'The Magicians' isn’t 'Harry Potter' and that’s what makes it interesting
When I first started telling people about The Magicians, I would liken it to Harry Potter in order to give people a frame of reference for what it was like. I didn’t say it was Harry Potter, but it’s one of the descriptors that I (and others I’ve seen talk about it) have used. I’ve also been a vocal proponent of the show, telling people that they needed to watch the first two episodes to really get the feel for the show. If you stopped at the first episode, you don’t know that the second episode knocked down all the tired character tropes episode one set up.
Having now seen the third and fourth episodes, I realize that I was wrong.
The Magicians isn’t Harry Potter. It’s much more…brutal. Unlike Hogwarts (or any of the other wizarding schools), Brakebills doesn’t accept any student with magic. If you’re a wizard in the HP universe, you’re a special snowflake no matter your skill level. You’re plucked from the Muggle world or born into the wizarding one; going to school is just what you do.
Brakebills? Not so much. If you don’t show a certain level of aptitude or skill or have whatever it is the school think makes you a Magician, you not only don’t get in, but they wipe your memory so you don’t even remember such a place exists.
You forget magic exists.
That’s pretty messed up when you think about it.
You do have another option if you’re lucky enough to remember things after the mind wipe or become aware of your abilities without going to Brakebills –– become a hedge witch. Of course, hedge witches are considered to be low rent wannabes by anyone at Brakebills and being one isn’t exactly a treat. But the hedge witches persist. It shows a side of magic you won’t see in Harry Potter’s world. The absolute need to do magic. The feeling that — without magic — you’re less than whole.
The Magicians is a look at who people are when they’re given access to something that makes them feel alive for the first time in their life — and what happens when it's taken it away. Or, what they do with that newfound power. It’s about who you are when you have access to power that can fundamentally change yourself and affect those around you.
As Doctor Emilio Lizardo famously said, “Character is who you are in the dark.”
It gets dark in here, people. Wonderfully, deliciously, frighteningly, undeniably dark.
Whatever you’ve thought about The Magicians up until now is about to change and, I promise you, you’re going to want to get on board.
Episode 3 of The Magicians airs tonight, February 1, 2016. You still have time to catch up on the first two episodes. So, go do that, okay?