The Magicians

TV review by
Edie Nugent, Common Sense Media
The Magicians TV Poster Image
Darker, more adult magical quest for the Harry Potter set.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 19 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 14 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Themes include courage, curiosity, perseverance, and teamwork. There's an emphasis on self-reliance, and the characters ask hard questions of themselves regarding what it means to be an adult and strike out on your own. But the answers they land on, and how they make those determinations, are full of flawed logic and shortsighted thinking. Friends reach out to help each other when faced with difficulty, even if they sometimes end up making things worse. Negative behavior has catastrophic consequences, and this resonates with Quentin and his magical contemporaries.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Quentin and his friends all have both positive and negative attributes. Quentin's devotion to his fantasy life is scholarly but also obsessive in a way that allows him to disassociate. His friends don't always respect what he is doing. 

Violence

Though the series is light on fight scenes, there's still plenty of intense violence, ranging from broken necks and dead bodies to mutilations (including self-mutilation). Rape is threatened and pedophilia is alluded to.  

Sex

Strong sexual innuendo, including simulated sex acts (while clothed; no nudity is shown.) 

Language

"S--t," "goddamn," and "asshole." 

Consumerism

The series serves as a promotional vehicle for the books. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Quentin suffers from depression and doesn't want to take his medications. Some episodes feature people snorting lines (of presumably cocaine), others feature characters admitting to lots of drug use. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Magicians is based on a trio of bestselling novels by Lev Grossman concerning a group of young adults and their years living dangerously at Brakebills, an elite school for the magically gifted. This engaging but intense series may look like Harry Potter at grad school, but the overall series is darker and contains a lot more adult-oriented material, including cursing, strong sexual content, some gory violence, and drug use, making it best left for older teens. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCheckeredHat March 22, 2016

Parents beware

I really enjoyed the premise of this series, a college-aged Harry-potter. But I have to review each episode before deciding whether my daughter (14) can watch.... Continue reading
Adult Written byAleean R. January 2, 2017

The General Reviews on the Side that Determine How Much of What is Shown in the Show are not Accurate.

First I would like to start off by saying that the general reviews on the side that determine how much of what is shown in the show are not accurate. I'm a... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byVerminClapperSnap February 6, 2017

Be cautious

-The show has good production, but it's sometime less than what the show has previously set (to be expected for any show, though) -Not a "family"... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bymarco123-m May 14, 2016

What's the story?

In THE MAGICIANS, Quentin Coldwater is a clinically depressed student on the verge of college graduation whose fantasy life provides him little comfort as he faces down adulthood. Part of growing up, he explains, is “selling the comic book collection and getting serious.” Inward, nerdy Quentin is overjoyed to discover that his grad school interview is actually a test to join the exclusive Brakebills school for magicians. He passes with distinction, but his best friend Julia isn't so lucky. After flunking it, she desperately seeks to hone her magic outside the Ivy leagues. Back at Brakebills, Quentin flourishes -- but also unwittingly helps a malevolent force known only as  the Beast gain entry to the magical campus, leading to the murder of a teacher. The ensuing fallout will test Quentin and his new Brakebills compatriots.

Is it any good?

The misfits-turned-wizards premise is grounded in solid fantasy footing in this series; devotees of the genre will see much from Harry Potter and Narnia. The well-worn trope of young people finding themselves at the center of grand magical battles has a great amount of power in today's fantasy-favoring landscape. The quality of the show’s source material lays a solid foundation for the series to contrast well-worn concepts with a more adult treatment of these themes.

Wisely, the show has aged its protagonists from undergrads to grad students. This frees its characters to engage in the experimentation that helps to set this young-adult identity-crisis story apart from its genre progenitors. If the time it's broadcast doesn't drive home that The Magicians is for older teenagers, it should be stated: Morally and ethically dubious decisions form the core of this show, and depression, self-harm, death, strong sexual innuendo, and murder are key elements of the story. As lead character Quentin states in the first episode, "Be warned: This adventure is no mere children's tale," and as a result, it's best left for older viewers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why people like to imagine worlds like the one in The Magicians in which magic is real. How would magic change your life for the better? For worse?

  • Do you have favorite books that have been made into TV shows or movies? What changes were made, and why?

  • How do the characters in The Magicians demonstrate curiosity and courage? What about perseverance and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love fantasy

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