Good things come to those who wait. And in this case, the sentiment certainly rings true. Nearly two years after the premiere of the first season, the highly anticipated second season of Shadow and Bone has finally arrived on Netflix.
This season finds Alina Starkov on the run, determined to bring down the Fold once and for all, while the Darkling is now more dangerous than ever. Everything this time around has increased tenfold — the stakes, the action, the drama, the romance, the underlying sense of wonder and adventure — ultimately making Shadow and Bone‘s sophomore season even stronger and more daring, cohesive, and entertaining than the first.
It’s no secret that season 2 adapts events from both Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising, which initially raised the question as to how exactly would all of this neatly fit into eight episodes, with the added complication of weaving in the Crows again, to boot? In a perfect world, it would have been exciting to see the Grishaverse drawn out at a slower pace a la Game of Thrones, given how rich of a fantasy world author Leigh Bardugo’s books contain. However, considering the rarity of long-running genre shows nowadays, this accelerated approach was undoubtedly the best way to go about bringing the books to the screen in an effort to give audiences a complete, fulfilling story that manages to include essentially all of the major characters across the Grishaverse.
Despite the fact that the events of the two aforementioned books play out a bit differently in the show, the way the plot unfolds will ultimately prove to be a gratifying story for book readers and casual show watchers alike by the time the credits roll on the last episode (and as someone who is particularly partial to the Crows duology, the way they were written into the events of this season was both very clever and satisfying).
From the get-go, one of the strongest weapons in Shadow and Bone‘s arsenal has been its casting process. Bringing a book to life is no simple feat, particularly when an array of popular and beloved characters is involved, and yet the show managed to achieve a feat of epic proportions — an entire ensemble cast that feels like they crawled right off the pages. And if season 1 was the cast stepping into a pair of brand new shoes, season 2 now finds them comfortably broken in, molded to the perfect fit. That’s all to say that it feels as if everyone has settled even further into their roles this time around, lending added layers of confidence and certainty to their portrayals of each character. Further to that, the camaraderie that the cast clearly found while working together on the first season has served to complement their on-screen chemistry beautifully.
While their intertwined stories naturally put them front and center from the start, Ben Barnes and Jessie Mei Li’s performances were further elevated this season with the dynamic growth and changes to their characters. No longer tethered by the guise of the benevolent General Kirigan, Barnes shucks off all pretense and taps deep into the terrifying true nature of the Darkling (showing off an impressive and hard-hitting range of emotions up through the finale). Alina, on the other hand, has begun to find her voice and her footing as a Grisha, and Mei Li is truly a force to be reckoned with as the Sun Summoner grows exponentially more powerful.
In addition to the returning cast, season 2 gives us the long-awaited introduction of four more key players from the Grishaverse — Patrick Gibson as Nikolai Lantsov, Jack Wolfe as Wylan Hendriks, Anna Leong Brophy as Tamar Kir-Bataar, and Lewis Tan as Tolya Yul-Bataar. Gibson effortlessly channels the roguishly charming and alluring mannerisms that made Nikolai a fan favorite character in the books. Meanwhile, Wolfe embodies Wylan in every sense of the word — after seeing his performance, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else filling this role quite the way he does. Also, Leong Brophy and Tan have nailed the fierce portrayals of the twin Heartrenders.
One can only hope that a renewal is in the cards at Netflix, because after a brilliant second season, the closing moments of the finale pack a shocking punch that’s guaranteed to leave viewers on the edge of their seats in excitement for what’s potentially to come in season 3.
Shadow and Bone season 2 is now streaming on Netflix. Make sure to stick around for our episodic recaps!