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The Magicians (The Magicians #1)
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Thoughts on differences between The Magicians book and TV show

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Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Hey Guys!

I'm done with either ep 4 or 5 (thanks to the Sword and Laser member who let me know the BluRay was uncensored) and I was curious what others thought about the differences in book and show.

It's been a few years now since I came to terms with the fact that adaptations need to be their own thing to work well. Usually this is strongest seen when we can't see into a character's head as we can in the book. That said, doesn't mean we can't compare & contrast tropes, ideas, feelings, etc between the two.

Spoilers for book ahead, since that's done. If people want to speak more guardedly about the TV show since it's newer, that's fine with me.

Here are my thoughts partway through Season 1:

I understand why TV shows *prefer* things to happen in sync rather than flashbacks so I can understand why Julia's hedge witch arc was brought into season 1. What I'm less of a fan of is how she keeps intersecting with Quentin. I thought the book got a lot out of having Quentin only see her effed up once and then get so caught up in his world and his book 1 selfishness that he doesn't see her again until they come get him at the end of book 1 after he gave up being a magician (or beginning of book 2....it runs together a bit) In the TV show he's coming across as a lot more actively mean towards his supposed BFF as he keeps ranting against her and telling her to just quit the hedge stuff. Additionally, I hope that the mental hospital episode is the last time they drive home the concept of how he is sad when he loses it, but he's still being condescending to Julia. I think we all get it now, no need to hammer it home.

The rest of the plot so far - overall the only criticism I have is they seem to have changed it from a tale in which the main characters fall into Fillory and have to find a way out into one in which Q (as of ep 4 or 5) appears to be some golden boy that is DESTINED to save the world or something. After Mass Effect and a bunch of other Destiny-bound protagonist games and stories, I'm tired of the trope.

Characterwise:
Quentin - SPOT ON. Considering we can't see inside his head, he's doing an incredible acting job getting his character across. Seems to dance back and forth compared to how entitled and selfish he is in the book, but works well.

Alice - so far spot on. Looking forward to seeing the Mayakovsky episode to see if she ends up with as good a chemistry with Q as in the book.

Penny - overall interesting decision on his character. Dude is a punk on the outside and an uber-nerd on the inside in the book - especially as we see in books 2 and 3. So far the actor is doing great on the punk part and his antagonism with Q. Also, great fun when in the mental hospital episode he's got a completely different demeanor and is more "indian" - "YOU RACIST MOTHER----!" I think we'll see great things from this actor going forward if they give him the change.

Elliot - COULD NOT BE BETTER! HOLY MOLY they plucked him from my brain onto the page. If the TV show goes the same route as the books and has him has his growth moment in the fillory plot, it'll be interesting to see this actor pull that off. But as the aloof Elliot he is BOSS!

Margo - What was wrong with the name Jane? Otherwise great job.

Julia - Good actress so far. TV show seems to be speeding everything up ( Alice and Q didn't take ALL day to burn through physical kids' door) so she's already looking like crap due to hedge witching. But if the plot will follow the book, she has further to fall. Looks like she can carry it well.

More to say, but I'd like to see where the conversation goes first.


Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Adding as a reply in case someone else is crafting a reply as I write this:

Dean Fogg: While he loses a bit in not being a fat jovial looking guy who surprises the reader by being an anti-Dumbledore and somewhat antagonistic towards the kids at times, I think the current actor is doing a pretty good job. He did a great job in the start to ep 4 or 5 with "What, Quentin? I'm busy!"

What do you think about the fact that the kids were up-aged? It changes the dynamic somewhat - it's less a coming of age story although I think it's still a finding a place to belong story for Q, just a little less typical for someone who's done with undergrad.


Keith (KeithATC) | 430 comments I haven't minded any of the changes made in the series, and in fact the season finale (which I won't go into) so far is substantially better at handling rather a major event in Julia's life. The way it is handled (in the third book) is so perfunctory; the show seems to be making a much bigger deal out of it, which I am looking forward to (we'll see how it pans out when season 2 premieres).

It took me a few episodes to get used to intense, sexy Penny, but I'm on board.


message 4: by Eric (last edited Jan 06, 2017 10:09AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Keith wrote: "I haven't minded any of the changes made in the series, and in fact the season finale (which I won't go into) so far is substantially better at handling rather a major event in Julia's life. The wa..."

