The show is nicely introduced by a dream - seeing young Harry – with a father who doesn’t believe in monsters (either he’s lying or he was ignorant), the knowledge that his mother is dead and a nice shield bracelet provided by said deceased mother. It’s a pretty nice lead in to the character, concept and themes and an elegant bit of back story.
We see more flashbacks of his past – of him using his magic to help his father’s work as a travelling magician’s – and his father’s worry because people will use him and prey on him for his abilities. Including Uncle Justin Morningway. Justin wants to train Harry in his magical gifts but his father is worried about the plots Justin is involved in. Unfortunately Justin doesn’t take no for an answer and he is a powerful, amoral wizard.
Of course modern Harry is much less afraid of things that go bump in the night and wakes up next to a young lady with whom he has been creating many such noisy bumps last night. Speaking of, we also meet Bob, the magical knowledge spirit and possessor of much sarcasm and giving us some more backstory of Harry’s magical, evil uncle who he “self-defenced to death”.
In fact this episode is generally good at introduction – Harry is listed as a wizard in the yellow pages (as pointed out by a young boy wanting to hire him to save him from monsters) and he is friend with Karin Murphy, a police detective and her side kick Detective Kirmani. Who have a horrible, skinless body to deal with.
Bob is worried that Harry dismissed the boy too quickly – or, rather, worried that if the kid is eaten by monsters that he will have to endure Harry moping for several weeks – and convinces Harry to do some more investigating. And the kid sees ravens and pale people raven-ish people and runs screaming.
Harry does provide them with a protection spell (for the kid’s peace of mind) and that spell keeps the boy’s teacher out of the house. The symbol also ends up carved on the ceiling outside the boy’s room.
Murphy calls Harry in for an opinion for – he’s a paid expert for the police and she recognises the dead woman’s picture as the kid’s teacher – making her a skin-walker. A creature that steals skin and uses them as a disguise. Naturally it’s cavalry time but they arrive too late as the raven-man has taken the boy. Harry also learns that ever since the boy came home he has been stalked by ravens – which Bob identifies as raven-clan mercenaries.
The boy has the gift – the potential to be a wizard – and the Skinwalker catches up with harry to ask some painful questions and while they give up information they also learn that the Skinwalker is working for someone.
Using a raven feather, Harry casts a quick tracking spell to find the raven’s nest where the boy is having a banana split. The ravens plan to keep moving and running, taking the boy away to escape the Skinwalker – but Harry, after his transient childhood finds this less than ideal.
One of Bob’s bag of tricks takes care of the Skinwalker, develop during Bob’s days working for Justin. Now Harry is going to have to be ready to teach the boy when he grows older
It’s hard to introduce a full back story and cast of characters in the first episode without it being an info-dump or containing lots of tedious lectures. I have to give this episode full marks for passing on so much information and backstory in a manner which is informative without being tedious.
The show is not very inclusive – there’s 2 POC, Murphy is Latina and Kirmani South-Asian. But then that does make it rather more inclusive than the books. We focus pretty much on Harry not allowing many other inclusions.
One of the main things to do with this series is try not to remember the books. If you compare them with the books you’re going to see the many ways in which they don’t fit and they’re going to frustrate you. You will hate this series if you’re looking for Harry Dresden from the novels – but if you can look beyond the books and not use the books as a reference point – it’s definitely worth a watch.