TV Show Review: Shadow and Bone

Deepali Yedulapuram, Features Editor

4/5

Since the ending of the cultural phenomenon that was Game of Thrones, multiple attempts have been made to fill the void of the fantasy saga. The most recent attempt in the fantasy world, Shadow and Bone, released April 21, is an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse trilogy with a follow-up from another one of her series, the Six of Crows duology. 

The show is set in the Russia-inspired land of Ravka, where there exists a dark strip of terrain called The Fold that splits the country into two and is populated with vicious, human-eating monsters called Volcra. The action-filled series is packed with details, as the audience, due to the multiple storylines, is introduced to new characters in almost each episode. The series introduces protagonist Alina Starkov, a cartographer for the Ravkan army, and her childhood friend Malyen (Mal) Oretsev, a tracker for the same army, as they end up together on a supply run across The Fold. 

As they make their way across, Mal gets attacked by one of the Volcra and Alina—as a surprise to everyone—releases a huge burst of energy and light which wards off the Volcra and allows the passengers to safely reach their destination. 

We learn later that Alina possesses the power of a rare being called a Sun Summoner—a special type of Grisha, or witch, that is rumored to hold enough power to completely destroy The Fold. The main plotline that focuses on Alina follows a typical and overdone narrative of a “chosen one” who struggles to come to terms with what is expected of them. 

As the season progresses, we see Alina train under the guidance of General Kirigan, a Shadow Summoner and leader of the Grisha army, and rise in popularity as she grows her powers. At the same time, however, another man back on the other side of The Fold hears about the Sun Summoner and offers a reward of one million Kruger to whoever can cross The Fold, capture her, and bring her back to him. This introduces con artists and characters from the Six of Crows series, Kaz Brekker, Jesper Fahey, and Inej Ghafa. 

This second plot strand is seamlessly introduced, and the incorporation of such allows for the audience to truly understand and witness the richness of this fantasy world filled with intriguing mythology, warring kingdoms, and magic. 

At times, the predictability in events—like when characters (unsurprisingly) turn out to be evil, or when it’s clear which characters will end up in a love triangle—can get a little disappointing, but the intricate details of the fantasy world, the diverse cast, and the immersive production make the series much more enjoyable. The audience stays engaged with the introduction of new characters, but the constant stream of character additions does seem to weaken the overall quality of the show; the charisma and talent of the cast isn’t enough to completely make up for the unimpressive character development and weak script writing. 

The producers seem to miss opportunities to add to the overall character depth. Towards the middle of the season, we are introduced to almost a completely new third storyline that seems interesting, but is rather awkwardly placed. 

As of now, Shadow and Bone has not been renewed for another season by Netflix, but if it does get approved, season two isn’t expected to come out until late 2022—an incredibly long wait, especially considering the cliff-hanger we were left with at the end of the first season. 

The series is undoubtedly entertaining—I watched the almost eight-hour long season in one sitting—but it’s now up to the screenwriters to successfully develop and define the characters in an effective way in the awaited next couple of seasons. 

If the producers are able to do this, and are able to create a more holistic plot, I believe this series could be a strong contender for a high fantasy series many have been longing for since the end of Game of Thrones.