Another one bites the dust, and I’m not sure why I’m surprised. Netflix has a history of canceling shows early, so this week’s news that The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself would not be getting a second season is par for the course at this point. A queer show that Netflix failed to promote, canceled? We’ve heard this song before.
It took me a while to watch The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself (our Editor-in-Chief Allyson Johnson basically bullied me into it). Though the show came out back in October, I only heard about it from her. There was no promotion that I could remember seeing, so two months (two months!) went by before I sat down and watched it. That’s not actually a lot of time. But Netflix’s model relies on initial streaming numbers and other metrics to decide what moves forward or not. It’s a bad model for TV.
People come to shows at their own pace. Part of what’s great about any piece of media is the word of mouth that follows the cult classics; watching a film or TV show years after it premiered doesn’t diminish its quality. Think about the shows that hit their prime a few seasons in—if Netflix continues with this release model without promoting their shows, we’re gonna lose a lot of series before they ever have a chance. This is especially disheartening to see when it comes to queer media. Shows featuring LGBTQ leads—especially Black and other people of color leads—are often the first on the chopping block. First Kill, a lesbian vampire show, also was canceled by Netflix this year after its first season. According to the show’s creator, Netflix’s marketing was to blame.
The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself is based on the Half Bad trilogy by Sally Green, brought to life in television form by Joe Barton, and follows Nathan Bryne (Jay Lycurgo) as he navigates growing up caught between two warring witch lines, the Fairborns and the Blood Witches. Nathan’s also the son of one of the most powerful Blood Witches to exist, Marcus Edge (David Gyasi). The Fairborns hate Marcus, so therefore they hate Nathan. Nathan’s half-sister Jessica (Isobel Jesper Jones) especially hates Nathan for being the reason their mother is dead, although it becomes pretty clear she’s driven by extreme prejudice and racism. Throughout the first season, Nathan goes on a journey to discover himself and save his own life, gathering friends like Fairborn Witch Annalise (Nadia Parkes) and Blood Witch Gabriel (Emilien Vekemans) along the way.
The show’s CGI and special effects are fantastic; it’s spectacularly gory and the witches’ powers are all unique—especially Annalise’s—and the lore of the show presents itself organically throughout the season. However, the show’s main draw is the dynamic between Nathan, Annalise, and Gabriel. Nathan and Annalise have an immediate connection in Episode 1 despite Annalise’s father being the head of the Fairborn council of hunters. Gabriel makes his appearance in Episode 3, fitting right in with Nathan and Annalise. Even as Nathan and Gabriel grow closer each episode, the show never takes the easy love-triangle route. Instead, the trio’s connection is more of a poly relationship, with Nathan and Annalise both saying “I love you both” in the season’s finale. There’s evidence of both romantic and queerplatonic feelings between the three, the latter not often represented on screen.
In The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself, characters actually talk to each other, which strengthens our understanding of them as individuals and their relationships with each other. Though the show’s events only take place over a few days after the three meets, their chemistry with each other is as authentic as it gets. No time is wasted on jealousy. It’s so refreshing to see. There’s a wholesomeness to The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself—the three main characters lead with such empathy that despite the horror they witness their love for each other is clear as day. You’ll be rooting for them the second you meet them.
One of the core tenets of the show is based on a Lord of the Rings theory Nathan has: the bad times are the good times. In other words, it’s the journey that matters most. We got ten episodes of Nathan, Gabriel, and Annalise. They deserved more. And even though I’ll be bitter about this cancellation for a while, Nathan’s right: the bad times are the good times because at least one season with Lycurgo, Vekemans, and Parkes together as Nathan, Gabriel, and Annalise exists. We’ll take it.
Feature image courtesy of Netflix