'The Magicians': 9 Most Spellbinding Ties to 'Harry Potter'

The new Syfy series based on Lev Grossman's novels shares several important traits with the world of the beloved young wizard.
Courtesy of SyFy

When Lev Grossman put pen to paper for The Magicians book series, he was in large part inspired by the expansive world J.K. Rowling had created with her Harry Potter franchise. So it’s not surprising that the new SyFy series based on the trilogy is being hailed as “a Harry Potter for grownups,” nor that there are more than a few similarities between the two.

“Lev Grossman was applying some of those fantasy tropes to the less black-and-white adult life situations that you find yourself in when you’re not a 10-year-old boy anymore” showrunner Sera Gamble tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Harry Potter pushes the question of what happens when you get an acceptance letter to a magical school when you’re a kid. We start from a similar place when you’re rounding out college, getting ready to step into the adult world and then you get your magical acceptance letter.”

Below, THR digs into the biggest similarities between the two:

Both series feature hidden magical schools.

Harry Potter has Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, while The Magicians – at least the first season – takes place mostly at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy (shortened to Brakebills University for the series). Both schools are protected by powerful spells to be hidden from muggles, hedge witches and more, but both also have their weak points that leave them sometimes open to attack.

Both series follow a new magician as he hones his skills.

Harry Potter was the boy who lived miserably in the cupboard under his aunt and uncle’s stairs, but was whisked away to elevate his own status in a world he never knew existed when he was old enough. Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) was dealing with deep depression and psychological issues when a spell led him to the Brakebills gates to take the graduate school’s entrance exam. When he passed, a world he also never knew existed was unveiled.

Both series utilize teachers to help them get where they need to be.

Hagrid, McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore and the never-ending fleet of Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers were a huge part of the Harry Potter world. They would show up when the students were in trouble, usually in part to help save the day. The Magicians utilizes Dean Fogg (Rick Worthy) and Prof. Sunderland (Anne Dudek) in much the same way – they’re there to save the day when needed, but mostly lend lots of friendly but vague advice, leaving the students to fend for themselves.

Both series place high importance on friendship.

Without Ron and Hermione, Harry wouldn’t have triumphed over Voldemort by the series’ end. In fact, most of the narrative focused on the trio’s friendships and their ups and downs over the seven years the books take place, culminating in a lifelong bond. So far in the early days of The Magicians, Quentin’s fallout with Julia (Stella Maeve) has led to some gnarly repercussions for them both, but Quentin has also been forced to lean on some of his new Brakebills friends in order to learn more about magic and himself. 

Both series look for the good and evil in everyone.

Snape was one of the most infamously bad good guys in Harry Potter history. While there isn’t one particular character in The Magicians so far who fits this exact bill, there are no squeaky clean good guys either. Each character has a complex balance of good and evil, and is driven toward one tendency or the other depending on their particular motives of that episode.

Both series have a big bad that shall not be named by their real name.

Voldemort versus Moth-Man (or The Beast). Who would win in a fight?

Both series rely heavily on the presence of books.

Harry Potter became obsessed with several textbooks over the course of his schooling, including ones with teeth that tried to rip his hand off, a potions book with some dangerous spells and the one that Dumbledore left them that led to Voldemort’s ultimate defeat. In The Magicians, Quentin is obsessed with a series of books taking place in a magical land called Fillory. Through them he learns more magic, spells and mythos than ever before, especially when coupled with his learnings at the university. 

Both series have plots that are driven by dark magic.

In order to keep the plots of both series moving along, not everything can be hunky dory for everyone all the time. So while there are some lighthearted moments in each (perhaps more so in Harry Potter), each problem presented to the characters typically comes with a heaping dose of dark magic that serves as the antagonist. Whether that’s characters using dark magic spells or unknown forces using the brand against the leads is interchangeable, but it’s usually present. 

Both series put prejudice front and center.

Hedge witches and Mudbloods have more in common than just their offensive names. While Hogwarts in principle was accepting of the former, there were students and parents who believed only “pure-bloods” should be allowed to practice magic. In much the same way Brakebills has a mysterious process for turning out some with magical abilities, forcing them to become hedge witches in order to fulfill their destinies instead.

The Magicians airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on SyFy.

Do you see similarities between the two? Sound off in the comments below.

Twitter: @amber_dowling