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It has been a bumper year for young adult queer content on Netflix. Heartstopper charmed audiences with its uplifting take on first love, teenage angst intensified in the second instalment of Young Royals, and the raunchy Spanish soap opera Elite has just returned for its sixth season.

Competing for attention with snappier titles that enjoyed higher profile launches, Half Bad: The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself has regrettably flown under the radar.

The Fairborns and the Bloods are at war in Joe Barton’s adaptation of Sally Green’s Half Bad trilogy. These two clans of witches have been fighting each other for generations, and the eight-episode series starts as the conflict is escalating.

The Fairborns fear that 16-year-old Nathan (Joe Lycurgo) will become a dangerous Blood Witch like his absent father Marcus, infamous for massacring Fairborns and stealing their powers.

Joined by his Fairborn friend and love interest Annalise (Nadia Parkes) and the mischievous French Blood Witch Gabriel (Emilien Vekemans), Nathan is in a race against time to save his own life, grow into his power, and figure out his place in the world.

This probably all sounds like generic young adult fantasy kind of stuff. Some sort of Twilight-esque romantic adventure, but with witches. Fear not, however. Barton’s witty dialogue, the exquisitely detailed special effects, and the undeniable polyamorous chemistry of the leads elevate the series and push the boundaries of the genre.

Barton’s writing deftly balances raw emotion with humour. Nathan’s sarcastic quips and snarky wisecracks make him instantly recognisable. Of course a teenage Brit would mockingly ask ‘So is there a Wi-Fi password or something?’ when dealing with the ridiculousness of having been kidnapped by an armed gang of witches and sent to a camp in the middle of nowhere to train to kill his father.

Nathan’s rebellious irreverence loosens up the series, providing relief from the intensely emotional scenes and making them all the more poignant. Some of the very first scenes that feature Nathan and his deliciously cruel half-sister Jessica (Isobel Jesper Jones) talking about their mother’s death are particularly haunting.

Nothing sticks in the mind quite like the image of exploding bodies. Sinews and tissues and organs are ripped apart in slow motion as witches flex their powers. If the violence at times feels gratuitous, then the gore is always imaginative and entertaining, the anatomical detail as impressive as it is revolting.

There is a flavour of the Game of Thrones Red Wedding in one particular episode as tragedy unfolds and the fates of our favourites hang in the balance. It’s heart-in-mouth sort of stuff, and not only because powerful Bloods feast on the hearts of dead Fairborns.

The series really gets going when we meet Gabriel. Decked out in a mess of eclectic jewellery with chunky black boots and a ‘cigarette’ permanently in hand, the bleach-blonde Frenchman exudes chaotic queer energy and flirtatious confidence. His appearance complicates the relationship between Nathan and Annalise, taking it beyond the well-trodden ground of heterosexual romantic adventure.

Sexual and romantic tension build between Nathan, Annalise, and Gabriel as they journey from the UK through France. From sharing a bed together when housed by the ferocious Ozanne witches, to forging emotional bonds on the battlefield, the trio undoubtedly have polyamorous potential.

There are discussions about sex and virginity, but there is no ‘coming out’ talk or use of labels. Gabriel’s bold and unapologetic queerness exists without the need for justification, and this enables the series to start pushing the boundaries of queer representation.

Half Bad: The Bastard Son and The Devil Himself is gory and sexy and funny. It’s a refreshing take on young adult fantasy, but it seems like the series has been slept on. It deserves more appreciation and at least a second season. So go on, give it a watch!

Luke is an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity – sign up for their newsletter.