Daniel Brount is a senior creative writing major and writes "Do You Copy?" for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Daniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever wish there was a darker, college-aged version of “Harry Potter”? Well, Syfy’s new show “The Magicians” might be the closest you’ll ever get. Luckily, it’s fantastic.
The series is adapted from Lev Grossman’s novel by the same name, though within the first couple episodes, the show is already taking steps to differentiate itself.
“The Magicians” primarily follows Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), who finds himself enrolled at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. While at Brakebills, he learns that the fantasy books he has always been obsessed with might actually be real, and that the world in the books and the world he lives in might be in very real danger.
His training at Brakebills might help him, but his friend Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve) isn’t as lucky. Although she’s a magician, Brakebills doesn’t accept her, leaving her to search desperately for magic back in New York City.
There are already five episodes; here are eight reasons for you to binge watch and get caught up with this solid new series.
- We’ve all missed wizarding school since “Harry Potter” ended. Okay, so “Harry Potter” isn’t exactly over. But this series is at least keeping me satisfied until “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.” There’s so much more to “The Magicians” than this common comparison, but it’s certainly a selling point. Plus, the series is self-aware of the comparisons. If you pay attention, there are subtle references to J.K. Rowling’s series.
- It’s dark and thrilling. Sex, drugs, murder, curses — “The Magicians” isn’t afraid to get dark. The magic often comes from the pain the characters feel. For some characters, magic is a desperate addiction. It adds a new level to the series to make magic more than just a few tricks; it’s a sense of purpose for some and a place of power for others. This fleshes out the characters, making them feel more realistic.
- It isn’t afraid to be silly. Have you ever seen a fantasy series that referenced Taylor Swift? Watch “The Magicians” and check that off your list. The show balances the darker themes with some lighter notes, from pop culture jokes to one episode’s oddly perfect musical number.
- The bad guys are actually intimidating. There’s more than one antagonist in the series, and there’s definitely a gray area between good and bad. But the bottom line is that they all come off as threats. They aren’t afraid to be creepy, and they leave the good guys more than a little shaken up.
- It has references to other fantasy series. Besides “Harry Potter,” there is clear inspiration from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Quentin has an obsession with Fillory, a magic place in a series of novels. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that Fillory may be more than just a story. “The Magicians” isn’t afraid to throw in other references, such as a “Game of Thrones” joke here and there.
- The magic system is vibrant. Given that this is a magic college, the fact that its magic is divided into classes matches majors perfectly. There are physical kids, phosphoromancers (light-benders), psychics... There is diversity in the magic and the characters. No one magician has the same abilities, which makes each character that much more significant and interesting.
- This is one series that actually takes risks. While a lot of TV shows have some sort of consistent formula (crime shows have their weekly case; superhero shows have their weekly villain), each episode of “The Magicians” is designed in a method of its own. This allows the writers to better explore each conflict. It also makes everything a lot less predictable.
- It isn’t a carbon copy of the book series. Though the show is clearly based on the book, the writers have taken steps to adjust the plot to better fit TV broadcasting. So if you’ve read the books, there will still be surprises. If you haven’t, well, you won’t have any catching up to do.
It’s still early to decide whether or not “The Magicians” will remain a standout series, but for now, it’s certainly worth the watch. It airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on Syfy.