Who wants to deal with nuance? Not Netflix’s ‘Fate: The Winx Saga’

Image from Winx

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Grade: 3.0/5.0

“We’re sparkling, we’re wonderful, we’re magic all the way.” 

These are the lyrics to one of the many theme songs of the iconic children’s cartoon, “Winx Club,” created by Iginio Straffi. “Winx Club” premiered in 2004 and has gained success in Italy, the United States and other nations. What’s so compelling about “Winx Club” is its colorful, magical world where fantastic fairies fly about and mythical creatures roam. In “Winx Club,” a group of young fairies known as Winx study and train their magic at Alfea College, the best (and only) school for fairies. 

But when Netflix released the trailer for a live-action reboot of the animated series in December 2020, fans promptly took to social media and listed their critiques. Netflix took a turn with “Fate: The Winx Saga,” describing it as dark and dangerous, which is almost the antithesis of the original “Winx Club.” Despite the dramatic change in tone, however, “Fate” occasionally wanders into lukewarm waters. 

The series, both the original and reboot, center on Bloom (Abigail Cowen), the only fairy at Alfea who is from Earth. Frustrated and curious, Bloom is eager to learn the truth of her origins and how to control her magic. The Winx are suitemates at Alfea and have to not only master their magic, but navigate romantic relationships, familial tensions and of course, supernatural conundrums. 

The characters say time and time again throughout the series that magic is all around them, but it doesn’t always come across that way. The lack of scenes practicing magic and few battles against the Burned Ones — the bloodthirsty creatures that receive much of the season’s focus — thwarts the level of fantasy and suspense the show could offer. 

Their British accents may not be enough to whisk some viewers away, especially when several of the characters themselves embody the most cliche of archetypes. In the fifth episode, Beatrix (Sadie Soverall), one of the fearless, clever antagonists of the show, asks, “Who wants to deal with nuance?” Her question is fitting: From Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen), the seemingly perfect princess who has a dark past, to her on-again, off-again boyfriend Sky (Danny Griffin), a golden boy struggling to live up to the legacy of his heroic father, “Fate” becomes a quintessential, uninspired teen drama without depth. 

Most easily distinguishable between “Winx Club” and “Fate,” is not only the lack of vibrancy and brightness in the cinematography, but the lack of fashion as well. The original Winx were known for their marvelous characteristic colors: apricot oranges, dazzling yellows, beaming magentas and brilliant purples. Although “Fate” does have the girls subtly wear their respective colors, it suffers from a wardrobe drab and subdued compared to the Winx fans knew. If Netflix had made “Fate” its own show and not related to “Winx Club,” it would garner less criticism on every aspect, especially in the fashion department.

A major theme of “Fate” is deception, specifically between the teenagers and the adults around them. The execution of this theme is a strength of the show, as it provides most of the exciting and shocking plot twists. The challenge of teens coming into their own, making sense of the world and realizing the imperfection of the adults around them is a universal experience. The variety of adult and teen dynamics in the show is excellently thought out and underscores the complex bond that holds a child and parent figure together, or pulls them apart.

A live-action, supernatural series that intricately and generously blends exuberance, adventure and fantasy instead of relying on dark themes and cliches is not common. A reboot of “Winx Club” could have given fans such a show, but “Fate” gives us what we’ve seen before, which can be either comforting or frustrating for viewers. 

The show is most promising in its finale, concocting a captivating mixture of the danger, suspense and action once promised. The season one finale opens the doors to a second season that could be much more exciting and worthwhile than the first, if produced. Regardless, “Fate,” with season one being only six episodes in length, makes for a pleasant, otherworldly weekend binge.

“Fate: The Winx Saga” is streaming now on Netflix.

Contact Daniella Lake at [email protected].