The premiere sets up a lot of the usual fantasy tropes but puts them through a darker, more daring filter, and charismatic performances help to give the opening of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself a distinct vibe.
This recap of The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.
The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself has one of the most arresting openings of any show in quite some time. In it, a man and a woman, exchanging scarcely a word between them, turn up at a house in the middle of nowhere ringed by police. When they’re denied entry, the man blows a yellow powder in the face of the cops and instructs them to leave; they suddenly obey. The woman places a hand on the door, which freezes it, bringing the whole thing crashing down in icy splinters. Inside is a saucepan full of some mysterious substance crackling over the open fire, sending particles spiraling through the air, and a baby. In one of the congratulations cards sent to the parents of the newborn are written the words, “Kill it.”
The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself episode 1 recap
The child is taken away and placed with a grandmother under the laws of the Council of Fairborn Witches, one of two types of witch — the other being Blood Witches, which doesn’t sound all that promising — until such time as he becomes a threat, which is discussed as though it’s an inevitability. There’s mention of a war that is supposed to be over, and fear, which everyone seems to feel for the kid, due presumably to his parentage.
“Gran” raises the kid as Nathan Byrne, which is what his mother supposedly intended to call him. The premiere cycles through time quickly. As the kid gets older he begins to ask important audience-surrogate questions for Gran to answer. Those who aren’t witches in this world are called fains. According to Nathan’s sister — who seems awful, by the way — everyone is scared of him because his father was a notorious heart-eating murderous Blood Witch, one of the nastiest ever, and she claims that when Nathan was born, his mother killed herself in terror of the monster she had sired. Lovely!
Nathan grows up into a charming, sarcastic young man, taking the mandatory interviews with the Council, who always ask the same questions — “Are you quick to anger?”, “Do you have negative feelings towards other witches?”, “Can you hear my heartbeat?” — less and less seriously. He masquerades as a typical high school student, but he isn’t. The show gets creative with its exposition by having a drunk Nathan reel it off to his friends at a Halloween party. Apparently, witches develop their powers at 17, receive three gifts, and drink their family’s blood. It seems like he’s making an on-brand excuse for why his friends never visit his caravan, but a new girl, Annalise, knows he’s telling the truth since she’s a Fairborn. And not only that, but her father is in charge of the Council’s hunters. She’s not supposed to talk to Nathan, obviously.
But, of course, she does, and they begin a flirtatious relationship, much to the chagrin of Annalise’s brother and cousin (the whole family has suddenly moved into the area for her “dad’s work”, which means they’re there to keep an eye on Nathan). But in the immediate, they seem much less of a threat than Nathan’s sister Jessica does. After going through her “Giving Ceremony”, where she drinks Gran’s blood, she discovers her power is shapeshifting — and she uses it to impersonate Nathan’s mum and tell him that he killed her. Gran is disgusted. Nathan is upset. When he runs into Annalise’s brother shortly after, he has much less tolerance for his insults and lays him out with a headbutt, which immediately attracts the attention of the Council.
Nathan is taken to a recreation of the home of Rita and Frank Applewood, where he’s introduced to Reutger Sillwood, head of the Council, and Soul O’Brien, Executive Administrator of the Fairborn Council Protection Unit — Annalise’s dad. The meeting is intended to explain to Nathan the severity of Blood Witch violence, and the way it’s put across is through the recreation, which shows the murder of Rita and Frank through the objects that magic was cast upon. Since their bodies were never found, they’re not present in the scene — it’s a clever hodgepodge of floating groceries, splattering blood, levitating hearts and crunchy sound effects as Nathan listens to what we’re to assume is his father killing them both. Soul explains that Frank was one of The Ten, sitting Council members all sworn to find and punish Nathan’s father for the Wolfhagen Peace Massacre. Nine of the Ten are now dead, and Reutger is the last. She lays out the stakes. When Nathan turns 17, he could become yet another Fairborn witch. Or he could become his father’s son.
That seems a likely outcome. When Nathan gets closer to Annalise, they kiss, and he hears her heartbeat. In his next monthly Council check-up, the cautionary cut on his wrist — Blood Witches heal much faster, apparently — closes almost instantly. The next day, Jessica shapeshifts into Annalise, luring Nathan into the woods so Niall can cosh him over the head. They intend to prove he’s “his father’s son”, so Niall opens a cut on his face which seals right back up. Case closed. But Jessica wants him to do it again. In the ensuing scuffle, Niall accidentally stabs Nathan. Only after he begs while bleeding out does Jessica bother to go and tell Gran, who comes to heal him with her own magic.
When he comes to, Nathan heads to school, still covered in blood, and beats Niall half to death in front of everyone, the sound of heartbeats — his own, Niall’s — ringing in his ears. Gran knows that the Council is going to come for him, so she reluctantly helps him summon the help of a witch named Mercury, who can apparently help. Gran channels her into her own body — their irises share space in her eye in a nice little effect — and Mercury, rather enigmatically and uncomfortably sexily given the whole grandmother-grandson dynamic, says she has a safe place he can go to. She carves a map to it on his hand and vaguely mentions a prophecy as the Council’s hunters turn up en masse outside. How will Nathan get out of this one?
You can stream The Bastard Son & the Devil Himself season 1, episode 1 exclusively on Netflix.