Saturday 22 October 2022

Netflix's The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself - Season 1 (Based on Sally's Green's Half Bad Trilogy) ★★★★★

Nadia Parkes is Annalise, Jay Lycurgo is Nathan and Emilien Vekemans is Gabriel in Netflix's The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

The problem with reviewing television shows before they release is that there is a point in time where you're not even allowed to talk about them. All I could do after finishing episode six of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself was post a vague quote tweet of the Netflix promo, saying 'this is everything'. Because this show is everything. Based on the Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green, The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself lands on Netflix on 28 October 2022. I think fans of the books are going to like this adaption a lot but so will viewers unfamiliar with the series.

About The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

In modern-day Europe, two warring factions of witches live amongst humans. The Fairborn witches have power in England after expelling most of their rivals, the Blood witches, to mainland Europe. Wanted by no one and hated by all, sixteen-year-old Nathan Byrne (Jay Lycurgo, The Batman) lives with his grandmother and half-sister in England. He is the illegitimate son of a Fairborn mother and Marcus Edge, the most notorious, violent Blood witch in history. The Fairborn Council is terrified that Nathan will follow in his father's footsteps and Nathan is monitored constantly.

How Are You Sleeping At Night?
Do You Ever Have Violent Dreams
Do You Have Fantasies About Hurting People?
Do You Find Yourself Getting Quick To Anger?
Do You Ever Have Negative Feelings About Other Witches?
If You Listen Carefully Can You Hear My Heartbeat?

Nathan is fast approaching his seventeenth birthday when he will receive three gifts and drink the blood of a family member, as all must witches do, in order to develop his true witch power. The only problem is that Nathan is running out of family members and his options are similarly diminishing after certain instigators manage to provoke his anger. Armed only with his friendship with Fairborn witch Annalise (Nadia Parkes, Domina) and the mysterious Blood witch Gabriel (Emilien Vekemans, Transferts), Nathan will have to outrun those who would destroy him and learn that sometimes the worst times are the best times, and that good and bad depend on what you do, not who you are.

The Cast

Characters We Love

Jay Lycurgo is Nathan Byrne

Nadia Parkes is Annalise and Jay Lycurgo is Nathan in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

It is impossible not to like Nathan in the books, he does narrate them after all, but we grow to love him in the series as he grows from a cheeky, irreverent child into a defiant and determined teen. We watch as his innocence is eroded by the irrational, zealous hatred directed at him yet still he struggles to hold on to his humanity. He's not even safe at home and is constantly targeted by his own sister, Jessica. We'll get to her later. The casting for Jay Lycurgo was spot on and his performance is superb. There wasn't a single moment when I wasn't completely invested in Jay as Nathan.

Emilien Vekemans is Gabriel

Emilien Vekemans is Gabriel in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

I loved Gabriel in the Half Bad trilogy but nothing could have prepared me for much I loved every minute he was on screen in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself. Emilien Vekemans is perfect as Gabriel, as is Charles Nicol as Young Gabriel. Gabriel is funny and sarcastic but don't underestimate him because beneath that beautiful, ultra-cool exterior lies one of the most complex, loyal characters ever written. I cannot wait to see where the rest of the series takes Gabriel.

Those We Hate

Isobel Jesper Jones is Jessica

Isobel Jesper Jones is Jessica in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Hate is a strong word, I wonder if there are any stronger words I can use to describe Nathan's sister, Jessica? Jessica is a study in psychopathy, the most despicable character ever seen on screen. Isobel Jesper Jones does a fantastic job as Jessica in her professional debut. I've genuinely never hated a character this much; every moment on screen, every decision, every facial expression, Jessica is horrible and irredeemable and someone needs to put her down.

Paul Ready is Soul

Paul Reddy is Soul in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Soul is a Hunter, leader of the Fairborn Council Protection Unit and father of Annalise and Niall. He is also utterly bereft of any moral compass whatsoever, except that which points him in the most dastardly direction. It's difficult to describe how good Paul Ready is as Soul but he absolutely captures his weak-mindedness and blind ambition, making me want to reach through the screen and strangle him myself.

