Netflix has axed another critically acclaimed show after just eight episodes. Half Bad: The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself won’t be returning for a second season, just after we’d highlighted it as one of the seven best new Netflix shows this month.
“Sadly, yes, Netflix have cancelled this,” wrote Joe Barton, the series’ creator, in response to a tweet from the show’s UK producer, Imaginarium. “Very proud of it and really liked the people I got to make it with. Sorry not to be able to finish the story…"
Sadly, yes, Netflix have cancelled this. Very proud of it and really liked the people I got to make it with. Sorry not to be able to finish the story... https://t.co/HUGi13R6OwDecember 9, 2022
That story was based on Sally Green’s YA fantasy novel Half Bad. The Netflix version tells the story of Nathan Byrne, the illegitimate son of the “World’s Most Dangerous Blood Witch” who becomes friends with a new classmate Annalise. Annalise, it turns out, just happens to be the daughter of the rival Fairborn Witchers’ leader, putting him at the center of a supernatural war.
In its tweet, Imaginarium highlighted the critical acclaim the show received over its short run. Indeed, at the time of writing, Half Bad has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 93% fresh and only one dissenting critical review in the 14 collected.
“The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself is the best YA fantasy Netflix has ever made, by a wide margin — and that's because it's not afraid to take risks,” wrote David Opie of Digital Spy.
At Den of Geek, Rosie Fletcher was also hugely positive, calling the show a “clever adaptation that takes the bones of the much-loved book and adds its own flavor.” Like others, the review expressed excitement for a second series, and indeed others were optimistic that The Bastard Son & The Devil Himself could avoid the same fate that’s befallen 16 shows cancelled by Netflix this year alone.
At Ready Steady Cut, Jonathon Wilston described the show as “as guaranteed a hit as the platform has had in some time.” Andrew Murray at The Upcoming argued that it had “the style, personality and ideas” to “avoid becoming another casualty of cancellation, as has been the case with so many other similar shows.”
Neither proved correct.
A short-sighted strategy
This just goes to show once again that there really is no magic formula for a hit show, no matter how much streaming platforms and writers would like there to be one. By all accounts, Half Bad did everything right, but evidently, it didn’t do the numbers to justify a second season.
I didn’t see the show, but that still strikes me as a worrying trend. When I think of all the great shows that had a famously rocky start but were given enough time to find their feet and become true classics (Seinfeld, say, or The Office), it’s heartbreaking to see that even programmes which wow from the get-go being culled.
It’s not only bad for viewers; it’s ultimately bad for the streamers, as it makes failure a lot more likely. A new show can only get recommissioned if it gets good viewing figures, but why would viewers bother getting invested in something that may be cancelled with no satisfying resolution? I know I wouldn’t.
If Netflix gets a reputation for canceling promising shows before the story is complete, then breakout hits are going to be harder and harder to come by. And that’s an outcome that’s bad for everybody.