Categorised | US TV reviews

Tags | None

Third-episode verdict: The Magicians (US: Syfy)

Posted on February 3, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerTheMagicians.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Not yet acquired

No matter how many different dust jackets you put round them to confuse fellow commuters, the Harry Potter books were undoubtedly for kids. Although everyone quailed at the thought of He Who Must Not Be Named (Lord Voldemort), you never got a feeling of any real risk, any real power or anything genuinely nasty going on. Death spells? Sure, but you just fall over and die, and that's it. It's not even 24 in the scheme of things, let alone the almighty forces of the universe at work.

The Magicians, which is basically Harry Potter for adults, does much to improve this situation. Set in an exclusive school (university) for wizards, it gives us a magic that can at times be genuinely terrifying. We've seen a man made from moths stepping through mirrors from other worlds to freeze time and paralyse people while he rips out their eyes. We've seen fiction and reality blurring, with characters from books becoming real and the real becoming fictional. We've had ghosts that can actually frighten, people disfigured horribly by magic and raw power consume magic users alive.

And if the rest of The Magicians had been as great as that depiction of magic, I would be its biggest fan. The trouble is that such moments are few and far between. The rest of the time, it's still Harry Potter but in what is effectively an American High School, rather than a university - one filled with mean girls and bullies, and acted by people who seem to have wandered in off the street rather than acting schools. It's also filled with hammy attempts at comedy that are as obvious as they are unfunny, something that isn't helped by everyone smirking whenever they have to deliver a funny line.

There is a vague attempt to give us a rich vs poor subtext, with our stupidly named hero Quentin Coldwater going to the elite, Yale-esque 'Brakebills', while his best friend Julia fails the entrance exam and ends up at the equivalent of the local poly, which is half portakabin, half Fight Club. But that's about it as far as depth and characterisation are concerned, because while you cared about ordinary Harry, bright spark Hermione and loyal old Ron, frankly, pretty much everyone in The Magicians could die a fiery and painful death and you'd be more worried about the marks they'd left on the hardwood flooring than their horrific demise.

It's a shame because when it starts to properly deal with magic, The Magicians has some truly memorable scenes and some real imagination going on. It just understands that fictional world far better than it does people.

Barrometer rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? Marginally
TMINE's prediction: Likely to get cancelled after a season, but Syfy might just persevere with it

Related entries

  • February 6, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Okkupert (Occupied), Lucifer and Marvel's Agent Carter
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 6th February 2016
  • February 14, 2016: What have you been watching? Including The Man From UNCLE, Sicario
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 12th February 2016
  • February 20, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Vinyl, Wanted and Vikings
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 19th February 2016
  • March 14, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Flaked, The Intern, Lucifer and Billions
    The TV I watched in the week ending Monday 14th March 2016
  • March 4, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Ófærð (Trapped), The Shannara Chronicles, Lucifer and The X-Files
    The TV I watched in the two weeks ending Friday 4th March 2016
  • March 21, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Spotlight, The Americans, Second Chance, The Magicians,
    The TV I watched in the week ending Monday 21st March 2016
  • April 2, 2016: What have you been watching? Including Banshee, Blå Ögon (Blue Eyes), The Catch, Supergirl and The Americans
    The TV I watched in the week ending Saturday 2nd April 2016
  • April 15, 2016: What have you been watching? Including The Tunnel: Sabotage, 12 Monkeys and Scott Pilgrim vs The World
    The TV I watched in the week ending Friday 15th April 2016
  • December 22, 2016: Question of the year: what were you favourite new shows of 2016? Here's my Top 12!
    What have been the 12 best shows I've seen in 2016?
  • January 30, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Fortitude, The Magicians, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow
    Reviews of 24/1/17-30/1/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Six and Timeless
  • February 6, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Detroiters, Amadeus and Cardinal
    Reviews of 31/1/17-6/2/17's episodes of Cardinal, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Riverdale and Timeless
  • February 27, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Doubt, Patriot, Training Day and Billions
    Reviews of 13/2/17-27/2/17's episodes of 24: Legacy, Cardinal, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Powerless, Son of Zorn, Timeless, Billions, Doubt, Patriot and Training Day
  • February 13, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Fortitude, The Great Indoors, The Magicians, Powerless and Son of Zorn
    Reviews of 7/2/17-13/2/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Powerless, Son of Zorn, and Timeless
  • March 13, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Arrival (2016) and The Americans
    A review of Arrival (2016), as well as 6/3/17-11/3/17's episodes of 24: Legacy, The Americans, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Imposters, Legion, Lethal Weapon, Man Seeking Woman, The Magicians, Powerless and Taken
  • March 6, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Chicago Justice, Prime Suspect 1973 and The Blacklist: Redemption
    Mini-reviews of Chicago Justice, Prime Suspect 1973 and The Blacklist: Redemption, as well as 27/2/17-6/3/17's episodes of 24: Legacy, Billions, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters, Cardinal, Fortitude, Legion, The Magicians and Man Seeking Woman
  • March 20, 2017: What have you been watching? Including Lethal Weapon, The Good Fight and Legion
    12/3/17-19/3/17's episodes of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters, Legion, Lethal Weapon, Making History and The Magicians.

Allowable comments

You can leave just about any kind of comment you like. You can argue, suggest I am (or anyone else is) wrong, leaving general messages of love – anything. However, you absolutely can't leave messages that attack other commenters (or me), are simple variations of "your review sucks" or that are misogynistic, racist, homophobic, etc: your comment will either be edited or deleted and you'll be barred from leaving any further comments. We want to keep it civil here.

Spoilers

You can hide a spoiler by putting <spoiler> before it and </spoiler> after it. Hover over a spoiler to reveal it!

Featured Articles

Snatch

Not properly pukka