Cool, cool. I'll reserve full judgement until at least S1 finale. Hopefully get to it this weekend if things don't get too busy.

Overall, it's cool that they're making it their own and that Lev Grossman seems from his public comments to be really cool with the changes.

It's funny you mention Penny's intensity. He's intense in the book, but it's the intensity of a know-it-all. TV!Penny's more of a "I've had to become hard to protect myself" kind of vibe.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 857 comments I was one of those people who was a bit negative about the book (I never went on to the sequels), but I really like the TV series. I think it's working for me for the same reasons early Game of Thrones sometimes worked better than the books for me: characters who are a little thin or unlikeable on the page can really be elevated by an actor who invests them with empathy and humanity. Like you said Elliot and Penny are fantastic, and the rest of the cast are also quite good.

Eric wrote: "Margo - What was wrong with the name Jane? Otherwise great job."

I read somewhere they wanted to lessen any confusion by avoiding names that start with the same letters. Obviously not a problem when reading but I kind of understand not wanting to overwhelm viewers who already have to learn a bunch of fantastic locations and rules and worldbuilding and don't necessarily have the ability to flip back a few pages/scroll back a few seconds. They also lampshade this later on, but I won't spoil that. :)


Stephen Richter (StephenofLongBeach) | 837 comments I like the book series but I think the TV series is even better, at least Season One was.


Michael (cowardm) | 4 comments I enjoyed both, but liked the books significantly more. I wish the show wasn't so...trendy, for lack of a better word. But there's something more substantial that bothered me.

It was clear from Grossman's novels that the author was a fan of Lewis. While the books serve as a cheeky critique and maybe more realistic commentary, it was clear that C.S. Lewis endeared Grossman.

The show demonstrates a pretty clear and dark narrative about the Lewis-like character. It lost its charm on that one. You probably haven't gotten far enough in to sense it and I don't want to spoil anything. Suffice to say, you'll know what I'm talking about when you get there.


Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Joe Informatico wrote: "I was one of those people who was a bit negative about the book (I never went on to the sequels), but I really like the TV series. I think it's working for me for the same reasons early Game of Thr..."

I will agree with you that pretty much none of the characters are likeable or redeemable in book 1. Depending on your personality, that would have been rectified in the later novels. The series as a whole really is about the main characters growing up and becoming adults - something that has to be dulled a bit by the TV show aging them up 3-4 years. That said, it was always interesting talking about the book with others and admitting that I hated all the characters, especially the main character. I think only Alice is sympathetic in the first novel.


Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Michael wrote: "I enjoyed both, but liked the books significantly more. I wish the show wasn't so...trendy, for lack of a better word. But there's something more substantial that bothered me.

It was clear from Gr..."


I'll keep an eye out for that. Like I said in my reviews, it's funny that it was sold to me as "Harry Potter, but grown up and with sex", but it really turned out to be "Narnia, but Deconstructed."


message 10: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel (GallifreyanAeris) | 6 comments TLDR: I have mixed feelings about the TV show, should I still read the books?

I just finished season 1 of the TV show but I never read the books.

The show really drew me in and made me want to know more about the story (by reading the book), but I noticed that the show is pretty depressing. I kept hoping that something moderately good might happen to someone without going tragically, horrifically wrong in short order. It was starting to be a frustrating watch, the protagonists take 2 steps forward then get kicked 42 miles back. And the season finale pretty much made me want to lem the whole series.

However, I read the plot synopsis of the trilogy on wikipedia (out of curiosity and not sure if I would ever read the books) and it sounds like the books might not be quite as much an exercise in futility--like (view spoiler) I don't mind the dark feel of the story, but I'd like it if something went right every now and then.

So, I guess my question is, are the books better and should I give them a try anyway?


message 11: by Eric (last edited Jan 12, 2017 03:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Rachel wrote: "TLDR: I have mixed feelings about the TV show, should I still read the books?

I just finished season 1 of the TV show but I never read the books.

The show really drew me in and made me want to k..."


