Hi everybody, and welcome to a new Something Different Sunday, on which I talk about… well something different from books.
Today I want to talk (okay, maybe rave is a better description) about Half Bad: The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself. This is a show that crept up on me. I hadn’t heard anything about it, until I randomly came across a Twitter post from someone who hyped it up for its queer romance. I looked up the synopsis and thought “Well, this sounds like something I’d like. Hey, actually, it sounds really familiar. No seriously, I’ve heard these names before…” Cue a little more research and turns out… This show is actually an adaptation of the Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green, which was only one of my FAVORITE BOOK SERIES from way back in 2015-2016…
Now at the time, this show was being promoted without the Half Bad in the title, just The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself, so you can understand my confusion, but still, THIS SHOW DESERVES MORE HYPE AND PROMOTION! I watched it on Netflix without having any high expectations, and it blew me away. And it’s not just me, because at the time I’m writing this, it has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes by critics, and 91% fresh rating by audiences. This show is amazing in so many ways. And I’d hate to see it miss out on the chance of a second season because it’s not being promoted as much as it could be, because that would be such a pity.
So without further ado, I’d be happy to promote this show to my own full extent with a rave review 🙂 Let’s dive right in!
What it’s about:
In a world where there are two different types of witches who are at war with one another (Fairborne witches and Blood witches), sixteen-year-old Nathan (Jay Lycurgo) is the illegitimate son of the world’s most dangerous Blood witch, known for a Fairborne witch massacre. Fearing he will follow in his father’s footsteps, Nathan is closely monitored throughout his childhood by the Fairborne council.
However, soon it becomes unclear which side is actually the ‘good side’, and Nathan is forced on a dangerous journey for help and answers, together with Annalise, the mischievous daughter of the Fairborne lead hunter, and Gabriel, a charismatic alchemist sent to help him.
Why I loved it :
The Thoughtful Insights and Depth of the Story
At first glance, this story may seem a bit ‘been there, done that’. A YA fantasy featuring magical beings living amongst regular humans and a war between two sides? To be fair, it does sound like so many other stories out there. But I honestly feel like this show stands out from the rest. There is just so much depth to the story. It’s a story about good and evil and how sometimes the difference can just be a matter of perception. It’s a story about family and legacy – are we doomed to follow in our parents’ footsteps or are we free to make our own path in the world? And what happens to you when you constantly have to face prejudice and hatred, solely based on who you are and who your parents are? Though it’s set in a fantasy world, the parallels to the struggles in our society today are painfully strong and this only adds to the strength of the story.
The Bastard Son Himself, Sass and All
Jay Lycurgo is a perfect Nathan. If you’ve read the books, you may recall Nathan as all doom and gloom (understandably so, given his situation), but Jay’s Nathan has some lightness in him to battle the dark. His upbringing has been tough as he’s had to deal with prejudice all of his life so yes, there is a darkness in him, but there’s still enough normal in his life to bring out his sassy, sarcastic side and it is a delight. Jay plays this balance so well. From the very first episode, you not only feel empathetic for Nathan, but you also wish he could be your friend.
The Queer Romance
I’m not gonna lie, I’m a hopeless romantic, so OF COURSE the romance is a big part of what I love about any show, but I especially love the fresh take this show is taking when it comes to romance. It’s a queer romance, as our main character Nathan is bisexual. The first and arguably main romance we come across is when Nathan meets Annalise. Annalise is the daughter of the lead hunter of the Fairborne council and as such explicitly forbidden to interact with Nathan in any way. Of course, Annalise is awesome and kind so that doesn’t stop her from befriending Nathan and soon that friendship becomes something more.
But things start to shift when Gabriel comes into the picture. Gabriel is someone who has been sent to help Nathan and so he joins Nathan and Annalise on their journey. The three spend a lot of time together and Gabriel is soon also drawn to Nathan. And Nathan is drawn to Gabriel as well (because who wouldn’t?).
Book readers probably already know which ship is endgame in the source material, but while I loved the book romance, I’m ADORING the way the show handles the romance between these three. There is a sexual tension between all three main characters and this gives everything such a fluidity and ambiguity that is very fresh and unique.
