On Apr. 23 Netflix released “Shadow and Bone,” a supernatural drama that features the same classic elements of any hit new show on the platform. Oftentimes Netflix originals can be hit or miss, but in this series, so far, the characters are incredibly diverse, the worldbuilding is realistic, and the performances are more emotionally gripping than most of the new content that the streaming service has put out recently. The show, based on the book series by Leigh Bardugo, follows the story of Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphan cartographer who finds out she is a sun summoner in a world of shadow summoners. Throughout the season, she struggles to control her powers in an attempt to rid her people of “The Rift,” a tear in her world filled with danger and darkness.
As previously stated, the universe in this show is so well fleshed out that it feels like it mimics reality in some ways. Rather than ignore subjects of race and prejudice, this series blatantly shows the racism that Alina faces when she enters the world of nobility to train as a summoner. Compared to other shows such as “Bridgerton” and “The Irregulars,” “Shadow and Bone” both authentically addresses bias and inequality, while also casting a diverse group of actors. The way the show weaves in socioeconomic struggles as well is greatly appreciated. The aforementioned Netflix originals are unrealistic in their depictions of their characters and their struggles, therefore making the shows too idealistic or naive to feel relatable or true to life, but “Shadow and Bone’s” incorporation of real world problems is a welcome change in the right direction. Additionally, because of her constant battle to stay strong and fight prejudice, control her powers and avoid those who wish to use her, she is overall a much stronger developed main character than many audiences will find relatable.
While the plot can at some moments be predictable, the side character as well as B and C storylines are usually comedically driven, which creates a much needed break from the central Alina love triangle and power struggle. These side stories, in addition to breaking up the main plot, are part of the reason this show feels so detailed and tangible. In a way, this new series is comparable to a more PG-13 “Game of Thrones.” Indeed, this fantasy world seems like a perfect show for anyone missing out on dragons and monarchical schemes. The CGI, especially for a Netflix show, is certainly better than expected and also feels similar, yet not entirely up the scale, of the special effects in “Game of Thrones,” especially in the intense fight scenes.
Overall, the first season of “Shadow and Bone” does not disappoint. It not only has a nice balance of romance and drama, but it also offers characters that are nuanced and empowering. Not to mention this show makes the right choices in terms of writing, character development and action, which all plays out beautifully over the course of its eight episodes. Obviously Netflix put money and time into this show’s early development which has paid off with its release. Hopefully the show will be renewed for its next season and will continue to keep up the magic that these first few episodes embody.
“Shadow and Bone” is available on Netflix.
By Kyra Matus