Shadow gives us nothing new but hits all the items on the superhero series checklist. Totally off the shelf and utterly forgettable.
It seems as though you can’t leave the house at the moment without stumbling into a muted and ‘realistic’ portrayal of a superhero. No sooner have Netflix announced their plans to cancel their slate of Marvel shows than they have a brand-new knock off ready to go straight from the production line.
So, what does exactly does Shadow bring to this overstuffed sub-genre of programming? The answer: not much. After being struck by lightning, Shadow, played by Pallance Dladla (Avenged, Hard to Get) suffered nerve damage, meaning that he does not feel pain. This gives him an edge when dealing with some of the more unsavory parts of South African society. Frustrated by the bureaucracy of the police he sets up as a sort of fixer, taking on cases on behalf of the downtrodden and fighting for the little man. If this sounds like a sort of cross between Luke Cage and The Punisher, that’s because it is; and it suffers in comparison (you could say it’s in their shadow…geddit?!).
All the tropes are there. Haunted hero, cliched rogues’ gallery, newspaper clippings taped to the wall in place of exposition, the buddy in law enforcement that chips in with helpful tips and intel along the way. It feels as though the producers may have purchased a copy of ‘Superhero Series for Dummies’ and followed each of the steps in the how-to guide. The writing is very standard and the characters are all pretty identikit. The villains, in particular, all play as though they have been hired from the nearest branch of ‘Bad Guys R Us’, each of them coming with a pantomime ‘boo, hiss…’.
To be fair, Shadow does not have the budget or the star power of its Marvel cousins and it does seem to try and strike a lighter tone, especially next to the perpetually grim Punisher. However, the series does seem to be struggling to get the right balance; some of the episodes feel quite bloodless almost to the point where the fight sequences feel inconsequential, whilst others swing wildly in the direction of gory.
Shadow bears the distinction of being the first South African original series from Netflix, so it may well find its audience at home but without bringing anything new to the table it’s unlikely to break new ground. Personally, I’d rather just watch The Punisher again.
Andy joined the Ready Steady Cut team in October 2018. A Graduate of Exeter University, he writes mainly about films and TV.