It’s a new year, and you need a new watch list. Well, just one show, really.

SYFY’s The Magicians TV series is already in its fifth season this January, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t caught on locally the way Harry Potter and Game of Thrones did during their respective times.

Especially when The Magicians (book) has reviews like these:

“The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children’s book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwarts was never like this.”

—George R. R. Martin, bestselling author of A Game of Thrones

“The Magicians ought to be required reading for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a fantasy series, or wished that they went to a school for wizards. Lev Grossman has written a terrific, at times almost painfully perceptive novel of the fantastic that brings to mind both Jay McInerney and J. K. Rowling.”

—Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners 
and Stranger Things Happen

And the TV series has a pretty decent Rotten Tomatoes rating (same as Game of Thrones as of time of writing).


While the book and the series each has its own merits, I dare say that The Magicians TV adaptation is better than the books. Here’s why:

1. Pace


If you’re like me who read Young Adult fantasy books more than high fantasy novels, then you’re definitely going to prefer The Magicians series more. The book has a lingering pace that mirrors the burdens (read: adulting problems) of Quentin Coldwater, the protagonist of the story. The series, on the other hand, has a good pace despite some sentimental scenes that deal with the emotional baggage of the characters.

2. More than just a show about magic


The Magicians is about students in a magic school like Harry Potter, and it has strong references to Narnia, where a bunch of people go to a totally different world; but it’s more than that.

It’s sometimes a musical. Season 1’s The World in the Walls has to be one of my favorite episodes not just because of the funny rendition of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, but also… well, just see for yourself.

Then, you get an episode where students get an impossible test to pass (like in Naruto) in Season 1’s Impractical Applications.

Ever wonder how easy—or difficult—it is for magicians to rob a bank? Well, Season 2 has a heist episode called Plan B.

There’s also something reminiscent of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s In a Grove with how Season 3’s Six Stories About Magic is told. The story told from different perspectives effectively builds up the ending of this episode.

And… it’s also about itself, breaking the fourth wall (like in Supernatural) in Season 4’s A Flock of Lost Birds.

The use of different styles in cinematography and storytelling makes each episode exciting to watch. Despite that, the series still feels coherent and you don’t lose the plot.

3. Strong, round, complex characters and brave representation of minorities


In a group of friends, some stand out as leaders while the others just become supporting characters. It’s not every time that you get a show where the Ginny Weasley gets screen time to flesh out her character. But in Season 3’s Be the Penny and The Fillorian Candidate, you get an epiphany: This is The Magicians, NOT Quentin.

I like how culpable the characters are in the show, as well. It’s humanizing. But! The kind of mistakes they make are… incredibly high stakes, putting you on the edge of your seat—sometimes rooting for them, sometimes condemning them.

The show is also pretty brave to include characters from the minority like a deaf magician, a blind magician, a gay magician, a grotesque faerie, a sentient tree, a cyclops, a character from an alternative timeline, and time travelers. And mind you, these characters aren’t pitiful members of the minority but are spunky, sardonic, and really have character.

4. Poignant moments shown cinematically


Books can be cinematic too, but I personally liked how some moments were told using moving pictures. My favorite is this black and white scene in Season 4’s No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry:

5. Tickles your fancy for the weird and dark humor


Late warning: this show is for a mature audience. There are serious issues that the politically correct may find offensive. Personally, though, I think the show balances the serious and the comic pretty well.

I first found out about The Magicians in an ETC commercial. It was a very short clip that said “Your thesis: Saving the world” (non verbatim, I think). One line, and I was hooked. And every time I finish a season, I yearn for more. (In fact, I bought the book after finishing Season 3 and before Season 4 was released.)

Talking about The Magicians makes me understand the show’s genius and complexity better, so I would love for it to catch on locally. Trust me, you won’t regret it. See for yourself and let me know what you think! The Magicians Season 5 returns to SYFY on January 15.