A star rating of 3 out of 5.

Joe Barton may be the UK’s most eclectic writer. His last project was the time-bending sci-fi moral maze The Lazarus Project and the one before was the international crime drama Giri/Haji and now his new show for Netflix – The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself – is a fantasy epic based on a young adult series of novels from Sally Green. Never one to be restrained by genre conventions, Barton imbues the show with a darkly British sense of humour, a suitably bloody approach to its violence and the kind of character building that has made him one of TV’s most sought-after writers.

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"She ends up shagging Ron," says the series’ 16-year-old hero Nathan in the first episode, which rather sums up the mischievous tone The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself takes towards its high fantasy material which definitely pushes it towards the adult side of young adult. Evidently, Harry Potter is no sacred cow here but the show does take a tried and tested formula to its plotting. As with many of these things, there’s a clear dichotomy between good and evil and in The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself’s case it’s between fairborn witches (good) and blood witches (bad).

Nathan could go either way but as witches in this universe don’t get their power until they turn 17, the powers that be are keeping close watch over him. And in their eyes, it’s for good reason. His father (played the reliably charismatic David Gyasi) is the most feared witch in all of mankind so the witch council keep Nathan under constant monitoring to track signs of him breaking bad. This is done through a monthly sort of therapy session that sees the cocksure teenager questioned about his thoughts, feelings and ability to hear the heartbeat of others.

The sins of the father linger large over Nathan through the opening episodes as Barton’s script explores the trappings of parentage and the reductiveness of pre-determinism. His experience and background in more 'adult' fare than a teen witch series gives The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself an edginess (as seen in the title) that distinguishes it from the herd of fantasy TV series awash streaming right now.

While the tone does wobble as it flits between contemporary humour and fantastical dialogue – particularly in comparison to the more deftly toned The Lazarus Project – The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is anchored by the superb Jay Lycurgo in his first lead role after a series of supporting performances in Titans, I May Destroy You and Cheaters. Weighed with maintaining a youthful vulnerability while having to carry himself with the threat of a boy who is the spawn of the devil, Lycurgo is equally deft at navigating the complications of burgeoning adulthood and carrying some of the sillier, fantasy-heavy parts of the show with gravitas. It’s a star-making performance from the young man.

The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself
Nadia Parkes and Jay Lycurgo in The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself Netflix

In the post-Harry Potter world, there have been no shortage of young adult fantasy adaptations on both the big and small screen, a trend that has only accelerated in the years since Game of Thrones became a cultural phenomenon. The big streamers alone have churned out The Wheel of Time, Carnival Row, The Witcher and Shadow and Bone in recent years while Sky have produced the similarly themed A Discovery of Witches. The one The Bastard Son and the Devil himself sits closest to is Shadow and Bone – also from Netflix – in that fairly cliched young adult fantasy tropes are elevated by some snappy writing by an excellent scribe and a well cast group of likeable actors.

It would be fair to jump to conclusions and say there is no need for another fantasy show about young people finding their way in the world but Barton pops his scripts with enough snappy dialogue and well-plotted mechanisms to keep everything fresh enough to stand out from the hegemony.

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The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself lands on Netflix on Friday 28th October – read our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix.

Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Buy the Half Bad novel from Amazon now. For more to watch, check out our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Fantasy hub.

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