Reviews: The Magicians - Episode 3 - Consequences of Advanced Spellcasting

Mike reviews the latest episode of The Magicians

My cup overfloweth with the Absynthe.
Demons be damned!
The first two episodes of The Magicians were an entertaining, well-paced introduction to the world of Lev Grossman's novels.  It gave us just enough background on Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) and Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve), and their two very different paths into the world of magic.   After these fairly eventful first two episodes--particularly the event in the first episode that will now forever link Quentin and his talented classmate Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley)--the third episode does slow things down a bit while still staying remarkably faithful to the books.

Episode three focuses primarily on Alice as she begins to investigate a tragic but pivotal event in her magical life, eventually crossing the line into an obsession that Quentin can only see as dangerous.  Meanwhile, Julia's own obsession with the mysterious magical world that she's become entwined with becomes an addiction that threatens to not only collide with her personal life, but consume it.  As world-shattering events go the episode is pretty light, though it does prominently feature some important storylines from the books.

One of the key differences so far between the books and the series is the timeline.  In the first Magicians book Julia is a relatively minor character.  It's really not until The Magician's Land, the second novel in the trilogy, that we learn much about what she was doing while Quentin was at Brakebills.  Though her story is told in flashbacks in The Magician's Land, the series tells her story concurrently with Quentin's.  From a purist's standpoint this may seem a bit like messing with the larger narrative, but as the series is concerned this is a smart move.  This opens the world of magic up to viewers who may be unfamiliar with the books, and instead of taking the easy way out and zeroing in on Quentin's trials and tribulations, it creates a richer, more interesting narrative. 

Readers of the novels know that the best is yet to come, and nearly a quarter of the way through the first season it's unclear just how far into the first book the series will get before its first hiatus.  But the story is unfolding nicely and at a fantastic pace.  It will be particularly interesting to see how the series handles another primary character, Penny, having already revealed a major plot point about him that comes much later in the first book.  Hopefully this, like Julia's story, will prove to be the best decision for the series overall.  But as it stands The Magicians is off to a great start, and Syfy looks to continue its streak of top notch original programming.


-Mike Stec