Syfy’s The Magicians has always assumed a unique position as an edgy, sexier, adult alternative to Harry Potter and after an underwhelming second season, the current third has proven that this show is better than ever before. And that’s mostly because it’s fulfilled the grown-up fantasy narrative promise so integral to the books.
Season 1 has great narrative thrust as the ensemble cast goes through magical grad school together at Brakebills and the show builds out its complex version of magic. The characters endure one trial after the next as they fall in and out of love while discovering what their magic is capable of. By the end, they had to unite against an ultra-powerful villain in a foreign magical world. It felt like a fitting end to a fantasy epic.
But then it just sort of kept going.
Rather than stick closely to Les Grossman’s novels of the same name, The Magicians Season 2 veered off course into unknown territory, weaving all-new plot threads and exploring new worlds while offering very little in the way of conflict or drama. Everyone got separated and everything felt disconnected.
But Season 3 has changed all that and The Magicians has become nothing short of spectacular.
During New York Comic Con over summer 2017, the entire cast of the show told Inverse that the main focus of Season 3 was a “unified quest” to restore magic in which the series takes more risks. Thus far the season has proven both.
After humans were cut off from magic at the end of Season 2, the many Magicians were left reeling, trying to define what life means without magic and who they could be in such a world. But when they uncover a glimmer of hope, they embark on a quest together to uncover seven golden keys to restore magic.
It seems like such a simple change, but after a season spent divided, there’s something so satisfying about seeing these many characters work together again. Sure, they still go through drama — like Penny dying — but they put aside their differences and work together because they know it’s their only chance to fix things.
And they’re all just having a ton of fun while doing it.
In the season premiere, for instance, Julia and Quentin team up to track down the party god Bacchus, looking for information that might help. They can’t even get into the party until they get drunk enough to do a little song and dance number. When they finally do meet Bacchus, he’s a total bro, doses Quentin with what’s probably Molly, and demands everybody do shots.
It’s ridiculous, obnoxious, refreshing, hilarious, and just so much damn fun to watch. This is The Magicians at its absolute best.
The season has only gone up from there. Eliot got a quest from the Great Cock, Quentin and Julia recovered a magical book that updates them on each stage of the quest, and every key that they gradually recover has special magical powers unique to that key.
At one point, each episode becomes focused on the specific adventure leading them to a new key. Some of them are in Fillory, some of them are in the real world. But it takes everyone working together in a somewhat procedural frame of storytelling — let’s call it “key of the week” — to give the more serialized elements of the show some narrative thrust.
This whole quest for the golden keys feels remarkably similar to the incredibly fun heist episode from last season: a team-up out of necessity where they each make use of their immense skills.
Each week, The Magicians continues to innovate with new ways to use magic and explore how funny, charming, and ridiculous its fun world can be. And we can’t wait to see where it goes next week.
The Magicians airs Wednesday nights on Syfy at 9 p.m. Eastern.