Honestly, if this show continues, I’d be content with whatever way they want to play it. I’m loving Nathan and Annalise, I’m loving Nathan and Gabriel and I’m loving the three of them together. #sorrynotsorry
My Fave Alchemist Gabriel
I just need a minute to rave about Gabriel, because I may have a teensy tiny crush on this French alchemist. Maybe it’s because Gabriel is just an amazing character: he’s a capable witch, he’s very charismatic and mysterious and he has a sass to him that reminded me of other favorite fictional characters of mine, like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crowley from Good Omens and Klaus from Umbrella Academy. And yet, he’s also very uniquely Gabriel. He has a painful past we slowly get to unravel and he feels way more deeply than he lets on.
And honestly, maybe it also has a tiny bit to do with the fact that Emilien Vekemans, the actor playing Gabriel is from Brussels and I was born in Brussels so I am a bit biased….
Ceelia and Annalise: Powerful Witches
I have raved about Nathan and Gabriel, but honestly the female characters are just as badass and amazing. We have of course Annalise, part of our main trio and love interest. While I wasn’t a big fan of Annalise in the books because she felt a bit like a Mary Sue character at times, I LOVE her in the show. Nadia Parkes makes you fall in love with this kind and mischievous girl who sees beyond labels and fear to the person underneath. She’s really so much more than just a typical love interest. She’s a multi-dimensional character with her own character journey and though it’s heartbreaking and painful, she handles it all with such maturity. Really, it’s impossible not to like Annalise.
And while not a part of the main trio, I also fell in love with the character of Ceelia. Ceelia’s a Fairborne witch, employed by the Fairborne council to keep an eye on Nathan. She’s known him since he was a little kid, and though she comes across as cold and distant at first, you can see that even she’s not immune to Nathan’s charm. While she fully believes that Blood witches are inherently evil in the beginning, she grows to see that maybe it’s not all so clearly defined as good and evil. Also, she’s just so incredibly badass, like I’d want her on my team for sure!
Gore, But In A Fitting and Artful Way
Look, I’m not into gore. And this show has a lot of gore. But I have to say, this show takes gore to a new level. It’s gore, but pretty gore, if that makes sense? For example, there is one witch power that involves taking things apart. Including humans. But visually, it looks rather artful instead of just gross. Look, there’s no way I can explain this properly because you’ll have to see for yourself. Prepare for gore, but even if you’re not into that, give it a chance…
A Villain You’ll Love to Hate
I’m not gonna spoil the actual big bad of the season, but what I can say is prepare to LOATHE the character of Jessica. Jessica is Nathan’s half sister, but there’s no love lost there. Jessica’s had to deal with prejudice all of her life too, but instead of taking it in stride and standing by her brother, she deals with it by blaming Nathan and becoming meaner than anyone could ever be to her. I may have empathized with her for about 30 seconds, but the rest of the series I just hated her with the passion of a thousand suns. She’s so cruel and delights in it and really, kudos to the actress, Isobel Jesper Jones, because she did an amazing job in portraying such a despicable character.
Half Bad: The Bastard Son and the Devil Himself is a hidden gem in the fantasy genre. It’s an adaptation with an incredibly fresh, timely and unique take on the original source material. It doesn’t happen often that I like an adaptation more than the original, but it happened here! It’s a rollercoaster adventure full of magic and cool powers, but also a deep dive into important issues like perception and prejudice, family and legacy. The acting is on point and all characters feel like real, multi-dimensional people with their own journey and development throughout the story. The chemistry between the three main leads is absolutely exquisite and the romance is an absolute delight. Oh, and the music is pretty amazing too. Really, I can’t think of a single downside to this adaptation, except maybe the lack of promotion. Please go watch it on Netflix and let’s keep our fingers crossed we’ll get a season 2!
Watch the trailer
Have you watched Half Bad: The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself already? If so, did you like it?
If you have not yet watched it, do you think you’d like it?
Fantastic review. I’ve been seeing so many people in the bookish community raving about this show and how underrated it is, so it was already on my radar because of that. However, you’ve definitely made me want to give it a try even more than before because everything about it just sounds SO good! And yas, we love a poly romance! I hope that it leads in that direction! 😂
Thanks so much Dini! I hope you’ll love it just as much if you decide to give it a try! It really is such an underrated gem. And yes, a poly romance would indeed be welcome, haha 🙂