The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 1: “Unauthorized Magic”

The Magicians – Season 1, Episode 1: “Unauthorized Magic”
Grade: A-

NOTE: I haven’t read any of the books by Lev Grossman (I believe there are three) so this is purely from the perspective of someone watching only the show and knowing little to nothing about the story and characters in the books. I’ve also started this blog after episode 3 has aired, so the first reviews of those episode will be more brief.

I first heard of the books by Lev Grossman a while ago and thought, “Um, Harry Potter for adults? Yes, please!” And then I forgot about them entirely. When I saw a short commercial for the show, The Magicians caught my eye immediately and I knew I needed to watch. It was only after some Googling, I found out that The Magicians the show and The Magicians the book were linked.

First off, I will say that I like this show. It has a few problems with pacing (mostly too fast when it should be slow, too slow when it should be fast, but not the entire time) and some other things I’ll get into later, but I really like it. Especially the first episode, it was by far my top episode of any TV so far in 2016. The first episode is directed by Mike Cahill, who directed my favorite film Another Earth, and it’s done so well. The effects are great for a television show, especially one on Syfy (which has been stepping up their game in the last few years, in my opinion).

I enjoyed the beginning, even though I’ve heard some criticism for it being too clunky, which it is, but I always assume the beginning of every show will be that way. Because it happens so often. Though I do think the decision to have Quentin in some sort of institution was strange (is that in the books?) and it didn’t give me any more information about Quentin. Simply having his anxiety and out-of-place feeling he shows at the party was enough. It was unnecessary and added to the awkwardly-paced start.

Overall, the show is great. The characters are interesting and have their own stories—Alice looking for what happened to her brother, Penny with the strange voice in his head—that come together to start the overall story of the show: something to do with Fillory, the magical world from a story the protagonist Quentin is obsessed with, and that seems to be real, and the Beast that shows up instead of Alice’s brother after they try to contact him from beyond the grave. Julia’s storyline is interesting as well. It gives another sense of the world, another side to the brilliance and wonder of Brakebills. It’s the gritty, dark, DIY version of learning magic.

The ending was near perfect. That final scene with The Beast not only terrified me, but made me immediately want the next episode—which, fortunately, came on right after—and made me a fan of the show. I’ve continued watching and will continue to watch for the rest of the season, mostly because I want to see where The Magicians goes.


HIGHLIGHTS

Julia’s storyline
is a bit heartbreaking for me, because one of my my biggest fears is being left behind, especially left behind on some incredible magical journey if knew I could do magic. And, Stella Maeve is fantastic (her voice alone is incredible to listen to) and the introduction to “hedge witches” is fascinating. I’m glad they are splitting the story between the two, giving us something to break to and adding another gritty level to this magical world.

The final scene with The Beast
sold it for me. It’s even the reason it’s my top episode of 2016 so far. Throughout the episode, I was still on the fence about it. I wasn’t sure where it was going, but once that scene started, I was genuinely terrified and held my breath throughout until the final moment.

LOWLIGHTS

Brakebills is a fantastic,
magical school where people learn magic but we…don’t know much about it. Or what most of it looks like besides some courtyard and offices and classrooms that seem like normal, everyday classrooms—though extraordinarily beautiful, it doesn’t seem magical. There isn’t anything spectacular about it and I want more. Not to compare it to Harry Potter, but I’m going to compare it to Harry Potter: I want Hogwarts without being Hogwarts. It needs to have more punch, more mystery, more magic.

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