Produced by: McNamara Moving Company, Man Sewing Dinosaur, Groundswell Productions, Universal Cable Productions
Original Network: SyFy
Based on the books by Lev Grossman
Starring: Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Stella Maeve, Hale Appleman, Summer Bishil, Arjun Gupta
There are plenty of reasons to geek out about this show, and no, I have never read the books. This is not a Harry Potter fandom moment. I tend to look at things through a different lens, and generally that lens is dissecting 'stuff' (maybe too critically as my Mother would say) without being surprised by much. So it was refreshing to get my obsessive binge watch on after finding the show 'The Magicians', which presented me with fresh new faces, thematic boldness, and a hint of sarcasm and wit to let me know that this was a clever show, despite some limitations regarding the budget.
Based on the best selling books written by Lev Grossman, The Magicians centres around Quentin Coldwater, an intelligent, but painfully needy and unsure young man, who is accepted to study at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Realising the world of magic is real opens Quentin up to new possibilities, as does discovering that the world from his favourite books 'Fillory and Further' is also real, but with a catch... In Fillory there lives a Villain known as The Beast who not only poses a threat to Brakebills, but the whole world.
Quentin Coldwater is played by relative unknown Jason Ralph, who captures the voice and mannerisms of the socially awkward and over thinkers to a tee. He is delightfully frustrating being his own worst enemy and greatest obstacle in life. Ralph brings a nuanced and subtle performance to the role, containing his humour to reflect the dynamic of the group of characters that Coldwater associates with. It is clever, rather than cool. Pitched very evenly.
Olivia Taylor Dudley is excellent as the equally awkward and socially inexperienced Alice. Again, there is a subtlety to her performance. She isolates specific moments through the season, which illuminate the various hang ups the character has which have eroded her confidence and self esteem. Yet somehow through all this, she retains an ability to actually keep going, which is at first fueled by searching for the truth about what happened to her brother, but is eventually filled with the realisation that she has worth, and is powerful.
Arjun Gupta as Penny, a sarcastic, somewhat aggressive magician, with the ability to travel anywhere he wants, steals a lot of the scenes he is in with what is largely a special performance. Such a joy to watch. As is Hale Appleman as Eliot, and Summer Bishil as Margo, who function as the marvellous and wonderfully corrupt odd-not-so odd couple who are always scheming or cooking up something. Despite all 3 of these characters having quirks, or masks which we love- they really are just a front, a false face which belies true depth and pain which they need to resolve as time goes on. They all have a little pain behind their eyes.
Stella Maeve as Julia, and Jade Tailor round out the principle cast in what are strong and emotionally complex roles. Maeve gives us an insight into how far an individual can fall when addicted to something, in this case magic, while Tailor carries the weight of the world on her shoulders trying to hide her past. Both characters function as outsiders of sorts, struggling to find acceptance, and to accept themselves. They have a particularly tough job in the story, as they spend a lot of time in the real world outside of Brakebills, but their story arcs work extremely well. Their commitments shines through.
Rick Worthy, who plays the dean of Brakebills, also played Cylon #4 Simon in Battlestar Gallactica, while Amanda Tapping of Stargate SG1 steps up to the plate as a director on the series. When i saw these two were involved, my inner geek went to Level Pi to the 100th decimal. And aside from my joy at seeing these names again, it became apparent to me that SyFy had assembled a quality ensemble of people, with big hearts and large imaginations.
This is a story full of magic, about magic, which questions our own inhibitions about fulfilling our potential. What is the magic that we all possess inside to be the best version of ourselves? Will we get there? Will we be corrupted along the way? The show does suffer from slightly under developed moments, and acknowledges its lack of budget with humourous nods to the audience "we know, we know"- but all of that aside- it is secondary to the magic they have captured as a group to make something extremely watchable.
And I'm going to keep watching The Magicians when season 2 comes out, because as an ensemble of creatives they deserve an audience. I readily admit that shows involving magic won't be for everyone, but this series is more than that, and serves as a great contemporary allegory for personal growth. Ironic. Sarcastic. Witty. Clever. They are not afraid to explore complex themes, and there is always something at stake. I recommend giving it a try.
Written by Rod @ Lovesac
[Ratings are based out of our 7 sizes of Lovesac: Kidsac, Gamesac, Playersac, Pillowsac, Moviesac, Supersac, BigOne. The bigger the Lovesac - the more we love the film. Accessories are used as markers in between sizes/ratings: Tubesac 1/4, Cubesac 1/2, Minisac 3/4. ]