Fate: The Winx Saga live-action six-episode Season 1 is an edgier, updated version of the animated series that is primed to satisfy your fairy itch.
Unlike the wildly popular Italian cartoon series called The Winx Club, Netflix’s live-action version Fate: The Winx Saga is more grounded in reality visually and more nuanced with its character arcs. It is a supernatural young adult drama with plenty of both. Anyone who loves Netflix’s recently canceled The Order will find a new favorite in this school for fledgling fairies and the knights who protect their realm.
Our main protagonist is Bloom, a fire fairy who finds out she is a fairy and is whisked off to the mystical Otherworld to attend fairy school. No one has wings because they fell off at some point in the past, I guess. At this school are also Specialists who train in combat to protect the Barrier from monsters.
In the animated series, the girls who make up the Winx Club are fast friends. They have the kind of fluffy girl friendship that is quick, easy, and, quite frankly, unrealistic. Relationships are messy. All friendships have ebbs, and flows and trust must be earned. Netflix’s version takes a more realistic view of the girl’s burgeoning bond. It isn’t all easy, it’s certainly not fast, and there are more than a few conflicts.
Fate: The Winx Saga is about the scars war leaves physically, emotionally, and historically on everyone involved. The sins of our fathers and all that. That is where the success of the series lies. It’s the ability to tease out subtle differences between being right and doing the right thing that the show shines. By the end, it is a surprising antagonist they face. It isn’t a simple Big Bad with OP abilities summoned from some dark place in exchange for a promise of power and wealth but a complex set of characters and questions that are as understandable as they are potentially evil. Sometimes flawed characters have justifiable reasons for behaving the way they do, and sometimes our heroes aren’t as good as they seem. Just ask Amazon’s runaway hit The Boys, another comic turned live-action show.
The 2004 cartoon was bright and colorful; the live-action version is muted and utilized a much more grown-up sensibility. You shouldn’t expect to see a ton of gore(a few sheep corpses and fried zombies are about the extent). Fate: The Winx Saga isn’t looking to push any boundaries in that way. It isn’t a surprise that the series is a binge-able teen supernatural drama. The creator Brian Young of Vampire Diaries fame, knows what audiences want from their supes dramas. He pulls from his extensive bag of tricks in the short six-episode run to develop a world full of mysteries and characters we want to see more of.
Comparisons will undoubtedly be made between Fate: The Winx Saga and Harry Potter, The Magicians, and Netflix’s other supernatural drama, The Order, which was canceled after just two seasons earlier this year. Those comparisons are reasonable. You have a coming of age story about supernatural, mostly pretty people living in a secret school preparing to save the world from untold magical forces. That being said, there are some unique aspects of the series that make it stand out.
It’s an easily binged guilty pleasure that is identity positive. In the world of Alfea, the boarding school where Specialists learn to be warriors and protect the realm and wingless fairies learn to harness their powers; anyone can be anything. Girls can be warriors, and boys can be fairies. There is a wide range of body types and backstories that don’t force the viewer into a one size fits all mold. Like what The Magicians did for mental illness and sex-positivity, Winx puts it all out there and makes no judgments.
There are some critical complaints that it is too different from the source material or too superficial. Those complainers are missing the point. Not every series has to be prestige programming to be enjoyable. There are lots of series that are highly addictive pleasures that aren’t going to win any awards. The original Winx Club was light and fluffy, where this updated version is deeper and frankly more suited to an older audience. The young adult market is vast and loves nothing more than a good quick binge. Fate: The Winx Saga ideally fits this bill.
The criticisms about cast diversity and a particularly strange set of LGBTQ+ conversations that I don’t know what to do with. All of the relationships the girls have are heteronormative relationships, and the one queer relationship is just confusing. All of that is fine, except it doesn’t make sense on a show trying to update a cartoon show for adult appetites and this current timeline. There are only a few actors of color, and notably absent is Flora, who went, poof. Moving forward, the series needs a serious dose of variety.
Bloom, Abigail Cowen, who you last saw as Dorcas in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, has no trouble leading the series. She is an adorably awkward powerhouse that is as stubborn and rash as she is good-hearted. Just as Dorcas had incredible depth, especially in Part 4 Episode 6, Bloom is more than just teen angst and frustration. Her arrival at Alfea is a welcome one for her as she has always felt she didn’t fit in with her family. When she lost control of her elemental power fire, endangering her parent’s life and her own, she was lost. Finding kindred spirits and security allows her to blossom into a capable fairy.
Bloom’s roommates include a fierce water fairy Aisha(Precious Mustapha), who is mostly regulated to sidekick duties, a reluctant mind fairy Musa(Elisha Applebaum), Stella(Hannah van der Westhuysen), the light fairy who is royalty, and stalwart Terra(Eliot Salt) the brave and grounded earth fairy. She gets the roughest treatment as her roommates spend the majority of their time being exasperated by her even as she capably assists them or unflappably ignores their jeering. Next to Bloom, she is the most likable of the cast. Luckily Netflix’s reboot calls for a coed school. Hence, Terra’s brother Sam adorable Jakob Dudman, yummy Sky(Danny Griffin), wise-talking Riven(Freddie Thorp), and winsome Dane(Theo Graham provide romantic interest, tension, and comic relief. They each have some big things brewing that could have long-reaching consequences. Standout Beatrix(Sadie Soverall) is fun to watch
All of the main cast has skeletons in the closet and past traumas they are only beginning to work through. Those reverberations now and in the future spell good things for additional seasons. I’m excited about where this series can go. It’s rich with intrigue and possibilities. Many questions are left unanswered in the finale while setting up more than a few legitimately compelling ideas and worlds moving forward. Fate: The Winx Saga premieres Friday, January 22nd,2021, on Netflix.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.