In an age of endless reboots, spin-offs and sequels, it should come as no surprise to see something like Winx Club remade for a new generation. With female empowerment and equality hot topics right now (and rightfully so), Fate: The Winx Saga could not have dropped on Netflix at a better time.
For those of you who are unaware of what this is, Winx Club was a very popular animation back in the day, balancing ideas of friendship, love and togetherness over the backdrop of a colourful, magical world where fairies juggled boys, studies and lots of episodic conflicts.
Much like The Watch earlier this year though, if you go into Fate: The Winx Saga expecting something to do the source material justice, you’re likely to come away disappointed. Unlike The Watch though, there’s actually enough here to recommend for those looking for a dark, moody teen romance.
And moody is certainly the key word here. This is very much a darker adaptation that shares very little similarities to the show it’s based on. In a way, Winx Saga feels like a heady blend of Riverdale, Sabrina and Vampire Diaries all rolled into one.
While the story has some nice plot beats, and one wonderfully touching nod to the original in the final episode, all of this good will falls apart thanks to a rushed pace and some pretty disappointing worldbuilding. In fact, the latter point is borderline immersion-breaking as it becomes difficult to tell whether you’re in the magic world or the real world.
Some of these problems stem from where Fate: The Winx Saga stats. Instead of our usual “call to action” trope, we’re instead thrown straight into the heart of magic school when main protagonist Bloom just rocks up on campus. Aside from a couple of students using magical auras, everything here just looks so… normal.
In fact, this normalcy is not helped by frat parties, an eclectic pop soundtrack and most of the students using cellphones and posting on social media. This in itself poses a whole host of issues that are never addressed. What happens if someone live-streams their magic? What about posting a location alert on Facebook? And why is no one stopping the girls from fighting with magic against one another? This strange blend of modern technology with the archaic architecture and written format of work at school makes the decision to exclude Tecna from the show all the more bizarre.
These problems extend to the world beyond Althea too though, which is never given the time to really expand and show a larger, dangerous world. Everything here feels so small and confined, as we’re told through character exposition that dark forces are gathering and are on the verge of attacking Alfea.
On top of that, the show unashamedly borrows large chunks of plot from Harry Potter, something the first episode even acknowledges and jokes about.
Much like the boy wizard, Fate: The Winx Saga revolves around a chosen one of sorts; a powerful adopted fairy who doesn’t know what happened to her birth parents. She attends the magical boarding school called Alfea and finds herself confronted by a snobbish, rich kid who’s immediately threatened by her presence. No, this isn’t Draco Malfoy it’s Queen Bee Stella, who’s romantically linked to a handsome boy called Sky.
Alongside Stella are a host of other fairies, including Terra, Aisha and Musa who eventually join together to form the Winx Club. Only, their moments together are short-lived as Bloom soon learns that the teachers are keeping secrets and could well know what happened to her parents.
And this basic premise paves way for 6 episodes that follow the main plot points you’d expect from this sort of story while leaving very little wiggle room for character development and meaningful, memorable arcs. Outside of Bloom and, to an extent Sky, there’s absolutely no one here that’s given a compelling arc. Sure there’s some flippant romances going on and rivalries between the girls but all of it feels so short-lived thanks to the quick pace.
Early on, Aisha and Bloom have tensions around their use of magic. Both of them have similar backstories but the latter finds herself more natural at controlling her flames. This causes Aisha to begin a bit of resentment toward her and promises some intriguing and interesting juxtapositions to play out between them. Instead, this is brushed aside in favour of the main plot line. These sort of interesting moments show up repeatedly across the season and on reflection, do none of the characters any favours with how quickly they’re resolved.
Winx Saga is not all doom and gloom though and the show does have some stand-out moments. The CGI effects are particularly good and the action is well-shot throughout the season. There’s a real desire to watch one more episode and this could very easily have run for 10 episodes. In fact, I actually wouldn’t mind if this was like one of those old 24 episode seasons. That way we’d be given a good amount of time to really get to know all these characters properly.
Fate: The Winx Saga has all the ingredients to be a charming, fantasy offering but its poor worldbuilding and frantic pace suck all the magic out of this one.