Netflix released their new fantasy / scifi series Shadow and Bone on Friday, April 23rd. I watched the first two episodes, and here’s my take on it.
You know, I might actually like this one. I’m not too “up” on my “young adult” “Harry Potter” knock off book series. Leigh Bardugo’s book served as the basis for this show, and having never even heard of it until now, that’s exactly what it seems like to me. Another one of these “young person gets superpowers, rest of magic tries to defeat them, similar storyline ensues….” type of things.
And it very well might be just that. It sure feels like that’s how its going to play out. Young orphan Alina Starkov (Olivia Munn doppelganger Jessie Mei Li) is a cartographer in the Ravkan(?) military, alongside fellow orphan Mal (Archie Renaux). They’re in the middle of some war with, well, I’ll be honest I’m not exactly sure who. See, there’s this big extra-dimensional anomaly called “the Fold” that’s full of these demon-like monsters called Volcra… The military also has a division of magic users (of course) called Grisha, who have powers like fire and wind…
… they’re charged with a mission to go into the fold, and as the shit hits the proverbial fan, Alina bursts into rays of super power and kills all the Volcra attacking their ship. Turns out she’s a “sun summoner,” a mythical type of Grisha that is rumored to exist, but nobody’s seen before. I feel like this is all very familiar.
On the other side of the fold, you’ve got a mafioso type named Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) who catches wind of this development, and wants to get through to the other side after her.
That’s really about as far as I’ve gotten, two episodes in. To be fair, a lot of these two episodes are simply character development and world building. Honestly, I feel highly overwhelmed with this world they are throwing us into. It feels like they’re just throwing this jargon and terms at us left and right like we’ve already read the books and know what all this stuff is. Just one thing after another with no explanation. Places, people, powers, things, just here, here, HERE HAVE SOME MORE IDC IF YOU CAN’T KEEP UP!!!
The choice to place this in what amounts to a World War I era Russian type of setting, is actually pretty original in my book. I have no clue whatsoever if that’s faithful to the novels or not, but doing so, and giving it all of the detail and attention it deserves… is a challenge, and one I think the production team has mastered, if maybe too much. There are a few scenes where it feels almost over-produced in this respect. Like, “Hey lets see how much period stuff we can cram into the frame at one time.”
Unlike some of the other series I started, I actually think I’m going to finish this one out. I’m fully expecting a lot of the same tired tropes, but I feel like the setting and dressing will make up for some of that, plus I think that Li and Renaux, along with Punisher/Westworld alum Ben Barnes as General Kirigan… they’ve got the acting part well covered. We’ll see, I guess.
No rating as of yet, but you bet I will report back when I’m finished.