“The Magicians” casts a spell on audience


"The Magicians" TV promo poster, courtesy of Syfy and used under Fair Use.

“Oh / It’s magic, you know / Never believe it’s not so,” is Pilot’s take on the real world, but only metaphorically. What if their words rang true is the optimistic cry of Harry Potter and Narnia fans alike. This is the basis of Syfy’s current blockbuster fantasy drama “The Magicians,” based on the book trilogy of the same name by Lev Grossman.

Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) explores this concept after being thrust into a world where all of his childhood fantasies suddenly come to life, albeit bearing prices he never imagined in his youth. He quickly befriends Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudley), Margo Hanson (Summer Bishil), Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman) and Penny Adiyodi (Arjun Gupta).

They attend an elite school for magic, Brakebills, hidden from normal citizens in upstate New York, where they experience the normal rigors of life and school only slightly offset by the practical introduction of magical applications. They later explore the magical other world of Fillory, the setting from Quentin’s favorite childhood book series “Fillory and Further.” They are unconventional heroes in a conventional world, exploring Harry Potter’s world in a realistic way, learning magic is “only a tool” and navigating the pitfalls of life like everyone else.

Simultaneously, Coldwater’s childhood best friend Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve) is denied from Brakebills, and has to utilize seedier sources to obtain her coveted knowledge. She crosses paths with a minor god at one point, getting raped and almost killed, which in the end intersects her paths with Coldwater and his gang, which essentially pegs the plot location of the show at present.

Much of the praise “The Magicians” garners owes to its realistically portrayed characters and situations, as they encounter real-world problems that rarely ever conclude with fairy-tale endings. The show details the darker side of the magical and mundane world, and doesn’t spare details or take the easy way out. It also garners attention over the plotline of Julia’s rape, as well as approval for the way it is explained and handled. The characters are very dimensional with their own highly visible assets and flaws, and are astonishingly relatable.

The Magicians has one of the strongest plots on TV at the moment, thanks to executive producers John McNamara (“Jericho” and “Aquarius”) and Sera Gamble (“Supernatural” and “Aquarius”). It perfectly blends dark moments with satirical and even light humor. It contains all of the sex and alcohol one would assume is present in college students’ lives, again harkening to the perceived indifference that magic has on the characters. For anyone looking for a show that is riveting, uplifting and tear jerking at every turn, this drama is pure magic.

The Magicians airs on Syfy Wednesday nights at 9/8c.