Shadow and Bone Season 2 is a highly anticipated follow-up to the popular Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s beloved Grishaverse novels.
About Shadow and Bone Season 2
Cast: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Danielle Galligan, Sujaya Dasgupta, Daisy Head, Calahan Skogman, Zoë Wanamaker, Dean Lennox Kelly, Patrick Gibson, Jack Wolfe
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Runtime: 8 Episodes with 55 min runtime each
IMDB Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 85% Tomatometer, 83% Audience Score
My Rating: 2/5
Shadow and Bone Season 2 picks up right where the previous season left off, with a gripping storyline that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Alina, still haunted by nightmares of The Fold's growing power, is on a mission to find the second amplified amplifier, 'The Sea Whip,' to aid in the fight against the evil that threatens her world. Along the way, she crosses paths with the enigmatic pirate - or rather, privateer - known as 'Sturmhond,' who joins her quest for reasons that become clear as the story unfolds.
The people of Ravka believe that the Darkling is dead, and Alina is viewed as his accomplice, making her a target of suspicion and hatred among the commoners. Meanwhile, the Darkling is on a mission to gather the Grisha who will follow him, with Alina at his side. He will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, and his obsession with power and control has taken a dangerous turn.
The Darkling struggles to control the newly created 'Nichevo'ya', creatures made of shadow that are activated whenever he is threatened. These dangerous creatures are beyond his control, and their unpredictable behaviour adds another layer of danger to an already volatile situation.
In Ketterdam, the Crows have lost their grip on the notorious Crow Club and are now wanted criminals accused of murder. They find themselves embroiled in a bitter conflict with the club's new owner, Pekka Rolins, and his minions, as they fight to reclaim what they have lost.
But for Kaz Brekker and his team, the fight is personal. Kaz has a score to settle with Pekka Rolins, as the two share a dark and troubled past. As the conflict escalates, secrets are revealed, and loyalties are tested, as the Crows are forced to navigate the treacherous underworld of Ketterdam in their quest for revenge.
Unfortunately, the plot of Shadow and Bone Season 2 is unnecessarily convoluted and seems to suffer from an identity crisis. While the Shadow & Bone Trilogy has a vast array of content to draw from, the writers have opted to include plotlines from the Six of Crows Duology and King of Scars Duology, leading to a confusing and unfocused storyline.
It’s clear that the show makers just wanted to adapt Six of Crows Duology but they got the rights to the whole Grishaverse and are now adapting it as best as they can. There is special care put into the plotline that follows the Crows that is missing from other plotlines and feels like an afterthought. As a result, the plot feels jumbled and lacks cohesion.
While Shadow and Bone Season 1 did an excellent job of managing two plotlines and integrating them seamlessly, Season 2 falls short in this regard. The biggest issue with Shadow and Bone Season 2 is that most of the characters of the two plotlines never really meet each other, making the show feel disconnected and as if it's not part of the same world.
It's understandable that the show's creators wanted to incorporate the Six of Crow's storyline into the show, but the way it's been done has left much to be desired. By trying to do too much in one show, the focus on what the show is actually about has been lost.
Instead of trying to mesh everything together, the show's creators should have made Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows separate shows entirely. This would have allowed them to give each storyline the attention it deserved and made for a much more satisfying viewing experience.
While Shadow and Bone Season 2 have its moments, the disjointed nature of the storylines makes it feel more like two separate shows instead of one cohesive narrative. The show's creators would have been better off focusing on one storyline and giving it the attention it deserves rather than trying to cram too much into one season.
Overall, Shadow and Bone Season 2's overly complicated plot does little to enhance the viewing experience and will likely leave many viewers feeling frustrated and confused.
Alina has little to no badass moments
Alina is supposed to be the main protagonist of Shadow and Bone. But season 2 seems to have forgotten that. She is just going with the flow. While the actress did an amazing job with what she has been given, the overcrowded cast of Shadow and Bone Season 2 has made Alina feel like a supporting character in her own show.
Inej, Nina, Genya and even Sankta Neyar all get their special moment to shine in the show, but not Alina. Although Alina using The Cut on Darkling in the climax can be argued as a badass moment, but it comes too easy to her. We never see her trying and failing or learning about her full abilities. It comes just like that to her which lessens the impact of the moment.
