Hello, hello! I binged a show and I am going to make it everybody’s problem!
A couple of years ago, I watched the first season of Shadow and Bone on Netflix months after it came out, without having a single idea what the story was about, and documented my thoughts on this very blog. A couple of weeks ago, season two was released and this time, I sat down to watch it immediately. The experience was different:
- I still have not read the books, but I did browse the internet and take a peek into fandom spaces, so I had some idea of how the books— at least the first trilogy— unfold.
- This time I binged the show not in-between six football games a day, but in-between working hours. My brain was significantly more tired.
- I did not enjoy it as much as the first season— or barely at all.
Yet, one thing remains true: I still cannot physically hate any character played by Ben Barnes. The man is too charming for his own good.
So, in today’s post, I’ll talk about all the things I liked, the things I disliked, and the things I didn’t care about in the new season of the show. We’ll also take a moment to laugh at my past self because boy, did I not see some things coming!
Warning 1: There will be spoilers.
Warning 2: This is a rant. Do not expect much positivity.
Let’s get started!
- While in the previous season, the Russian-inspired setting was emphasized and left much to be desired going forward, in season two it was mostly just there. Background image. I was hoping we’d get to explore it more, to see how the country works outside the palace, but we just jumped from place to place. If it weren’t for the outfits and the scattered Russian words here and there, we’d completely forget the setting.
- The same goes for every other place the characters visited. The show kept jumping from location to location without taking a minute to breathe in each setting, to let the viewer get familiar with it and the characters interact within it.
- Even in places like —I forget the names— the country Alina and Mal land on in the first episode and the other one that is so obviously inspired by Chinese culture where the characters got a few moments of interaction with the locals and their surroundings, it was done fast and in a messy way. Especially the latter felt like it doesn’t belong in the universe, like it wasn’t incorporated well as a setting. Maybe the plot is at fault here, too.
- The map transitions were pretty cool!
- The Russian naming conventions still aren’t followed and it still bothers me. I got used to Starkov last season, but the number of times we had to hear Morozova in reference to a male was a few too much.
random character: He, Morozova
- The magic system is still very fascinating. I love how we saw other Grisha use their powers, but I wanted more. I wanted them to explore it more, to focus a bit more on the magical elements of the story, especially in Alina’s half of it.
- The one thing that confused me was the amplifiers. For example, I thought the amplifier had to be killed for the Grisha to get the power and yet Alina went on that sea creature quest with the intention to get its powers without killing it. Like, how would that work? Grisha with amplified powers dying easily by bombs and bullets while doing little harm with their powers in a mostly powerless camp was very confusing, too. It’s like having the X-Men die by tripping and falling down the stairs. I needed more explanation about how everything works.
- In my post about season one, I mentioned how I would like to see more of the religious system of Ravka and how it functions. So, naturally, when I saw there was another Saint making an appearance I got excited. Turns out it was for nothing. Season two gave us nothing on that front. It’s on me, really, for expecting such things from a YA story.
- Finally, politics. It’s like the writers completely forgot about this part. Weren’t the countries at war? Weren’t Grisha supposed to be persecuted? No one takes a single measure to hide themselves this season, there’s barely any fear. They just walk around doing whatever as if they’re Avatar, the last Airbender. And we keep hearing about the country living a nightmare, yet we do not see it. The show got so caught up in plot, they forgot to show us the world it unfolds in.
- In short:
- I honestly don’t have much to say about the plot. Everything happened too fast to register.
- Where the writers had done a really good job merging the stories in the first season, now it felt like watching three different shows; one about Alina, a different one about the Darkling, and a whole different one about the Crows.
- And then there was the separate plot of Matthias and Nina which was just there, as a setup.
- No story got the chance to fully grow, but it feels like in this season the Crows were put front and centre. Alina is no longer the main character. In fact, her story felt kind of awkward. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but it felt like it was fading in the background while at the same time being in the front.
- I loved seeing the Crows at work, but the whole plot around the sword was messy. I lost it at the butterflies— I can’t think of it as anything less than ridiculous after that.
- “Five of— *crow caw*” was hilarious, I’ll give them that.
- The Darkling’s side was also not given enough time for me. There were interesting things going on, with him slowly dying and the Grisha taking sides and all that, but again, it was just action upon action; no time for the plot to breathe.
