By Staff Writer Tavish Mohanti
Pulling viewers into a world of magic and monsters, Shadow and Bone stays entertaining throughout with a fast-paced story structure, a cast of endearing characters, and a captivating plot.
The new Netflix series, based on the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, does an excellent job bringing Bardugo’s world onto the big screen, using elaborate costumes and sets to establish an immersive atmosphere. It builds this world without a long, boring exposition — a trap many fantasy shows fall prey to — and gives just enough background in the first episode for the audience to have a basic understanding of this new world. From there, each episode offers additional nuggets of information and slowly fills in all the blanks, keeping the audience engaged.
The immersive world of Shadow and Bone makes it a fantasy show unlike any other.
Building off this epic world-building, the series jumps between three different storylines, each with different characters, which keeps the hour-long episodes interesting and packed with conflict. Oftentimes, such a story structure can become confusing and hard to follow, but the writers maintain a clear and easy-to-understand plot through well-written dialogue and interesting narration.
This pacing and continuously evolving conflict worked to build suspense, as new problems are constantly introduced and left unresolved at the end of the episode.
The series keeps itself well-paced by introducing interesting conflicts every episode.
However, this build-up is wasted in the lackluster final episode with an underwhelming final showdown and almost lazy battle sequence. The great storyline that took shape in the initial episodes was marred by the rushed ending.
The diverse cast, with leading actors of Chinese, Nepalese, and Ugandan descent, was a huge asset to the show. Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) brought much-needed comedic charm to the otherwise dark series, and the chemistry between Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) was fiery and exciting. With that being said, the main romantic relationship between Starkov and her best friend Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux) paled in comparison. Moments between the two that were supposed to feel emotional and heartfelt just felt stale and superficial.
The diverse cast serves the storyline with wonderful acting and impressive chemistry.
The visual effects for the series were also a glaring flaw. Tacky camera filters and other effects made some scenes feel like a 12-year-olds Musical.ly, and the usage of slow-motion during fight sequences felt immature and melodramatic.
These flaws, though, are reconciled with the diverse cast, strong storyline, and wonderful world-building. Without a shadow of a doubt, Shadow and Bone is a bona fide must-watch.