Debuting on Syfy on December 16, 2015, the dark fantasy television series based on Lev Grossman's book of the same name, The Magicians immediately drew comparison to the much loved Harry Potter series of films and novels by J.K. Rowling. But despite having magic deeply in common, Quentin Coldwater and his friends are definitely not Harry, Ron and Hermione. Quentin and his friends don't get Hogwarts letters and go off to a magic boarding school. Instead, they find themselves testing into a secret magical university named Brakebills as adults and experiencing a whole new world of magic while dealing with standard new adult drama and angst.
The combination of familiar magic, adult angst and compelling characters and impressive special effects made The Magicians a quick hit for Syfy. The series' second season premiered on January 25, 2017 and continued the adventures of Quentin, Alice, Eliot, Margo, Kady, Penny and Julia, until its season finale this week. But this isn't just a fantasy. It's the grown up Harry Potter we didn't know we needed and here are 15 reasons why its okay to grow up and grow into The Magicians.
15 Brakebills University has booze
Okay, so the Harry Potter kids were actual kids. Hogwarts was a boarding school, not a college or graduate school. Harry, Hermione, Ron and others definitely should not have been drinking, but the whole underage thing aside, Hogwarts wasn't really much of a party school. We just don’t see Dumbledore being okay with ragers of any sort on campus. Brakebills, however, is a completely different story. The Brakebills students are all adults; most of them are pretty messed up and they have seriously hard coursework. They also live in the non-magical world instead of being off somewhere far flung and special for school. Brakebills is literally right in the city, just cleverly hidden. Drinking is required to get through some of the rigors of academic and personal life for the Brakebills students, especially the extremely talented but complex Physical Magic crew. Their house is party central with an excellent and curated collection of alcohol and a resident mixologist in Eliot. This sounds much better than butterbeer. In fact, we're not sure Eliot allows beer of any kind in the Physical house. It doesn’t really seem his style at all. These guys drink far better than your average college student. And far more.
14 The chosen one is really just an ordinary guy
He doesn't have a scar on his forehead and he isn't on Voldemort's hit list, but Quentin Coldwater is every bit as important to Brakebills as Harry Potter is Hogwarts. Quentin is an ordinary guy with extraordinary talent and a deep, obsessive love for a series of books about a magical land called Fillory. His encyclopedic knowledge of Fillory is annoying to those around him the same way someone still obsessed with One Direction might be, but that's part of what makes Quentin so human. Don’t we all get really into things and annoy our friends talking about them? Quentin also struggles to connect with people, is often overwhelmed, and has his own personal demons. And let’s not forget his struggles with mental health, particularly with depression. Quentin doesn’t have people in his world surrounding him to tell him how chosen he is or how special. There isn’t a secret bank account. He’s just a guy with issues and a love of magic. His isn't a story about overcoming evil as much as it is learning to deal with himself, his relationships and to then deal with evil. Quentin Coldwater is all of us.
13 The core team aren't exactly friends
The Harry Potter series is as much about friendship as it is about magic. Ron, Harry and Hermione are good friends who band together and make a nice team as they work through the challenges of growing up as well that pesky Voldemort situation. But The Magicians crew? They’re not exactly friends. They kind of just ended up stuck with each other because of their Physical Magic discipline, their place in school and a series of misadventures they all end up going on because of Quentin. The fact that they are not friends is part of what makes it more fun to watch. The Magicians are learning how to work with one another and about what each one brings to the table. They also sometimes fight about how things should be handled and there is teasing and disagreement within their ranks that gives a realistic dynamic to their interactions. These people didn’t just sign up to fight for the world because they’re buddies. They’re together because they have to be and are learning lessons about teamwork in the process. And it’s just a lot more fun to watch.
Remember that mixologist with the good alcohol collection, Eliot? He alone is definitely a reason that The Magicians is the adult Harry Potter we didn’t know we needed! Eliot is a skilled magician, but he’s also a very skilled party master. Drinking, sex and partying? Eliot has a masters in them all. Flamboyant fashionable flair? Considering him a Ph.D. Dry humor and wit so piercing, it absolutely impales you? He wrote the book. But even for the wild and risqué escapades Eliot has in his past and on his schedule for the future, he is more than just the party guy. Eliot is a man who rises to the occasion and does whatever it takes. When the gang discover that they are kings and queens of Fillory, Eliot in particular discovers that he is the High King. And coming along with that is an arranged marriage to a local farm girl (definitely not his type) and the idea that he can never again leave Fillory. Eliot takes these burdens and wears the crown on his head and even though it hasn’t changed his party ways, Eliot shoulders his great responsibility with dignity. Most of the time.
