This story contains mild spoilers for Syfy’s The Magicians.
When the first novel in Lev Grossman’s popular Magicians trilogy was published in 2009, it introduced Quentin Coldwater, a white, whiny, Ivy League–bound Brooklynite. His trajectory as a protagonist sounded familiar: Quentin, who’d always felt like a misfit, found out that he was actually a magician and wound up at Brakebills University, a training ground for posh mages. It was Hogwarts, U.S.A; he was Harry Potter with a sex life. Together with his school friends, Quentin later discovered that Fillory, a Narnia-esque world he loved from childhood books, was real.
When the trilogy was adapted for Syfy, the show could’ve doubled down on treating Quentin like an archetypal hero in the vein of Luke Skywalker or King Arthur. Instead, The Magicians made Quentin a mere entry point into a series of ensemble-driven battles to save the magic of Earth and Fillory. The show became about a group of people honing their collective and individual power. In fusing the nostalgia of fantasy stories and adult themes with self-awareness and whimsy, The Magicians quickly earned praise as one of the best shows on TV you aren’t watching.
With so many people currently seeking out escapism in all its forms, Syfy’s The Magicians is a fantastic binge watch, an all-consuming experience with just enough light to distract from the global pandemic. The series just wrapped its fifth and final season, and the first four seasons are available on Netflix. Even if you can’t leave your house, you can retreat to realms populated by fairies, wannabe-overlord librarians, and a few dragons, via a show that relishes in juvenile sex jokes, musical-theater interludes, and goofy geek-culture references. (For example, when characters world-jump through a British phone box, they describe it, in a nod to Doctor Who, as a “vaguely TARDIS-looking portal.”)