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The Magicians

Syfy’s adaptation of the book trilogy is TV’s best current answer to Buffy.

The Magicians Syfy
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

In recent years, Syfy has decided to rebuild its much-diminished reputation simply by adapting good books. This strategy has led to a few solid series, like space saga The Expanse (now an Amazon original), and a few that are less so, like the network’s recent, vaguely nihilistic graphic novel adaptation Deadly Class.

But its best adaptation is The Magicians, an always engaging, occasionally enthralling take on Lev Grossman’s trilogy about lazy blue-blood New Englanders who discover they possess magic powers, thanks to the tutelage of a magical academy named Brakebills. (Once they’ve absorbed everything Brakebills has to offer, they rule the magic kingdom of Fillory.) The Magicians’ first season was sometimes messier than the (sublime) books, but every season since has improved on the one before, mixing snarky dialogue and darkly emotional moments in a way few shows have since the late, lamented Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show’s currently airing fourth season merrily hops genres to tell a story about damaged people trying to find a way to be whole.

“No matter how many layers of latex pile onto an actor’s body so they can become an amphibious beast or a hircine god, the feelings are always real and the stakes are always high.” Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter

Metacritic score: 81 out of 100

Where to watch: New episodes of The Magicians air Wednesdays at 9 pm Eastern on Syfy. Previous seasons are streaming on Netflix.

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