There is one other character who I hated but I fear that to mention them by name would be too much of a spoiler. Suffice to say, I'll have an entire section dedicated to them next season.

Those Who Surprise Us

Karen Connell is Ceelia

Theo Mason is Young Nathan and Karen Connell is Ceelia in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Ceelia is one of the Fairborn witches who discover Nathan and Jessica on the day their mother is murdered. She is the one who monitors Nathan throughout his childhood and the one who keeps him in an outdoor cage when he is removed from his home. Ceelia is written with incredible depth in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself, adding so much more to her than we saw in Half Bad. It was surprising and devastating. Karen Connell gives a nuanced performance, saying more in her facial expressions and gestures than would ever need to be spoken in words. I didn't much notice Ceelia in the books but she will go down as one of my favourite characters in the series, if not ever.

Nadia Parkes is Annalise

Nadia Parkes is Annalise and Jay Lycurgo is Nathan in The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself

Another very surprising character is Annalise, Nathan’s best friend and sometimes girlfriend. She exists mostly in the past tense in the first book, Half Bad, on which season 1 is based, but she is central to the story in the series. It was impossible not to notice from the very first episode how good of an actress Nadia Parkes is and how well she portrayed Annalise. Like Gabriel, I'm excited to see where the rest of the series will take Annalise and how her storyline will progress.

The Writing: From Page to Screen

The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself is one of the best page-to-screen adaptions I've seen in years. Joe Barton is the principal writer along with Ryan J Brown, Helen Kingston and Emer Kenny.

The writers made a lot of changes in the story but that is to be expected given the glacial pace at which the story moved in Half Bad. The effect was that we got to see a lot of new characters and more depth to the characters we did know than we saw in Half Bad. Sadly, that also opens viewers up to falling in love with characters they didn't expect to fall for and having their hearts destroyed by merciless writers.

There was a brief moment in the first episode where I thought that perhaps the series wasn't going to be as dark or grim as the books but I was swiftly disabused of that notion.

My favourite episodes were two of the most devastating ones: episode 6, written by Helen Kingston and episode 7, written by Emer Kenny. There will be no spoilers in this review but these two episodes represented the very best of television and its power to make you feel every emotion possible, from desolation to joy to astonishment. Yes, there was a fair bit of screaming at television screens going on.

Episode 7 also includes the best line in television history:

Ceelia: F*ck you, Robin Hood, and your merry band of c*nts

Oh, did I mention that The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself has a lot of swearing in?

As the first season neared its heart-stopping conclusion, the stakes became ever higher and the stress of it all became palpable. Never before have I wished for an ad break just so that I could calm my heart from beating out of my chest; just thinking back on it is causing palpitations.

Cinematography, Locations and Music

As is to be expected from Netflix and production company The Imaginarium, The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself is beautiful to watch. The story moves across England from the suburbs to the City of London to the countryside Up North, before moving to Paris and the French Alps. There are bursts of psychedelic colour, panoramic vistas and scenes so gory that you might need to pause for a moment to compose yourself.

The series is accompanied throughout by an excellent score by British pop group Let's Eat Grandma and also includes great song placements. I really hope they release both the score and soundtrack for this show, because both were brilliant.


The Map in Netflix's The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself
I'd like to say I loved every minute of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself but unfortunately I spent too much of it being devastated and having my heart broken into tiny pieces. I also spent a not-insignificant amount of time crying during the final episode. I will say that it's probably my favourite show to debut on Netflix this year and directors Colm McCarthy, Rachna Suri and Debs Paterson did a great job bringing this to life. I give it an excellent five out of five stars and recommend to fans of NOS4A2, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Shadow & Bone and Fate: The Winx Saga or any fans of witches, horror and urban fantasy.

The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself launches on Netflix on 28 October 2022

The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself - Trailer


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