Darkling’s motivation got lost in the confusing plotlines
The Darkling in season 1 of Shadow and Bone had a clear and focused goal - to weaponize the Sun Summoner's power and elevate the Grisha to the top of the country. However, in season 2, Darkling's motives become murky and unclear. Despite having driven the human royalty from the throne, he seems oddly fixated on finding Alina. It's difficult to understand why he wants her - is it for her powers or for her love? This lack of clarity in his actions and motives can be confusing for viewers. Additionally, his disregard for the Grisha people, who were once his top priority, is contradictory to what we know from season 1.
Mal is more boring even after getting a reason to exist in the show
Mal is revealed to be the third amplifier and Alina has to kill him to get its power of it. Mal is so ready to die for her. But I don’t understand why. His friendship or love felt that deep, to be honest. There are a few bonding moments but that’s it. Alina’s relationship with Genya feels deeper than Mal, and Alina didn’t even spend that much time with Genya like Mal.
Kaz, Wylan and Jesper are fine
Kaz Brekker is given a compelling backstory for his desire to seek revenge against Pekka Rolins, which drives him to alienate his friends. The tension between Inej and Kaz is palpable and their chemistry on screen is undeniable, adding to the complexity of their relationship.
Wylan is a good character overall. We don’t know about him at all in terms of his backstory. He serves merely as Jasper’s love interest. I liked the performance of the actor playing Wylan. He is cute and is a genius at making weapons. I would like to see more of him in the next season or the spin-off show.
Jasper, on the other hand, serves as the comedic relief of the group and delivers his lines with perfect timing. His interactions with Wylan are endearing. They may be my favourite couple from Shadow and Bone Season 2.
Inej has the best fight scenes
Inej’s desire to be near Kaz and the trauma he carries from his past create a fascinating dynamic between the two. Despite being the most important member of the Crow Club, Kaz repeatedly pushes her away, which is both heartbreaking and intriguing to watch.
Inej gets some of the best fight scenes in season 2 and always acts as the backbone of the team. Although we don't know much about her backstory, I am sure it will be explored more if Six of Crows gets their spin-off show. I love the actress playing Inej. Amita Suman is so extraordinary in the role as if the character is made for her.
Nina charmed her way into my heart with her wits
Nina is my favourite character in Shadow and Bone Season 2. She is cute and smart in the most unexpected ways. I love her dialogue and interactions with everyone around her. I didn’t care much about Nina in Season 1, but she absolutely slays this season. The actress portraying Nina's character is absolutely perfect for the role and delivers an exceptional performance.
One of my favourite moments in Shadow and Bone Season 2 is watching Nina use her quick wit to solve complex problems. I found myself wishing for more scenes like this, but with so many characters to explore, it's understandable that the show couldn't devote more time to her. However, if there is a Six of Crows spin-off show, I hope Nina is given ample opportunity to shine even more.
Nikolai has the best lines
Without a doubt, Nikolai’s character intrigued me the most out of all the new characters we were introduced to. The showrunners undeniably nailed his personality, making him an incredibly compelling character. His dialogues were nothing short of amazing, and the way he delivers those lines is simply phenomenal. He has many one-liners, and they made him even more fascinating.
And let's not forget the unexpected twist at the end of the show, which generated a great deal of interest in me to see what happens next. I have no doubt that Nikolai's character will continue to be a major driving force in the series, and I cannot wait to see where the story takes him next.
Don’t care about Matthias and Sturmhond’s crew
I must say, the most unnecessary scenes in Shadow and Bone Season 2 were the ones that featured Matthias. It seems as though his character could have been completely cut out of the show. He should have been saved for the spin-off series instead. With so much going on in season 2, there simply wasn't enough time for his character arc to properly develop. Although I know that he is a great character in the books, the show's treatment of him makes him the weakest link.
I found myself completely disinterested in his character and his storyline, which seemed to drag down Nina's character instead of making it more interesting. It's unfortunate, but I think Shadow and Bone Season 2 could have done without him altogether, and it wouldn't have made much of a difference to the overall narrative.
Stumhond’s crew only make season 2 overcrowded.
