“Shadow and Bone” - Season 2 Review

Story posted March 25, 2023 in

Netflix finally welcomed audiences back to the mythical kingdom of Ravka with season two of “Shadow and Bone.”

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling young adult novels of the same name, “Shadow and Bone” follows orphan Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) who learns she has the power to summon sunlight and save her country from the ever-spreading shadow fold. The fold is a mass of darkness that was created by the Darkling (Ben Barnes) when a dangerous spell went wrong.

Alina thought she could destroy it in season one, but learned she needs additional amplification for her powers. Season two opens with Alina beginning her search for the sea whip, whose scales could make her sun summoning even more impactful.

This quest took place across the entire second “Shadow and Bone” book titled “Siege and Storm,” but the show breezes through it in two episodes. After that, it moves right into “Ruin and Rising,” book three in the trilogy.

While “Siege and Storm” certainly was not Leigh Bardugo’s most compelling work, it deserved to be explored more than two episodes. The entire Ravka storyline in season two was kicked into high gear to make way for the true stars of the show– the Crows.

The Crows are a collection of six criminals from Leigh Bardugo’s other book series, “Six of Crows,” that also appear in the Netflix series to liven up the story, despite them never interacting with the “Shadow and Bone” characters in the books. A spin-off for them has recently been discussed…but only if “Shadow and Bone” season two performs well.

Now that the logistical stuff is out of the way, time to dissect the season.

First off, the new players– cutthroat twins Tolya (Lewis Tan) and Tamar (Anna Leong Brophy), prince and part-time privateer Nikolai Lantsov (Paddy Gibson), and the Crows’ demolition man, Wylan Van Eck (Jack Wolfe). Once again, the casting department of “Shadow and Bone” absolutely nailed finding the perfect actors to bring the book characters to life.

Gibson was a pleasant surprise as Nikolai, who is a passionate fan favorite among the book community. He captures the character’s boyish charm, while also getting serious about his devotion to making Ravka a better place.

He also delivered one of the most iconic lines from the book, “When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.” There were screams heard ‘round the world.

Nikolai also shows interest in Alina, and works to form a political marriage with her to bring some semblance of peace to Ravka. However, Alina’s heart remains loyal to her childhood best friend, Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux).

While Mei Li and Renaux have nice platonic chemistry, it’s hard to see them as a romantic couple. Mal also served as a distraction to Alina and her goals to save Ravka this season, as he complained about being left in the shadow of her power.

In Season one, Alina and the Darkling delivered much more convincing chemistry, but of course, he ruined that by manipulating her and consistently approaching their relationship in a way that suggests he only wants her for her power.

This season saw a much grittier, and honestly, more terrifying Darkling, which Ben Barnes has nailed down to a science. His motives are to protect the wrongfully prosecuted Grisha people (gifted with magical abilities), and even if he goes about it completely the wrong way, it’s easy to fall into the trap of empathizing with him at times.

Barnes also made sure some of the Darkling’s iconic book lines made it into the final script, so props to him for his commitment to the source material.

The highlight of the season came at the halfway point with episode 4, “Every Monstrous Thing.” It stuck out for a multitude of reasons, but first and foremost– Freddy Carter’s performance as the leader of the Crows, Kaz Brekker.

Kaz is referred to as “Dirtyhands” in the books, due to his completely ruthless actions and easy ability to spill blood. But different from the Darkling, Kaz’s outbursts are justified as they are focused on Pekka Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly), a man responsible for the death of his older brother.

Carter gave the performance of the season in one singular scene that is currently making its rounds across social media, and for good reason. He uses not only his wit, but his strength to finally get Pekka Rollins on his knees.

Along with that, Carter’s chemistry with Amita Suman’s knife-wielding character Inej is too incredible to put into words. It feels like watching the pages come to life, same with the relationship between Wylan and Jesper (Kit Young) – two of the other Crows.

The perfect casting and powerful performances given by Carter and all six of the Crows will hopefully be enough to warrant a spin-off.

At the end of the day, there were undeniably a lot of pacing issues that took away some of the smaller details from the books that fans wanted to see.

Even so, “Shadow and Bone” season two was an entertaining ride through the Grishaverse that delivered action, romance, and the magic that book fans should appreciate, especially if they want a future for the Crows.

Rating: 4/5

Kaitlyn Murphy is a first-year majoring in digital and print journalism. To contact her, email kvm6255@psu.edu.