When it comes to fantasy shows and adaptations, it’s really not difficult to get me to buy in. I’ll try anything with even a hint of magic, and I always sincerely hope it will be good. More fantasy is best fantasy.
Enter Fate: The Winx Saga, a Netflix show based on source material I had no idea existed. Out of curiosity, I watched the promo, and it seemed geared toward a “CW” type of audience, which is absolutely not a dealbreaker. I consumed The Vampire Diaries like it was my job.
The whole “Yer a fire fairy, Bloom” thing also piqued my interest.
So a few weeks ago, I tried to watch—and made it about 30 minutes into the first episode before tapping out. Some days I handle frustration better than others.
But now I come back to you at the turn of the tide. I have watched the first episode of Fate: The Winx Saga, so you don’t have to. (Unless you want to. Or already did. Again, it’s been out for weeks. I’m really not cutting edge.)
A shepherd gets murdered by something either inside or outside a barrier. It’s very unclear which side of the barrier he’s on, only that he can’t make it where he needs to be before a nebulous monster kills him. End prologue.
Cue modern, upbeat music and some cool slo-mo shots of our main characters, including a pretty redhead who enters the courtyard alone and seems dazzled.
Enter a handsome British man:
Who accosts our MC and accuses her of being a fairy. (I already feel like they should have gone with “Fae.”) He lets the audience know that we’re in the courtyard of a college for fairies, in something called the Otherworld. So not Earth.
But I would like to point out … our MC was just checking her phone. Are there magical cell phone towers in the Otherworld? I don’t … why.
Anyway, our MC is Bloom, and until three months ago, she totally didn’t even know she was a fairy. She uses the word “mansplain” on a hair trigger, does not get distracted by Hot GuyTM, and scurries away to meet a snobby British blonde, Stella, who explains to the audience how Bloom got from America to the Otherworld. Stella has a “gateway ring” that allows her to hop between worlds, and that’s all fine, but then she legitimately says to Bloom:
Your world may not always be thrilling, but it beats this one.
I’M SORRY, I THOUGHT WE WERE IN THE MAGICAL OTHERWORLD!
Don’t try to tell me AMERICA is better than a world with magic you DUMB IDIOT. Oh, are all seven realms just so boring? No.
Next we meet the school’s headmistress, who seems to be taking a particular interest in Bloom. Or maybe she just knows that Bloom is in over her head, being from a world that is somehow worse but also better than the Otherworld. Bloom is very worried about how slowly she’s expected to learn her magic, because she came to the school, ultimately, for tips on control.
Side note, the headmistress says that fairies don’t have wings anymore because transformation magic “was lost.” I think it was your CGI budget that got lost, show.
The next scene is Bloom on a video call with her parents, and again, I must ask—how does communication between the two worlds work? Like, if someone investigated what tower Bloom’s texts were pinging from, would a fairy Seal Team Six go to Earth and eliminate them? This seems like such an important thing to gloss over.
Anyway, Bloom’s parents are lame, and they think she’s at a boarding school in Switzerland. They notice enough to say, “Hey, it’s light out here and it’s light out where you are,” but that’s about as perceptive as they get. Her dad is the worst person in the world, because when Bloom uses the phrase “Lord of the Flies” in reference to the apparently unavoidable struggle and drama of five girls living in close quarters, he corrects her to “Lady of the Flies.” Because sexism.
No, dude. The sexism was in the assumption, not the phrasing. You’ve been alive longer than me. These things aren’t hard. Keep up. Also, is this what feminism has come to?
So yeah. We learn that Bloom has human parents, but she’s a fairy, so where’s that magic from, huh? We’ll find out, I’m sure, but probably not in the only episode of this show I’m going to tolerate watching.
Bloom’s friendly roommate Aisha stops her from being discovered by her parents as decidedly not in Switzerland. So that’s nice. Then she mentions reading Harry Potter, and that only brings up more questions for me. How have people who live in the Otherworld read Harry Potter? Also why would they? They have their own magic? This post is going to have so many question marks?
There’s a social gathering for the first night at school. Blonde snob’s next characterization is that she’s image obsessed—how original. But it does, at least, give us our first glimpse of the magic, which is pretty, technicolor, and does not seem to have ANY real use. Stella tells Bloom that magic is linked to emotion, which, as far as systems go, sounds fine to me.