11 Four formidable ladies, not just one Hermione
The Magicians isn’t just a dude squad and that’s part of what makes everything that much better. Harry and Ron only have one Hermione to be smarter than them. The men of The Magicians have an Alice, a Margo, a Julia and a Kady to solve the big problems and put them through their paces. Each woman has her own unique strengths and weaknesses and they also help put the guys in their place. Margo in particular is Eliot’s keeper of sorts with her relationship with him being a large part of what anchors him to life and keeps him going. Alice is largely Quentin’s reason for living, and she’s also the smartest one in the group while Kady is street smart, practical and takes no crap from anyone, especially Penny. Even Julia, who isn’t exactly a core part of the Brakebills crew has her own place as Quentin’s childhood friend and Kady’s outsider friend. Julia has raw magic as opposed to the more refined educated variety. These four ladies definitely make The Magicians far more interesting and the guys are lucky to have them.
10 The swearing
One of the best things about The Magicians isn’t the story. It’s that the characters swear. Yep, they swear like sailors sometimes and that’s a huge part of what makes the show so real. There are just some things you encounter that are so shocking or so hard to process that safe and respectable vocabulary just doesn’t cut it. You’ve got to resort to some f-bombs. Even the most prim and proper among the group, Alice, has been known to let a few foul words fly when a spell has gone wrong or things didn’t quite go as planned. And for Margo? Swearing is almost an accessory. Even Penny’s use of curse words brings a depth to his character and a whole lot of realism for a group of magicians who are first fighting to stop a world-ending Beast and later, trying to save Fillory. And maybe hunt down an evil trickster god while they’re at it.
9 The sex
Budding young romances and old unrequited love both factored into the world of Harry Potter. The Magicians has romance, too. The Magicians also talks about sex and the ways it both changes relationships and complicates all matters of magic. Quentin and Alice’s friendship was almost held back by the serious sexual tension between the pair, so when they finally got together at Brakebills South, it opened up a whole new world for them—one that was infinitely more complicated as they went into a different relationship. Penny and Kady’s relationship largely started physical with both of them slowly learning to trust and open up to each other. And Eliot and Margo? Their hedonistic affair belies a deeper bond and is incredibly entertaining to watch, especially as it intertwines with the group dynamic. This is a whole new level of drama the Hogwarts kids didn’t have to deal with. At least not until they got to college.
8 The dark subjects don't always have a silver lining
In Harry Potter, the dark things always seem to have a silver lining. Harry grows up neglected and somewhat emotionally abused, only to discover he’s incredibly special and beloved. Loss always makes the kids stronger and even Snape’s personal torment and darkness gets reframed as arguably heroic. But for the folks in The Magicians universe, the darkness doesn’t always have light. Sometimes the darkness is just dark. Quentin’s mental illness is something he constantly struggles with. Alice’s attempt to save her brother who had overloaded himself magically to the point he no longer existed as a human being ends with him being bound and locked away instead of being restored. The gang, while trying to find a way to Fillory, discover that Christopher Plover, the author of the Fillory books and Quentin’s hero was really a child molester whose sister had other children killed to protect him. The very boy that suffered under Plover’s abuse turns out to be the Beast who, in turn, causes Alice to over load and burn out. Julia ends up the victim of a trickster god. The dark things that happen are just dark. Quentin and his friends are often fighting a losing battle. It’s real and gritty and satisfying, even when it’s hard to watch.
7 The awesome magic casting
Forget buying yourself a wand at Olivander’s. The only thing Quentin and his group needs to cast magic are some pretty awesome hand gestures. Called "tutting," the intricate and creative hand motion patterns that allow the magicians to conduct their spells is so much more fun to watch. It also brings the magic to a raw and more personal level. The magic in Harry Potter’s world feels at times stiff and academic. Tutting at Brakebills feels like anyone could have access to it and indeed, that is somewhat the case. It’s not just the university-trained magicians who use tutting to cast their spells. Even the hedge witches outside the wards of Brakebills use tuts to bring their magical world to life. It’s super cool to watch.
