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At Brakebills University for Medical Pedagogy, there are no tricks, no abracadabra, no wands and no flying broomsticks. There’s dark, dangerous, powerful magic, and the students learning to harness it.
One of the first-years is Quentin Coldwater, a street magician who is stunned to discover real magic at his fingertips, making his card tricks look like child’s play. Now that he’s at Brakebills, he’s got to learn the skills to tame his newfound power. And also, maybe, save the world.
Check out the trailer to see what goes down in Season 2.
The Magicians is not your average magical fantasy – here are five reasons why.
1. It gets off to an explosive start
There are no holds barred in Episode 1. You were probably expecting a gentle introduction to the premise of the show. Sorry to disappoint you – nothing about The Magicians is gentle. After passing the entrance exam to Brakebills, Quentin makes friends with fellow first-years Alice, Penny and Eliot. Meanwhile, his best friend Julia, who didn’t get in, seeks solace in a secret magical underworld (her surname is Wicker, which gives you a clue about the kind of magic she leans towards). After Quentin has a vivid dream about one of the characters in his favourite fantasy novels, Fillory and Further (remember the name, it will be important later), Alice urges him and the others to help her summon her brother Charlie, who died in murky circumstances. They accidentally call the Beast from Fillory into the real world, which brings the episode to a brutal and terrifying climax. And that’s just episode 1! Watch now »
2. The relationships are real
This series may be about otherworldly powers and other realms, but the relationships between the characters are utterly relatable. Here are three examples:
There’s Quentin and Julia, best friends united by the same dream, but separated by a reality that’s out of their hands. They are forced to go their separate ways, but are bound to meet again as their competing crews collide (as they do in episode 3) – can their friendship survive?
Quentin’s love interest is immediately established as Alice. She’s the daughter of magicians, and doesn’t know much about love. She pines for her brother Charlie, and she and Quentin use their powers to find out the truth about his death. But when they locate him in episode 3, Quentin is forced to use his powers against Charlie, which forces Alice to choose between the memory of her brother, and Quentin. It’s no surprise whom she chooses.
Quentin and his father have a close relationship. Quentin goes home in episode 5 when he finds out that his father has brain cancer. Like any child watching their parent die, he curses his powerlessness. He may be a magician in training, but he can’t save his father. Watch now »
3. The sets are stunning
Of course, The Magicians’ special effects are epic, as befitting a show where people travel to and from different dimensions, where demons suck people’s eyeballs out, things regularly explode, and people levitate into the air.
But what we really love is the beautifully detailed set design. The rooms in Brakebills are gorgeously kitted out and every element adds to the richness of the show. This might be because the Magicians is based on a series of novels, and the author, Lev Grossman, was apparently a strong influence on the set design.
In the Lab, for example, the first lecture hall we see at Brakebills, the periodic table of elements on the wall features not only the recognisable, Earth-bound ones – it also carries the names of the trans-dimensional elements that magicians-in-training need to know about.
We also love the Physical Kids Cottage, where Quentin and his pals spend most of their time. The look they were going for was “an opium den gone wrong”, and they’ve got it completely spot on, with antique ashtrays overflowing with stubs and ash, and bottles of liquor on shelves around the room. It’s like any college dorm room, except more lavish, and with crockery suspended on the ceiling.
With so many big, explosive special effects in the mix, we’d expect the Magicians to gloss over small, peripheral details like these. But we’re so pleased they didn’t. Watch now »
4. It’s rather racy
The Magicians is a very adult fantasy, spiced up with lashings of steamy sex scenes. The first couple we see in bed is Kady and Penny in episode 1. They send objects flying around the room while they’re at it, eventually levitating themselves and going for it in the air. It’s beautiful to watch.
There’s also a threesome (!) in episode 11; Penny, who can travel in and out of different realms, finds himself deep in one of Quentin’s sex dreams, featuring Julia and Alice, in episode 10; also in this episode, Alice finds out that her parents have taken on a “third” in their relationship (you’ve got to see this episode to find out what this means); plus, it’s implied that Quentin and Alice have sex as foxes while on “magic bootcamp” in Antarctica (look out for episode 7).
5. The characters are complex
In The Magicians, no one is 100% good or bad. Even the Beast, with filthy moths flittering around his obscured face, the demon that is hell-bent on destroying the Brakebills students, is relatable when we discover who he really is (or used to be).
Even characters like Penny, who are not very likeable at the outset, reveal themselves to be flawed and vulnerable. When we find out why Penny is so rude and sarcastic (spoiler: he’s a lonely dude), we can’t help but feel sorry for him. He’s also one of the bravest characters on the show, taking on the Beast single-handedly, so we forgive his lack of social niceties.
All the characters on The Magicians come with a legit, relatable backstory – even the villains – which sets it apart from every other fantasy series we’ve seen. Watch now »
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