[Editor’s Note: The Magicians aired its pilot last month and will show it again on Monday, January 25 as the first half of the two-hour official premiere. Here’s our take on the pilot…] The Magicians comes out of the gate with an uneven start, but ends with just enough intrigue to keep me coming back. I always reserve my super harsh criticisms of a show for after the pilot episode because pilots seem to always be pretty uneven. There are a lot of characters to introduce, the premise of the story has to be explained, and in a science fiction pilot, you have to introduce your audience to the particular world that the characters are going to inhabit. That being said, I’m going to give The Magicians another shot to impress me. It really seemed to hit its stride at the very end of the pilot so I’m hoping that momentum will continue and build in Episode 2. The Magicians is an adaptation of Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy that often gets described as “Harry Potter for adults.” Well, the book series begins that way, but then quickly takes some sharp left turns that lead us far away from Hogwarts and into a sexier, crazier, and more violent direction entirely. We begin with our protagonist Quintin signing himself out of a mental hospital for depression. He leads an empty life where everything seems meaningless and purposeless. Serving as a way of escape from reality, he has a preoccupation with the childhood book series about the Chatwin brothers and sisters who travel to the land of Fillory, a direct parallel to the land of Narnia created by C.S. Lewis. Very early on, Quintin and his friend Julia are both recruited by a magical school called Brakebills, a sort of Ivy League school for Magicians. While Julia fails the entrance exam, leading to a downward spiral of depression and magical obsession, Quintin passes, and begins his education. But since it can’t really be that simple in TV land, we soon learn that Darker Forces are at work, including The Beast, a mysterious entity with unknown origins or motivations. My first gripe with the series is the casting. As an avid reader of The Magicians series by Lev Grossman, I already had pretty strong images of what the characters should look and act like, and there is one definite miss in that regard that just irks me. In wanting to amp up the sex appeal it looks like they went with a cast from a CW teen series, and Quintin’s classmate Alice is the worst transgression in that regard. Obviously a beautiful girl, they try to make her seem shy and mousy by- surprise!- adding glasses and having her nervously hunch over when she walks. The exception to the bad casting is Quintin (Jason Ralph). While he is portrayed as a much more likable character in the show than he was in the books, this is perhaps understandable: you don’t want your audience to hate the main character. He gives a great performance, balancing between self-consciousness and just the right amount of arrogance—such as when Julia, who decides to learn magic on her own, shows off a neat little self-taught spark of magic and Quintin suggests that maybe, just maybe, she’s not cut out for this whole magic thing. He comes off like an asshole, but not too much of one to turn us off. Another major gripe is that the story just moved too fast in the first episode. It didn’t allow for an investment in the characters and their stories or for any world development which was really disappointing to me. The best part about science fiction is when you feel absorbed and a part of this entirely foreign world, and I just did not get that in this episode. Once Quintin begins his studies as Brakebills, Elliot, another classmate, gives a lazy explanation of some of the different types of magic being learned as he and Quintin walk through the campus courtyard, and then bam! The next scene takes us halfway through the school year. At the end of the pilot, in fact, the entire first half of book 1 in the trilogy has been covered. The episode does end on a high note, though, with a truly terrifying and quite violent introduction to The Beast, who takes a quite unexpected victim. But while I did enjoy the end of the episode, and found it to be a great cliffhanger, I think that more could have been accomplished by really spending time developing the idea of Brakebills and letting us get to know the characters of Quintin, Alice, Elliot, and the others. My one last minor gripe is that while in the book series, the sex seemed an integral and natural part of the story, here it seems to be just thrown in to make the series more “edgy.” This is especially apparent during a laughably dumb levitating sex scene with two of Quintin’s classmates. It doesn’t serve any narrative purpose other than to show two attractive people having sex in midair. Another scene that seems to have misplaced sex appeal involves Julia. A stranger, who we soon learn offers an alternate door to learning magic outside of Brakebills, attacks her in the bathroom. Supposedly, he is trying to provoke her into displaying her innate magical abilities, but it also involves the slow removal of her shirt buttons and the subsequent ripping off of her shirt entirely. The scene is implying a possible sexual assault but also tries to make it seem sexy and provocative at the same time. Icky. While it may seem like I ripped the pilot apart, there were some things that I really did like. I like the character of Quintin as outsider finally finding his place in the world, and I like that Julia, who in the books really falls by the wayside until much later on, is given her own parallel story of learning magic from possibly nefarious forces from the outset. And as I said before, the last five minutes were excellent and showed a lot of promise for what the series could become. The Beast was represented perfectly, the violence level was flawless to show The Beast’s menace, and it left me excited to see how Quintin will deal with the Beast in the next episode. So despite the unevenness of the pilot, sign me up for Episode 2. See larger image The Magicians Trilogy Boxed Set: The Magicians; The Magician King; The Magician’s Land The entire #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that inspired SYFY’s The Magicians, now available in a gorgeous boxed set, including The Magicians, The Magician King, and The Magician’s Land This beautiful boxed set makes a perfect gift for readers of the beloved fantasy series praised by George R. R. Martin, Junot Díaz, and Erin Morgenstern. The Magicians Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams may have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined . . . The Magicians is one of the most daring and inventive works of literary fantasy in years. No one who has escaped into the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter should miss this breathtaking return to the landscape of the imagination. The Magician KingQuentin Coldwater should be happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory—a fictional utopia—was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace. His old restlessness returns, and he longs for the thrills a heroic quest can bring. Accompanied by his oldest friend, Julia, Quentin sets off—only to somehow wind up back in the real-world and not in Fillory, as they’d hoped. As the pair struggle to find their way back to their lost kingdom, Quentin is forced to rely on Julia’s illicitly learned sorcery as they face a sinister threat in a world very far from the beloved fantasy novels of their youth. The Magician’s LandQuentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical world of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex—and far more dire—than anyone had envisioned. Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. The Magician’s Land is an intricate and fantastical thriller, and an epic of love and redemption that brings the Magicians trilogy to a magnificent conclusion, confirming it as one of the great achievements in modern fantasy. New From: $29.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... 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