The Show Was Wildly Different From the Book and Still Rocked: Syfy’s The Magicians

My favorite winter show definitely is Syfy’s  Magicians.

Big caveat here: I loved the series of books it is based on by Lev Grossman. Having read  and thoroughly enjoyed the books, I wasn’t too perturbed by the first couple episodes of the show, which were bumpy and must have been confusing for people unfamiliar with the plot and characters of the show; it seemed like it was made for fans of the books. But eventually it came into its own, and I never doubt anything from the network that brought me my beloved Battlestar Galactica.

Some quibbles I have:

  • Characters. The only actors who remotely resembled the original characters from the book were Quentin, Eliot and Julia. Penny was supposed to be an unattractive jerk and Alice a small, waiflike creature who wasn’t that pretty. I give you Penny, who immediately catapulted into Online Offal’s Harem of Pretend Boyfriends:



And Alice, whose glasses apparently are supposed to make her ugly:


Here is the Alice from the Magicians wiki, and how I basically imagined her while reading the books:



  • Plot. The books are about a group of people who get into Brakebills, a prestigious graduate school for magic. The main character, Quentin Coldwater, is a whiny, morose, self-centered guy who has been obsessed with magic from a young age by obsessively reading a series of books about a magical place called Fillory. Long story short, Fillory is real and Quentin and his friends are recruited to help save it from a monster called The Beast. Quentin is in love with lifelong friend Julia, who did not get into Brakebills but ends up helping Quentin and co. on his quest. All of that basically holds true, but there are extra characters on the show, and Julia’s story is told in tandem with Quentin’s (In the series, Julia does not become a major character until the second novel). It works. My biggest gripe is about Brakebills South, which is a branch of the school located in Antarctica run by an antisocial, alcoholic professor. In the books, the friends don’t get here until the third year, and it’s a grueling experience, but they become experts in magic because there literally is nothing else to do in Antarctica. In fact, all of the spells they’re learning and classes they’re taking are glossed over, and the books go into great detail about how grueling everything is, but it’s where Quentin realizes he’s happy.
  • Gratuitous scenes. Penny appears in a private fantasy of Quentin’s, and Alice and Julia are making out, and Quentin’s dressed like Indiana Jones. There’s no point to it, and it’s just one big cliche. The characters swear (eff words are bleeped out), and that was kind of inauthentic as well. However, there was a threesome and a graphic rape scene that the writers included that were essential to the plot. The rape scene was the biggest issue I had with the book, but the threesome was essential to the story, and they treated it well.

These are only quibbles. I thought the cast, even with all the extra characters, were great. I loved the set design and the costumes. I’m behind on Grantchester and Better Call Saul but I always made a point to watch Magicians almost immediately. I don’t know if the writers loved the books as much as I did, but for all the care and attention that went into the final product, I’d argue they were the books’ biggest fans.

In other news, ORPHAN BLACK HAS RETURNED! I’ll write more later in the season.


The Show Was Wildly Different From the Book and Still Rocked: Syfy’s The Magicians

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