Review: Shadow and Bone 2021 TV Series
One of the things I’ve always wondered about the different streaming services is how they decide the number of episodes to make for each season of a given series. If you look around, you’ll see the numbers range between six to thirteen episodes, but the majority are either eight or ten. Of course, while every fan wants more episodes of their favorite series, from a network perspective, you always want to provide enough story for a great season but leave the viewer wanting more.
So last year, before the pandemic shut down the world, I had this question in my when when I got to visit the set of Netflix’s upcoming fantasy series Shadow and Bone while it was filming in Budapest. While I’ve been able to visit the sets of a number of movies and series when they’ve been shooting during my time at Collider, one of the things I took away from the set of Shadow and Bone was how hard everyone was working to bring author Leigh Bardugo’s world to life. Not only was the production employing hundreds of extras in big crowd scenes, they had built massive practical sets to bring the city of Ketterdam to life and crafted elaborate costumes for the diverse cast of characters. I walked away thinking Shadow and Bone could be a very cool series.
One of the main reasons I have faith in Shadow and Bone is showrunner Eric Heisserer. While you might not know his name, he’s the screenwriter behind Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, and a big fan of the book series.
During a break in filming, I got to participate in a group interview with Heisserer. While he provided a lot of information about how the series was made, one of the things I wanted to know was why the first season of Shadow and Bone was eight episodes and not ten, especially since it’s based on a book series with numerous characters and storylines that are ripe for exploration. And his answer surprised me.
He told me he designed the first season as ten episodes, but he packed everything into eight episodes for budgetary reasons:
“It was like, you can absolutely do 10, [but] you’re going to get the same amount of money. So, do you want to spend more and get better production value if you do with eight? And my answer was yes. Yeah, I do. Because we got a lot of really big world building to do.”
Of course if the first season of Shadow and Bone is a huge hit for Netflix, I could easily see the streamer giving the production more money for the second season and possibly extending the season to ten episodes. But for now, the first season is eight episodes with high production value.
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The thing about Netflix is they have access to a tremendous amount of user information and they use it to craft their business decisions. I’ll bet they have seen data that shows more people will watch series that are eight episodes over shows with longer seasons. Keep in mind the initial run of Marvel Netflix series were thirteen episodes per season, but that’s now far from the norm.
If you’re not familiar with Shadow and Bone, it’s based on the worldwide bestselling book series by author Leigh Bardugo. Unlike the book it is based on, the series actually combines two of Bardugo’s book series – the fantasy-adventure trilogy Shadow and Bone and the duology Six of Crows, which chronologically takes place after the events of Shadow and Bone despite being set in the same world. Heisserer said that in order to make this work they essentially invented prequel stories for the key Six of Crows characters this season — Kaz, Inej, and Jesper — to fit alongside what is happening in the Shadow and Bone storyline.
The series takes place in a war-torn world where a lowly soldier and orphan named Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) accidentally unleashes an extraordinary power that’s been residing in her that could help save her land and set her country free. What you also need to know about Shadow and Bone is this world has magical soldiers known as Grisha that have different powers, and a massive black cloud (known as the Shadow Fold) that runs hundreds of miles north and south that is extremely dangerous to cross due to the creatures inside. While you can attempt to cross, it’s like playing roulette with your life. Shadow and Bone was produced by Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps Entertainment and also stars Ben Barnes (General Kirigan), Archie Renaux (Malyen Oretsev), Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa), Kit Young (Jesper Fahey), Sujaya Dasgupta (Zoya Nazyalensky), Julian Kostov (Fedyor Kaminsky) and Danielle Galligan (Nina Zenik).
Shadow and Bone arrives on Netflix on April 23. Look for more from our set visit soon.