- Douze points for doing the classic period drama spitting plague blood on a handkerchief to show he’s dying!
- My favourite part has to be the finale with the power of love and the speech about girl power and friendship that will rebuild the world. A true My Little Pony moment. Perfectly fitting into a supposedly complex fantasy world. 😑
- Overall, no episode really stands out.
- First of all, NO MILO THE GOAT?
- What about Fedyor and Ivan? Did the Fold get them? Did they elope? Did they open a transdimensional portal and move to a story that would treat them better? You can’t just pretend characters very present in the first season never existed.
- Apart from these very important omissions, the characters were definitely the strongest aspect of the season.
- Especially the Crows. They stole the show. (haha, pun intended) Kaz was obviously the highlight— it was so good to see his backstory and trauma and the actor absolutely killed it. He is still cool and very emotionally repressed, but now he shines under a whole new layer of suffering and I love to see it. Jesper is still an icon. I loved seeing him come to terms with his powers and the dream scene with his mom was so beautiful. Inej (whose last name I realised I had been pronouncing wrong) was sidelined the most I fear. I still loved her— I can’t say no to knife-wielding legends, but I wish we could’ve seen more of her outside her relationships with the others.
- Nina my beloved <3. She is so me, always thinking about food and Matthias.
- Speaking of, they did Matthias so dirty. He was barely in it. And while he did look fine as hell, it’s like he was there to fill the obligatory shirtless man quota of prime television. We only got crumbs of his plotline. Criminal if you ask me.
- Mal, I’m afraid to report, hasn’t grown on me. On the contrary, I find him more indifferent than before. Strange, considering he got a huge plot twist being an amplifier and all. What he really needs as a character is a personality outside Alina— let him breathe in a different storyline.
- Alina’s best moment for me was the very last scene when we see her enjoy using power. I honestly don’t know how I feel about her during the entire season. It’s like all her character development happened off-screen. There were moments that really baffled me. Like, when she said she was so driven by power. When did that happen??
Alina: I was so driven by power
- The Darkling was still the most interesting character, but unfortunately, they didn’t do much with him either. I got so excited when he made his first appearance with the scars and the cape and the hood, entering his sexy villain era with style. And then, nothing. He was just there to be mean and die. All the nuance, all the complexity, gone. YOU HAVE BEN BARNES, USE HIM.
- With Baghra I went from confusion to confusion mixed with hatred. I couldn’t stand her. She came out so hypocritical. Last season, if I remember well, she was against amplifiers, always going on and on about her son’s greed and all that, only to go full speed ahead when she was fully on Alina’s side. Did she just change her mind? Is greed bad only when it comes to the bad guys?
- Genya’s story was heartbreaking.
- David story’s was also heartbreaking.
- Zoya, like Alina, feels like she had all her character development off-screen. I didn’t care about her, to be honest.
- And finally, we come to the newbies. Wylan (whose first name I had been pronouncing wrong) was adorable, I loved him instantly. Tamar and Tolya were an iconic sibling duo. They really stood out amongst the additions. I wish we got to see more of Vladim, he was so interesting.
- Nikolai. The most hyped character of the season. I’ve seen that fans of the books are divided on his portrayal, many found it disappointing. I am not familiar with the book version, so I can’t comment on that. But, he is a charming guy. I could see why people love him even though he didn’t get much time or development himself. When he entered a room he raised the collective IQ and I respect that. I wish they’d shown more of his Sturmhond identity before the reveal because they kept talking about his free life and whatnot and I had no idea what they were referring to. We got to see him for half an episode. I can partially excuse the poor character-building, though, because FLYING SHIP.
- In terms of relationships, the show mostly failed where it highly succeeded in the previous season. Most of them happened too fast (e.g. Tamar and that other girl)— the pacing really killed so many aspects of the show.
- The Crows are still exquisite found family material, thankfully. I wish we would have seen even more of their dynamic. And the way Nina and Wylan were adopted into the group added a little something extra, which I’d loved to see explored.
- Kaz and Inej. I LOVED that we got more of them. The angst was perfect👌. “It’s not what you think” It’s ALWAYS what we think in these situations, you emotionally repressed idiots.
- Jesper and Wylan were so cute and wholesome.
