By Cheyla Ramirez Crawford and Yuxin Waitkus-Tsang
*MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
Ben Barnes and Jessie Mei Li as the Darkling and Alina Starkov. Courtesy of Netflix
If you have opened Netflix at any point in the past month or so, scrolled through TikTok, or have talked to friends, you have inevitably heard of the hit show Shadow and Bone. The show, which contains 8 episodes released on April 23, is based on author Leigh Bardugo’s book series of the same name as well as provides us with a backstory for her other series, Six of Crows. With a very diverse cast starring Jessie Mei Li, (who is a national treasure), the show’s groundbreaking special effects and inclusivity are a major leap towards a more promising future for the film industry.
S&B follows Alina Starkov’s (Jessie Me Li) journey as Sun Summoner and the exploration of her newfound powers. With the assistance of the Darkling, Genya, and other Grisha, Alina’s life suddenly changes course to revolve around the sole goal of tearing down the Fold. The Fold, which is a dark void in the middle of Ravka, splitting the country in two, filled with dangerous creatures was created by the Darkling’s ancestor, the Black Heretic. From being an orphan to a powerful Grisha manipulator of the small science, she finds the strength within herself to embrace her role as Sankta Alina. However, as her training commences and she grows increasingly distant from her best friend Mal, she soon discovers the truth that will change the course of her life forever.
The show also touches on the Crows, the main characters of the Six of Crows duology. This storyline follows Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, as they attempt to capture Alina Starkov for one million kruge, the currency of Kerch. The thieves journey across the Fold, but everything they could possibly think of goes wrong, and the Crows find themselves in an impossible situation and in the company of Milo the goat, who, you guessed it, is an actual goat. Shadow and Bone also touches upon Nina and Matthias, who, while not connected to the Crow Club just yet, play a key role in the books. Nina is Grisha, while Matthias is a Druskelle, a Grisha Hunter. Trapped together in the cold of Fjerda, the only way to survive is together, despite being enemies and complete opposites.
Various scenes throughout the show. Courtesy of Netflix
The casting of characters in S&B is absolutely perfect. We could write a whole article just on Jessie Mei Li, (who uses she/they pronouns), but for now, a paragraph will have to do. As a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent, biracial person of color, she has made a lot of people finally feel seen and represented in major television, and she is an amazing actor, not to mention an amazing person as well. Jessie Mei Li portrays Alina perfectly, and the same goes for Ben Barnes, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, and Archie Renaux, along with the rest of the cast. While watching S&B, the characters come to life, channeling the personalities described in the books and capturing the hearts of people across the world.
In real life, where there are no monstrous Volcra or bulletproof Keftas, Shadow and Bone has fostered amazing friendships and a dedicated fanbase. (Cough, us, cough). As a matter of fact, this fanbase has become so invested that S&B’s social media account has over 400,000 followers. The viewers of Shadow and Bone have gotten to experience behind-the-scenes photos and videos of the cast, and loads of fun they had during the production of the show. In the two weeks following the show’s premiere, it had just a little less than 1.2 billion minutes of viewing. Its popularity comes as no surprise, as the books were a huge success. The show itself deserves recognition for setting a new standard for diversity and inclusivity, since the sad fact is that Hollywood constantly whitewashes and downplays the racism within the industry.
There are approximately 8 hours of phenomenal storytelling, and once you enter the Shadow and Bone universe, it’s difficult to escape. Your eyes will be glued to the screen after episode one, so make sure you are equipped for bingeing the show until 2:00 AM. Watching this show will make you desperately wish the Grishaverse was real, and only become more excited for a second season. Whether it be waffles, a very cute goat, or a love triangle that has divided Twitter, this show will make you attempt to do crazy Grisha moves in your living room and obsess over the cast’s tight bond and Jessie Mei Li on Instagram.