The Magicians: Season 3
Of all the possible themes that can provide the basis for a television series, arguably magic has been a perennial favorite. It is only natural since control of the supernatural is suited not only as a primary motivation but also as a narrative spice to transform a familiar story into something unique. This is nicely demonstrated in the SyFy original television series, ‘The Magicians’. Based on the trilogy of YA novels by Lev Grossman, for once the transfer from the page to television retained the elements that secured a place on bestseller lists for all three books. Typically shows ‘based on’ popular books are so massaged by the dramatic license that any semblance to the source material is purely coincidental. Fortunately for fans of the trilogy as well as anyone interested in the tautly crafted saga, this series is a must watch. The third season has just been released on DVD/Blu-ray in anticipation of the fourth season due to premiere in 2019. The series is presented on the basic cable staple, the SyFy channel which typically would enforce some constraints on content encompassing sexuality, drug use, and language. In the spirit of transparency, I have never watched an episode through that medium, only streaming video services, and, most recently, the Blu-ray third season set. In the first season, the use of the dreaded ‘F-Bomb’ wasn’t obscured with the annoying beep but simply dropped from the audio track. This did provide more realistic pacing and mood. However, in this season the home video releases contained the unexpurgated dialogue. In some regards, this methodology did retrain believable representation of supernaturally stressed millennials, but the sheer volume of its use teetered on the precipice of unwarranted overuse. It did seem to diminish the copious infusion of sexual topics and drug use,
If Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry represented a student’s magical education through primary and secondary schools, the Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy serves as the burgeoning practitioner of magical arts as an institution of graduate studies. Albeit, they don’t exist in the same narrative universe. The comparison is valid. Another striking similarity is that the students that comprise the primary protagonists are doomed to be pulled away from the traditional curriculum to engage in field studies intended to save the world from supernatural forces beyond the scope of their nascent understanding. The institution of ancient supernatural understanding was inexorably linked to a popular series of children’s literature, the ‘Fillory and Further’ franchise. Millions of children and young adults immerse themselves in this fictional magical land discovering that the places and characters are realms existing in another dimension or plane of existence. The first two seasons, basically derived from the first two books of the trilogy, established the rules of both Brakebills in the real world and Fillory. That leaves season three free to push the characters beyond their self-perceived limitations. In several ways, each of the five primary characters is on their own heroes’ journey as outlined in scholarly works by Professor Joseph Campbell. Usually, his pathway pertains to individual quests exemplified by Luke Skywalker, in one of the most famous uses. An example of the artistic craftsmanship exhibited by the exceptionally talented team of writers who entwine the individual stories into a beautifully woven tapestry.
The main point of view character, Quentin "Q’ Coldwater (Jason Ralph), was an avid fan of the books now being raised to the position of a King of Fillory. His Queen, and girlfriend, Alice Quinn (Olivia Taylor Dudley), is the naturally talented and studious magician, the Hermione archetype of her school. Their relationship is tested and severely tested when Alice sacrifices herself to save the group and vanquish an evil god of mischief. The initial episodes of this season detailed the process of returning Alice to the world of the living. The other pair ascended to royalty are the hedonistic couple, Eliot Waugh (Hale Appleman), and Margo Hanson (Summer Bishil), installed as the High King and Queen of Fillory. While most of the others split the time of their adventures between Fillory and reality, Elliot and Margo are forced to contend with the trials and tribulations of running a kingdom with all the politics involved. Both initially felt that they were ideally suited to be monarchs but once the crushing weight of responsibility crashes down crowns and thrones seem to be meager compensation.
Under traditional billing, then next pair of characters would be, considered supporting cast, but this is, thankfully, not a series of crafted familiarly. Julia Wicker (Stella Maeve), has been ‘Q ’s, best friend since they were children. She shared his s enthusiasm for Fillory and joined him in applying to Brakebills. Although Julia possesses innate abilities, she fails to matriculate. While this might appear to a routine plot contrivance, in the talented hands of these showrunners, they use the opportunity to expand their universe and deepen the level of detail to the narrative. Julia became a Hedge Witch, groups that have undertaken their magical training. During this season as the magical establishment is placed in disarray, Julia rises to a place of critical importance. After reuniting with ‘Q,’ Julia is pulled into a quest to rescue the institution that shunned her. An x=character with one f the most intriguing character arcs is Penny' Adiyodi (Arjun Gupta). He started as a disenfranchised loner; he discovers his magical specialty is as a ‘Traveler,’ able to instantly teleport anywhere. His portion of the story becomes very complicated when his body dies while his essence was on the astral plane. To prevent his postmortem servitude to The Librarian y, the center of all magical knowledge. his body was cremated, Penny is left unseen and unable to make contact.
Back in Fillory, King Elliot and Queen Margo are drawn into wars with other magical factions. Ultimately it is uncovered that the Fae court is behind the turmoil. When the source of all magic is destroyed the Fairy Queen (Candis Cayne), forces Julia into an arrangement that results in the enucleation of one eye. Margo always had a flair for the dramatic sporting ornate eye patches coordinated with her outfits. The only wat=y to restore magic is to follow the instructions in a book as it guides them through a quest. In the real world ‘Q.’ Julia and Alice are searching for Elliot and Margo travel to the far reaches of Fillory for their contribution, the remedy to restore magic requires obtaining seven magical keys. Once again, the use of the plot device known as plot coupons has been a well-trod path through the adventure, but in this instance, the technique takes on a fresh approach that elevates the storytelling beyond what is usually seen on television. In the real world, the group is joined by Poppy Kline (Poppy Kline), a former student at Brakebills, currently a freelance field researcher and dragonologist. Quentin encountered her in Fillory, but their uneasy association continued as the search expanded in scope. All too frequently plot lines that diverge, splitting the principle cast and locations, collapses upon itself. What is experienced by the audience is a brilliantly crafted tapestry, rich an eminently rewarding endeavor for the audience? Superficially, ‘The Magians’ might be perceived yet another supernatural series populated by eugenically perfected millennials with heightened attractiveness and the penchant for dangerous situations. There is no doubt that this cast of young actors are exceptionally beautiful and handsome, and they attract peril like a magnet in a bowl of iron filings, but most importantly, they are among the most talented group of their professional generation. The intricate interaction of in context situations and personalities that is captivating, pulling the viewer into the story as being an immersive experience. It’s time to review the third season and prepare for the highly anticipated fourth season.