I guess you're not afraid of spoilers given your wikiwalk, but here's what I'd say without giving it away. It's not a series in which everything is happy in the end with everyone alive and well. However, the characters grow and mature and have insights and it progressively becomes less depressing. And by book 3 everything gets tied together - including an explanation of why Janet/Margot is the way she is.


message 12: by Darren (last edited Jan 16, 2017 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren Eric wrote: "I'll keep an eye out for that. Like I said in my reviews, it's funny that it was sold to me as "Harry Potter, but grown up and with sex", but it really turned out to be "Narnia, but Deconstructed."."

I think rather Cynical Narnia, than Narnia: Deconstructed.

There are elements of Harry Potter, though. Q is our protagonist, and seems like the hot snot wizard, who meets the Beast right away and stands up to him. But over the series you see that Q is a middling wizard at best. Q himself admits this, at one point.*

This is like Harry - the Bane of Voldemort barely scrapes through Hogwarts, and only survives to do so thanks to Hermione saving his bacon. Even by the middle of the books she is such a better student and wizard than him, and by the end she is the better Auror. In fact one wonders how Harry could have qualified for such an august position, from what was said of his O-levels.

In these books, you could argue that Hermione is reflected in both Alice and Julia - equally ascendant magicians who succeed through tireless study. Julia has some of the "mudblood" storyline of Hermione, with both her normal parents and her failure at Brakebills, which creates an ostracism between her and the Brakebills kids.



*Yes, he later goes back on this and becomes the shit-hottest wizard in all the realms, but even after all that, Julia comes along and makes him seem a child in comparison, at the end.

Rachel wrote: "So, I guess my question is, are the books better and should I give them a try anyway?"


The show got me into the books. The books made me lose interest in the show, because they were so much better.


message 13: by Fredrik (new)

Fredrik (Fredurix) | 185 comments I found the show better than book 1, but book 2 better than the show.
That is to say I really did like the show, but compared to the book, the ending of Julia's story lacked foreshadowing and kind of came out of nowhere.
Well... it had a different kind of foreshadowing, and I'm still not quite sure how well it worked...


message 14: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Just finished Mayakovsky episode. (W/ 1 year old twins and a 4 year old, it's slow-going) I had been picturing Mayakovsky as more of a Boris Yeltsin guy than the much more svelte guy we got in the show. Still, he got the bravado pretty perfectly.

They eliminated my favorite part of Brakebills South, however, the fact that only Alice and Quentin do the challenge at the end and what it shows about Quentin.

The rest worked well.

Ibiza sub-plot was silly, but I'm loving Margo way more than I loved Jane in the book - even though she grew on me more and more as the trilogy went along.

So far, my original analysis remains - the show is and adaptation and is going its own way and I think it's generally successful at that. However, if they plan to have viewer sympathy/empathy for Julia - they are definitely going about it the wrong way. My wife HATES her (and her sub-plot). Maybe the writers didn't have a choice since we can't see into her head to see why it was so important for her to discover the hedge stuff.


message 15: by Darren (last edited Jan 17, 2017 05:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Darren I think Julia is supposed to be an unlikeable character. As Quentin is. Hell, the show makes her more of Quentin's friend than she ever was in the books.

Dean Fogg was my favourite improvement, over the books.


message 16: by Rachel (new) - added it

Rachel (GallifreyanAeris) | 6 comments Thank you, Darren and Eric, for your comments; they helped me decided to give the books a try. :)


message 17: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Mesa (djotaku) | 575 comments Rachel wrote: "Thank you, Darren and Eric, for your comments; they helped me decided to give the books a try. :)"

Come back in here and let us know what you think!


Darren I'm not as sure about this season. They seem to be changing a lot, and not for the better.

I mean, I enjoy the Odd Couple scenes in Julia's apartment, with The Beast singing show tunes, but wtf, really.


message 19: by Trike (new)

Trike | 4536 comments As someone who neither read the books nor seen season 1, I found that the episode broadcast before The Expanse last night was pretty entertaining.


Sandra (whatlovelybooks) | 165 comments I finished season 1 last night and as a whole I liked the show, but not more than the books (so far). Here are my thoughts:

-Holy crap, I love Elliot. He is perfect! I really enjoy his and Margo's relationship.

-I also really like the way that the magic is represented with all the weird hand movements. I could never visualize that in my mind when I read the books.

-The music for The Beast is prefectly ominous.

-I could have done without the Mental Hospital episode. I thought it was needless. Plus the guy who plays Quentin can not carry a tune.


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