WHAT IT’S ABOUT Ever had that “feeling of not belonging anywhere”? Just slogging through “the pointless miasmic march to death you call life”? Me, too. And everybody who’s been a teen. Or, in the case of Syfy’s “The Magicians,” everybody who’s shot lightning from their fingers or moved objects with their minds.
The show’s brooding, young paranormal talents find a home at a secret upstate university built to hone those abilities for purposes yet to be specified. Those who can’t pass its “magical aptitude test”? They might be “scouted” by a renegade urban group, less leafily well-endowed, equally enigmatically inclined. A collision course seems set in this crosscutting series adapting Lev Grossman’s books, sometimes pigeonholed as “Harry Potter goes to college.”
MY SAY And here am I, that oddball unacquainted with a minute of Harry Potter. But even as a genre fan, “The Magicians” compels me less for its supernatural side than its feel for the social alienation that makes fantasy so appealing in the first place.
Showrunners John McNamara and Sera Gamble evoke both sides, though Monday’s busy pilot (crammed with setting reveals and visual effects) leads to a sluggish second hour trading the thrill of discovery for downbeat foreboding. Yet the purpose-seeking characters emerge so starkly — Jason Ralph’s disturbed new student, Hale Appleman as his sardonic guide, Arjun Gupta as his itchy roommate, Stella Maeve as his left-behind soul mate. They feel worth following.
BOTTOM LINE People make magic.