We meet another suitemate, Terra, who is super into plants, talks really fast, and seems intelligent. And we meet her roommate as well, a “mind fairy” named Musa. She can read thoughts and her eyes do that CGI color-change thing that everyone is obsessed with right now. Actually, I’d be willing to bet that the whole show was built around that.
Cut to Hot GuyTM, who is fighting with weapons. There’s something in this world called a Specialist, and I don’t really get what they do, nor does the show seem to think it’s relevant right now. I see no issue having people who can’t do magic helping people who can, but I’m going to need some more context besides an intense speech from the guy who played the bitchy footman in Downton Abbey.
Another aside: Hot GuyTM has a line that I actually like while he’s getting ribbed about how gingers are crazy in bed by some douche named Riv:
Oh, you speak from experience? Didn’t realize your hand was a redhead.
Fair play, Hot GuyTM. Fair play.
It’s mentioned that Riv spent his entire summer getting high, and at this point, I need to know what people in the Otherworld get high on. If it’s just weed, I am going to be so pissed.
Hot GuyTM’s name is Sky, by the way. Ugh. He certainly has the hair of someone with that name …
We get our first mention of Burned Ones, so I’m guessing that’s our big baddie. Nothing’s happened with them for a while, but the bitchy footman wants you to know that THE WAR IS NOT OVER. Also Burned Ones sound like zombies.
In the next scene, Riv stumbles across the corpse of the shepherd. The school leaders stand around and talk about it. He was definitely attacked by a Burned One, who are all supposed to be dead, only they’re not.
There are so many scenes in this so far. We go back to the social event, and I swear to god, everyone in the Otherworld is British. So far, Terra is easily the most interesting character. We cut again to a girl named Beatrix going to see the headmistress to fangirl over her, but the headmistress wants nothing to do with her. However, the headmistress had a private meeting with Bloom so … something’s off.
The next scene is a masterpiece. Bloom is ultra-focused, brow furrowed, poring over her desk, and we cut to her notes on how to use magic:
I haven’t laughed this hard in ages. Like why would you even bother writing that down?
We find out that Bloom has a bad relationship with her mom, who wants her to be more social and calls her a “weird loner.” The conflict seems super forced. Also, Bloom seems like a gigantic asshole, but at least she finds out that her anger toward her mother is enough to make her eyes flash crazy.
Back to the social event, again. Sky is hanging around and Bloom is walking through on her way to go practice magic. There’s some inane flirting, and Stella interrupts. Clearly she and Sky used to bang. Stella sounds like she might be a psycho, because Sky fears upsetting her, which is just textbook abuse.
Bloom goes to practice her magic beyond the barrier surrounding the school, but she loses control of her fiery hands. Luckily, her water fairy roommate, Aisha, saves her. Seriously, though—maybe you should have gone to ONE class, Bloom. One.
We finally get Bloom’s origin story, which is lame, just like her parents. Her mom would have loved “a cheerleader” for a daughter, but Bloom is reserved, so she and her mom hate each other. Like at one point Bloom gets her door taken away for not being open enough with her parents. But it really doesn’t make sense, because her mom wants her to go out and engage in typical teenage behaviors like parties and movies and loitering around malls. So clearly it’s not Bloom’s behavior she’s worried about, but she takes away her privacy? I might be going crazy, but this seems insanely backward as far as motivations go. It would be like if my parents had punished me for sitting in my room reading instead of getting drunk at parties.
Anyway, Bloom was angry about having her door taken away and lit her house on fire with her magic by accident. In the flashback, her absolutely USELESS parents are sitting on the floor in their room, with a clear path to the door, screaming for their TEENAGE DAUGHTER to come help them. Like do you guys even care about your kid? At all? What is this?
And look, I understand panic—the mind never does what you’d think in these crazy situations. But it’s so foreign to me that parents wouldn’t try to save their daughter at all costs. I thought that was a biological instinct or something. Instead, we get things the other way around, like Bloom’s parents depend on her to be the adult.
Aisha, hearing this origin story, doesn’t think Bloom is from a dormant magical bloodline. She thinks she’s a changeling: a fairy baby abandoned in the regular world. What a cool concept, right? I … don’t think they’re going to execute it well.
