Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sami on The Magicians 1.1

This was a preview showing of the pilot; the actual premier is in January 2016!

This is another really good pilot for the revitalized Syfy! Let's hope it continues good like The Expanse, and doesn't go off into everyone-must-die lala land like Childhood's End!

We meet Quinn. He's getting ready for a graduate school interview, but he's stressed and neurotic and feels out of place and alone. He ran away for the weekend to a mental hospital before he had to face the interview, and didn't even tell his best friend Jules. He's also obsessed with a series of children's books about a magical place called Fillory, and she tells him he needs to get past that and stop hiding from the world.

Turns out, the interview is for a magic school*, and that he and Jules both are there to take the test. He passes the really weird written that keeps changing, and goes on to the prove-you-have-magic stage where he makes cards fly around and controls them; she fails and gets send home, her memory wiped and no explanation of what made her fail or why. But the guy who does it tells her ahead of time that he's going to wipe her memory and she gouges a big scratch in her arm, which keeps enough of the memory in her mind that when she wakes up, she can figure it out.

Meanwhile, Quinn starts school. His room mate Penny is a mind-reader, and takes up with a girl who has be best wardrobe. His guides to the school are sassy and wild, and Quinn makes friends with a pure-blooded blonde who promises to help him with his glasses if he helps her figure out what's going on with some mysterious thing that's happening--3rd years are disappearing, Quinn wakes up from a warning dream of Fillory with a strange mark burned into his hand, something happened to someone close to her and she wants to know what, etc. 

The four of them try a summoning spell, think it failed, and actually accidentally brought The Beast, the magical world's biggest enemy back into the world, where he promptly kills their teacher and their Dean while holding the whole class frozen but aware, watching but unable to do anything about what they're seeing. Except Quinn moves just a little and The Beast takes notice of him.

And meanwhile, Jules wants to try her test again and prove that she can do this, but Quinn can't or won't help her out, and she gets headhunted by some other group that seems to scoop up angry, lost people who don't work for the school--people like her, who feels like she can't live a normal life now that she knows all this stuff is real and hidden and locked away from her.

BAM, hooked.

The story is heavily influenced by Harry Potter, it seems--if Harry had missed his letter until he was ready for grad school and had spent all that time being told there was something wrong with him. But there's also shades of all sorts of other things. Fillory is like Narnia, maybe with a little Wonderland mixed in. There's a magic clock that reminds me of that going-through-the-clock-to-the-lair scene is Last Unicorn. It's much more surreal than Harry Potter--more like UnLunDun by China Mieville**, or like something from a Neil Gaiman book. The hand-motions they make to use magic, and the way it's shown before it attacks looks a lot like Full Metal Alchmist or Legend of Korra or something along those lines. The city scenes are gritty and ultra-realistic and with the magic in there, remind me of Dresden Files. And it's all knitted together really neatly and interestingly. 

It's a really neat amalgam of a whole host of fantasy and urban fantasy influences, and they're all treated like an homage and a commentary, not like ripping off. It's right up my alley. And it's visually very interesting, with people doing magic all over the place, and a villain made of moths in a suit, and the difference between the city-light and the school-light.

I can't wait until the show actually starts at the end of January!

What did you guys think? What influences did you pick up on? How are you liking this new Renaissance of Syfy shows? Share in the comments or come talk to me on Twitter!

  •  None! This is the pilot!

*A school filmed at the same place as the X-Men's mansion and also located in upstate New York, so I'm really just expecting Professor X to show up at any moment.
**One of my fav books--go read it! It takes the whole fated-hero thing and flips it sideways in a really interesting way.
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