THE BASTARD SON & THE DEVIL HIMSELF
Not Half Bad
UK/US Netflix, streaming now Showrunner Joe Barton
Cast Jay Lycurgo, Nadia Parkes,
Emilien Vekemans, Paul Ready
Lumbered with a clumsy name for its Netflix debut, this adaptation of Half Bad – Sally Green’s somewhat more daintily titled YA novel – is a bit of a revelation. Ostensibly it’s nothing more than a tale of witches fighting witches featuring all the classic genre tropes: teenagers about to come into their powers; school bullies; young love; even a blood-soaked prophecy. But The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is different, because by heck, it’s violent. One witch’s spell in particular, that debuts in episode three, is so unapologetically gory it turns the entire show on its head from then onwards.
In the middle of all the gore is Nathan (Jay Lycurgo, excellent), the abandoned son of a murderous Blood Witch, and possibly the only person who can take him down. When his fellow British witches cook up a plot to force him towards murder, Nathan goes on the run to Europe, teaming up with Annalise (Nadia Parkes, also excellent) and French witch Gabriel (Emilien Vekemans, equally brilliant).
At times this feels like a chilly Scandi drama; then it’s grown-up Harry Potter; then it’s a monster flick (showrunner Joe Barton is currently working on a new Cloverfield movie). The only thing that lets it down is Nathan’s wicked sister: despite a fine performance from Isobel Jesper Jones, she’s so clunkily one-note Evil that she’s a plot device, not a person. Otherwise, this is an unflinching, grue-filled delight with a rather adorable love triangle at its heart. Jayne Nelson
The Fairborn witches’ name was inspired by the Fairbairn-sykes fighting knife, which Green modelled a blade on.