On Netflix, fantasy productions are rarer. While customers are still waiting for the second season of The Witcher, the platform is introducing its new genre production. Halfway between Chronicles of Narnia and At the Crossroads of Worlds, is Shadow and Bone the fantasy series everyone has been waiting for?
In the fantasy niche of youth, we can no longer count the number of productions on offer in recent years. The success of the Harry Potter saga has inspired major studios, which in turn offer a distinct foray into the genre. But most of the time, movies and series don’t experience comparisons with the bespectacled little wizard and forcing himself to endure is sometimes a miracle. We still remember the disappointing Cursed, which offered a replay of the Arthurian legend on Netflix.
Adapted from the literary trilogy written by Leigh Bardugo: Grisha, Shadow and Bone immerses us in a magical universe inspired by the Russia of the Tsar in the 19th century. The series follows the adventures of Alina Starkov, a young cartographer who works for the Ravka royal army. Recruited to accompany Grisha, a powerful mage who fights the Fold, the evil fog that ravages the country, Alina will discover extraordinary powers. He is the summoner of the sun, the only one who can free Ravka from this curse. But Grisha’s world was dangerous, and she wouldn’t be able to trust just anyone.
In its introduction, this series may seem a little confusing. It must be said that the first chapter has the uphill task of introducing an incredibly rich universe, with its geopolitics, customs, and language. The sheer number of characters doesn’t make things any easier. But after a frantic race in the first few minutes, the series manages to grab our attention thanks to its clever plot and fateful mix of genres. In some ways, the series pays homage to Ocean’s Eleven-style heist films and genre films when it brings us into the Fold. It must be said that its creator Eric Heisserer went to a good school, because to him we owe the First Contact screenplay by Denis Villeneuve and especially BirdBox with Sandra Bullock. The different narrative frameworks are effective and manage to draw the outline of an already boxy saga. This series allows us to explore a vast imaginary world, with captivating territories and landscapes that we want more.
Who said a fantastic series, said a magical universe to put in the picture and this is where the Shadow and Bone recipe works wonders. What makes season one a strength is undoubtedly the incredible work on costumes and accessories. Thanks to its sumptuous sets and keen sense of framing, Netflix productions are full of compelling visual proposals. With their ingenuity, the filmmakers behind the camera managed to capture the inner conflicts of the characters and the duality of the universe, between light and dark. Without revolutionizing the genre at all, this series benefits from considerable visual richness for this type of production.
Shadow and Bone doesn’t hide it, it’s aimed at a teenage audience or those who are passionate about genre production. It is not surprising, when we know that inspired books were written in this direction. So while we could quickly compare it to Game of Thrones, especially for the political reflections depicted in this first part, the series hasn’t avoided the pitfalls of the “teenage” genre. Multiplying genre cliches, from endless struggles between good and evil to love triangles through impossible romances, Shadow and Bone doesn’t manage to break free completely from a format calibrated for young audiences. In the end, some of the twists and turns are even quite predictable. However, it offers a beautiful proposal especially when we follow the fate of the thugs of Ketterdam: The Crows. Conceived by a trio of talented actors, the group came out of the game and managed to make us sketch a few smiles. Jessie Mei Li, who plays Alina Starkov, glows in her incarnation as a light-summoner, especially when she gives an answer to the talented Ben Barnes. After playing Prince Caspian in the second installment of the Narnia saga, he showed us his talent by lending his features to a complex and enchanting character.
It’s also worth noting that the music of the series allows the narrative to rise further and offers beautiful spooky sequences. It has to be said that Netflix has called in an expert on the matter. Joseph Trapanese has worked on many genre productions such as Divergente 2 or Oblivion. However, it should be noted that the score of this series is less impressive than the previous iteration.
After a promising first season, Shadow and Bone has the key to making a lasting impression on the platform. If Netflix hasn’t announced a second season yet, there’s no doubt that it’s meant to be renewed. Having laid the groundwork for its universe, the series could surprise us even more, if it dared break away from the teen serial code, to offer a more political and ambitious plot.
In the meantime, we’ll start reading Leigh Bardugo’s novels to find out what this second episode could hold for us.