- I was DEPRIVED of Nina and Matthias. Where was the angst? The development? The interactions? Let’s just point and laugh at my past self here— she had hopes and dreams:
- Alina and Mal bothered me a lot this season. And the fact that they bothered me bothered me even further. How do you make me of all people not enjoy childhood friends to lovers? During the first couple of episodes, I kept feeling that there was an unexplained gap between where we left them last season and where we found them. But, the thing that truly annoyed me is that they kept telling us that the stakes were really high yet their only concern was to make out. I get it, they’re teenagers in love, but there’s a world to save here. You know, priorities. We have a saying in Greek that roughly translates to “the world is going to shit and Maria is brushing her hair” (I swear it makes sense in Greek), which we use when someone is preoccupied with irrelevant mundane things when there’s a crisis going on. That’s how I’d describe Alina and Mal this season.
- Alina and the Darkling went from my favourite relationship to being just ok. The chemistry was still there in the scenes they shared but plotwise they weren’t given much. Here I was thinking they could have an Xavier-Magneto thing going on, only for them to get cardboard good hero vs evil-mustache man. My disappointment is immeasurable.
- I think the one relationship Alina formed that I really enjoyed was with Nikolai. They work well together and they seem to be complementary to one another. The fake engagement could give such a good dynamic, but I know now not to place hope on this show.
- As a final point, let’s just take a moment to once again laugh at my past self’s thoughts on Genya and David:
- Ha, ha, ha
All in all, I did not enjoy this season much. The vibes were off. Will I be seated if a new season comes out? Who knows? I’ll give the Six of Crows spinoff a chance, though, if it ends up greenlighted.
What did you think of season 2 of Shadow and Bone? Do we agree on anything? If you’ve read the books, did they do them justice?
6 thoughts on “Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Season 2, and I Still Haven’t Read the Books”
You make so many good points and you’ve basically summarized my own feelings about season 2!
Now that you mention the world-building, I realize that I hadn’t even thought of how bad it was in this season. Maybe a result of having read the books so I must have filled out the blanks? 🤔 But you’re so right about everything! It got me thinking about those other places they go to (like the Chinese inspired one) because they don’t do that in the books. It’s something the show decided to add, almost like they wanted us to see more of the world and do some world-building, but only half-heartedly apparently. Why do it then?!?
I also thought it was very weird how Alina wanted the sea whip’s power without killing it. Like, how? It becomes annoying that they do kill it and that line of thought was never brought up again and Alina, apparently, was fine killing it. Why were we spending time on it then?
I also agree that they didn’t succeed in merging the storylines this season. They tried but rushed the Crows’ story with Pekka Rollins so they could go on a weird-ass quest for a sword. Also, HOW ARE THEY EATING BUTTERFLIES LIKE IT’S NO BIG DEAL?!?? I’d probably have been fine dying…
“A true My Little Pony moment.” 😂😂😂 I love how you phrase things!
I kinda forgot about Milo (I’m sorry) but I did wonder if Fedyor or Ivan would ever appear again 🤔 I guess the season was too busy to develop comic relief characters when it couldn’t even give proper attention to its main characters.
Even though I didn’t like Nikolai in this, I do agree that he and Alina had some chemistry. All the Ravka characters felt very bland to me this season, but the interactions between those two were the only times I found myself actually paying attention and not just waiting for the crows to return. The show didn’t do much with that chemistry because, what, were they meant to slow down and explore that? Of course not! We have a lot of plot to get through so we don’t need another season.
Finally, I’m kinda glad Nina and Matthias aren’t my favorites because fans of them truly had a rough season. How could they even get away with calling Matthias a series regular? He was an extra! A beautiful extra but an extra nonetheless.
Instead, I very much love Wylan and my only complaint is that I felt they reduced his character to his relationship with Jesper. Like, there were a lot of scenes that were clearly just fanservice and I both loved and hated that. Loved because OMG it was so cute, and hated because we could have had so much more.
I’m going to stop now but just assume I agree with everything I didn’t comment on because I could rant about this season for a very long time. Loved this!
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Thank you! I’m glad you agree with many of my points because I was afraid I was being too negative.
