I missed recordings of it on TV. It wasn’t on Netflix. Or Amazon. I could buy the DVDs, but that’s so 2000 and who cares. Eventually, after years of waiting (and refusing to use those ‘dodgy’ websites), it graced Amazon Prime. And I rapidly became obsessed.
But I digress. ‘The Magicians’, if you didn’t already know, is about Quentin Coldwater, a depressed young adult whose life gets turned upside down when he (kinda accidentally) enrolls at Brakebills University – a magical school. As the plot goes on, things get even stranger as he discovers that the books he read as a child ‘Fillory’, are all real, and Fillory is a very real, very strange, and very dangerous, place.
With four seasons under their belt – and a fifth set to air very soon – ‘The Magicians’ has a very dedicated, core fanbase (myself included, if you hadn’t figured that out already…) – who rewatch the show time and time again, to add a sprinkle of modern magic into their lives.
But what makes the show so great? Honestly, if I listed every single reason I’d be here all day, and this post would be an endless scroll-fest into the depths of the internet. But alas, dear fantasy lovers, I shall try my best to round up why ‘The Magicians’ is so, so good.
***Just a heads up, there’s gonna be some minor spoilers for ‘The Magicians’ ahead…***
The characters are so god-damn good!
I’ve never seen an ensemble of characters work so well together. Each of them has their part to play, their own integral role in the story. But what makes the cast so special is how they grow throughout the story. Julia going from magic-craved outcast, to vengeful psychopath, to full-on Goddess and back again – her character arc is one of the most thrilling I’ve ever seen – and she’s not even the main character!
There’s Eliot, drinking-obsessed hedonist turned selfless-King turned demon; who learns to juggle his hedonistic ways in order to be a support pillar for those he loves. Quentin, who has to grow up and accept that the ideals he held dear as a child aren’t what they’re cracked up to be – but they do make him, well him. Kady, who learns that being a tough badass bitch and being able to love aren’t mutually exclusive. Alice – whose character arc is messier than most – but is endlessly fascinating to watch. Penny – who reluctantly starts to care for this bunch of misfits. After watching these guys go on their many misadventures, you genuinely do feel as though you’ve journeyed with them. And that is truly special.
At its core, it’s the relations between the main characters that make this show special. How they bounce off and connect with each other is brilliant to see, and it keeps the show fresh AF.
Three words: Margo friggin’ Hanson
Bet you thought I’d forgotten about Margo, hadn’t you? Nope, this absolute
Queen King deserves her own moment to shine. To me, Margo is the absolute centre of the show (or, at least, the character I care about the most). Sure, she starts off as a side character, whose bitchy comments always managed to rouse a laugh from my lips. As the show goes on though, it becomes more and more Margo-centric – even going as far to make her the High King of friggin’ Fillory! (I’m not ashamed to admit I cheered when that glorious moment happened…).
She’s a badass, doesn’t take any shit from anyone, witty, clever, funny and vulnerable. Margo Hanson is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time, and I cannot wait to see where her adventures take her in season 5. In fact, I wrote an entire post about why Margo Hanson is my favourite character in ‘The Magicians’, so take a peek and pay respects to Fillory’s High King!
It’s wonderfully tongue-in-cheek
‘The Magicians’ works so well because of a zesty, fresh script – one that bounces and sings, encapsulating its characters’ perfectly. With that said, it doesn’t always take itself too seriously. It’s gloriously meta, occasionally tapping on the fourth wall, with lots of wink-wink jokes scattered throughout. As the show goes on, it embraces its whimsical vibe, and it runs with it. Somehow, harsh moments (a cat literally gets turned inside out…) splashed with self-aware comedy (“we might be comic relief”) work together wonderfully.
This show can get dark very fast, but there’s always a group musical number a few episodes away to lift up your spirits. Somehow, that weird concoction just works.
There’s a hella lot of diversity
Rather than a show featuring six straight white people (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s nice to see a more diverse, accurate display on our screens. C’mon, it is 2020) – ‘The Magicians’ has a wonderful cast of characters from all different backgrounds. Gay characters, bi characters, people of colour – ‘The Magicians’ offers us a realistic view of the world around us. One of the actors is trans, too – but it is never made a huge song and dance out of. It offers a true-to-life take on representation that most shows falters at. It’s racially diverse, sexually diverse – and none of it is showcased to be more than it is. It isn’t the showmakers ticking off a box on a list – it’s an authentic view on the real world – wrapped up in fantasy. Honestly, ‘The Magicians’ is ahead of its time.
(Sure, there was a little bit of queer-baiting with Quentin/Eliot – but I’ll let that one slide. It is, as far as I’m aware, the only misstep the show made in regards to that).
It tackles fantasy in a fresh way
From rabbit messengers to humans becoming Gods to sex magic – ‘The Magicians’ isn’t afraid to tackle any form of the fantasy genre. There’s realm-jumping, fictional-turned-real kingdoms, actual Gods – all while, somehow, managing to keep one foot in reality. Writing about the magic used in ‘The Magicians’ would take an entire post of its own, but it’s not afraid to take the fantasy tropes and twist them on their heads. Characters die, cute animals die, there’s literal opium in the air of the fictional land – but hey, there’s talking bears, so that counts for something, right?
Oh, there’s also musical numbers! I’m a sucker for a good music number, so when this happens (several times throughout the show, I might add), I was ecstatic. Honestly, it’s like somebody went into the folds of my mind and make the perfect show out of it. Magic? Check. Musical numbers? Check. A badass cast? Check.
The true gold core of this show is that the writers aren’t afraid. They’re not afraid to use the word ‘cunt’. They’re not afraid to kill that puppy. They’re not afraid to tackle big, heavy themes – but they dress it up in a wonderfully whimsical way that makes it hard to take your eyes off of it.
‘The Magicians’ is special. Truly. I’ve never watched a TV show that’s conjured up so many unique feelings before. It’s bold. It’s brash. It takes risks. The plot moves at 10,000 miles an hour – but it keeps it fresh and interesting – all while allowing the characters to grow. Honestly, it’s a strong contender for my favourite television show of all time. So thank you, ‘Magicians’ – to the cast and writers and producers – thank you for sprinkling a little bit of magic into my life. The show will always have a special place in my heart.
For more on fantasy, check out why I thought the ‘Game of Thrones’ ending wasn’t *that* bad. Or, see what I thought about ‘Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker’.
Don’t forget to give me a follow on Twitter – keep your eyes peeled for my Margo-centric post – it’ll be on its way soon!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to rewatch ‘The Magicians’ (…again).