Syfy’s new series, based on Lev Grossman’s series of novels, doesn’t get off to as strong a start as it might, with the fantasy within a fantasy series looking far too much like Narnia (children from the war period in an old house gaining access to another kingdom through an ordinary household object that seems normal but isn’t), and the college element feeling like a reaction to Harry Potter’s public-school based education system. Two of the students have sex – and it’s meant to be a big deal!
For those, like me, coming to the series without knowledge of the books, these are big obstacles to overcome, and there’s not enough done differently (as yet, to be fair) to set the series apart from the many Potter wannabes. It doesn’t help that the opening discussion between two people we’re obviously meant to see as wise feels like a refugee from the BBC children’s serials of the 1970s and 1980s.
Other Syfy shows have grown way beyond the potential of their opening episodes, and I’m hoping that The Magicians can follow suit. However, it’s going to need work on the characterisation – Jason Ralph does the best with what he’s given, but I really don’t feel Quentin is a strong enough central character as yet – and the overfamiliarity of the material to survive in the current marketplace.
Verdict: On this showing, this won’t be the series that brings magic to the small screen. 5/10