I guess the easiest way to describe The Magicians would be “Harry Potter on acid.” The show is about a bunch of students at a school, Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy, and they’re all learning that magic exists in this world and in other worlds. But they’re also learning about themselves, about their powers, and about what it’s like to be an adult, all at the same time. It jumps between pop culture inside jokes and action sequences and rabbit messengers and musical numbers, with this casual proficiency that’s just really fun to watch.
This article appears in the Winter 2022 issue of Alta Journal.
After a long day of editing comedy, I usually gravitate toward other genres. Because when I watch comedies, I can see the structure—like, Oh, they mentioned that little thing, now that’s gonna come back around, or they’re gonna bump into each other. I see the outline on a dry-erase board when I’m watching. Not that every comedy is that formulaic, but I guess I like watching fantasy and sci-fi because I can still get lost in those worlds and not think about how they’re going to tie everything together in act 3. So I also love Vikings and Taboo. I even like this show called Warrior Nun.
In The Magicians, these aren’t kids. They’re young adults. And they deal with a lot of fucked-up stuff, a lot of serious issues, from mental health to sexual assault to betrayals to friendships breaking up. And they’re dealing with all this stuff and using a magical universe as a metaphor. All the swashbuckling adventure and crazy twists and turns illuminate real human aspects of the characters. I know there are people who are like, Oh, I don’t want to watch a show about magic. But it’s not really about magic. It’s hard to see all the things going on in a show when you’re just looking at a trailer or a poster, but I find it such an incredible treat to watch. And no, this is not a guilty pleasure! I really admire it. It’s a pleasure pleasure. I watch it guilt-free.•
—As told to Robert Ito
The Magicians streams on Netflix.