TelevisionTalks: Shadow and Bone
So I’m running behind on this, I should have talked about it sooner because I did watch it right away when it came out. Shadow and Bone is a fantasy show based off of a book series by Leigh Bardugo that aired on Netflix a few months ago. Don’t worry, if you watch it now, it does at least have a second season coming. But is it one that deserves a second season and what makes it stand out from other fantasy?
Alina is an orphan who, like most orphans either gets brought to fight in the army or become a cartographer. She’s a cartographer, and her best friend, Mal, is in the army. Neither of them have the powers that the Grisha have, expect, well, Alina actually does, she just doesn’t know it. She quickly finds out that she is what is known a sun summoner. A power set that is not common and is basically just a myth. This attracts the attention of General Kirigan, the head of the Grisha. Meanwhile, Kaz, the leader of a group known as the Crows, finds out about a dangerous job to get through the darkness that separates the lands in order to get the sun summoner.
What I Didn’t Like
That’s a very basic summary of the start of the plot that I give you there. I think that the plot as a whole is pretty solid. There are a few elements that feel pretty standard young adult fantasy. The friendship and relationship of Alina and Mal works well, but in terms of any complexity to it, it is what you’d expect.
And, I will say, not as a real dislike for myself who hasn’t read the books, or my wife who has, they combine two different series in the same world that happen at different times. So Kaz and Alina’s stories don’t cross in the books, at least not in the same way that they do in the show. I couldn’t tell that they were supposed to be separate with how they weave things together. That said, some readers of the books might notice that or not like it as well for that reason.
What I Liked
So, I say that some of the story is a bit standard. But for the most part, I don’t feel like that is the case. We get magic and science mixed together with the armies have guns and weapons but you still have the Grisha who very powerful as well. The setting unique and the scenario is unique as well. This darkness that separates things is not normal for fantasy, so it’s a good plot device that drives a wedge between the countries, literally.
The acting in the show is also very good. Freddy Carter as Kaz is amazing as are all of the Crows. They really stand out as some of the most interesting character. Jessie Mei Li as Alina is good as is Archie Renaux as Mal, but they are given less to work with, so their story is just more lacking. It’s fairly standard to YA where the main characters are a bit more vanilla. And Ben Barnes as General Kirigan is a very strong actor, he has the charisma that his character needs.
The world building is done well in the show as well. I don’t like it when shows give you an information dump at the beginning, actually same with fantasy books. I want to find out about the world when I need to. And Shadow and Bone gives you the information as you need it. Shows tend to be better about not doing that, and Shadow and Bone is very solid at just giving you enough so you aren’t confused.
The aesthetic of the show is also really well done. Like I said, it blends magic, almost the industrial revolution, and guns along with that for the show. So it’s not your normal high fantasy look, there is a bit of dirtiness to the world and the people which you also don’t always see. It manages the idea of a dirty or real world that the characters live in, but without going grim dark to make it gritty.
Who Is This For?
I do call this a YA (Young Adult) series, at least for the books. But it isn’t YA in a bad way, there are a lot of good YA stories out there. There are also a lot that just live off of angst. This isn’t one of those. It tells a compelling story for adults without making the theme too mature so that you’d question teenagers watching it. This goes back to that actual world but not gritty. So I recommend this for most people, especially if you like fantasy.
This is a really enjoyable show. The people I’ve told about it have really liked it as well. The fantasy is just enough different to keep even us big fantasy lovers engaged throughout. And in terms of acting, this is so much better than most YA shows, it’s impressive. So if you want to find some good fantasy, I highly recommend Shadow and Bone.