Personally speaking, fantasy isn’t always an easy series to dive into — especially these days when it feels like almost all TV series have ventured into subverting expectations as opposed to telling real, human stories centered around the characters instead of the plot. I almost always hold off watching such a series until I have some sort of concrete proof that the series isn’t going to fall into the trap of its predecessors. However, the concluded source material is a good starting point as are writers and producers who have yet to stir us in the wrong direction with Shadow and Bone.
Sometimes you press play to watch something and it’s good enough to keep you going to end, but other times, you escape into a world that’s dark and treacherous while simultaneously full of hope, and it instantaneously becomes something you know you’re going to care a lot about. That’s what happened with Netflix’s new series, Shadow and Bone. (And here’s to hoping I won’t have to bite my tongue a few years later.)
For those who aren’t familiar, Shadow and Bone is adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s trilogy of the same title, and it also interweaves characters from the Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom duology.
And I’m here to say that it’s so good, it’s great — along with the detail that it’s got a lot of potential for future stories. Stories don’t always have to go in the direction we want them to in order to be good, but they do need to be told through the lenses of characters, which Shadow and Bone does in stunning fashion. So much so, that because of this detail, it’s easy to care about the plot as well.
What is perhaps the most stunning element and the series’ greatest strength next to its incredible diversity is how gorgeously and carefully it deals with quiet moments of vulnerability.
There is not a single character on this series who isn’t easy to adore (even if they aren’t your favorite in the books). There is not a single performer who won’t manage to make you care about your favorite book characters even more. There is a reason for everything, the episodes trail after one another exquisitely, and they tell stories that work in developing the characters towards places they deserve to be headed towards.
Do you have to read the books before watching the TV show? No. I initially watched it before diving into books and I understood all that was presented to me without needing the source material’s guidance. Now that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be paying attention to all the little things because that is the very reason I ran to read the books after finishing. So pay close attention to all the details—question the little moments, there are answers, and if you look closely you’ll find most of them.
From the very first episode to the last, Shadow and Bone tells stories that are going to resonate with the real world. It isn’t a series that shies away from complex, ugly truths about humanity and it brings them to life with fascinating nuances in fantasy.
WOMEN. The women on this show run the show. They are each so multifaceted, so meticulously crafted and acutely portrayed that it will be easy to appreciate them all even when they mess up because it’s guarantee of character development. That said, Jessie Mei Li is remarkable as Alina and layers the character exceptionally. She is very much the star of the series and rightfully so.
No matter what you ship on this show, there is plenty of riveting content that’ll result in endless gifs plus stunning fan videos. Two characters in particular often speak in silence allowing their expressions and physicality to touch on emotions greater than words could ever say, and the actors playing them have mastered this form so beautifully, it’s one of the things you won’t be able to stop marveling at it. And when there are words between them, they too are filled with a plethora of breathtaking depth. And two other characters have some incredibly fantastic banter (and are very close to the books).
At the end of the day, the performances on this show are where the big win is at. The thieves of Ketterdam are coming for your hearts. Amita Suman, Freddy Carter, and Kit Young are brilliant as Inej, Kaz, and Jesper thus, from their very first scene to their last, they are going to captivate you effortlessly. I am in complete awe and utterly struck by the performances they each put on followed by the layers they brought to the already riveting and beautifully complex characters. There will be audible gasps, there will be laughter, there will be tears, and there will be a magnitude of feelings where their storylines are concerned.
If you are already in love with Ben Barnes, chances are extremely high that you are going to fall even further in love with him. If you are not, chances are also extremely high you are going to fall in love with him because Barnes knows what he’s doing and he brings his A-game consistently, never once missing a beat to showcase a full range of emotions.
In more ways than one, the men on this show are the true drama kings. Where they go, drama follows and it’s utterly ridiculous.
If you know anything about me, it’s that I no longer write full episode reviews for every show I watch. When we choose to cover something episode by episode, it is during the rare occasion where there is a lot we want to discuss and breakdown, and that’s something that always works for most of us in the long run. We cover the shows that we really feel strongly towards, the shows we care about even when there are flaws; therefore, yes, we feel strongly towards Shadow and Bone, so expect episode recaps every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Expect character deep dives.
Expect scene breakdowns.
Expect relationship deep dives.
We’ve got them locked and loaded and they are coming.
Shadow and Bone is mostly safe to watch for most teen and up audiences, the scary parts aren’t that frightening and easy to look away from if need be. You are given clear warnings. The series as a whole is beautiful and effortlessly immersive. Once you start, you’re not going to want to stop so plan your binge accordingly.
Shadow and Bone premieres on Netflix on April 23, 2021.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.
She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for MovieWeb and Looper.