When the first season of Shadow and Bone debuted in 2021, it was a revelation. The show based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, ended up being one of the best fantasy TV series on Netflix. The combination of both the Grisha and Six of Crows series into one single story felt like the right thing to do. And on top of that, the casting was quite superb, especially regarding the Six of Crows characters. Now, Season 2 arrives two years later. The novelty is off, but the production quality is still there, and the series hopes it is enough to make you interested in continuing this story.
Shadow and Bone is a fantasy Netflix TV series developed by Eric Heisserer and stars Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Danielle Galligan, and Ben Barnes. Season 2 follows the events of the ending of Season 1, where our main character Alina sees herself as the subject of an ancient prophecy. Now, Alina must take her role as the “Sun Summoner” and face her opposite, the dangerous “Darkling,” who now possesses great power, the expansion of The Fold, a power that puts at risk the entire world.
My introduction to the Shadow and Bone universe came in the shape of books. They became quite famous among fantasy fans when they were released, but for some reason, my taste didn’t gel very well with the setting or the characters. Because of it, when Netflix announced that they were adapting the books, I was completely unexcited. In my experience, book adaptations often fail to capture what makes the books special, but in these cases, the subject of adaptation were books that I didn’t particularly like.
The result was a season of television that, while not perfect by any means, changed my appreciation of the world and the characters—the first season of Shadow and Bone managed to do a very hard thing and do it well. The Shadow and Bone books, which deal with Alina and Mal and their adventures, are completely separated from the Six of Crows books, which deal with Kaz, Jasper, and Inej. They share a setting, but beyond that, these are two different stories.
To my surprise, the adaptation process manages to mix the two stories in every organic way, and by the end of it, when the characters from both series meet, it seems like this was the plan all along. I was even more surprised when the character of Kaz Beeker, played here by Freddy Carter, became one of the best things in the show, when I couldn’t really stand the characters in the books. There are many changes from the books, but here I have to say that most of the changes improve the original work tenfold.
Once again, the cast seems to be the best thing about the show. These actors and how they interact with each other and deliver the dialogue are all done in the best possible way. These are fantasy characters in a world very different from ours, so it might be hard to relate to their experiences, but the actors push forward and make the best of it. The Six of Crows gang, composed of Carter, Suman, and Young, knock it out of the park, while Ben Barnes keeps chewing the scenery in the best possible way, although he can be more intimate during this season.
However, it is in the writing where things start feeling a bit messier. As the main plot of saving the world took center stage at the end of the first season, it feels like a step back when our set of characters get separated once again, and they must return to their stories from the books. Alina and Mal keep their journey to find the amplifiers to help Alina destroy The Fold and save the world, while Kaz and his gang return to their city to deal with more criminal shenanigans. It feels weird, and I miss the dynamic the entire party achieved by the end of the first season.
Knowing that the entire party works so well together, it is a shame that we must have them separated again. Especially because, at this time, Kaz’s story back at Ketterdam seems smaller and less impactful than anything that is happening with Alina and Mal. The writers, of course, will unify the characters again, but it feels like it would have been better if they had managed to create a new way to keep them together from the beginning. It might annoy people who are more married to the books, but I strongly believe it would have served better to the story and its flow.
Production values keep being quite high. All the sets, costumes, and visual effects really bring the Grisha world to life. The show also starts excellently using the Grisha powers in combat, which is always welcome. The Grisha are basically mutants, and finding cool things for their powers to be used in combat is a key factor in this type of story. Netflix has been taking a lot of losses lately when their shows just look as cheap as they can be, but thankfully this is not the case with Shadow and Bone. It might not be the House of the Dragon level of visuals, but it is way above the average streaming show.
Season 2 is a bit more inconsistent regarding the storytelling, and the pacing is a bit too slow, delivering some very long episodes that don’t feel like they should warrant such a length. However, the actors keep shining by bringing these characters to life, and the visual effects and production values are top-notch. Shadow and Bone stands proudly as one of the best fantasy TV shows on Netflix, and it will surely make all book fans and TV fans happy.