The return to the Grishaverse results in more characters, bigger and better effects, and a more detailed insight into this fantastical land.
BY JOHN MCDONALD MARCH 27, 2023
Shadow and Bone Season 2 recently graced us with its presence, and the return to the Grishaverse results in more characters, bigger and better effects, and a more detailed insight into this fantastical land. Season 2 is an amalgamation of several books from Leigh Bardugo’s series, and more specifically, combines plots from ‘Siege and Storm’, ‘Ruin and Rising’, and ‘Crooked Kingdom’, as well as some new storylines. Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is continuing to save the world as the Sun Summoner, followed closely by her trust lapdog Mal (Archie Renaux), but even this young couple’s tight bond might be under threat for what’s in store this time around.
Everything was a bit up in the air at the end of season 1, with a lot of questions left unanswered, but one thing was for sure, and that was Alina’s plan to destroy The Fold and bring peace back to the lands. Season 2 sees Alina attempting to find the final two amplifiers, the sea whip and the firebird so that she can finally achieve her mission. But as for any world-saving quest, things do not go as smoothly as they could have.
But while Alina and Mal are doing their thing, The Crows are back in Ketterdam trying to settle old scores. Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) aims to bring down his nemesis Pekka Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly), with the help of his ever-reliable Crows, Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) and Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), as well as the addition of demolitions expert Wylan Hendriks (Jack Wolfe). But joining the team as well is Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) who is trying to rescue her Fjerdan heartthrob Matthias (Calahan Skogman) who is locked up in Hellgate prison.
Much like the first season of Shadow and Bone, The Crows are easily the best aspect of the second season; they are the most interesting characters and their storylines are far more exciting – but if you are one of the many people to have read the books, then you’d
have known that already. We learn far more about Kaz’s backstory, and it is imperative to his character progression that this is the case. It is shown in a collection of dark flashbacks and hallucinations, and we see where the rage and hatred for Rollins come from. There’s also a bigger insight into the lives of Jesper and Inej as well, which only makes this affable bird crew more of a fan favourite.
One of the major differences that season 2 harboured was the insistence on coupling everybody up, so if you like cute little romances, then this will be your thing. Jesper and Wylan explore their true feelings with one another, Alina and Mal are still going strong with their thing (albeit with a few rocky steps along the way), Kaz and Inej are still exploring the stubbornness of whatever it is they have going on, while a bunch of other characters in the story (new and old) express their romantic desires as well.
And speaking of new characters, season 2 is full of them. Alina’s new journey as the Sun Summoner leads to her crossing paths with the dashing pirate (well, privateer) Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson) and his crewmates. Alina isn’t the most inspiring character, and her story benefits from being fleshed out and ramped up, and the introduction of Gibson’s charming character does this perfectly. He offers some comic relief while also being an important part of the story and one of the key components that leads to a showdown between Alina and the returning General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) who now has an army of shadow monsters at his disposal after tempering with some dark magic in The Fold.
There is one glaring issue with Shadow and Bone season 2 though, and that’s the lack of time it’s been given to expand and explore certain things. The whole season feels massively rushed and a lot of details and storylines have been crammed into such a small space. It was clearly going to be difficult to showcase Bardugo’s rich world in such a short period of time, and maybe this series would have benefitted a lot more if it was 10 episodes long instead of the basic eight. And with the influx of several plots, characters, and backstories, it really needed to be stretched out over a larger space.
And yet, even with its glaringly obvious misgivings, season 2 is an improvement over its predecessor. Season 1 felt like a warmup to bigger and better things, and with season 2 having a substantial emphasis on the powers of the Grisha, better action – and more of it as well – plus the special effects being ramped up too, season 2 became a highly enjoyable continuation of this fantastical world that we have been introduced to. The story also sets itself up for a potentially cracking third season, so let’s hope Shadow and Bone isn't one of the many cancellations that Netflix has found itself doing in recent times because it would be a shame to not carry this highly enjoyable series onwards.