I read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, the first in a trilogy, a year or two after it was published. The subject matter—magic school, disenchanted youth, a fantastical world—pretty much checked all the boxes for me. Yet while I liked it . . . I didn’t love it.
In spite of that, I gamely watched the first season of the trilogy’s TV adaptation soon after it aired in 2015. The show took significant liberties with the books, but the creators did so in a way that I found really interesting and exciting. “The Magicians” is fun and the people who made and star in it seemed to be having fun with it, which made it all the more engaging to watch.
My favorite episode of the show also happens to be what I consider the best hour of television ever. (Yes, ever.) It’s season 3, episode 5, “A Life in the Day.” As I was watching it, I kept saying (out loud, to myself) that it was amazing. And when the episode was over, I watched it again: I’ve never done that before. (Nope, never.) The episode represents a lot of what I love about the series: the writers set up rules only to break them, but somehow the show always feels internally consistent. Part of me wants to suggest you watch the episode in isolation, but I think it’s better to watch the series up to that episode so you can fully appreciate the surprise and payoff.
After the series ended last year, I waited a while to watch the final season. I do that, sometimes: keep a great TV show, movie, or book handy for when I need a good diversion. Now, having watched the series finale, I was inspired to revisit the first book and . . . I liked it better this time. Maybe I was in a different head space, maybe the stars aligned, maybe the show gave me a new perspective, but I liked it. I now understand certain choices I didn’t like the first time around, and I also came back to the book with no expectations, unlike my first reading. In fact, I’ve almost finished the second book in the series, The Magician King.
I suppose it should come as no surprise that what started out as a post about a TV series became a post about a TV series and a book. I hope you’ll check them both out and see what you think.
The Magicians series is available from your local bookstore.