After an almost two years wait, Netflix is ready to welcome audiences back to the GrishaVerse with Shadow and Bone season 2. This second round of adventures following Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal (Archie Renaux) picks up not long after the explosive finale of the previous season, with our heroes continuing their mission to destroy the Fold.
Shadow and Bone season 2 adapts the second and third books from Leigh Bardugo’s GrishaVerse trilogy, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising as well as elements of the sequel Duology, Six of Crows, which becomes a complementary storyline to that of Alina’s. If you’re like me, that feels like many stories to shove into a single season. However, with the author serving as executive producer and Shawn Levy, it seems the series is in good hands. So how does Shadow and Bone season 2 far among other fantasy series? Let’s climb aboard our ship and sail across the GrishVerse, discovering what this season has in store.
[Warning: Spoilers and impressions from Shadow and Bone season 2 are below!]
The calm before the storm in this GrishaVerse Netflix series
At the end of last season, Alina manages to break away from Kirigan’s (Ben Barnes) control, though not without some collateral damage. The Fold was expanded during the fight at the hands of Kirigan, an event that caused ripples. When we begin this season, we learn early on of the displacement of villages due to the growing Fold, a dark shadowy mass that divides Ravka in two. Elina takes this information to heart, feeling partially responsible even though she had little to do with The Darkling’s actions.
This becomes a strong motivating factor, which combines with Elina’s already established duty to connect Ravka and end the darkness of the fold. To do so, she needs to acquire more amplifiers for her sun-summoning abilities. This a task that seems easier said than done, however, the location of these amplifiers is unknown. Together, Alina and Mal set off to gain information about the location of the second one, as well as avoid being captured by those who think Alina’s in league with The Darkling.
It doesn’t take a significant amount of time for Alina to find out information about the location of the second beast for which to amplify her powers. On an old map located in an impressive library, she finds clues about a sea serpent and sets off to accomplish this new and treacherous leg of her journey. Joining her is Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson), a handsome and charming Privateer who agrees to take Alina and Mal to where they need to go. What the duo doesn’t know is that he’s a prince.
A changing of wind in Shadow and Bone
Nikolai sees an opportunity that benefits his people as well as Alina and the second army. He proposes a political marriage, joining forces for protection and to save Ravka from a greater evil. This places a ton of pressure on Alina and Mal, whose feelings and relationship have budded exponentially in season 2. Alina knows what the best decision is for her and Grishas as a whole, but it definitely puts undo stress on her.
Despite the awkwardness of the situation, the trio works together to bring peace to Ravka, however, that involves ending a war with the all-powerful Darkling. To ensure riddance of the Fold once and for all, Alina needs to acquire the third amplifier, the Firebird. If the sea serpent was hard enough to find, the Firebird is near impossible. The mystery around the Firebird is epic in its own way and equally heartbreaking. It tests our heroes in ways they haven’t been before. Can they rise to the challenge and defeat the Darkling and dismantle the fold? You’ll have to watch for that.
Some crows and dark forces
Running parallel to Alina’s story are two others, with one a bit more interesting than the other. When we join Kaz (Freddy Carter) and his group of Crows at the beginning of this season, they aren’t in a great place. Having failed in acquiring Alina for Dreesen (Sean Gilder), they are up to their necks in trouble. Dreesen doesn’t take the failure kindly, having paid for a job to be done and not receiving what he wanted. Instead, he makes the Crows’ lives a living hell.
Kaz, Jasper (Kit Young), and Inej (Amita Suman) must work together to save their lives, as the group is framed for murder. Part of their story this season is solving that murder, or at least finding a way to get around those apprehending them.
This part of the narrative is separate from Alina’s, however as the season goes along those stories start to become more important to one another. It all comes down to one of the final jobs the Crows take on, which could end up changing the tides of war. Joining them this season is Wylan Hendricks (Jack Wolfe), a lovable inventive type that helps them out of a pickle more than once. He is a fantastic and naturally feeling addition to the dynamics that already exist in the group.
While all the characters in this series were great, there was something relatable and enduring to this ragtag bunch of misfits that have seemingly made a haphazard empire in Ketterdam. I found myself looking forward to their scenes more so than any other, which made Shadow and Bone season 2 that much more enjoyable to me.
Weaving between these two other narratives is that of Kirigan, the returned Darkling. Where he once was beautiful and charming, he’s now scarred and villainous. He has a creepy-as-hell obsession with Alina, though it’s unclear as to why. Does he want her powers? Does he want her disposed of?
At times it felt like he wanted her for love and romance. His motivations are unclear as is his story for most of the season. I was never sure what he truly wanted to do, which bogged down his parts of the season. He’s excellent at brooding as well as acting totally sinister. There’s one episode about halfway through that gave me goosebumps because of how amazing Barnes’ acting is in this role. That being said, Kirigan feels like he needs a bit more fleshing out over the course of the eight episodes.
The good and the bad of Shadow and Bone season 2
Shadow and Bone has a lot going for it, more than I’ve come to expect from many Netflix series. For starters, the story and writing for this season are strong. I was slightly worried when I heard that they were combining two of the novels into a single season, on top of the added Crows storyline. That being said, the writers did a fantastic job blending the two and creating a cohesive and enjoyable story. Part of that could be the strength of the source material, with Bardugo praised for her series.
On top of that, most of the casting felt impeccable with acting that was top-notch and selling this story even more. I was blown away by the chemistry and ability exhibited on the screen by the main cast. The cast of the Crows, Freddy Carter, Kit Young, and Amita Suman were standouts to me. There are so many layers and depths to the characters on screen and that is a testament to the actors who embody them. Jessie Mei Li was also exceptional as Alina Starkov, who shined in every scene they were in.
The action of the series was also impressive, reminding me of the combat from the height of Arrow. It also uses a wide selection of different weapons and an array of attacks, which was surprising and exciting. Between the different forms of magic, throwing darts, canes, and even fist fighting, there was enough variety in the way Shadow and Bone presented their action that I wasn’t exhausted or bored at any time.
The pacing of Shadow and Bone was breakneck, giving little to no time to stop and digest what you’re watching. Because of that, it became tough at times to follow what was going on. Many times I had to pause and reflect on what I had just watched. It felt like this was a symptom of cramming the two novels together, but the season could have used a bit of wiggle room to decompress and consolidate the information.
I also wasn’t a fan of the love square that was going on with Alina, Mal, Kirigan, and Nikolai. Love triangles are, in my opinion, a tired trope in young adult novels and series, one that should be retired. Instead, Shadow and Bone amplifies that tenfold, which distracts from the message of the series a bit. Alina is a powerful Grisha, one that the world has been waiting for, and yet is preoccupied with relationships everywhere she goes. It takes away from the story of strength, which should ultimately be the focus of Alina’s story. While I did not care for this storyline, it wasn’t so egregious that I didn’t enjoy the season.
Final thoughts on season 2
Overall, Shadow and Bone season 2 was a strong continuation of the story of Alina and Ravka. Any worries that I had prior to watching it were quashed within the first couple of episodes. The writing and action are superb, with a story that seems to promise more if Netflix wishes to continue it. I seriously hope that it does, because this might be one of the best series the platform has to offer.
Shadow and Bone is now streaming on Netflix with season 2 releasing on March 16th. Are you excited to watch it? Let us know on Twitter or in the Cosmic Circus discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our book reviews from the Shadow and Bone trilogy.