WHAT ITS ABOUT:
Determined to master their enchanting powers, a group of teens navigate rivalry, romance and supernatural studies at Alfea, a magical boarding school.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Another beloved children's cartoon, another gritty live-action reboot. Originally, Winx Club was your typical early 2000's girl-power cartoon series about a group of fairies fighting to save their magical world from darkness, complete with manga-esque transformation sequences. Netflix's Fate: The Winx Saga, however, replaces the glitter and positivity with darkness and moody teenagers similar to Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It is squarely directed at teenagers, and when you consider showrunner Brian Young is a former Vampire Diaries writer, you can guess what you're signing up for.
Sixteen-year-old Bloom (Abigail Cowen) discovers through tragedy that she is a fire fairy and starts attending the magical school of Alfea in the Otherworld. While she tries to piece together who she really is, she befriends four other fairies with different special abilities, and together they try to uncover the school's mysterious past and Bloom's link to it.
From a fantasy perspective, it's a universe that requires a lot of worldbuilding, and it takes a certain level of concentration to keep track of how everything works. While I applaud the creators that they actually did spend time on this - especially for those not familiar with the original - it can speed by quite quickly, making Fate, not the kind of series you can put on in the background.
In this world, fairy magic is linked to emotions and tapping into that requires a focus on strong positive or negative emotions. The school and main enemy also comes with a detailed backstory, and there's much more to discover in future seasons. Luckily, the series so far appears to stick to the complicated rules it has created for itself, but it could become tricky adhering to them as the story unfolds.
While I enjoyed the fantasy elements, the drama element was less enticing and semi-predictable, especially to someone who doesn't fall under the targeted audience of young adults. I also hate it when a show tiptoes around the PG and 16 age restriction line and would far prefer it when it just commits to either off-screen deaths or bloody gore, so you know what to expect.
Most of the show appears pretty mellow in terms of violence and sex, but then suddenly you have an anal joke thrown in, or someone's neck gets graphically snapped. This can be quite jarring when you've gotten used to one tone, especially for a show about fairies based on a kids' cartoon. The grittiness has already received a lukewarm response from longtime fans, including the diversity changes and the exclusion of one of the original's main fairies. Despite these changes, the reboot does still retain most of the original elements with a more modern spin that fans might still delight in. Still, the series might have been better off as a completely new story far-removed from Winx Club.
As for the acting, it's a pleasing bunch of newcomers barring the semi-familiar face of Abigail Cowen from Sabrina who helms the series as Earth-girl Bloom. I had serious reservations at the beginning because she gave me flashbacks to the awful lead in the unwatchably atrocious Shadowhunters fantasy series (I lasted four episodes), but she proved to be far less vexing, had a good grasp on the more dramatic elements and showed range compared to her slightly dimwitted character in Sabrina. Out of the other main girls, I didn't particularly dislike anyone and thought they all performed well enough for what was expected of their characters. The boys were all a bit plain though in their personalities and don't seem to have received the same level of attention as the main squad just yet in the first season.
Let's be honest - if you're a hardcore fantasy nerd in your late 20s or older, then Fate: The Winx Saga isn't going to be your jam. But if you're a teenager that's into Vampire Diaries and other magical sagas, this will probably be right up your alley, with a few positive messages about how to process emotions, growing through the negatives ones and believing in your internal power. The show knows its audience is going to skew younger and isn't shy to say that it doesn't really care about old fogies and their nostalgic moaning.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: