Shadow and Bone 2×01 “No Shelter But Me” Review

Mal Oretsev and Alina Starkov (Malina) in Shadow and Bone 2x01 "No Shelter But Me"

Shadow and Bone 2×01 “No Shelter But Me” Spoilers Ahead

Shadow and Bone is back with the kind of stacked season premiere that leaves a lot hanging by loose, flimsy threads. The new openings are better than ever, and the show still excels at character introductions in a way we don’t talk about nearly enough. “No Shelter But Me” takes us to places that are a little nerve-wracking but extremely necessary, and it does so by placing its characters front and center. Unfortunately, the show’s imperfect still, and while this first episode lacks a steady theme to combine the two main stories, it still provides solid entertainment all throughout.

Who’s who? Where are we going? How are these stories going to come together? Why are we combining them in the first place? Shadow and Bone 2×01, “No Shelter But Me,” doesn’t exactly answer these questions, but it sets up just enough for us to connect the dots in the ultimate defeat of the Shadow Fold. (If we ever get there, that is.)

Shadow and Bone 2×01 “No Shelter But Me” | Novyi Zem 

Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 1 "No Shelter But Me" (L to R) Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev in
Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

The episode picks up where “No Mourners” ends, with everyone and their mothers leaving Ravka on a mission. Mal and Alina are now entirely in a relationship (not sure when this happened, but I don’t hate it), and they’re searching for the Sea Whip. They find themselves in Novyi Zem only to realize that she’s now wanted for supposedly partnering with The Darkling and killing everyone. It puts Mal in protective mode, making him far more compelling than he was in the books—seriously, Archie Renaux could not be better. We can be frustrated with the book’s version of Mal all we want, but in the show, he’s ten times better.

The Grisha have all dispersed and are now being held captive, only The Darkling, who’s obviously still alive, comes blasting through from the shadows with his new Nichevo’ya buddies and saves them all. There’s very little to discuss in these moments because much of it feels a bit rushed, and though it’s easy to be indifferent to this trilogy, it’s anything but easy to ignore the colossal work Daisy Head is bringing to Genya Safin this season—every time I’ve cried thus far, it’s been because of her. There’s much we’ve yet to see with her character, but in the brief frames we get Head is working overtime to bring tremendous heartaches to life.

Back in Ketterdam

Shadow and Bone 2x01 "No Shelter But Me" (L to R) Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey in episode 201 of Shadow and Bone.
Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

Do you also cry every time the little map fades and moves to tell us we’re going to Ketterdam, or are you normal? No? Okay. Cool. From the beginning of our trip back to Ketterdam, Shadow and Bone 2×01, “No Shelter But Me,” said let’s remind the audience of how perilous Kaz Brekker‘s past is. A single, brief shot is all we get, and it’s more than enough, except the show keeps delivering, which is the right step to take in more ways than one. Where we are with the Crows in the series differs from where we meet them in the books, and it’s hard to say if we’ll ever get there when examining renewal vs. cancelation records. Still, the crux of the adaptation remains faithful to the source material, and it’s imperative to note this as we go further in the analysis.

While it might feel as though some storylines with the Crows are rushed this season, whereas others aren’t moving fast enough, their arcs make more sense for the overarching story when considering non-book readers. The general audience could only pick up on Kaz’s aversions with the series overtly showing it to them, and that’s precisely what these flashbacks, as well as this battle with Pekka Rollins, reveals. If writers are saving the Ice Court Heist for something bigger (via Entertainment Weekly), pushing Pekka out of the way to jump-start the next angle makes the story feel more earned for a visual medium. And for Kaz, of all characters, it’s important to remember that there’s only so much Freddy Carter can show the audience if the character isn’t saying things aloud. We’re talking about the man whose spoken words differ vastly from his internal thoughts, and without a narrator, the show’s arrangement needed to do more to show the audience what’s happening inside of him.

That said, we learn that The Crow Club is now The Kaelish Prince, and the three of them are subsequently framed for Tante Heleen’s murder with Pekka Rollins domineering the Barrel. The stakes are already higher for them than in Season 1, pushing the characters to revelations about themselves and each other.

Sturmhond rescuing Kaz and Jesper in Shadow and Bone. Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Patrick Gibson as Nikolai, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker in episode 201 of Shadow and Bone.
Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Before a big rescue by non-other than Sturmhond, Kaz and Jesper are arrested while Inej Ghafa quietly escapes. (“That’s my girl,” I whisper to the screen.) In the carriage headed toward Hellgate, Kaz nearly faints because of another prisoner’s touch, prompting Jesper to notice and call for help. Observing this change from what we get in Six of Crows is fascinating because, again, none of his companions, except maybe Inej, realize how severe his trauma is. Kaz Brekker could fight and take beatings, no problem, but violence and moments like this are drastically different. And before we get into more analysis of this, it’s also important to remember that in Six of Crows, Inej touches his cheek without him flinching. The right time—the right person. Yet for now, Jesper seeing the near-collapse and remaining silent on the matter, followed by Kaz later affirming that he knows Jesper is a Durast, makes for a perfect parallel. Part of the richness of their friendship is the level of unspoken trust they each have.

Jesper isn’t going to push about the carriage, and Kaz isn’t going to pry regarding why Jesper is keeping his powers a secret. They don’t need to talk about this. But for the time being, they need to go with Kaz’s plan until it all blows up in their faces with The Crow Club’s collapse—brick by brick. And with the five of them standing together as they watch it burst to flames, it’s a clear showcase of the burns they’ll live through and the intimacy they’ll find during all the heists, big or small. This is only the beginning. Where Inej has the freedom to leave, she makes it clear that she isn’t going to leave yet, and there’s much at play here because, despite the secrecy, she still knows more about Kaz than he’d like.

