Creator: Leigh Bardugo
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Starring: Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman and Kit Young
Netflix’s new show, Shadow And Bone adapts Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling book of the same name plus combining material from her other series, Six of Crows into eight episodes. The Grishaverse series is a very well-loved series and I can see that more people may turn to reading the books once they have finished watching this season to see how it compares.
In this first episode, we are introduced to our leading lady, Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and the kind of life she lives. Alina is an army cartographer who just wants to survive and keep her best friend, Mal (Archie Renaux) safe and close by. We end this episode watching Alina and Mal enter the fold and watch the worst happens. While a bunch of con-artists discover who Alina really is and set their sights on getting her.
WHO ARE THE GRISHA AND WHAT IS THE FOLD?
This is a fantasy world with a very confusing map, so let’s have a bit of a backstory. Episode 1 begins in war-torn Ravka, which has a very Russian-looking style. There are those with magic and humans. Those with magic are known as Grisha, however, the Grisha aren’t very liked. They are used for their abilities but really there is tension between the Grisha and those of non-magic. The Grisha are frown upon following the creation of The Fold.
Now The Fold (also known as the Shadow Fold) is an important part of this world. The Fold was created one day by The Darkling, a character I can assume we will meet in this season. It is like a black veil that grows every year; the fold cuts directly across a wide road that once stretched across the land connecting Ravka to its western coast. The Fold interrupts trade to the coast and further afield. There is no way around but through, however, there are creatures that live in The Fold. These creatures are known as the Volcra, the huge flying creature just waiting to rip anyone apart who enters the Fold. It is believed nothing can defeat the Shadow Fold except for a Sun Summoner who may be able to dissolve it with their light; typical light vs dark scenario.
ALINA JUST WANTS TO LOOK AFTER MAL BUT ENDS UP PUTTING HERSELF IN DANGER!
Alina, our main protagonist, is presented as a bit of an outsider. She is an orphan and we are told her parents died, we don’t know how but it is assumed they died during the border wars. Alina explains to us she never has felt welcome in East Ravka because she looks like her mother, who looks like the enemy. This raises questions about what really happened to her parents and who is this enemy she is associated with. Now Alina is older she wants to find a way out of Ravka, where people won’t treat her differently just because of how she looks.
From this episode, it is clear to see that Alina is very intelligent, stubborn and head-strong. She wants to keep an eye on her friend to make sure he is safe but this ends up putting herself in danger. Jessie Mei Li performance is strong, she has set up Alina nicely for us to want to see more of her and get to know her better. Li’s performance is easy to watch and quite enjoyable, I look forward to seeing how her portrayal of Alina will carry on in the upcoming episodes.
MAL AND ALINA: IS THERE MORE THAN JUST FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN THESE TWO CHARACTERS?
Now Alina only goes to The Fold for Mal. Alina and Mal have been friends since childhood and are quite similar characters. Both have lost their parents, both trained up together and both want the best for each other and to keep one another safe. However, there is no denying that there are some unsaid feelings between these two characters. Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux have great chemistry together, it is subtle but works really well. The subtleness of the romance between these two characters is clever; for example, the pause and the almost leaning in when Alina and Mal are talking. Alina offers to shoot Mal in the foot to get out of this mission across the fold, while Mal is bringing Alina some food because she was denied it, screams to the audience so loudly this is more than friendship here.
I really like this pairing; the friendship feels really believable with all the joking yet when things get serious it feels like there is genuine concern and love for each other. However, is this possible romance over before it has even started?
FREDDY CARTER IS FANTASTIC AS KAZ, LEADER OF THE DRENG
We also meet con artists Kaz (Freddy Carter) and his accomplices Inej (Amita Suman) and Jesper (Kit Young) in Ketterdam. Kaz is the leader of the Dregs and he and his gang are from the Six of Crows duology. This set of characters commit all sort of crimes for money and power, however, one mission sets them up to find Alina, which is how these two-book series come together. Kaz, Inej and Jesper remind me of every gangster team in every Guy Ritchie film. They are badass and know exactly what they are doing. I really enjoyed watching this trio and Freddy Carter is just fantastic as Kaz, the main man in charge. Kaz is an art thief therefore he is resourceful and a trickster who manages to put himself into prosperous yet dangerous situations like the one he ends up in.
Shadow And Bone EPISODE 1 LEAVES US WANTING TO RUSH OVER TO WATCH THE NEXT EPISODE!
I’m excited for what is to come next as this first episode has set up this world and the characters involved nicely. It was nice to see this episode split up between Alina and Mal and Kaz and his gang but it all came together at the end to leave us wanting to rush over to watch the next episode.
We are left wondering what is the outcome for Mal after the Volcra attack and what will become of Alina now her power has been released. Also it is going to be exciting to see who will get a hold of Alina first and who can she really trust. Everyone wants Alina but who will get to her first and what will they do with her once they have her?
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