The Magicians 1×01 Review: Unauthorized Magic

In a special, commercial-free preview, Syfy premiered The Magicians – the television adaptation of the best-selling novels by Lev Grossman. The Magicians, for those who don’t know, centers around young Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) and his discovery that yes, magic exists, and hey, he has it. Quentin goes on to study magic at Brakebills, finally feeling like he belongs somewhere, but it doesn’t automatically solve all of his problems. The Magicians is often described as “Harry Potter for adults” because it’s the same basic premise: a guy finds out he has magic and goes to a school he didn’t know existed to study it, while also making friends and fighting evil. However, The Magicians deals with subject matter that would be deemed inappropriate for children – already in the first episode there’s been sex and some pretty gruesome violence, establishing right off the bat that Brakebills is not Hogwarts.

Lev Grossman’s series is a trilogy, and I’ve only read the first book, so I can’t speak as to any elements that may have popped up in the other two – particularly from Julia’s (Stella Maeve) storyline, which is told largely in flashback in the books but for obvious reasons happens concurrently in the show. I can say that, based on the first episode, the series does an excellent job of staying true to the atmosphere of the books. Elements of the story may have changed – the characters have all been aged up (graduate students here, whereas they were undergrads in the books) and Penny is way, way cooler than I pictured him (which isn’t hard to do when you cast someone like Arjun Gupta to play him) – but the essence is the same, and I think that’s what matters.

There is a lot that was great about “Unauthorized Magic”. The cinematography was amazing. I was a big fan of the scene where Julia and Quentin both find themselves at Brakebills, with Quentin outside and Julia inside; the contrast was beautifully done. The special effects were superb. (Interestingly enough, this is the second Syfy show in a week to feature zero-G sex.) The score did a great job of setting the mood. In short, a lot of technical aspects came together to create the overall tone of the show, really hitting the point home that this is not going to be a happy, fluffy adventure for Quentin and the others.

Not to mention, this first episode managed to not only introduce you to all the important players but also set up the overarching story of the season – and ended on a chilling cliffhanger that we’ll have to wait an entire month to see the aftermath! The mystery of who or what “the Beast” is will be the important question that gets answered as we go along, but what I’m most excited about is seeing Julia’s storyline unfold and how that gets handled. In introducing the main characters, you also got a sense of their personalities, even if they weren’t in the episode much. We focused on Quentin’s disassociation from life as well as his obsession with fictional Fillory. Alice’s motivations weren’t dragged out. Eliot and Margo taking Quentin under their wings reminded me very strongly of Mean Girls, which is kind of accurate when you think about it.

I was excited about this show before, but now I cannot wait until January. “Unauthorized Magic” was just so captivating that I’m actually a little upset that they gave us this preview so long before the premiere. Why can’t it be January 25th now right now?

What did you guys think about The Magicians? Will you be tuning in this January?

P.S. Don’t forget to check out our interviews with the cast and crew from New York Comic Con!

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from THE Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.



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