Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Netflix: Review of SHADOW AND BONE: Fording the Fold

May 11, 2021

The kingdom of Ravka had been separated into East and West by the appearance of a huge wall of dark shadow called the Fold. Ravka had two armies, the First Army, composed on ordinary humans or the Otkazat'sya; and the Second Army, composed of people who had powers to manipulate nature called the Grisha (who were then further classified based on their various abilities of "small science"). 

Aside from being at odds with their neighbors from the north, the Fjerdans, and from the south, the Shu, Ravka was currently politically unstable because West Ravka under General Zlatan (Tom Weston-Jones) wanted their independence, thus plunging the country into civil war. The Second Army loyal to the king was led by General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), also called the Darkling, for his ability to summon shadows. 

There were two orphans who had sworn to each other since childhood that they would be friends forever. They were Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a half-Shu mapmaker, and Malyen "Mal" Oretsev (Archie Renaux), a tracker in the First Army. However, the two were forcibly separated when Alina was discovered to possess a rare ability as a Sun Summoner, and was taken to the Little Palace to be trained by Baghra (Zoe Wanamaker). 

There were also a complicating subplot about the enterprising mercenaries for hire, the Crows, composed of their leader Kaz (Freddy Carter), the wraith-like Inej (Amita Suman) and the sharpshooting Jesper (Kit Young). They hired the Conductor Arken Visser (Howard Charles) to get them through the Fold. There was a further subplot about Grisha heartrender Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and her Fjerdan Druskelle captor Matthias (Calahan Skogman), a pair whom I actually found more interesting than the main couple.

Because of this complicated world building, it was not easy to get into "Shadow and Bone" for those who have not yet read the young adult novels "Shadow and Bone" (2012) and "Six of Crows" (2015), written by Leigh Bardugo. The first episode could already be a deal breaker for a lot of viewers who are not patient enough to sit through the all the intersecting new details and multitude of new characters being introduced at every scene. You can guess why this review only came out two weeks after it debuted on Netflix. 

But for those who do decide to give the second episode a chance, the charisma of Ben Barnes as General Kirigan should be enough reason to stick through the whole series above and beyond its lavish Tsarist Russian-inspired production and costume design and special visual effects. It was his character that glued all the various aspects of this new world together into one cohesive story that eventually became more engaging with each episode, right up to that final battle on the ship sailing within the Fold itself. 7/10. 

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