I’ve been looking forward to this series for a while now. It’s one where I can say I actually have NOT read the best selling books by Lev Grossman that this series is formed around, though I will now. This was a 2 hour preview so the review may be a tad long, though I’ll try not to ramble too much!
For the series that I review, I will always mention if a soundtrack catches my attention and whether I like it or not. This one caught my attention, starting off with a song from MGMT. It included Holy Ghost!, Bronze Radio Return, Generationals, and The Limousine’s, plus more. I liked it.
I heard rumors or concerns that the series would run too closely with a Harry Potteresque feel. A few things may be reminiscent, big magic, an elusive special school to learn it, dark forces, etc. That is where the similarities – for me at least – end for the moment. The actors play 20-something students that have darkness, mystery, and some troubled mental states, feeling out of place and alone. It has it’s own vibe.
Two main characters Quentin Coldwater and Julia were very into a series of kids books “Fillory and Further” when they were younger. They both realized they were a bit different and shall we say dabbled in cursory magic. Julia moved on from all of that, not interested anymore. Quentin still is. His character comes across as a self-concious outsider with a ton of doubt and insecurities. He does not feel he fits in anywhere, which almost anyone can relate to at a time in their lives, but his issues go a step further into medicating and therapists. Julia seems a go-getter and knows what she wants to do next in life. Quentin is lost in the first bit of the show.
An odd experience leads Quentin right to a place called Brakebills front lawn, and it turns out that Julia ends up there also. They find out that they are there to take a magic aptitude test and are in awe as they realize what they really have known all along – magic is real. Quentin passes the test, but Julia does not. The school officials attempt to wipe her memory of the experience but she makes a mark so she won’t forget. It works, and she becomes the lost one, obsessed with the fact that magic is real and that she needs to get back into Brakebills. She is approached by a man at her birthday party and after a violating experience in the bathroom he lets her know he knows magic is real. Julia hooks up with him and his “friends”, who call themselves hedge witches. Unknowingly, Julia becomes a part of the dark and disturbing underworld of magic. It’s revealed toward the end of the episode that Quentin’s friend Kady (Jade Tailor) from Brakebills is secretly working with them, but we don’t know how or why.
Quentin wakes up from a dream with a reminder that it wasn’t just a dream. A sigil is burned into his hand. He remembers it from a book another student Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) has and when he finds her they agree to meet later and talk further. This meeting leads to two more students “finding” them when the quite badass student Penny (Arjun Gupta) is lead to them by a voice in his head. All of this leads to an impromptu late night incantation that the students are under the impression did not work. Boy, are they wrong.
The special effects were pretty impressive for a pilot. A Beast of magic manages to step through a mirror into the classroom, and puts a paralyzing spell on everyone. He is surrounded by moth’s and you really can’t see a face. He stops a distance from the professor and sticking out his 6 fingered hand, mothman slowly and severely strangles the professor with hand movements. He also maims the Dean of the school quite badly, removing his eyeballs. The mothman tries to go after Quentin but something happens that breaks the spell and a few kids in the class, Quentin’s “group” manage to fight the Beast off and back into the mirror.
I can’t leave the review without mentioning the delightful characters and Quentin’s friends Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bashil). They bring an element of fun, and support, to Quentin who really needs it. Love these two.
It will be interesting to see where this leads, I look forward to watching the rest of the series. I say the 2-hour premiere was a hit! Give this show a watch!