Shadow and Bone: Season 1 – TV Review

TL;DR – This is a messy series at times, yet also oddly compelling, and had me watching through all the way.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix subscription that viewed this episode.

Shadow and Bone. Image Credit: Netflix.

Shadow and Bone Review

As I mentioned in my A Wheel of Time review, I have been struggling to avoid slipping into despair recently and aimlessly scrolling through things on streaming, trying to find something. However, instead of this spiralling behaviour, I decided to focus on something, which was catching up on the Fantasy TV shows I missed from 2021. The next cab off the rack is from another books series I have been meaning to look at but have not had the time.

So to set the scene, a long time ago, the nation of Ravka was a single whole. However, with the manifestations of a powerful Shadow Summoner, a great veil of evil called the Fold now splits the nation in two. One can cross it, but it is dangerous, and many get lost to the things that hide in the dark. In the current day, Ravka is at war and needs all the skilled warriors they can get, including childhood friends Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), who is an assistant cartographer, and Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux), who works as a tracker. When Mal is chosen to accompany a group through the Fold, Alina manipulates the situation so she can come along too. However, when the convoy is attacked, Alina accidentally reveals that she is a Sun Summoner, the only Sun Summoner. Meanwhile, across the ocean in Ketterdam, there is a contract going for one million kruge, and The Crows, made up of Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), are trying to outmanoeuvre the competition. Now we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there may be some [SPOILERS] ahead.     

Shadow and Bone. Image Credit: Netflix.
Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux make a good central core to the narrative Image Credit: Netflix.

One of the things that set Shadow and Bone apart from many of its contemporaries is the literary and cultural sources that it is building upon for its story. Most Fantasy that is put into production is European focused. More than that, it is very English focused, with the legacy of Lord of the Rings looming large. However, here we are clearly using a more Imperial Russia and Slavic inspiration for Ravka, while Ketterdam dabbles in Lowland mercantilism. These narrative devices give the show a different feel, not only in the costumes and locations but in the type of story it wants to tell. This different perspective is then added to because while this is a Fantasy show, we have also entered the era of mechanisation, with steam power and gunpowder being ripe across the world. This means we get a layer of fantasy v industry on top of what is already a fascinating world.       

I have not read the book that this series is based on, but from what I understand, this season slammed two different texts from different series in the universe and other times together. Even if you have not read the books, you would be able to tell that there has been a bit of a collision going on here. However, given the task they had to do, I am gratefully surprised by just how well they pulled it off. While a little clumsy in places, the way they weaved the two stories, especially in the back half of the season, made for a compelling narrative.    

Shadow and Bone. Image Credit: Netflix.
Liked the interplay between shadow and light. Image Credit: Netflix.

In some respects, Shadow and Bone is almost the complete opposite of DOTA: Dragon’s Blood. There they overloaded you in lore. That was in no way helpful because it was a dense wall of names, but even by the end, it didn’t help explain the world. Here we dive into this world, and you get a quick word about the Fold, and then it just starts that story running. This choice meant we got straight into the narrative, but it did have some drawbacks. I think this was about halfway through the series before I got a handle on the world and the basic geography, which would not have been so bad if one of the characters was not literally a cartographer. This is one of all the shows that could have done with a big map right at the start.

As far as the casting went, I think we got a solid core for our narrative. The core bond between Alina and Mal is at the show’s heart, and Jessie and Archie absolutely make it work. Ben Barnes nails the sinister … maybe … okay, definitely General Aleksander Kirigan. Also, I was here for everything that the Crows Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, and Kit Young were doing. I will say that one of the things that I found interesting was that for a show with very little sex in it (I think we see one aftermath in the runtime), it might also be one of the most thirsty shows I have seen on TV. We could say this on the Nina (Danielle Galligan)/ Matthias (Calahan Skogman) subplot alone, but frankly, you find it throughout the show.

Shadow and Bone. Image Credit: Netflix.
There is a bigger world here that I hope we see more of in the future. Image Credit: Netflix.

In the end, do we recommend Shadow and Bone? Yes, yes, we would. You can feel the seems in some places, and some of the worlds could have been explained a bit better. However, the central narrative was compelling, I liked the cast, and I am looking forward to seeing where they take this show next.

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 Shadow and Bone 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 Shadow and Bone
Directed by
– Lee Toland Krieger, Dan Liu, Mairzee Almas & Jeremy Webb
Written by – Eric Heisserer, Daegan Fryklind, Vanya Asher, M. Scott Veach, Nick Culbertson, Shelley Meals & Christina Strain
Based offShadow and Bone and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Created by – Eric Heisserer
Production/Distribution Companies – 21 Laps Entertainment & Netflix
Starring – Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Zoë Wanamaker & Ben Barnes with Kaylan Teague, Cody Molko, Sujaya Dasgupta, Simon Sears, Howard Charles, Julian Kostov, Danielle Galligan, Calahan Skogman, Daisy Head, Kevin Eldon, Jasmine Blackborow, Gabrielle Brooks & Luke Pasqualino        
Episodes Covered – A Searing Burst of Light, We’re All Someone’s Monster, The Making at the Heart of the World, Otkazat’sya, Show Me Who You Are, The Heart Is an Arrow, The Unsea & No Mourners


2 thoughts on “Shadow and Bone: Season 1 – TV Review

  1. Pingback: The Sandman: Season 1 – TV Review | TL;DR Movie Reviews and Analysis

  2. Pingback: Shadow and Bone: Season 2 – TV Review | TL;DR Movie Reviews and Analysis

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