In the fantastical world of Fate: The Winx Saga, emotions make magic. In my real apartment, where I just binged the Netflix YA series for the third time this month, emotions mainly make a mess.
We’re coming up on one year of social distancing, and I, like so many others, am exhausted. I am tired of working from home; I am tired of being on Zoom; and, for the first time ever, I am tired of watching TV. Of course, I have to keep being safe — seeing this whole pandemic thing through to the end is mandatory for all of us. But that emotional fatigue is, at least for me, taking a real toll.
So, I suppose it makes sense that when a story about teen fairies using their negative emotions to wield extraordinary power appeared on my streaming recommendations, I hit play. What followed was a surprisingly sweet respite from my own anxieties that I now struggle to recommend without getting a bit weepy and sentimental (because 2021 is a truly weird time to be alive).
Following fairy friends Bloom (Abigail Cowen), Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen), Aisha (Precious Mustapha), Terra (Eliot Salt), and Musa (Elisha Applebaum), Fate: The Winx Saga is an obvious Harry Potter-meets-Hunger Games knockoff. The six-episode first season takes place at Alfea College, a Hogwarts-like school with a special division for training young warriors, that sets the girls up against a series of dangerous foes in a fairly standard fantasy arc.
The show could have been a copycat misfire, and fear of that cringe-inducing failure is why I’ve avoided similar series in the past. But with some wonderfully written characters played by some remarkably likable actors, Fate: The Winx Saga sucked me into its familiar world of fairy magic.
See, I didn’t care about the battle over good and evil so much, although that bit was certainly entertaining. (In the final episode, the whole cast fights these things called “The Burned Ones” that are like Dementors meet White Walkers, but on fire, and it rocks.) Instead, I was more captivated by the maturity of the series’ heroes, and the impact their behavior had on me as an adult viewer.
It’s embarrassing to say, but this terribly named show for teens (which I later learned is based on Winx Club, a Netflix animated series made for elementary school-aged children, so I’m really not the target demo here) reminded me what it means to be the best version of myself.
Using emotion as a conduit for magic, Fate: The Winx Saga regularly demands its characters talk through what they are feeling and why to progress the narrative. If these characters don’t have control over their emotions/magic, the consequences can be deadly. As a result, Bloom, Stella, Aisha, Terra, Musa, and their allies regularly contend with sadness and anger in thoughtful scenes that portray feeling overwhelmed as totally acceptable.
It’s a bizarrely impactful binge, fitting of our pandemic times, that left me feeling hopeful and strangely seen, like maybe all these tumultuous feelings I’m having could be part of something good. (But I’ve also been inside for 11 months, so maybe take this whole thing with a grain of salt.)
To help prove my point, here are seven times the characters of Fate: The Winx Saga were unusually emotionally mature for teen fairies in a YA Netflix series, because who couldn’t use a little help with their emotional maturity, right now? (If you haven’t seen it yet, beware spoilers.)
7. When Aisha did what was right, even when it wasn’t popular
To compare Aisha of Fate: The Winx Saga to Neville Longbottom of Harry Potter would be to considerably undersell her bravery — and Neville once held the Sword of Gryffindor.
When Aisha decided to tell Headmistress Dowling (Eve Best) about Bloom breaking into her office to free the magically imprisoned former Headmistress Rosalind (Lesley Sharp) — oh yeah, this show is bonkers — not only did she have to risk her life by approaching the perimeter to reach Dowling, but she also faced being ostracized from her friend group for turning on Bloom.
But instead of backing down, Aisha trusted her gut and did what she thought was right. Then, when she later thought that what she’d done was actually wrong, she apologized to everyone. And then even later, when it turned out the first thing she did was the right thing and changing her mind was actually the wrong thing, she didn’t make a big deal about it even though she totally could have.
Lesson learned: Most people are trying their best. Be chill.
6. When Sky learned his dad was a war criminal and his mentor was a murderer, but was still pretty chill about it
Sure, you’re not supposed to curse at teachers, but Bloom’s love interest Sky (Danny Griffin) kept it pretty mellow when confronting Mr. Silva (Robert James-Collier) about murdering his dad. I mean, Sky is a 16-year-old kid who just found out that his dad was murdered by his favorite teacher, and is then told by that same teacher to “not be mad” because Sky’s dad, as it turns out, was an active participant in a genocide.
