“Fate: The Winx Saga” is a fantasy retelling of “Mean Girls,” except less funny, more dramatic and clichéd enough to rival any typical teen melodrama.
An adaptation of the Iginio Straffi Italian cartoon “Winx Club,” the Netflix series replaces the childish fun we grew up with as kids with a dark storyline full of sex, drinking and pining teenagers.
“Fate: The Winx Saga” follows Bloom (Abigail Cowen), a spunky and pretty Californian who enrolls at the prestigious fairy school, Alfea, after discovering her powers. In the Winx universe, fairies rule a place called the Otherworld and attend schools like Alfea. Each fairy controls a particular element, and in Bloom’s case, it’s fire. Bloom’s fairy friends—water fairy Aisha (Precios Mustapha), earth fairy Terra (Eliot Salt) and mind fairy Musa (Elisha Applebaum)—all know how to control their powers, unlike Bloom.
But Bloom conveniently arrives at a time of crisis, when creatures called Burned Ones are prowling in the forest outside of Alfea. Using fire magic, Bloom kills more than a few of the creatures without batting an eyelash.
And this is where the issues begin.
Bloom is the ultimate “Mary Sue” character. For those who haven’t scoured the internet for fanfiction, a “Mary Sue” is a typical female protagonist who is an idealized extension of the creator. She is usually exceptionally talented, possesses rare abilities and lacks realistic character flaws. Bloom is the epitome of this. She is witty and beautiful with a tragic backstory involving the loss of her parents and unusual fire powers that she harnesses with ease.
This role is not exclusive to a singular character. “Fate: The Winx Saga” has its fill of tropes. There’s the Regina George of Alfea, Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen), who still appears one-dimensional despite being “misunderstood.”Sky (Danny Griffin)—Bloom’s love interest, and formerly Stella’s boyfriend—is the tall golden boy flirt who sees Bloom all alone, swooping in to be her knight in shining armor.
Musa and Terra have more nuanced storylines, but that doesn’t mitigate the show’s lack of diversity. The 2004 Nickelodeon cartoon “Winx Club” did better at diversifying its cast than this modern melodrama. Musa and Terra, who were portrayed as East Asian and Latina in the cartoon, are whitewashed versions of the characters in the live-action production.
There’s also the exhausted archetype of the supportive Black friend, which Aisha embodies. Bloom’s recklessness is often mitigated by Aisha’s level-headedness (fire and water).
The relationships in this series are half-baked. Everything is about Bloom. Her opinions transcend others’ concerns, to the point where every character is talking at each other, not with each other. It’s like a bunch of brick walls talking to one another.
“Fate: The Winx Saga” has its merits. The writing is serviceable and the actors do a commendable job with the material they were given. Even though Bloom remains a relatively clichéd character, Abigail Cowen portrays her in an awkward-yet-conflicted performance that makes “Fate: The Winx Saga” more watchable.
With fairies playing beer pong, partying and engaging in more than magic in the woods, it’s easy to see why the show is appealing. But this storyline is tiresome. Rather than offering a fresh, creative adaptation of the cartoon, “Fate: The Winx Saga” falls into typical teenage tropes that not even magic can fix.