Latest posts by entropy (see all)
- Boots on the Ground – entropy Visits His Local Chili Cook Off – April 25, 2017
- You Should Be Watching The Magicians – April 19, 2017
- entropy Reads the Classics…. a call for submissions – March 13, 2017
The Magicians, Syfy’s other modest-budgeted hit show from last year (along with the adaptation of The Expanse novels, which warrants its own post should this one find an audience), is probably the finest fantasy-themed show on TV not named Game of Thrones, and the second season finale airs tonight at 9 PM Eastern.
If you’re not already watching, you really should be, and I’ll attempt to provide some reasons why in this here column, along with reasons that appeal to most of our baser natures toward the end of the post (oooo! reasons to stick around!).
Simply put, as so many other reviews and recaps have stated, this show is Harry Potter And The Real World, which is fairly apt, and it’s also one of the best shows Syfy has managed to put on TV since Battlestar Galactica went off the rails and screwed up the landing in their final seasons. Essentially, magic is a problematic part of what passes for our “real” world, and there’s an entire portion of the world dedicated to this. There are special schools, banks has magic-prevention tech, and for everyone who tries to make it and fails, there are subcultures built around finding a way into the main world of magic by any means necessary. The whole thing feels believable, even if some of the details don’t quite work (there’s a subplot involving a US Senator who has no idea magic exists, which doesn’t quite make sense to me…. someone in power how to know about this, right?), on the whole, they get it right.
All characters on the Magicians are deeply flawed without succumbing to the trap of every show on the CW network: they’re not complete idiots who forget they have access to magic when it’s convenient for the plot. Main character Quentin has been denied magic his entire life, and when it finally becomes real, he’s still somehow unhappy because he finds out it doesn’t fix everything by, well, magic. Best friend Julia, who has long been the best at everything, suddenly finds something she isn’t good enough for… and it breaks her. Alice, the flip side to Julia’s coin, is so good at magic she hides it behind a shy exterior. Penny is a typical tough-guy type who acts that way because he’s had the voice of a monster in his head his entire life. Kady pretends to be a tough girl but shatters like glass without warning. Elliot and Margo… well, they’re awful, but in the best possible ways, and their friendship is a high point for the series. The professors and teachers don’t act like they know everything, and seem more like real teachers than I’ve actually seen on TV in a long time.
The first season was all about an external threat, The Beast, and how this gang of idiots can find a way to beat him without dying, again… and again…. and again. Plus, the Beast is a jaunty, flippant villain who was just fun to watch as he taunted and tormented our crew throughout the season. Julia spent the season trying to find a way into the magical elite, and the end reveal of her arc was heartbreaking, and lead to a truly innovative twist. The second season is far more about how these people all manage to beat themselves, constantly, without any help from anyone else, and how maybe they can overcome that. Tonight’s finale seems to pack an emotional punch, and I hope they get it right.
Through the course of two seasons, Syfy, the writers, and one of the original showrunners from Supernatural have managed to create a compelling world, a relatable cast of characters, believable relationships, and some damn fine dialogue in a show that basically marries Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, with a lot more sex and cursing. The Magicians uses the USA/Mr. Robot trick of bleeping out every use of the word “fuck,” and they use it a lot on this show, in instances that make sense for real, adult people in mind-bending circumstances. For instance, when Penny sees how he’s presented as a stereotypical Indian in Quentin’s dream, he doesn’t call Q an asshole, he goes for a full-blown “You racist MOTHERFUCKER!”
The show takes a lot of chances, not least of which was killing a main character four episodes into the second season without warning, then managing to break every relationship between the main characters before slowly and somewhat realistically building them back up. The performances are pretty good, considering this is Syfy, and the effects are damn good. I mean, look at the dragon they did on regular TV without a huge budget!
At the show’s heart, it’s about how people with access to great power react to it, which reminds me of the blurb for Jonthan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude: “This is the story of what would happen if two teenaged boys obsessed with comic book heroes actually had superpowers: they would screw up their lives.” That’s exactly what happens here; people who have no idea how to live normal lives are given access to incredible power, and then told they have to save the world… and like most of us would, they make a fucking mess of it.
Oh…. I did promise that I would have more of the standard fare for DFO here, so here it is. If none of the above bullshit convinced you to watch, well, here’s the cast:
Margo, played by Summer Bishil:
Kady, Jade Tailor:
Julia, portrayed by Stella Maeve:
And, of course, Alice, played by the lovely and massively… talented…. Olivia Taylor Dudley: