Netflix’s FATE: THE WINX SAGA forges a bolder, darker and riskier path of its own

Based on the Winx Club animated series, Fate: The Winx Saga is a darker and grittier adaptation of its source material – à la Riverdale when compared to Archie Comics. The series follows Bloom (Abigail Cowen), a fairy who is learning to control her powers while a long-dormant danger threatens the students of Alfea.

Upon the realisation that this series was stripping away the playful tone, vibrant aesthetic and fun nature of the animated series, in favour of a dark YA fantasy aesthetic, it didn’t leave much room for excitement or anticipation. However, in saying that, Fate: The Winx Saga does enough with this darker tone to make it an enjoyable watch, albeit with plenty of room for improvement. The overall narrative borrows familiar beats from other similar shows, while sprinkling in bits of originality that keep you coming back. It’s not a necessity to have been a fan of the animated series as, aside from character names, it’s all very fresh. The character relationships, especially the connections between the main group of fairies, are what drive the narrative forward. Much of the time is spent doing one of two things – setting up and building up the threat of the season, and developing the bonds between the characters, specifically those involving Bloom. The deep exploration into these relationships can be hit or miss as there are a number of them that really work and are intriguing, then there are some characters who just aren’t as interesting and thus their arcs are just average at best. It creates a fluctuating season with stretches of engaging content and then some lulls that kill the pace and slow things down a bit too much.

There are some solid, intriguing mysteries that drive the plot and tie together all of the events of the season. It’s seeing these mysteries gradually unfold that enhances engagement in the series. There’s quite a few arcs developing, and seeing how they all tie together is one of the joys of watching. For the sake of not revealing its secrets too early, smaller hints are dropped through the first 5 episodes of the season at a rate that suggests there are another 5 episodes to go before there is any payoff. Unfortunately, the biggest downfall of the season is that the finale doesn’t feel earned. The content of the season finale is all great, but it should have come with at least another 4 episodes building storylines to that moment. The first 5 episodes are all building towards something big, however 10 minutes prior to the end of the fifth episode – it feels like that big moment is going to be 5 episodes away, but in reality it all goes down in the next hour. This is a massive misstep that I can only describe as follows – the finale is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, while episodes 1-5 are Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone through to the Prisoner of Azkaban. There’s a chunk of development in the middle that feels missing and should have been covered in an extended 10-episode season.

Nevertheless, the series is headlined by some fine performances that create an engaging assortment of characters – all of which have their own charms allowing the audience to gravitate towards someone. Abigail Cowen leads the series with a solid performance as Bloom. She fits the character well and carries much of the mystery on her back. Alongside Hanna van der Westhuysen’s Stella, Precious Mustapha’s Aisha, Eliot Salt’s Terra and Elisha Applebaum’s Musa, there’s some great chemistry between them that makes them feel like a team. Each one brings something unique to their respective characters and, despite some being more intriguing than others, they all have their moments to shine. Outside of that main team – Sadie Soverall (Beatrix), Eve Best (Farah) and Robert James-Colier (Saul) stand out the most, each boosting their respective scenes with their presence and delivering some key dialogue scenes quite strongly.

From a technical and production standpoint, it’s clear that a lot of focus went into making the effects seem real and the use of magic quite cool – despite the fact that the fairies aren’t tranforming into their vibrant outfits. Perhaps the short 6-episode run is due to the budget being focused on ensuring the visuals are in tip-top shape. My Harry Potter comparison above is due to the series adopting a similar visual aesthetic akin to how Hogwarts was portrayed in those films. It’s an aesthetic that works quite well and does forge its own path away from the original series. One thing that could be heightened going forward is the use of music. The score and soundtrack was overall quite weak, with only one memorable music-related moment. Going forward, the use of a strong score could enhance the show by quite a bit.

In the end, Fate: The Winx Saga is no stranger to a few missteps here and there, but does have enough to love. There are slow patches where the narrative drifts from the main focus, but the development of the mysteries and various character arcs through each episode are handled quite well. The contents of the finale are great and have me looking forward to where things go from there, but they came way too early in what should have been a longer season to make some of those big moments feel earned. Nonetheless I’m looking forward to where things go from here and what this world has in store for the existing characters – and potentially any additional characters they add.

7/10

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