Even if it is littered with common YA tropes and clichés
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen too many fairies (fairy-inspired shoots and makeup looks) on my Insta the past few weeks that I didn’t think twice about streaming Fate: The Winx Saga on Netflix when I saw it.
The series may be adapted from Iginio Straffi’s Italian cartoon Winx Club, which I may or may not have seen on Nickelodeon, but is more a mixed bag of pop culture YA references. Think: Harry Potter, which the characters jokingly mention themselves in a brief banter at the start, meets Riverdale, where the plot is thick and the vibe is just ominous. Stans of the cartoon might be disappointed to know that Netflix’s version strays from the original material. But from the fresh eyes of a non-fan looking for something to escape on a lazy weekend, there is something to be enjoyed.
Fate: The Winx Saga follows the story of Bloom (Abigail Cowen), a redheaded American with a dark-ish and mysterious past. She enrolls at Alfea, a prestigious school for fairies that might be located somewhere in the UK, given the majority of the cast’s British accent. Anyway, Bloom catches the eye of Sky (Danny Griffin), Alfea’s most popular heartthrob and the ex-boyfriend of her suitemate, Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen) on her first day. They flirt throughout the series but a chunk of the episodes touches on other themes, like coming-of-age, self-discovery and friendship.
Bloom, a fire fairy, finds out about her powers after she loses control and unintentionally sets her house on fire, nearly killing her mother. Young and new to magic, it’s only with the help of her suitemate Aisha (Precious Mustapha), a water fairy, and Dowling (Eve Best), Alfea’s headmistress that she learns about her family’s history and her own strengths. The series also implies that she might just be the strongest fairy the school has ever seen.
The plot treads on YA tropes that might leave a bad taste in a critic’s mouth. In Fate, similar to our favorite hero-led movies and series, everything pretty much revolves around Bloom. The hot guy in school wants to date her, everybody wants to be her friend and the bad guys want to take her down. Meanwhile, all she cares about is uncovering the truth about her past, which I don’t find terrible but perhaps a little annoying, especially when her selfish pursuit and impressionable teenage self gets the entire school in trouble. Other clichéd characters include Sky, who’s acting is honestly one-dimensional but gets better once the truth about his own family is revealed, Stella, literally a princess who struggles to live up to the pressure of becoming the next queen of Solaria, and bad boy Riv (Freddie Thorp), who’s just thoughtlessly bad (read: does drugs, drinks between classes, bullies freshmen and anyone else he thinks is lame but with no origin story that would explain his, well, badness). However, I do appreciate the character development of Stella even when it’s unclear to me what exactly turned her from mean girl to mean girl capable of being nice.
Fortunately, Fate introduces us to characters that almost break out of general TV stereotypes: Musa (Elisha Applebaum) and Terra (Eliot Salt). The former is an empath and the latter is an earth fairy with nuanced storylines that offer a palate cleanser from all the melodrama. Musa experiences harrowing grief as she literally shares the pain of her dying mother. She shows both vulnerability and strength when asked to go through a similar scenario when another loved one nearly dies. Her moment in the spotlight reminds viewers what it truly means to be brave: to do something even if it terrifies you because you care. Terra, on the other hand, shares almost every other girl’s or woman’s insecurities with body image and her desire to please. But what I love about her character is that she’s unyielding. If crowd-pleasing means tormenting others because they’re new or different, she’s not having it.
Again, Fate: The Winx Saga is predictable and littered with YA tropes and clichés that seasoned viewers might find unenjoyable. But it’s familiar, even nostalgic, from the setting that might make us miss Hogwarts, to the plot that may predominantly be about Bloom but covers strained mother-daughter relationships that brought me to tears. There’s also the fact that the entire series stood without relying heavily on sex (which Netflix is notorious for) and romance because that to me is tired unless it’s in the context of Bridgerton.
In any case, I don’t regret spending close to six hours of my Sunday binge-watching Fate: The Winx Saga. If anything, I’m curious to see how season two unfolds and how the entire franchise grows from the predictable.
Fate: The Winx Saga is now streaming on Netflix.
Art Alexandra Lara