Fate: The Winx Saga Review (Spoiler-Free) – Tween Fairy Tale Wants to be Gen Z Potter

Netflix’s fairy school drama, Fate: The Winx Saga, exceeds expectations but could only be good for one semester.

Fate the Winx Saga
Photo: Netflix

This Fate: The Winx Saga is based on all six episodes and contains no spoilers.

Fate: The Winx Saga, the newest YA fantasy effort from Netflix, is the live-action remake of an animated series that takes the story and pitches it at an older age group. There’s a magic school surrounded by gorgeous landscapes (courtesy of filming locations in Ireland), a group of students trying to uncover a conspiracy protected by the teachers, and more than a couple of secrets about the origins of our main character.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The 6-episode series borrows liberally from its predecessors, but none more so than J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Now, while many of us would welcome a new iteration of those particular ideas, the homage it pays (the first episode contains a scene in which two characters share what Hogwarts house they’d be sorted into) is often so heavy that it distracts from anything new the show is trying to do.

We follow newly-identified fire fairy Bloom (there are air fairies, water fairies, earth fairies, you-name-it-fairies), who has been enrolled at Alfea after an incident involving her non-magical parents. She moves in, bonds with her four roommates, flirts with some boys, and attempts to tap into her power. Soon enough, several mysteries start to emerge and she begins to suspect that headmistress Dowling (Eve Best) isn’t telling her everything.

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Of the five main female characters, Bloom (Abigail Cowen) is perhaps the least interesting. The token American in a cast of Brits intended to act as the entry point for international audiences, she serves her purpose well enough but is trapped in an archetype that was worn out long ago. She’s too often merely an audience surrogate, but there are clues that Cowen could be capable of more if given the material. 

Her roommates – Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen), Musa (Elisha Applebaum), Aisha (Precious Mustapha) and Terra (Eliot Salt) – take turns being more engaging, whether it’s Neville Longbottom-esque Terra as the underdog finding her confidence, Musa being forced to deal with the feelings of everyone around her, or Stella struggling with her status as the heir of the Fairy royals. 

The male characters introduced across the series fare pretty poorly in comparison, almost entirely occupying the patchier parts of the world-building. We meet-cute dreamy love interest Sky (Danny Griffin) first but, despite his exposition dump explaining that Alfea is a “college for fairies”, he appears to not actually be a fairy himself.

In fact, pretty much all of the named male characters are part of a group called ‘specialists’ – soldiers being trained for a past war that may or may not return. While it’s true that the fairies in this story are shown to be very powerful, the fact that their brothers, fathers and boyfriends are the ones being trained as soldiers seems a bit odd for a show aimed at an age-group not forgiving of aggressive gender norms in their entertainment.

But Fate: The Winx Saga isn’t exactly bad. For the most part, the show ticks along at a nice pace and certainly doesn’t lack ambition. It benefits from the actors’ commitment to the sillier parts of the dialogue (Downton Abbey’s Robert James-Collier in particular is playing his role as if it’s a serious BBC drama), and it’s hard to argue with a concept as tried and true as ‘teenagers coming of age as they fight the forces of evil’. 

Still, it’s hard to guess how much it will be able to take off with viewers who aren’t already familiar with the animated series. For one, the show’s title is one that, even with the best will in the world, is hard to remember. It wouldn’t look out of place on a YA bookshelf, but putting the word ‘Saga’ into the title of a first installment is rarely a good sign.

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It’s clear from the finale that The WInx Saga is one eager for more installments, and there are some interesting directions for it to go should it be granted one.

One of the main drawbacks of this first season is how little time it has to flesh out the world before throwing us into the action. With just six hours, there’s barely enough time to get to grips with the status quo before it starts to unravel. As such, the series strives to Deathly Hallows levels of epic-ness by the end, but with far less material to get us there.

Never quite living up to its ambition of being an adaptation for ‘adult fans’ of the original, Fate: The Winx Saga has the potential to hook younger viewers eager for a new fantasy series made solely for them.  

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Rating:

2.5 out of 5