Actually, the much-anticipated TV adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s first fantasy novel is making a lot of changes, including adding material from Six of Crows, a later novel set concurrently with Shadow and Bone. However, the most important and welcome change is this: Alina’s main love interest, Mal, is no longer a toxic, controlling dickhead.
In Bardugo’s books, Mal is an orphan who grows up with the lead character Alina (played by Archie Renaux and Jessie Mei Lee in the show, respectively). Mal treats her like crap until he sees Alina, having discovered her massive powers and now working alongside the handsome and powerful Darkling, and decides she isn’t allowed to be with anyone else. After that, he gaslights her, negs her, decides things for her without consulting her, asserts possession over her, and just generally is a huge asshole. While Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels have many, many fans, there’s a lot of them hate Mal and “Malina,” their shipping nickname, because of his attitude.
This is just possibly why showrunner Eric Heisserer and his team decided to change Mal up a bit for the TV series in the sense that he no longer... well, sucks shit. “We built out someone, honestly, at the end of the day, who could be the perfect boyfriend that a lot of us would love to have,” said Heisserer in a recent press event (via Nerdist). “But he’s just a little scared and a little trepidatious. For all that he hunts and he tracks, there are times where Mal himself can be a bit of a woodland creature. And we felt that helps accentuate the strength of Alina as a protagonist.”
To be fair, Mal is also presented as needy in the books, too. But here it sounds like he actually needs Alina’s help and compassion instead of using it to emotionally manipulate her. “Perfect boyfriend” is not a term any Grishaverse fan would have ever used to describe Mal before, so the TV series will be a massive improvement over the source material in at least one aspect.
Shadow and Bone hits Netflix on April 23.
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