On March 16, the fantasy series “Shadow and Bone” returned to Netflix for its second season. Season one saw the protagonist Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) facing off against The Darkling (Ben Barnes), a powerful man who can summon shadow in the Tsarist Russia-inspired country of Ravka, divided by the Fold, a dark entity full of monsters. While the series is based on and named after Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone” trilogy, Alina is also joined by the Crows, characters from Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” duology.
The casting in particular is great on this show—a tall order with characters so beloved by book fans. As someone who has read the books, many of the characters felt like they had jumped straight from the page onto the screen.
The costuming was also up to snuff, representing the different fictional nations and the groups within them well. Most Grisha wear keftas (thick full-length coats) in colors and prints that correspond with their specific powers. As for the Crows, the fun-loving character of Jesper (Kit Young) is often seen in clashing plaid prints and colors with a lopsided top hat, while the stealthy Inej (Amita Suman) carries 14 knives hidden throughout her costume. This season also saw more portrayals of the fictional nations and cultures in this world, with bright prints for the West African-inspired Novyi Zem and intricate jewelry and headpieces for the Chinese-inspired Shu Han. These details made the different nations in this story more lived in, as well as distinct from each other.
The fight scenes were also fun to watch, with creative choreography that took advantage of each character’s specific weapons and/or powers. The fight scenes also were well integrated into the story, moving the story along and developing on characters and their relationships rather than only empty action devoid of meaning.
Both seasons of “Shadow and Bone” also have a terrific score, sometimes with specific musical phrases used to represent certain characters or groups of characters. For example, the characters who make up Kaz Brekker’s (Freddy Carter) gang, the Crows, have their own motif that appears in the score when they’re in action, or at significant points in their story.
While I was originally hesitant about combining the storylines of multiple book series, I ended up enjoying season 2. It had both emotional beats and fun action, and delivered on many iconic moments from the books, although some lacked the proper nuance of context. Season 2 also balanced a large cast of characters from different book series with their own storylines, later teaming up to fight a common enemy. The writing was a bit cheesy at times and the pacing wasn’t always solid, but it was overall an entertaining season that was enjoyable to watch. So if you enjoy fun action, a large and diverse cast and the phrase “be gay do crime,” check out season 2 of “Shadow and Bone” on Netflix!