That’s actually strange how they added a whole location instead of building better the ones that are present in the books. So many baffling decisions on the writers’ part. But, yeah, I kind of guessed that if you’re familiar with the books you don’t notice the lack of world-building much— to be honest, many parts of the season felt like the shows were addressed to people who have read the books and that’s why it was so packed.
God, the butterflies. That was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen. Just leave me in the nightmare world to die.
You are so right about all the Ravka characters feeling bland. I do wonder how Nikolai was in the books and how book!Nikolai differs from the show version. The mixed feelings I keep seeing around him have made me very curious.
I don’t understand how they had the audacity to call Matthias a series regular either. I mean, the butterflies had a bigger effect on the plot than all his scenes combined. And I totally see your point about Wylan. On the one hand, I’m glad we got him and his relationship with Jesper. On the other hand, I feel like it would have been better to either not explore the relationship or not introduce the character at all if they couldn’t give him time to develop during the season.
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Hello, hello!!! 🤗 I might be late to this – both in the sense that I’m responding way later than when I first read this post and in the sense that we’re not going to talk about the fact that it’s currently half past midnight 🙃 – but I figured I had to come here and gush in person before I gushed even more about this review in my wrap-up tomorrow! Like, I agree with pretty everything!! This season was such a let down! 😭 HOW DARE THEY SIMPLY NOT INCLUDE MATTHIAS!?! WHAT WAS UP WITH THAT SUPER RUSHED PLOT? AND THOSE BUTTERFLIES… I just can’t 🙈🙈🙈 I’m 100% with you and Line that that was absolutely unnecessary, disgusting, and scientifically unrealistic. It felt like it had been taken straight from a wacko DnD escape room plot 😬🦋
And yeah, the lack of world-building really bothered me, too. I felt like the show did such a good job fleshing things out in Season 1 – as you’ve probably gathered from the **questionable** Slavic naming conventions, there isn’t exactly much political or language background in the Grisha trilogy – but here, it’s like they completely gave up and thought “if we give them neat map transitions, maybe they won’t notice that we’re not actually telling the people anything about these places.” 🙄
Honestly, though? Not even Ben Barnes could save the Darkling for me this season. He was so boring and bland, just like all the Ravkan characters! Well, except maybe for David and Genya, who at least had some on screen development. You’re so right in saying that was stolen from Alina!
I also liked the Crow plotline a lot more, although compared to the epicness that is “Six of Crows”, even that felt rushed. Like, I highly recommend reading the books if you want more tortured Kaz and Nina, because they have it all! 🤗 And, I’m sorry, but I thought the “Five of Crows” reference was so dumb!! 🙈🙈🙈 It felt like the show was desperately trying to make up for its mediocre plot by being super meta, but all it did was rub in my face that Matthias was rotting in prison, totally forgotten, throughout the entire season! 😤
But anyway – although I could probably go on about this forever, I need sleep, so rant over 🤣 Maybe we’ll get lucky and the next season will be better? 🤔
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I was going to tell you something along the lines of having to keep a better sleeping schedule but I’m not doing better on that front myself 🙈 Sorry for replying late to this but I’ve been quite busy. I’m so glad we agree on the season being a letdown. I was afraid I was negatively predispositioned towards it (don’t know why), but it’s good to know others share my feelings.
The worldbuilding went so downhill compared to the first season. It’s not like I wanted Game of Thrones level background, but jumping to places we already know with these cool maps would’ve been nicer. I spent half the season trying to separate the locations from each other. And while I do agree on the Darkling being bland, I can’t ignore the hold Ben Barnes has on me 😂
I get your feelings on the “five of crows” thing, but I love stupid cringy moments like this, I laughed. But, yeah, if I am going to pick up any book from the Grishaverse, it’s going to be the Six of Crows duology. I haven’t heard the best things about the rest of the books.
I do wish next season will be better if it eventually happens, but then again I wouldn’t place much hope on it.
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Busyness and lack of sleep sounds way too relatable at the moment, so fingers crossed we’ll both have a bit more normality soon! 💙 At least in that regard, I suppose it’s a good thing that most of my highly anticipated shows already dropped last month… 🤣
But anyway – I really hope you end up liking Six of Crows if you do end up reading it! I definitely want updates because those Kaz and Inej scenes are so much better within the context of an actual plot! 🥰
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