From a beloved animated children’s series to a disappointing young adult fantasy drama, the girls of the Winx Club have taken a turn for the worst. Fate: The Winx Saga is a series ripe with potential that somehow fails to capitalise on almost all of it.
The second season kicks off in a bit of a strange state – both in terms of the story and the unfortunate recasting. The heavily-teased “big bad” of the season (previously played by Lesley Sharp) has been recast with Miranda Richardson taking over the role. Also, Terra’s dad (played in season one by Alex Macqueen) has been recast with Daniel Betts. One is easier to get over than the other, but it’s still a very jarring way to kick off a season that needed to really hit from the get-go. The driving force of this season’s narrative is a bit difficult to pinpoint or follow for the first couple of episodes. There’s stuff going on with Rosalind, mysteries surrounding the Blood Witches, and on top of both of those, there’s a bunch of minor conflicts and character arcs all getting a bit fiery. This mess of half-narratives, none of which really take centre stage, sums up the first two episodes of what is yet another criminally short season.
It’s a dreadfully slow beginning to the season, especially considering the first season ended on such a grand cliffhanger. Rather than rolling with that level of pace and tension, it hits a soft reset and becomes painfully hard to watch. These first two episodes are completely flat and lifeless, from the overarching story to the individual character arcs. There’s almost nothing of interest going on. Sure, there’s little pockets of mystery here and there, but the writers have done a terrible job at telling us why we should care about the threat at hand. Pacing is all over the shop and there’s nothing to entice you to keep watching. The best thing it has going for it is the introduction of a fan-favourite character, Flora (Paulina Chávez), but even then there’s not much for her (or anyone else) to do.
From here, the story picks up ever so slightly across the next four episodes. Exactly what’s at play becomes a little clearer and there’s actually some genuinely tense moments starting to be weaved in. The pacing is still all over the shop and it drags heavily through the middle of the episodes, but it’s an okay watch. This season culminates in a climax which I’d say is pretty good. The finale is the best episode of the season, but it’s too little too late. Much of what’s exciting about the finale is what it teases for the next season… and we know how that panned out for the beginning of this season.
The biggest problem of this season, and the series as a whole, can be put down to the execution of its best and most promising storylines. To give credit where credit’s due, it sets up some great story arcs and engaging character dynamics, while also teasing potentially huge moments and interactions between certain characters. However all or most of these really promising elements turn to disaster because it feels like the writers rush to get to the climax. Rather than letting ideas and themes build and gain traction, they just jump right to the resolution, effectively ripping any and all tension right out of the moment. It also means those moments of resolve don’t feel earned. For example, without spoilers, Character A learns something about Character B that could lead to a very interesting dynamic going forward. However, not even 20 minutes later, that entire potentially cool dynamic is thrown out the window rather abruptly. That, in turn, makes way for another potentially cool arc… one that doesn’t even last longer than an episode.
This misguided and seemingly rushed approach most likely stems from trying to cram its key story beats into a measly seven episodes. Between this season and the last, there have been 13 episodes. Honestly, the overall narrative of the first season alone needed ten episodes, while the narrative of this season could have benefited from having more room to breathe. I understand the episode count may be out of the writers’ hands, but in that case they just need to limit the scope of the story they’re telling within a season.
That’s enough of the bad. The absolute biggest highlight of the season is the dynamic amongst the girls of the ‘Winx Club’. Their chemistry almost single-handedly carries the series through all of its many missteps. The few scenes we do get where it’s just the girls going back and forth in their dorm are some of the most joyful and entertaining moments. I will admit, the introduction of Flora’s character is almost a little too smooth, but with her presence came even more interesting dynamics. Specifically, Musa (Elisha Applebaum) ends up becoming one of the more intriguing characters, especially in the latter half of the season. She goes through some surprising changes that actually drew me more towards her. Also, Beatrix (Sadie Soverall) brings a unique presence to the season that no one else can replicate. She’s a bit of a loose canon and as a result contributes to some pleasantly unpredictable moments. Overall, it’s these smaller character scenes that kept me coming back.
As well as these characters being pretty strong, I also admired the performances behind them. Abigail Cowen is still great as Bloom, delivering a fine performance that leads the show without taking away from the rest of the Winx girls. Hannah van der Westhuysen (Stella), Eliot Salt (Terra), Precious Mustapha (Aisha) and Elisha Applebaum (Musa) round out the crew and really sell us on the fact that this is a group of close-knit friends. Sadie Soverall I’ll mention again as a definite standout. She doesn’t get a tonne to do within the season, but her key scenes are some of the more memorable. I also have to give some credit to Miranda Richardson’s Rosalind because despite being difficult to get used to her recast, I warmed up to her version of the character after a couple of episodes.
In the end, Fate: The Winx Saga drops in quality when compared to its first season. There are some good pockets of tension and a couple of engaging arcs, though much of that comes late in the season… and by that point it’s too late. Marred by poor pacing, a terrible start and rushed execution, the thing that holds it all together is the chemistry amongst our Winx Club. If only this season had ten episodes, it could have really fleshed out its main arcs. That all being said, some very exciting things are teased for the potential third season… and being a fan of the animated series, I’ll definitely keep watching to see where it goes.