Shadow And Bone season two was released on Netflix on March 16th. Whether or not you’ve watched the first season or are well-versed in the ‘Grishverse’ and have read the book trilogy from which the series is based (including the spin-off Six Crows series), the second season has undoubtedly left fans divided (please note, spoilers ahead).
The second season brings viewers back to the fantastical world of Ravka, where the Sun Summoner (and Saint) Alina is more driven than ever to take down the dark and dangerous shadow fold that has terrorised the nation and people she loves.
The fallout with her former romance and now nemesis, the Darkling, known as Aleksander, has left its imprint on Alina. She spends much of the season plagued with ‘dreams’ that connect her and the Summoner of Darkness.
Alina and her childhood friend Mal, who were in a love triangle of sorts in the first season, begin the season with a very established romantic relationship, meaning only one thing, its eventual downfall. They are searching for amplifiers, a triad of mythical creatures (one of which was killed in the first season) that, in their death, can amplify Alina’s light-bringing ability so that she can finally tear down the shadow fold once and for all.
The pair are intercepted by privateer Sturmhond, who is actually the Prince Nikolai of Ravka in disguise, who joins forces with the couple to help them find the two remaining amplifiers (the Sea Whip and the Firebird). Nikolai has dazzling charm and biting chemistry with Alina, but one can’t help but notice what is lacking between Mal and Alina.
It is important to note that the television series has become a creature of its own. The series strays from the novels, which is why there has been a divide between fans of the show and the books.
While Alina’s storyline came up somewhat lacking, this viewer’s particular love of the season was borne from the Ketterdam gangsters, otherwise known as the crows. The crows include Kaz, Inej, Jesper, and the newly introduced Wylan and Nina (if renewed, later seasons will consist of the sixth member, Matthias).
Each of the crows has their own ambitions and vendettas. The morally grey, Thomas Shelby type, Kaz Brekker, puts the lives of his crows at risk due to his desire to destroy his enemy Pekka Rollins, who has stolen the crow’s home in their absence from Ketterdam and accused them of murder.
The season travels into the trauma of Kaz’s past in particular as he reveals to Inej after much prompting that Pekka is responsible for his brother’s death, having tricked and stolen all of the money Kaz and his brother had as children from their family’s farm.
Homeless and infected with a deadly fever, firepox, Kaz’s aversion to human touch stems from waking in the ocean alongside piles and piles of dead bodies, including his brother, as the fever stole countless lives. Kaz gets revenge after capitalising on Pekka’s only ‘weakness’, his love for his only son.
However, the dynamic between Inej in this season only grows more potent, with traumatised pair having unknowingly found solace between them as in denial as Kaz is about it. However, as the season concludes, Kaz finally musters up the courage to ask Inej to stay in Ketterdam with him because he wants her.
Inej, whose own trauma is yet to be uncovered in detail, rejects Kaz’s plea, as he is still unable to be genuinely emotionally available to her in the same way she is willing to be to him.
Jesper and Wylan develop a sweet romance after stumbling over Jesper’s lack of recognition of Wylan as they had met before. Unlike Kaz and Inej, Jesper can make peace with his identity and trauma, finally owning his power as a Durast (an influencer of metal).
The second season has undoubtedly travelled a darker route for the crows, staying more faithful to the book’s depiction of the found-family dynamic of deeply traumatised individuals who turn to criminal behaviour for survival. Despite this, they bring a lightness to the season. Their storyline of finding a blade to take down the dark creatures which protect the season’s enemy, the Darkling, is more compelling than the main plotline. The crow’s story delves into a relatable emotional core, a playful dynamic between each well-rounded and fleshed-out character.
Nina, who is determined to save the love of her life Matthias, is a refreshing addition to the group, her flirtatiousness, cheek and straightforward honesty posing an exciting challenge to Kaz, who is, for lack of a better term, the ‘leader’ of the crows.
Nonetheless, it is revealed that Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend, is related to her former flame, the Darkling, and not only that, but the third amplifier, the firebird, is a bloodline, not a beast. And, yes, Mal is of that bloodline; therefore, he must die for Alina to take down the shadow fold.
However, after destroying the shadow fold and killing her former love and enemy, Alina uses the dark magic she promised she would not use to bring Mal back to life. The action will indeed have consequences.
The most exciting and compelling aspect of Alina’s storyline came from the most significant deviation of the book. Alina and Mal part ways as she will become Queen of Ravka through her engagement with Prince Nikolai. The show’s last moments have her kill another Grisha (a person with special powers) high on the addictive, power-amplifying substance, Jurda Pardem.
Alina may live to see herself become a villain after all.