TV: The Magicians Disappoints

The Magicians (SY FY): 

I have been waiting for well over a year for Lev Grossman’s Young Adult trilogy to come to television. The books are among my favorite and I was really excited when SyFy aired the pilot last month. For those who are unfamiliar with the books, they are in essence the dark side of Harry Potter and Narnia combined. Quentin Coldwater, a brilliant introverted high school senior is spirited away to a magical university (Brakebills) while his friend Julia flunks the entrance exam and disappears for most of the first book while learning magic on her own. The books delve into themes of depression, death, sex, drugs and finding one’s place in the world. They are decidedly not “upbeat”.

When I saw the pilot in December, I was not blown away. They did some things that I thought make a lot of sense like aging the characters (Brakebills is now a graduate school) and keeping the Julia story-line paralleling Quentin’s so the actress doesn’t just do one show and disappear for a year or so. They also introduce the fictional land of Fillory (much like Narnia except it turns out to be real) into the story much earlier than in the books. The scariest moment of the book was introduced in the pilot and wasn’t scary at all – and what’s with the happy face with the eyeballs? Looked more like American Horror Story. It’s a lot to take in for people who haven’t read the book and I’ m not sure how those who don’t know the series could keep their heads from spinning but it is a pilot and pilots are notoriously just ok and try to do too much.

Fast forward to this week when I was able to re-watch the pilot and see the second episode. I had high hopes for the new episode even though I had some real concerns about the show after the pilot. Unfortunately, the problems just continued in the second episode including the plot being all over the place and reinforcing some serious miscasting .  Quentin and Alice are the biggest issues, which of course is a problem as they are the leads. It is a mess. I don’t know how people who haven’t read the books can figure out what is happening (or care) and those who have read the books are likely just shaking their heads. I honestly don’t know where the show runners are going with this and what the heck were they doing when they re-named “Janet” Margo? I guess Margo is supposed to be a more updated “modern” name?

I will continue to watch this show in hopes that they can figure out how to move forward but I’m not at all optimistic. In terms of the casting, while the actors playing Julia, Elliot and Penny are very good; I don’t know how you save a show when the two main actors just seem to be completely wrong for their respective parts. I’ll let you know if it improves but in the meantime, much as I hate to say it, you’d be better off to skip it and read the books.

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