Review: The Magicians


When it first premiered on the SyFy channel in 2015, The Magicians used the tagline "magic is a drug," a signal to audiences that despite its kid-friendly premise—a group of millennials enroll in a school for spellcasters and travel to a Narnia-esque fantasy world—this was very much a show for adults. Like its source material, a popular trilogy of novels by Lev Grossman, The Magicians is filled with sex, violence, addiction, and angst. Protagonist Quentin Coldwater (think Harry Potter crossed with Holden Caulfield), who is clinically depressed, discovers that magic can't fix what's wrong with him. It may even make thing worse.

If magic is a drug, strictly regulating sorcery proves just as unwise as the drug war. The fourth season, which concluded in April, begins with a new world order: A bureaucratic organization called "the Library" has taken literal control, forcing all would-be magicians to fill out the proper forms—in triplicate—whenever they want to cast spells. It doesn't take long for the Library to go full NSA and start using its newfound surveillance powers to hunt down unlicensed magic users. In a development that hardly even counts as a spoiler, the Library's upper leadership is revealed to be using magic for a nefarious plot that could destroy the entire universe.

One of the show's most satisfying arcs involves a prominent Librarian realizing the truth and turning against her masters. The plot is ultimately foiled, but it results in a death as shocking as any in recent TV memory—one a polarized fan community is still processing.