A.V. Club explores The Magicians in relation to Lev Grossman’s books the series is based on and the underlying basis of magic as a metaphor for curing depression.
And if magic is an antidepressant, then the fears that accompany it are entirely different than the fears that come along with magic as a fantasy cure. They are external rather than internal: Instead of asking, “What if I am so broken that not even magic can fix me?” the question becomes, “What if I lose access to this drug?” or “What if magic turns me into a sexy dangerous drug addict?” That’s not to say that an exploration of addiction can’t be deep and probing, but in the pilot of The Magicians, it isn’t. Only shallow, easy questions are asked of its characters.