I say again, as I did audibly during this episode: WHAT? That Sky politely asked Mr. Silva, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?” and walked away instead of using some warrior power to yeet him into a dining hall chandelier remains astounding. Well done, buddy. And uh, good luck with that.
Lesson learned: Life comes at ya fast. React as reasonably as you can.
5. When Musa explained her fears, Terra totally got it, and then Musa overcame those fears because she felt supported!
To begin, a round of applause for this show that wrote a female friendship where one friend dates the other friend’s brother and no one is weird about it. Mature female characters: Ya love to see it!
Later, when Musa explained that she couldn’t help save her boyfriend and Terra’s brother Sam (Jacob Dudman) because it was too traumatizing for her to use her mood-absorption powers on somebody she loved while they were dying, I wept. When Terra immediately understood and told her she’d be there for her? I wept some more. And when Musa decided to overcome her fear so she could help Sam, and Terra stood by her side knowing what a sacrifice it was? I never recovered.
Lesson learned: Sometimes people will disappoint you, but do your best to be understanding.
4. When Stella labeled and left her toxic relationship
Sky and Stella were a terrible match (team Bly/Skoom all the way), but their breakup was perfection.
Remember: The school is literally surrounding by flesh-consuming, hell demons ready to kill Stella and her friends. Not only does Stella take the time to talk to her on-again-off-again boyfriend about everything going on with his dead war criminal dad, but she also makes their breakup official.
“We are codependent at best, toxic at worst,” she says, before walking away to deal with her own shit and never rely on her weird half-boyfriend again. Crisp. Brutal. [Chef’s kiss]
Lesson learned: It’s OK to leave bad relationships.
3. When Terra very politely told the patriarchy to fuck off
I’ll admit, Dane (Theo Graham) probably could’ve used a good roughing up from Sam and Terra’s dad after he cruelly mocked her in front of the whole school on that video. But nothing beats Terra intercepting her family’s offers of help, when Dane unexpectedly drops into their home, with the best line in the series: “Whilst I appreciate that it is the historical perspective of the patriarchy to save women from upsetting situations, I’ve got this.”
It’s a graceful, yet assertive line that tells us everything we need to know about how our hero addresses heartbreak and betrayal. I will, and I cannot stress this enough, die for Terra. She’s lovely and wonderful, but will not be stepped on by any man and, for this, we must stan.
Lesson learned: Take no shit, but in a nice way.
2. When Bloom finally apologized for being the actual worst
Bloom, the fiery protagonist who drives so much of Fate: The Winx Saga‘s drama, sucks. Seriously, take all of the worst traits of Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, and, I don’t know, Tinker Bell, and that is Bloom. She is selfish and arrogant, regularly making already not-great matters worse by never, ever listening to anyone despite having just found out that she is a fairy like a month ago.
Annnnyway. At least Bloom apologized. During the final episode, the words, “I’ve been a brat” leave Bloom’s mouth, and do wonders for her character’s potential in the officially confirmed Season 2. Of course, we don’t have any guarantees that she’ll actually be better. But I have hope!
Lesson learned: Admit when you are in the wrong.
1. When Headmistress Dowling tried to believe the best in her nemesis one last time
If only someone had told Headmistress Dowling to not wander into a graveyard with her nemesis.
One of the final scenes of Fate: The Winx Saga Season 1 sees Dowling meet with Rosalind for a post-battle heart to heart. The pair discuss the future of Alfea, before Rosalind executes a surprise double-cross and Dowling is killed by her former mentor. It’s easily the most intense moment of the series so far, but it’s the moments before this surprise attack that have hung with me.
Dowling tried talking it through until the bitter end, and I’m certain the impact that will have on the future of our emotionally intelligent heroes will be great.
Lesson learned: Try to believe the best in people (but also practice the buddy system).
Fate: The Winx Saga is now streaming on Netflix.