TV Review – Bard of Blood

TL;DR – This an interesting spy series which is unfortunately held back a bit with inconsistent pacing and the flow-on effects from that.  

Score – 3 out of 5 stars

Bard of Blood. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

One of my goals this year has been to expand my global cinema intake from places away from the traditional English speaking countries that I am used to. I have not been as successful as I would have liked, but when a new Indian spy thriller drops on Netflix you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Now I have finished it, wow, is this series a lot, and I think it might also have lasting repercussions.

So to set the scene, in Balochistan, Pakistan, a group of Indian deep-cover spies are in a lude video internet café using it as a cover as they upload important information back to New Delhi. However, before they can finish, they are captured by the local Taliban. Before they can be executed the Pakistani Intelligence forces intercede and save then, not to keep them alive, but to kill them at the right time and place. Back in India, one of the chiefs in India’s Intelligence bureau Sadiq (Rajit Kapur) feels that something is odd so he seeks out Kabir Anand (Emraan Hashmi) code name Adonis but there is bad blood between them over what happened last time in Pakistan. He instead sends Isha (Sobhita Dhulipala) to retrieve him, however, Sadiq is murdered in his home and Adonis is framed, and only he might be able to save the agents because there is a mole in the Indian government and he does not know who they might be. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.

Bard of Blood. Image Credit: Netflix.
Emraan Hashmi bring a lot of strength to the role of Adonis. Image Credit: Netflix.

There is a lot to unpack in this series and we will be getting to the India/Pakistan stuff a little later in the review. However, we delve into all that, I want to take a few moments to talk about the things it does get right. It has been a while since I have watched a show really embrace that world spy mantra. We have fake passports, cover stories, betrayals, shoot outs, old grudges, past failures, bloody bureaucrats, and countries playing each other of each other. When the show is focusing on this it really excels.

Part of what makes that work is that Emraan Hashmi is really compelling as the main lead. He has to have the full emotional weight of the past, present, and future on his shoulders as his character Adonis is walking into a political tinderbox where a single wrong more will set the whole region ablaze. We have India’s, Pakistan’s, the Taliban’s, and the local independence movement BAL’s interests all intersecting in the one place. It helps that there is a full team at play here to help with Isha and Veer (Vineet Kumar Singh) to share the load as they go on. To add to this, it was great to see a show that feels perfectly fine to jump from language to language without missing a beat. The show moves from Hindi to English, to Urdu, to Pashto and more, quite often in the same sentence and I wish we had more conviction like this in western cinema.

Bard of Blood. Image Credit: Netflix.
This is going to be a very controversial show. Image Credit: Netflix.

Where things don’t work quite as well is in the pacing of the show. It really does feel like they have five episodes of content and stretched it out to seven episodes. This had the effect of dragging out the conflict more than it needed to. A lot of this is done with unnecessary complications that just muddle the story and with conflicts between the team that just feel forced. This has the habit of making the middle episodes oscillate from going at the speed of a snail to that of a cheetah. Other areas are a bit hit and miss, for example while the practical effects in the show are quite good, the visual effects are at best not great and at times they are noticeably bad. There are small things that feel off like a secret American black site in a hostile country being emblazoned with American flags, also the hand-to-hand combat scenes could have had a bit more impact, but they are not major issues.

Where this show is really going to make ripples is in its depiction of the Indian/Pakistani conflict. Any show from India set in Pakistan is going to be controversial, to say the least, especially in the current light with what is happening in Kashmir. However, this show goes out of its way to hit every key embarrassing moment for Pakistan. There are the local independence movements, the infiltration of the Taliban of the porous border, China buying up the country, the free reign of foreign/hostile governments to traipse across the countryside, dishonest government officials, the global embarrassment of finding Bin Laden, the role of the intelligence services and more. It is at such a point that you know there will be blowback from Islamabad over this show. Also depicting the head of the Taliban is one heck of a choice to make narratively speaking. At the start of the first episode there is a big disclaimer and you really do see why it is there.

Bard of Blood. Image Credit: Netflix.
When it is focusing on the team and not over-complicating itself it really works as a show. Image Credit: Netflix.

In the end, do we recommend the first season of Bard of Blood? Well that is a difficult one to say, and I think it will be different for different people. When the show is actually kicking along, it is really quite good, and it had a twist ending not even I saw coming. However, this show does not exist in a vacuum and I am surprised they didn’t hold off on release given the current climate. If there season had been four or five episodes long I think I would be much more comfortable recommending it, but as it stands that inconsistent pacing really holds it back. If you really like spy films/shows/books then I think you will still enjoy this, if you don’t then I am not sure.   

By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.

Have you seen Bard of Blood yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.    


Credits –
All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Bard of Blood
Directed by
– Ribhu Dasgupta
Written by – Mayank Tewari, Bilal Siddiqi & Gaurav Verma  
Created by – Bilal Siddiqi & Gaurav Verma
Based on – The Bard of Blood by Bilal Siddiqi
Production/Distribution Companies – Red Chillies Entertainment & Netflix
Starring – Emraan Hashmi, Amit Bimrot, Shamaun Ahmed, Vineet Kumar Singh, Sobhita Dhulipala, Shishir Sharma, Danish Husain, Jaideep Ahlawat, Kirti Kulhari & Rajit Kapoor.          
Episodes CoveredWhat’s Past is Prologue, When Sorrows Come, They Come Not Single Spies, but in Battalions, So Quick Bright Things Come to Confusion, Love All, Trust a Few, Do Wrong to None, Fight Fire With Fire, Heat Not a Furnace for Your Foe So Hot That It Do Singe Yourself & My Stronger Guilt Defeats My Strong Intent    

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