Jack Wolfe as Wylan Hendricks in Shadow and Bone Season 2 introduction scene
Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

As the original three wordlessly affirm their loyalty to one another, the season premiere wastes no time bringing two out of the remaining three into the equation. Jack Wolfe’s Wylan Van Eck (Hendricks in the show) gets the most wholesome entrance, but a small detail about him confirms how much more he needs the Crows than they need him as their demolitions man. Jesper’s confusion about why he’s the one Kaz hires, followed by the clear signs that the two have met before, make for the type of moment that’s undoubtedly leading to an exquisite pay-off.

Still, where Wylan’s entrance screams the loudest is in Kaz’s question asking when the last time Wylan ate. In this moment, the series cements that this is the first glimpse of a real family for Wylan and that he’s likely more alone than we imagine. Whether his lineage will be similar to the books or not, we don’t know yet, but we know enough to understand that he will choose his new family over and over again after this moment. (While every actor is ideally cast, no one comes as close to the detail that Jack Wolfe walked straight out of the books, and I’ll never get over his casting or his introduction being the character playing the Heist theme with a flute.) There’s a big, painful journey ahead, but the bonds they’re already fortifying with each other will make the heartrending moments bearable and worthwhile.

The Crows watching as Ketterdam burns in Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 1

Finally, Nina rescuing Inej and finding her way to the Crows while they’re in need of a Heartrender could not have been more appropriately timed. Quite literally, in unison. Nina Zenik. That’s the one. It marks the beginning of sisterhood between a Suli girl and a lost Grisha in a way the show nails, allowing us to get a brief peek of an introduction that works for both of them. At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget that even if they could be a little older in the show, they’re all kids who were forced to grow up too quickly. None of them are invincible, and their lives are important, permitting the scene to make it clear that the number of people who’ll always look out for them is growing in a world as cruel as theirs. They might all have their heedless agendas; sure, Nina needs to rescue the love of her life, but a family is born in these cobblestoned streets and murky pathways—a form of unyielding trust is assembling as quickly as parts of Ketterdam are burning.

All Aboard the Hummingbird 

Patrick Gibson as Sturmhond / Nikolai Lantsov in Shadow and Bone 2x01 "No Shelter But Me"

Patrick Gibson could not be more perfect as Sturmhond/Nikolai Lantsov. And frankly, I’m not the least bit bothered by the fact that his face isn’t tailored while at sea. His charisma and energy are already unmatched, and threading him into the story by infusing that he’s been part of the journey all along is a smart move. His money being on the line instead of Dreesen’s makes for a fantastic, fun twist that plants more seeds toward his relationship with Kaz. (It’s a match made specifically for the angsty girlies, and I, for one, am loving every minute of it).

There’s also much to say about his dynamic with Tolya and Tamar, whose entrances are scream-worthy. See, this show gets it. The first glimpse of a character matters, and they know how to sell it to us. Further, the bond between Alina/Nikolai/Mal is already far more entertaining than in the books, giving us more ways to closely get to know each of the characters. The new additions improved the trilogy, and now that they’re on the show, it’s legitimately hard to imagine it once existed without them. Season 1 was great, but despite some hiccups, Season 2 is better. And while there isn’t too much in this episode that we can excavate as closely as we can with the Crows, it’s slowly but surely leading to big moments.

Shadow and Bone 2×01, “No Shelter But Me,” is an intricate reminder that though most of these characters think they’re on their own, they have people looking out for them. No one is truly alone anymore, no matter how much it may seem that way. Because, really, even the Darkling isn’t alone. The relationships on the show make it unique, and in this regard, the first episode makes for a solid opening.

Midnight Heists and Further Thoughts

  • The new openings are incredible.
  • Fedyor deserved to survive. Ivan, eh?
  • “Yay. That’s a good sign.” God, I love Jesper.
  • “Where’d she go?” / Jesper: “Yeah, she does that.” 
  • Jesper: “Let’s all go back to Ketterdamn, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.” Have I mentioned that I love Jesper?
  • “A privateer. It’s an important distinction.” This is Nikolai, and I love it so much.
  • “How dare you? How even? We are not vultures. We are crows! That makes more sense with context.” JESPER FAHEY, MY BELOVED.
  • TOLYA & TAMAR’S ENTRANCE IS PERFECT. So fun, bold, and edgy. 
  • Jesper never expecting Inej, but Kaz knowing she’s there…God!
  • Jack Wolfe walked straight out of the book, and I’m EMOTIONAL! Actually, I’m never getting over it.
  • Nina: “Funny guns and the angry hat” I swear, I love them so much.
  • Wylan: “Can I get anyone some tea?” WYLAN I LOVE YOU
  • “He’s the love of my life” And then Nina said, here, have some heartbreak.
  • Inej—”he does this.” Who else is more fit to speak on behalf of her buffoon of a husband?
  • Nina saying, “it’ll be fun” in Suli to Inej!??!?! MY GIRLS. 
  • The Barrel doesn’t belong to Kings. It belongs to Bastards.” Kaz Brekker, why are you the most dramatic man, and why do I love you so much?

Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Shadow and Bone 2×01 “No Shelter But Me?” Let us know in the comments below.


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