There’s a new show in town and it is magical! “The Magicians,” based on the popular Lev Grossman novels is often described as a Harry Potter for grown-ups. Is magic afoot in this new series? Find out after the jump.
The Magicians S01 E01: Unauthorized
The two-episode season premiere, under the spell of executive producers Sera Gamble and John McNamara, begins with a door that connects a busy city street to a forest and two professors discussing what’s heading their way.
They are counting on their students and, in particular, Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) to use magic to save them all. There’s just one small problem. Quentin is at the Midtown Mental Health Clinic. Our protagonist is depressed and medicated and, searching for the meaning of life. Aren’t we all?
The first episode introduces us to a few of the main characters starting with our protagonist, Quentin having to make a choice to leave behind his love for magic to go forth into the real world. Like a fish out of water, the only time Quentin isn’t morose is when he’s reading or talking about the fictional world of Fillory, a Narnia type of kingdom, and the Chatwin family, Martin, Rupert, and Jane.
Quentin has a childhood friend named Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve) who is also interested in magic. When Julia and Quentin arrive for his graduate school interview with a Yale alumnus, the man is dead and, the adventure begins.
Police and paramedics arrive at the scene, but one of the paramedics hands an envelope to Quintin. Inside is the manuscript for the sixth book of Fillory and Further. Is this an authentic manuscript? Quintin thinks it’s real. Julia doesn’t.
Right off, you find yourself invested in these two characters. Julia is smart and she worries about her friend. Even though their love of magic helped them to survive high school, Julia is more willing to let go, but both are in for a surprise when a gust of wind steals a sheet of paper from Quentin and, Julia enters the elevator.
Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy
Julia and Quentin find themselves in the realm of magic, or more precisely, Brakebills College. This is not the dark and gothic Hogwarts’ school, but a modern building. We meet some of the students, with my favorite being the sarcastic Eliot (Hale Appleman), who takes Quentin under his wing and to the entrance exam. Julia is also there for the test. The quiz is magical in itself with the pages constantly changing before the students can even solve a problem. Kind of what I experienced while doing Algebra in high school.
Julia fails the test, but before the instructor wipes clean her memory, Julia cuts her arm in hopes of remembering what happened. Quentin stuns himself and Dean Henry Fogg with his amazing card trick. Later, Quentin has a vision where he is in Fillory and meets Jane Chatwin (Rose Liston). She warns him that something bad is coming.
Episode one introduces us to more of Brakebills’ students and, I’m very interested in learning more about Quentin’s roommate, Penny (Arjun Gupta), a moody mind reader who has zero-G sex with another student, Kady (Jade Taylor).
Zero-G sex is becoming a trademark for the Syfy channel as this is the second series to feature it with “The Expanse” having featured it on its first episode. We also get to meet Margo (Summer Bishil) and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) a rich, nerdy girl with a secret. While Quentin tours the college grounds, he and the viewers are introduced to the magnificent choreography of hand movements used to cast spells. This is an actual art form called finger tutting.
There is no safe magic in this show and not every magician is to be trusted. Quentin visits Julia at a party after her boyfriend James (Michael Cassidy) tells Quentin that something is wrong with her. Julia wants Quentin to get her into Brakebills. He can’t and you sense the rift beginning between them. But, even though Brakebills won’t accept Julia, there is another who will. Pete (David Call) is a magician who uses magic to disrobe Julia, but we are spared any kinky stuff when we realize that he wants Julia to join his group. Julia is so desperate to do magic that she may be stepping into a trap. I had the pleasure of interviewing the talented Stella Maeve about her character and the series and you can check it out here.
I like all the characters so far, but Alice is the most mysterious of them all. She comes from a family of magicians and she is trying to find her missing brother. After the ghostly Ann Chatwin (Liston) brands Quentin with a magic symbol, he asks Alice for help. The brand will enable Quintin to contact the dead. Alice wants to contact her brother, who died at Brakebills, but as any ghost investigator knows, when you open that door, you might be letting in a negative spirit.
Quentin and Alice have accidentally released a frightful creature with their spell. The Beast (Anthony Marble), who is accompanied by a legion of moths, is one hell of a monster. The Beast kills one instructor and maims Dean Fogg before going after Quentin.
The Magicians S01 E02: Source of Magic
We were left with a cliffhanger when the Beast turned his attention on Quentin, but somehow Quentin is spared. How? Alice and Penny give us clues as they talk to the school’s investigators. Was it the Dean’s timepiece that saved Quentin, or the combined spells of Alice and Kady? There is an investigation to find out who summoned the Beast.
Eliot is a couple of grades ahead of Quentin, but he has taken a liking to the newcomer and plans to help. I love the Eliot character played so mischievously by Hale Appleman. He is what I expected of Harry Potter and didn’t get. Eliot, who gives great advice with a healthy serving of sarcasm, listens as Quentin explains how the Beast was summoned.
Elliot is cool, but he has his own dark secrets. He killed a bully. It was an accident. He didn’t know he was telekinetic, but murder by bus is still murder. Eliot reminds Quentin that magic doesn’t come from talent. It comes from pain.
We learn how Alice, who has never taken the entrance exam, found Brakebills. There are charms to keep people out, unless invited. Alice admits to stealing one of her family’s alumni keys. Alice doesn’t believe that Fillory is real, but Quentin reminds her that the characters of the books were based on real neighbors of the author. He shows her a video that mentions the strange disappearance of the Chatwin family, Martin, Jane and Rupert.
I’m trying to get a handle on Penny (Gupta), Quentin’s roommate. He’s angry and keeps his feelings to himself but he does reveal a shocker to Kady and us when he admits that the voice that has taught him magic belongs to the Beast. He wants to leave the school, but Kady gives him a charm to protect himself. The charm doesn’t protect Penny from being pulled into Ms. Sunderland’s (Anna Dudek) office along with Kady, Quintin and Alice. Quentin.
A curious Julia follows Pete into an abandoned meat packing company. Pete has a star branded on his arm, but he’s not about to explain it, instead, he locks Marina (Kacey Rohl) and Julia inside a meat locker as part of a test.
Julia doesn’t need to flunk another test and, she doesn’t. Marina and Julia deal with the freezing cold and an animated body that attacks them before getting impaled on a metal rod. I love the Julia character because she is the magical version of “MacGyver.” She uses what she can find in the meat locker and a bit of magic, to keep her and Marina from freezing to death.
I like that you have to pass a test to get into Brakebills and, I like Quentin, even though he’s a bit of a whiner. Quentin finally has that meeting with the specialist, who was also the paramedic from episode one. She’s not pleased Quentin, but decides to take another chance on our bumbling magician. Quentin is happy, but what about Julie?
Julia has made new friends and she’s passed her test with flying colors, but are her new friends trustworthy? I don’t trust anyone who has their meetings in a meat locker. We learn that Marina has a spy at Brakebills; Kady.
Magic is afoot, my little spell casters and it all leads back to Fillory. While the blind and injured Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) is healing from the Beast’s attack, Julia gets her first star tattoo. So, what do you think? Are you in for the long haul?