The long awaited second season of Shadow and Bone premiered on Netflix on March 16th. It is a great season full of action, twists, heartache and romance. It does a lot of things right, but it also has significant weaknesses compared to the first season. This review contains minor spoilers for Shadow and Bone season two.
The first season ended with Alina (Jessie Mei Li) fleeing Ravka with Mal (Archie Renaux), vowing to return and tear down the Fold. Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) and Inej Gafa (Amita Suman), the crows return to Ketterdam. Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) is determined to save her love interest Mathias Helvar (Calahan Skogman).
The second season starts exactly at this moment. Alina and Mal decide to find the remaining amplifiers and enlist the support of a privateer (Patrick Gibson) and his crew. The crows must fight a coup de etat and false allegations in Ketterdam. In order to clear their names, they hire demolition expert Wylan (Jack Wolfe). The Darkling (Ben Barnes) has to come to terms with how the fold has changed him.
A lot is right with Shadow and Bone season two. First of all, the action scenes and CGI effects are of the highest quality and would put some movies to shame. Despite this, the show doesn’t rely too much on it, and it focuses on the story.
Most characters get complex storylines that allow them to shine, first and foremost Freddy Carter as Kaz. His acting through Kaz’s poker face is nuanced and brilliant. He always finds the balance between his character’s trauma and obsession, while showing us glimpses of the man he could be. What is so good is that he does that mostly without any lines, when he is by himself.
Another amazing performance comes from Daisy Head as Genya. While she was recuring character in season one, she has a more prominent role in season two. Nobody in this season suffers as much as her. She is abused, tortured, and suffers losses. Daisy Head gives a chilling performance that makes the viewer root for her character despite the betrayal in season one. The audience becomes emotionally invested in Genya’s journey, probably more than any other characters, because she always walks the line between victim and survivor.
Some of the best scenes take place between Baghra (Zöe Wanamaker) and General Kirigan (Ben Barnes). The characters are mother and son, and these conversations give both characters more depth and background. It is a joy to watch two such wonderful actors play off each other.
Wylan and Nikolai Lantsov stand out among the new characters. Both characters find their place incredibly fast and grow on the audience. In particular, Patrick Gibson does a fantastic job as heroic and dashing Nikolai Lantsov.
The story is fast-paced, without feeling too rushed. Emotional scenes and action scenes are seamlessly combined, and the comic relief seems never out of place.
One of the challenges an ensemble show like Shadow & Bone faces is to intertwine the different storylines. While this felt very balanced in season one, this is less successful in this season. At times, the audience forgets that there are other storylines.
Another downside is the romance between Alina and Mal. Not the romance itself, but the drama that comes with it. It is often too dominant and seems out of place. That is also the root of another issue: The character of Mal. While he is the sort of character you would want in your corner, and Archie Reneaux’s portrayal is solid enough, the character lacks depth. He is literally only there to be a love interest for Alina. This is so prominent that it is even addressed by the characters in the show. Mal remains particularly colorless compared to the season two addition of Nikolai Lantsov, who has all of Mal’s positive traits, in addition to significantly more depth.
The greatest villain you can create is probably one for whom you can feel compassion despite their cruel actions, like the joker in the movie of the same name. It makes the audience question their moral compass and the villain scarier. In season one, the Darkling was such a villain thanks to a great character development and Ben Barnes’ fantastic acting chops. Unfortunately, his storyline development in this season leaves little room for sympathy, taking depth out of the character. Barnes’ portrayal is still spot on, but the material is simply not as good as in season one.
Shadow and Bone season two certainly has its flaws, but it is still better than most TV series and a worthy follow-up to the brilliant season one. The continuation of the story is exciting and makes the viewer eager for a third season. The cast is fantastic and has great chemistry, which serves the show well.
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Maria is our resident nerd and passionate about all things fantasy and science fiction. She is Spanish and grew up in Germany, which is why she is a native speaker of both languages. Becoming a fantasy writer was only logical to combine her skills and passions. In addition, she is working on her English degree and loves to play tennis and dance Salsa. She is currently writing her first novel and will mainly be covering Star Wars, Star Trek and Shadow & Bone.