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Benjamin Tremblay Benjamin Tremblay
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‘Death by Magic’ a spellbinding binge-watch

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There has been no shortage of things to watch on Netflix this year. Netflix CFO David Wells said in February that the online streaming service is planning to create 700 new original TV shows and movies in 2018. That number includes returning seasons of past original shows.

We saw a lot of interesting content coming to Netflix in November, including the brilliant “Narcos: Mexico” and the controversial “Baby;” the month ended on a high note with the premiere of the original series “Death by Magic.” Smooth-talking host Drummond Money-Coutts - aka DMC - is a veteran magician and effective performer.

From episode to episode, DMC travels around the world performing a variety of magic tricks and illusions both to random people on the street and to an exclusive audience. Each episode follows roughly the same formula: Money-Coutts travels to a town, gets to know the locals by performing magic, researches the history of the town, and ultimately attempts to replicate a stunt, illusion or escape trick that has killed a magician in the past - hence, “Death by Magic.”

“I’m travelling the world to uncover the stories of magicians who have died, performing the most dangerous stunts ever attempted. Along the way I’ll be doing what I love most - sharing my magic.”

In the first episode, “CAPE TOWN: The Great Escape,” DMC travels throughout South Africa on his journey to learn about Charles Rowan, aka Karr the Magician, who died in 1930 during a stunt in which he attempted to escape a straitjacket while a man was driving a truck directly at him.

“Today I would like to give you my tribute to Charles row,” said DMC, “At the end of my time here I will need to escape a unstoppable, impending death.

The show gets the ball rolling with DMC performing some “basic” magic tricks on the streets of Cape Town. These tricks include changing a dollar bill into a hundred-dollar bill, turning a wooden toad figure into a real living toad with one swift motion and propelling upward and sticking a playing card to the ceiling 10 feet above, among others.

While the primary focus of the plot and most of the action in the episode is leading to the ultimate, death-defying stunt at the end of each episode, the various magic tricks sprinkled throughout each episode are perhaps the show’s strongest moments. It is those small-scale tricks that really make it enjoyable. The tricks themselves are unique, innovative and smart, but the real entertainment comes from the priceless reactions of the locals.  

This is best exemplified when DMC travels to the college of magic in Cape Town. While there, he performs magic tricks for the young students. The students watch in awe as DMC puts on a mini-show for them, lighting up the eyes of the little magicians with genuine amazement and happiness.

In the second episode, DMC performs on the streets of Miami. In one display, DMC asks to borrow a 20-dollar bill from a woman in the crowd, proceeds burns a hole through the bill with a cigar and with a quick movement of his hand, restores it to normal. The woman, in a state of shock-and-awe, remarks “I just peed on myself during that.”

In Miami, DMC manages to move an identification card inside an unopened coconut.

So well-executed are DMC’s magic tricks that I often found myself trying to figure out a trick that happened at the beginning of the episode as I watrched the next. “Death by Magic” is filled with those moments that will have you asking “How?” for hours.

The episodes are standalone so there are no cliffhangers or serial plotlines. It was an easy show for me to binge-watch - partly due to my personal interest in magic tricks, but mostly because the content is always new and creative.

“Death by Magic” isn’t “Breaking Bad” or “Black Mirror,” but it isn’t supposed to be. It’s meant to be fun - and it is.

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