SyFy Channel has really stepped up their game lately with The Expanse and Children’s End. Now they are taking a run at building a new Harry Potter like fantasy world with their new series The Magician about a college student who discovers that he has magical powers.
The 12 episode series based on a popular fantasy book series written by Lev Grossman and the show is being run by John McNamara (Prime Suspect) and Sera Gamble (Supernatural). Sounds like a pretty solid team doing the behind the scenes work.
Seems our hero Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) is at a crossroads in his life. He’s in some sort of treatment center for depression and is trying to determine what to do with the rest of his life after he graduates college. He’s someone who loves to read obscure fantasy books about magical lands. For some reason he is the only character in the show who gets a full name and almost every time someone new addresses him it’s by his full name, it gets tiring.
Julia (Stella Maeve) is his long suffering best friend who clearly has a crush on him and is the one who got Quint involved with magic. Things take a turn for the worst when he shows up for an interview and finds a dead body. Turns out the guy was the author of Quentin favorite series and left clues to a mysterious long rumored sixth book.
Both are eventually lead to Brakebills University where Elliot (Hale Appleman) is there to guide Quentin through the University where they are tested on their magical skills. He finds himself talking to Jade a character from his favorite book. She warns him that someone is coming after him. Julia is upset and jealous of Quentin when she fails the exam. She somehow stops them from wiping her memories.
Elliot and his friend Margo (Summer Bishil) gives Quentin (and us) an introduction to the world where we meet, physical kids (telekinesis), Illusionist, Healers, Knowledge and Psychics. Just like Hogwarts Brakeville has it’s own houses that Quentin will be assigned to after his first year after they decide.
Julia isn’t doing so well because she can’t attend Brakeville. Quentin isn’t at all sympathetic to her plight telling her that she doesn’t have to be great at everything. Why are they friends? He is approached by a mysterious guy who tells her that Brakeville isn’t the only place where she can learn real magic.
Quentin is warned again about Brakeville and that he has a mysterious destiny to fulfill. He approaches the school’s resident “genius,” Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) for help. She tells Quentin that they have to try and contact her dead brother for answers.
This entire show will rise or fall based on whether or not you like Quentin. He’s in nearly every scene in the first episode and he comes across as completely uninterested in anything that he’s doing. Even when he discovers this magical new world and that his best friend can’t be part of it, he basically has an “eh,” attitude about everything. Ralph delivers almost every line as though he’s channeling the always annoying Jesse Eisenberg. It’s stilted and stuttery.
Everything about the show feels tedious and plodding. Watching paint drying would have been more interesting and exciting. The ending is really abrupt, creepy, weird and just out there. It’s the one moment in the show where it does make you want to stick with it for another episode. Nothing about this pilot drew me in and gave me a desire to jump on this train.
Final Grade C