Netflix’s Fate: The Winx Saga forgot the magic of friendship

Netflix has stumbled out the gate with its first new original title of the year aimed at their young adult audienceFate: The Winx Saga.

The Netflix show not only breaks from its source material–popular 2000s kid’s cartoon Winx Club–in style and tone but also in its core tenet, the power of friendship. What’s left is a stylized but empty series that prioritizes plot over character development and shallowly explores the magical realm where the show is set.

In this darker iteration of Bloom’s (Abigail Cowen) story, her entrance into Alfea College is triggered by her own attempt on her mother’s life. The incident was precipitated by a fight between the two which resulted in Bloom’s father removing her bedroom door. Unable to keep her temper in check after hours of stewing in rage, Bloom unexpectedly starts a fire that she wields against her parents waking them from their sleep and concluding with her mother receiving third-degree burns.

While Bloom feels guilt over what she did, not much time is spent on her impulsive and reckless behavior that stems from her inability to manage her anger and outbursts. It’s a character trait that appears again and again with very little push back or challenge by the narrative. Instead, Bloom’s forcefulness and pigheaded nature is either hand-waved as acceptable, glossed over, or treated as some kind of feminist statement about the power of a woman who knows her own mind.

Fate: The Winx Saga’s magical potential is wasted on empty storytelling

This leaves no room for actual earned growth and ignores the fact that Bloom doesn’t actually know what she’s doing. Bloom’s a 16-year-old girl who’s a recent transplant into a magical world she didn’t even know existed. Her journey in Alfea should be ours, too, but more time is spent on figuring out her true origin story than on world-building.

There are apparently seven magical realms but it’s unclear if Solaria is a realm itself or a country. We’re not given the names of the other realms despite Alfea being an international school. All we know is that Terra (Eliot Salt), Sky (Danny Griffin), and Sam (Jacob Dudman) grew up at the college and Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen) is the princess of Solaria and heir to the throne. Where Aisha (Precious Mustapha) and Musa (Elisha Applebaum) are from, respectively, isn’t disclosed.

It’s an odd choice considering Fate: The Winx Saga had a rare opportunity to add something new to the table in the supernatural genre. While there have been many interpretations of vampires, witches, werewolves, and ghosts in pop culture, fairies are still an uncommon topic of focus in TV.

The series could have delved into fairy mythology, had the characters discuss what humans have gotten right and wrong about their people and culture, talked about prejudices and biases within their own communities, or at least talked about fairy history and why specialists and fairies co-exist. Any of that would have served the plot better than underdeveloped romances and a pointless love triangle.

It was clear the writers didn’t know what to do with characters not involved in Bloom’s storyline. When her roommates weren’t being whatever she needed them to be in order to serve the plot, they were either stuck in bland love stories or forgotten about.

Stella’s tumultuous relationship with Sky forced a love triangle involving Bloom that was halfhearted at best and at worst meant to pass the time. She was at her most interesting when it came to her abusive relationship with her mother, Queen Luna, and it was revealed she struggles with controlling her powers. So much so she accidentally blinded her best friend with light magic; it’s a parallel to Bloom’s situation that goes absolutely nowhere.

Terra has the misfortune to be a part of a love quadrangle where her being fat is often used as a punchline. She quickly becomes attached to Dane (Theo Graham) after she rescues him from cliche bad boy Riven’s (Freddie Thorpe) influence only to be competing for his attention since Dane likes Riven.

Dane also likes Beatrix (Sadi Soverall), undercover spy and Riven’s girlfriend, so there’s the potential for a triad in this series. But, considering the show is comfortable outing Dane but not labeling him bi/pan with the actual term or any of them as polyamorous, I’m not sure what they’re trying to do with these three. Terra at least gets to make her displeasure known about her mistreatment on more than one occasion so there is that.

Musa has the most stable of all the romances in spite of the fact that she initially hides her relationship with Sam because he’s Terra’s brother. It’s also never explained why she only hears music when her mind powers zero in on him. Sam’s the only person in the school whose feelings she can’t read, but it’s something we’re just meant to accept and not question.

As for Aisha, she’s the least developed of all the girls which is disappointing since it’s typical for Black main characters to be given less. She doesn’t have a love interest, her parents aren’t discussed, and she doesn’t have a storyline outside of Bloom. The one plot point about Aisha’s inability to control small quantities of water despite having mastery over large quantities of the element is dropped immediately after it’s introduced.

Aisha is characterized as being an overachiever who likes things to be orderly and despises failure. Arguably a perfectionist, she doesn’t believe she has a natural talent for magic and studies tirelessly. There’s story to draw from there but the writers chose to have her be Bloom’s keeper and task doer instead.

Most of this could have been fixed by allowing these girls to actually be friends rather than having them primarily interact in abrasive or negative ways. There are sporadic moments of levity, genuine humor, and support between them but often it’s unearned or Bloom throws it back in their faces.

The passage of time in Fate: The Winx Saga, marked by the various changes in Aisha’s beautiful hairstyles, works as an expedient way to force kinship between the girls where there isn’t any. Bloom mainly goes it alone, or has Sky in tow, and the girls fall in line when they’re needed. The series doesn’t actually care about friendship in any real way. It only seems to care about Bloom and plot twists predicated on not fleshing out this world.

Fate: The Winx Saga ends on a cliffhanger, but since the series doesn’t actually invest in its characters or its world, it’s an ending that’s simply there. We spent all season with the Burned Ones and were told little about them or why they exist, and now, apparently, there’s a war coming.

Is it coming to all eight realms? Or just Solaria? Or just Alfea? What do the blood witches have to do with it? Why were they introduced so late in the show? What does it matter if high stakes aren’t treated like high stakes when Bloom is involved because she’ll just bravado her way through it even when it comes to unleashing a fairy she was told multiple times is dangerous and deadly?

Honestly, I don’t care to find out. The Netflix series wasted its potential on a chosen one narrative that doesn’t fit its ensemble cast considering the fairies in the Winx suite are supposed to be teammates and they’re barely even friends let alone partners in a fight against good and evil.