6 There's more than one big bad
So you think The Beast is the ultimate big bad in The Magicians? Think again. The Beast isn’t the Fillorian Voldemort. Nope. The Beast is just one massive evil that threatens the people of Fillory and Earth and our friends at Brakebills find out pretty quickly that just because they defeated one villain, the fight is far from over. That’s one of the things that makes The Magicians so much fun to watch. Victory isn’t the end. Instead, it’s just the beginning of another complicated and twisted magical journey. For Quentin, Eliot, Margo, Penny, Kady, Alice and Julia, there is no going on to a normal and ordinary life after they’ve been to Fillory. And while Harry, Ron and Hermione surely had post-Voldemort adventures, it sounds like they at least got a chance at something like normalcy. That’s not quite the case for Quentin and company, and their ever-evolving story feels a lot like real life, just with more magic and more weird.
5 An actual magical world that's weird, twisted, and beautiful
One of the best and most exciting things about The Magicians is that there is an actual magical world that lives right within our mundane one, but there’s also an entire magical land where the magic in our world comes from. While in the Harry Potter universe magic feels very separated from the real world, in The Magicians it’s right there with it. Brakebills is right in the city and only hidden by some well-constructed wards. People outside the magical institution practice magic out in the real world. And Fillory is more than a children’s story; it’s a real place that is itself fantastic and not just a collection of beasts. Perhaps the best part is that the consequences of magical events have impact on the mundane world. If Fillory’s magic well dries up, there’s no magic anywhere and the show does a great job of establishing that sometimes, the only thing that keeps the mundane world safe is the magic around it. Oh, and Fillory has a sloth that advises the kings. Magical animals for the win.
4 Margo has the sass Hermione needed
We've already covered how the ladies of The Magicians are one of the reasons why it’s just the adult magic world we need, but there’s one lady in particular that really embodies that sense that we’ve outgrown Hogwarts. That lady is Margo, High Queen of Fillory and master of resting bitch face. Margo has the sass that Hermione needed, which not only makes Margo a ton of fun to watch, but it also makes her the power behind a lot of the characters on the show. Margo has zero chill and doesn’t wait for things to happen to her. She makes things happen. Wellspring contaminated and magic at risk? Margo wheels and deals her way to a restoration. War with a neighboring kingdom looming? Margo figures out how to fix the decisive duel. Margo is savvy, hip, sexy, and well-dressed at all times. She’s not bossy, she’s the boss and she’s going to get things done, for Fillory and for herself. Stand aside, boys.
3 A singing bad guy
The Beast may like to imprison or kill visitors to Fillory as well as attack people in the non-magical world, in addition to keeping his own former tormentor in a constant state of torture—but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a fun guy! Turns out that when he’s stuck in a situation where he has to help Julia on her side mission and therefore isn’t all consumed with his plans for Fillory, The Beast likes to sing. That’s right, the master magician that has Quentin and his crew crapping their pants more often than not enjoys such non-evil hobbies as watching children happily at play and singing loudly. Sometimes show tunes. And if the singing itself isn’t entertaining enough, the fact that the singing drives Julia nuts is the icing on the cake. Julia’s stuck with not just a very dangerous villain she can’t control as well as she’d like, but he’s downright gleeful and singing about it. Total torture.
2 The good guys make some questionable choices
The best heroes aren’t perfect and the rag-tag team of good guys on The Magicians are far, far, far from perfect. It’s not just general personality flaws and dynamics that make them less than pristine, though. The gang also just straight up makes some really questionable decisions. Alice trying to un-niffin her brother is only the tip of the iceberg. Stealing spells, trying to summon a god and insulting the keeper of a magical river are just a few of the less than great choices the heroes made. These bad choices have significant consequences that don’t always work out for the gang but those bad choices drive the story and, frankly, it’s kind of nice to watch the folks with the immense power screw up and all the power they have be of little help. It keeps you guessing as to whether or not they’re going to ultimately prevail, and can’t we all identify with that?
1 It's actually inspired by 'Harry Potter'
Yes, The Magicians is the grown up Harry Potter we never knew we needed. There are a lot of interesting similarities to Harry’s world, and that’s actually by design. Lev Grossman, author of the book series the show is based on, was deeply inspired by the Harry Potter series. Taking that inspiration, Grossman deconstructed a lot of the mythos of the Harry Potter universe to create The Magicians and a world that asks what if. What if Harry didn’t get into magic school until he was older? What if Hermione hadn’t made it to Hogwarts at all? Quentin's and Julia’s stories are sort of a tangent on those questions, which makes the similarities between the stories strong, but also gives all the Potter fans out there a familiar but entirely new magical world to explore.