Shadow and Bone
Season 1, Episodes 1-8
Netflix’s new fantasy series is not the next game of thrones for good and bad
When Netflix first announced a new fantasy series, Shadow and Bone based on Leigh Bardugo’s hit book series, it seemed like the streaming service wanted to create the next Game of Thrones. At first glance, that seems to be the case as Shadow and Bone has clear aspirations to become the next big fantasy series. Shadow and Bone has a fairly big cast, impressive visuals and it spends time building up an expansive world like in Game of Thrones with distinct regions and a lot of backstory. However, these are arguably just the essential ingredients that make up any good fantasy series. Where Shadow and Bone differs from Game of Thrones is in its handling of these elements.
The new Netflix series on a surface level certainly has a lot less adult content than Game of Thrones and it also differs in tone. Game of Thrones had a large adult audience but Shadow and Bone will appeal more to teenagers as would be expected since the show is based on a book series for young adults. Shadow and Bone furthermore stays entirely within the restraints of the fantasy genre and is in many ways a streamlined approach towards the genre for good and bad.
There are a lot of magical and fantastical elements on display in the show, and the visual effects are stellar. Fans of the book series which the show is based on will without a doubt be pleased. Fantasy and magic is what the show promised and it certainly delivers; however, for those not familiar with the books, there is nothing particularly inventive about the show’s use of magic to set it apart. It feels like we have seen this time and time again in other shows and films. The story also follows very simple and distinct beats over the course of season 1. That is a credit to the show’s writers as each character has a clear arc which spans all eight episodes and everything is much less complicated than in Game of Thrones (Game of Thrones’s handling of its character arcs came under fire in season 8 but with Shadow and Bone, it feels like there is a steady hand on the wheel guiding each character to where they need to go whilst not missing a single stop off point).
The arcs for each character feel in many ways like they were inspired by Joseph Campbell’s ideas. Shadow and Bone feels very similar to Star Wars, the Original Trilogy and the Sequel Trilogy, probably for that very reason since those films popularized Joseph Campbell’s ideas. The main heroine, Alina, at times feels like a mix between Luke and Rey. Shadow and Bone nails what it is trying to do but there is a downside to this type of storytelling which is that most developments in the story, major and minor, can be predicted before they happen. There is also not much that makes the characters in Shadow and Bone stand out in comparison to other shows and films. How much that matters is to each their own but it is important to bear in mind that the show is very character driven so one’s appetite for the show may ultimately depend on whether you resonate with the characters.
Overall, Shadow and Bone is a fun fantasy series which has more in common with Star Wars than Game of Thrones and plays to a more teenage crowd than adult one. The difference in content and tone should come as no surprise to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s hit book series and fans will be happy with the show’s big focus on each character, impressive visuals, and the abundance of magic on display. The show’s story follows clear narrative beats and each character has an arc. However, because of this, Shadow and Bone lacks originality and the show is not that inventive. For the average viewer unfamiliar with the source material, there is no hook as there is not much in Shadow and Bone which separates it from other fantasy TV shows and films. Shadow and Bone is still an enjoyable watch even if there is not many defining features that make it special. The show has a decent plot with good character development and it is packed full of fun moments during character interactions and action sequences. Fans of the books should definitely watch but even average viewers not familiar with the books might enjoy this new series on Netflix.