An unusual series premiere kicked off Syfy’s “The Magicians” on Monday (Jan. 25), since the show’s pilot already had a “secret” sneak peek last month — giving viewers a preview of college-age-Hogwarts’ characters, levitating sex and the nightmare-invading monster called “The Beast.”
Syfy has now given the show its “official” launch with a re-airing of that pilot episode, following it up with a second episode titled “The Source of Magic.”
Viewed back-to-back, the first two episodes complement each other quite well — the pilot offers a relatively breezy introduction to everyone, capped off with the hideous Beast attack, while the second episode digs into the PTSD-like fallout suffered by the students and various revelations that depict each one’s dark sides and insecurities.
But best of all — after these two hours, it’s hard not to be hooked. If you’ve watched them both, read on, but beware: A good magician may never reveal his secrets, but Zap2it is about to spill a few.
“We live in a world that is one world among many,” Professor Sunderland (Anne Dudek) explains to the traumatized students as she begins investigating the attack in the second episode. “The beast you saw was from one such place. We do not know the origin of this entity — only that it was powerful, and malevolent. And we know that it is gone now.”
Fans know certain things as well — like, that the Brakebills students bring with them a ton of baggage. For starters, there’s Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), who are quickly turning into an adorably insecure love story as they grapple with the realization that they unleashed The Beast — and both are fearful that they’re now on the verge of being kicked out of the prestigious magic school.
“I don’t know you!” says Alice.
“I don’t know you either,” Quentin shoots back. “Except that we summoned some kind of moth man from another world.”
“Yeah,” she replies. “There is that.”
Then there’s Eliot (Hale Appleman), who stands out with some of the snappiest dialogue on the show — honestly, it feels as if the writers chug a Redbull when it’s time to write Eliot, then go back to cruise control for the others.
“OK, I’m going to tell you something deep and dark and personal now,” Elliott proclaims to Quentin in one scene, as matter-of-fact as possible. “Ready? Good. I killed someone.”
Elliot explains that when he was fourteen, a bully beat him up — and barely realizing what he was doing, he used his magic to make a bus hit the kid. But Eliot doesn’t seem remorseful — except for the sweater he flippantly mentions ruining — instead, he’s using the story to try and cheer Quentin up.
Then there’s Penny (Arjun Gupta), who is having a hard time dealing with the aftermath of The Beast as well. He’s thinking about leaving Brakebills because he has been hearing a voice — and he’s convinced it was The Beast all along, manipulating him. Kady (Jade Tailor), who we see in a flashback as using some dark magic to help save the day, suffered a nasty headwound but talks him into staying.
Don’t forget Julia (Stella Maeve) — a fascinating character because she is probably the smartest one of them all, which makes her all the angrier that she was rejected by Brakebills, and now she’s determined to find herself an alternative, more dangerous, education.
In “Source of Magic,” that desire gets Julia locked in a meat locker with Marina (Kacey Rohl) and a very nasty zombie cadaver. What seems like a big test turns out to actually have surprises on multiple levels — and introduces Marina as a major character who seems to have a Brakebills chip on her shoulder.
In no time, Julia is kicking in doors, Penny and Quentin are coming to blows, and it seems that “The Physical Kids” might take a little while to warm up to each other.
That’s when the big reveal comes: There’s a traitor in their midst. With a Brakebills double agent in play, it seems like “The Magicians” is just beginning to reveal its bag of tricks.