‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 2 Review: Questionable in Some Areas, but Thoroughly Satisfying in Characterizations and Performances

Shadow and Bone Season 2 official poster

Shadow and Bone Season 2 Spoilers Ahead

Shadow and Bone Season 2 is flawed and, unfortunately, questionable at times as it tries to rush through two stories while simultaneously creating new ones. Still, the pacing aside, it does a decent job of showcasing that so long as character arcs remain strong, diverting from the source material is perfectly acceptable. The show is at its best when it gives characters quiet moments to strengthen their existing bonds and form new ones. As it threads together three book series, the most shining beats are the exhibitions of the cast’s remarkable chemistry and character embodiments.

There’s too much happening sometimes, yet it balances itself through exhilarating character narratives we could excavate for hours. Shadow and Bone Season 2 considerably improves through its visual effects, a brand-new brilliant score by Joseph Trapanese, and significant moments of vulnerability. For the most part, it remains a stunning spectacle full of world-building that continues to expand and grow. At times, it also feels like an action-packed Marvel film with sequences that deserve to be seen on the big screen. When it’s good, it’s great, making it easy to wonder how much better the season could’ve been if only it handled its depiction of Shu Han with more care while dealing with some of the scene switches more thoughtfully.

Patrick Gibson as Sturmhond and Nikolai Lantsov in Shadow and Bone Season

Yet, where the season remains top-notch is in its character arcs, giving each actor ample room to bring their A-game every time. No show is better in how it quickly makes me appreciate all the book characters, including those I’m indifferent toward in the books. And it’s by virtue of this exceptional cast who continue to prove that they’re just as fond of Leigh Bardugo’s world as the fans. The originals significantly improve upon everything we already love, and the newcomers fit right in as if they’ve been here all along. They are these characters now, breathing astonishing life to them in admirable and unique ways. Patrick Gibson nails Nikolai’s charm brilliantly, while Lewis Tan and Anna Leong Brophy shine as Heartrender twins, Tolya and Tamar. It’s hard to believe they weren’t here from the start when everything they bring to the table is better and bolder than what was on paper.

Because the performances remain the most substantial part of the show, it’s critical to note here that we cannot and should not expect actors to question the writers in the face of wrong decisions. There are teams for a reason, and every person should be expected to do their job right without doing someone else’s at the same time. That said, Shadow and Bone Season 2 takes a rightful critique from last season about its decision to pit women against each other by bringing some incredibly memorable dynamics to our screens this year. The women are not only better than ever, but their unabashed and loud support of each other is beautiful to watch. Some of the season’s most decisive moments involve the women carrying each other through the pain caused by trauma and grief. The women are now each other’s anchors, holding one another both in a physical and spiritual sense by consistently proving that they’re on each other’s side. Alina, Zoya, and Genya are fully transparent with one another, offering each other unending loyalty amidst one of the most challenging fights of their lives. And later, how each woman connects to the Crow girls allows the team to grow into a more beautiful exhibition of friendship.

Nina Zenik, Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa, Jesper Fahey and Wylan Hendricks in Shadow and Bone Season 2, Episode 1, "No Shelter But Me"

Further, in an unsurprising twist, the Crows remain the best part of the series, even when they aren’t yet the six. Danielle Galligan’s Nina Zenik and Jack Wolfe’s Wylan Hendricks fit seamlessly with the original trio, bringing not only the best of their unique abilities but the heart needed to thread them all closer. In the grand scheme of things, while there’s a long road before they’re (hopefully) embarking on the Ice Court Heist next season, having a bit more time with Nina and Wylan as Crows works to take us one step closer to Six of Crows territory. Though the final few moments in the eighth episode feel a little hopeless for Nina and Matthias, plus Kaz and Inej fans, what Season 2 essentially proves through Jesper and Wylan is that even when the adaptation diverts from the source material, it’s still going to remain faithful to the love stories.

And Six of Crows isn’t just a love story divided by three couples; it’s a love story about a found family. “A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.” It’s about the people who come together unexpectedly, surviving one great war after another to find themselves in a better, stronger place than where they began. If nothing else, Shadow and Bone Season 2 shows us that the dynamics here already feel like home. Ketterdam feels familiar in a way that no other location in the show’s world does, opening possibilities in its quaintness that matter.

Bonus Content: Lady Geeks’ Society Podcast | Episode XXII: Shadow and Bone Season 2 Romance Rundown

Overall, the season improves from its debut, ending with the kind of cliffhanger that demands a third and (maybe) final season. As beloved as this show is, it’s hard to hope for more at a time when there are more cancellations than renewals. The introduction of Jurda Parem as well as Nikolai’s transformation, leave enough room to thoroughly tackle the most critical moments in Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars. This isn’t to say that we won’t be satisfied with more, but at this moment, even one could do the trick to complete the story. Still, if nothing else, there are plenty of great moments to appreciate throughout the season that continue bringing the Grishaverse to life beautifully.

Shadow and Bone Season 2 is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.


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