Back at the party (again), Terra has a YAS QUEEN moment and I … don’t care about it at all, even though I like Terra so far. Riv calls her fat (which is on brand for this guy), and she monologues while she uses earth magic to choke him out with vines. I just … it doesn’t matter what your body looks like, Terra. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. Riv doesn’t exactly have the moral high ground, here, since he was forcing some first year to drink alcohol like a frat boy.
I also don’t accept that an entirely different world would have the exact same biases as ours. It’s lazy worldbuilding. I want to see issues like these presented in a more interesting way that makes it easier to really get to the heart of the problem, without getting bogged down in whether or not calorie counting works. We haven’t gotten past that in this world, so don’t give me the same shit in another and expect me to applaud you.
Later, or maybe simultaneously, Bloom is alone, looking at some weird shit on her phone.
Does the Otherworld have its own internet? Is there someone blogging about fire magic right now? Do they have their own version of Instagram?
Stella comes in and seems like she’s ready to manipulate someone. Bloom was talking to Hot GuyTM, so … gasp! Ultimately, Stella lends Bloom her gateway ring, and Bloom comes back to our lame world, where she calls her parents outside her house. She’s really going through something, and her parents are just like, “You can handle it!” Which isn’t the best response to emotional vulnerability when your daughter can’t even seem to tell you what she’s trying to handle.
In an abandoned warehouse where Bloom apparently used to sleep sometimes after almost burning down the house, Bloom comes across a Burned One. There are definite zombie vibes. She scrambles around, escapes, and runs into the headmistress, who sends her through the gateway to the Otherworld. The headmistress deals with the Burned One, although it’s pointedly noted that the Burned One took Stella’s ring. So there’s intrigue.
Back at school, Stella tries to seduce Sky, even though she broke up with him before the summer. I wish he would brush his hair out of his eyes, especially when it’s wet.
JUST GET IT OUT OF YOUR FACE.
Stella emotionally manipulates him, and he’s young so it works. That’s really all there is to know here.
Beatrix and Riv run into each other in the middle of the night, for some reason. She says something about snorting Adderall, and honestly with this lazy worldbuilding! How do they even have that in another world? Do all these fairies actually live on Earth but go to school in the magical land? WHAT IS GOING ON?
Riv offers Beatrix a drag of whatever he’s smoking, and you guys … THE DRUGS ARE JUST WEED. Come on! Give me some fairy magic shit! It takes three seconds to invent something!
Back in the suite, Musa and Terra connect, and it’s fine. We catch up with the headmistress and the bitchy footman Specialist trainer, Saul, who are discussing something of significance: apparently Bloom was left as a changeling in the First World (ours) sixteen years ago, and it’s somehow connected to the Burned Ones disappearing. But we don’t know how yet. WooOooooOooo!
And here’s my last “lazy worldbuilding” rant for this post, and for the entire show as a whole, because I’m not going to keep wasting my time. THESE STUDENTS ARE USING INSTAGRAM IN A MAGICAL WORLD.
Just regular old Instagram. What if they post a picture with magic in it, huh? What happens? It seems like the Otherworld is still a secret!
The episode ends with a shot of a Beatrix waking up the Burned One that attacked Bloom, which the headmistress had sedated and stored on campus somewhere. Beatrix uses magic that looks like lightning, and the aesthetic reminds me of the magic my boy Syllian uses in Legacy of Flame.
Anyway, I guess Beatrix is a baddie, and I don’t find this revelation shocking or upsetting at all, because she SMOKED DRUGS with a BOY and we all know that’s evil.
It’s gonna be a no from me, dawg. There’s nothing interesting happening here. It’s a typical “teenage fish out of water” story set in a magical world, but no actual legwork was put into the magic or the world. In fact, the Otherworld leans so heavily on ours that it doesn’t feel like fantasy at all. (Not that this can’t be done. They just … didn’t do it.) I assume all I’m going to get from this show is something I’ve seen a thousand times before, teenagers who have problems—and sometimes there’s magic.
Grounding fantasy elements with actual human problems is … kind of the whole point of fantasy, but equal effort has to be put into both sides of the equation. In the first episode, when it matters most to show the audience what you have in store for them, Fate: The Winx Saga doesn’t even seem care about its own worldbuilding. So why should I?
But I’m just a person with opinions. Have you seen the show? Leave a comment below and tell me what you thought!