The world-building in Shadow and Bone Season 2 was not given enough time to fully develop. With too many characters introduced, there wasn't enough room for the world to breathe and feel real. As a result, many questions were left unanswered, such as the specifics of Inej's indentured contract under the Menagerie. While this seemed like a crucial part of her character in season 1, she was able to free herself from it too easily in season 2, as if it wasn't a big deal at all.
That being said, the nation of Shu Han was developed well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and scenes that took place there. They were some of my favourite scenes in the entire season.
However, I must say that I was extremely disappointed with the scenes where Alina, Mal, and Sturmhond's crew went to capture The Sea Whip. The way they handled the entire scene was underwhelming and anti-climactic, especially when compared to other fantasy shows and books where the appearance of a dragon-like creature would have been a much bigger event. Never in a fantasy show or book did a dragon-like creature showing up felt so anti-climatic.
If you have not read the books, the magic system in Shadow and Bone Season 2 will be the worst of all magic systems. It was not explained at all, leaving many questions unanswered. We don't know how many types of Grisha exist beyond the ones shown in the show. We don't know the extent of their powers and what they are capable of doing. For example, we see that Genya is unable to fix the scars inflicted by The Nichevo'ya, but it's never explained why this is the case.
Additionally, while we know that Nina is a heart renderer, we're left with questions about how many people she can incapacitate with her powers at the same time. All of these things make the plot and world feel disjointed, and it's clear that the magic system needed more explanation to truly immerse viewers in the story.
The pacing of Shadow and Bone Season 2 was done well, especially considering the showrunners had to juggle so many characters. However, it's clear that one season was not enough to fully explore the plot that was presented to viewers in season 2. They were trying to condense three books worth of story into one season, which in my opinion, is unfair to the book and the world of Grishaverse. The series deserved better, and an eight-episode season was simply not enough for a show of this scale.
This type of treatment to later seasons of popular shows makes me feel like Netflix should stick to making mini-series and not take on multi-season fantasy works. It's important for shows to have the time they need to fully develop their stories, characters, and worlds. Rushing through important plot points and leaving questions unanswered can be frustrating for both fans of the books and viewers who are new to the story.
After watching Shadow and Bone Season 2, I must say that it was not a bad experience in terms of my enjoyment. While it may not have exceeded my expectations, Shadow and Bone Season 2 still manages to deliver a good time overall. The action sequences in Shadow and Bone Season 2 were well-choreographed and exciting to watch. While I do think the second season was underwhelming compared to the first, I never found myself bored while watching the show. You can give it a try if you have nothing to watch.
Shadow and Bone Season 2 was one of my most anticipated shows of 2023, but unfortunately, it failed to meet my expectations. I was disappointed by the overly convoluted plot that resulted from trying to integrate too much into one season. In my opinion, Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone should have been separate shows. The creators of the show attempted to condense the story of three books (Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising and Six of Crows) into one season, which simply didn't leave enough time to do justice to the material.
Furthermore, I'm concerned that Netflix has been struggling to deliver good second seasons after exceptional first seasons, as seen with The Witcher, You, and now Shadow and Bone. This makes me worried about upcoming shows such as Arcane and Wednesday.
The overcrowded cast in season 2 makes the main character Alina feel like a supporting character, despite the amazing performance by Jessi Mei Li. Other characters are average, but Nina and Inej stand out as the best characters in the season, in my opinion. Matthias's storyline should have been abandoned altogether, as it didn't add anything to the plot.
The rush to cram so many characters into the season also meant that the worldbuilding and magic systems were not developed as well as they could have been. I have many unanswered questions about how things work in the Grishaverse, and I feel that the world of Grishaverse deserved better than being rushed in this way.
That being said, I did enjoy the fight scenes in the show. They were well-choreographed and executed exceptionally by the actors. Inej, in particular, had some of the best fight scenes, and I found her character to be intriguing, despite the lack of backstory. I'm excited to watch the Six of Crows spin-off show, primarily to see more of Inej and Nina, as they were the most interesting characters in the season.
Overall, while I didn't hate Shadow and Bone Season 2, I didn't love it either. It was fine, but underwhelming compared to the phenomenal first season. If you're looking for something to watch, Shadow and Bone Season 2 wouldn't be a bad choice, but it falls short of what I expected.
Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world.