“What is the point of magic if we can’t fix real problems ?” : my (very late) review of The Magicians

More than ShadowhuntersThe Magicians is a show I’ve been waiting for since they annonced that they were making an adaptation. I followed the first cast reveal (Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve as Quentin and Julia, respectively), and then I let it go and waited, and waited, and waited. But now, it’s here and, five episodes in, I’m ready to blurt out all my opinions on the show.

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Before we start, I want you to know that I’m yet to read the final book in the series. I’ll do it really soon, but right now, please keep that in mind if you want to discuss the books.

 

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the casting choices at first. Casting is a really important step and one that most fans focus all their energy and hope on, so when they annonced the first two actors, I was still a bit sceptic, even if I remained eager to see what they would do with the show. So, no, Jason Ralph is not at all what I see when I imagined Quentin but, truth is, he grows on you. The whole show grows on you, really.

I was ranting after the first couple of episodes, confused because there were parts that I couldn’t tell if they were original to the show or if they were in the books too, angry because the things I remembered weren’t clearly presented as they are in the books, disappointed by what was made to the characters, Quentin was even more annoying than in the books, twitchy and squeaky, Eliot and Janet, sorry, Margo were just empty shells to me, Alice was the preppy cliché that I didn’t anticipate … Lots of feelings, basically. But it’s progressively going away.

I try not to think about the books too much now. The show is taking some distance, and I think most of it is good.

Of course, I’ve bitched and moaned about the fact that Q was supposed to find the body and be given the last Fillory book with James, that this scene was much stronger in the book because, in the end, the three best-friends had the potential for magic and the three of them went on completely different roads.

And then I’ve bitched some more about Quentin knowing Julia took the Brakebills exams and that she tried magic on her own. It took me some time, but I managed to like this choice. It shows Quentin’s abandonment even more, because he could help but decides not to, and he turns his back on everything that made his life “normal”.

For the good choices, I think including Julia’s backstory right away is a very intelligent choice, even if it seems obvious. I mean, of course, they wouldn’t introduce a character in the first episode, only to leave them aside during the whole season, but I love that we see “first hand” what happens to Julia, and not as a flashback later on. Seriously, everything about Julia’s arc is gold. It shocks me how much I like it, because I remember hating her in the books. I understand that her main fault is that we originally see her through Quentin’s eyes, but even so, I’m finding a complete new appreciation for the character.

Penny’s part is more important in the show and I like it (“You racist motherfucker” is probably one of my favorite moments so far). I don’t really see yet what they intend to do with Marina “top-bitch in New-York”, but I appreciate the fact that someone so badass and fucked up has the same name as me. I like that the Fillory part of the story is happening a bit sooner than in the books. I’m waiting to see what they have in store for Alice but I think the more time she has on screen, the less archetypical she appears. Eliot and Margo begin to have some depth. Quentin finally shows his potential (I seriously don’t remember him struggling so much with magic, but maybe that’s just me ?). They even included Taylor Swift ! (can I also say that Episode 4 really fucks with your head, and I hate hate hate episodes like this ?) And finally, I like how they show that magic can’t fix everything (hence the quote !). It’s one of the major themes in the books and one that Q really has a hard time grasping, thinking that he has to be happy now he finally has magic in his life, not realizing that depression is that not simple.

I still think there’s not enough magic, it’s really what drew me to the books and why I love them so much (Lev Grossman’s approach of magic is everything I could hope for), but then again, a lot of the first book was entirely dedicated to Quentin’s education and I get why that would make for a boring show.

To sum it up, here are the reasons why you should watch the show :
  • The story : it’s about magicians in a magic university, here will be some World travelling pretty soon if I had to guess, and I’m not talking about going on a holiday in South America, and there are Dark Forces preparing in the background.

  • The pace : a bit quicker than in the books, which means that there are stuff happening in every episode.

  • Julia’s arc : while the main character is going to private-school Hogwarts, Julia shows you the dark and gritty side of magic.

  • The sass : the show is full of it, and I didn’t expect that Penny would be the main origin.

 

Have you watched the show ? What are your thoughts so far ?
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