With season two of Shadow and Bone premiering on Netflix just under a month ago, fans of the popular fantasy series are eagerly awaiting news of a potential third season. But Grishaverse devotees are also clamoring for something else: the official greenlight for spin-off series Six of Crows.
Readers who devoured Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy (the primary inspiration for the show) and Six of Crows duology (set in the same universe but focusing on different characters) have made their desire for a proper adaptation of the duology known ever since it was originally announced that Netflix was combining the stories into one show. This passion only grew when Shadow and Bone showrunner Eric Heisserer confirmed that eight scripts have been written for the potential spin-off, which would be devoted solely to fan favorites Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina, and Matthias.
Fans have rallied behind the concept, creating fan art and hosting watch parties in an effort to show Netflix that this spin-off is not only desired but also profitable for the streamer. Aside from fan enthusiasm, there are also several concrete issues with Shadow and Bone‘s structure that illustrate the importance of allowing the Crows to break off into their own world. Let’s break down the many reasons Six of Crows is the perfect way to expand the Grishaverse and give fans the best possible adaptation of both stories.
One major reason to greenlight Six of Crows alongside a third season of Shadow and Bone is practical: too many stories, too little screentime. The one consistent critique of both seasons of Shadow and Bone is that by adding the Crows to the narrative, both storylines got less attention than they deserved. In some places, book plotlines were rushed or dropped altogether, while interesting developments written specifically for the show didn’t have the room to breathe that they needed.
In addition, the Crows scenes in season two centered on a Robin Hood-esque heist, swashbuckling romance, and found family, while the Shadow and Bone plot was much more about political intrigue and love triangles. While these tropes aren’t mutually exclusive, it’s much harder to make them work as a cohesive whole. As a result, the Crows were often the most compelling part about Shadow and Bone. This is not the fault of the actors or writers, who did stellar work on Alina’s part of the story. Jessie Mei Li and Ben Barnes’ chemistry anchors Alina’s struggle for power with the Darkling as well as it did in the first season (if not more so). Action-packed, quippy adventures like the heist the Crows spend most of their focus on are by their nature more lively than palace drama or even dark magic. This just become more clear when they are in direct competition for viewers’ limited attention.
By giving the Crows their own show, these problems disappear. The main Shadow and Bone story can easily continue without the Crows pulling focus, while the Crows can be fully fleshed out as the writers turn to the duology for plot rather than finding ways to fit the crew into the existing Shadow and Bone narrative.
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This also makes sense from a business perspective. The Grishaverse has a strong fanbase that ranks with other major YA book franchises like The Hunger Games or Percy Jackson (as Bardugo’s massive publishing deal proves). Some of their most successful series and films, like Wednesday and Stranger Things, have been aimed at the young adult audience that is now rallying behind Shadow and Bone.
For Netflix, it’s essential to invest in this fandom of loyal viewers and build the Grishaverse brand. What better way to do that than to have two separate hit series that serve as a proof of concept for future projects in the same universe? Much like the streamer’s choice to split Stranger Things 4 into two parts, having two different Grishaverse shows that would presumably premiere in different parts of the year would be helpful in hooking and retaining subscribers. Netflix has shown its willingness to invest in story universes that could lead to spin-offs in the past.
Since the two shows have already established themselves as connected, there would almost certainly be cameos and crossovers to ensure that those who may like one show over the other would also be willing to binge both to avoid missing nods to their favorite characters. If Six of Crows proves to be as successful as Shadow and Bone, there’s no shortage of material in the Grishaverse that could be developed into other spin-offs or standalone films with Bardugo’s blessing. Investing in Six of Crows now could pay off in a big way for Netflix, especially as some of its flagship shows reach the end of their runs in the next few years.
One of the most persuasive arguments for giving the Crows their own series is that on Shadow and Bone, they do not have the time needed to explore their individual traumas and motivations in full. This was especially evident in the way Inej’s story has unfolded in the past two seasons. While we know the broad strokes of her background and how her time at the Menagerie affected her, a true deep dive into her story has been mostly left to Amita Suman’s brilliant acting choices and quick character moments the writers have managed to squish into a cramped storyline.
The same goes for the other Crows to a lesser extent, not for lack of trying but for a lack of breathing room. When the group is poisoned and experience hallucinations, we learn more about Jesper’s secret Grisha powers, Inej’s feelings for Kaz, and Kaz’s haunted past in ten minutes than we had seen all season. If the writers were given a full season’s worth of episodes focused only on the Crows, they could easily capitalize on their cast’s chemistry and talent to their full potential. It has already been confirmed by several writers for the spin-off that there are character-centric episodes that will allow for Six of Crows to go deeper into the lives and motivations of the characters in a way that Shadow and Bone does not have the time to prioritize. This is welcome and necessary.
In the same vein, Six of Crows would be a triumph for diversity. Fantasy as a genre has been an unwelcoming place for queer and non-white characters, who are often relegated to supporting roles, if they’re shown at all. Shadow and Bone, on the whole, has done a good job of including characters from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds among both the main and supporting casts, though the addition of the Crows to the main trilogy’s group has led to some of these characters not getting the time for the development they deserve. For the Crows in particular, Inej and Jesper have been praised by fans for providing the sort of representation in fantasy that has been sorely missing. In order to make sure both of these compelling characters get the rich storylines they deserve, a Six of Crows spin-off is necessary.
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One of the refreshing parts of watching Shadow and Bone as a queer fan has been being able to see characters like Jesper, Nina, and Wylan taking on main roles without fear of homophobia within the narrative. While coming out narratives and stories depicting the reality of prejudice are important, it can be draining to only see those tropes when watching a show with LGBTQIA representation. Jesper and Nina, in particular, are both uncommon examples of bisexual leads, one of GLAAD’s priorities for LGBTQIA representation on television. With the Crows, fans get to see queer characters who have conflicts and traumas utterly unrelated to their sexuality. They get epic romances with the same importance as their het-presenting counterparts. This kind of representation shouldn’t be as rare as it is, but at a time when being a queer teenager or young adult is scarier than ever, it’s important that shows like Six of Crows exist for them to turn to for comfort and fun.
Six of Crows has long appealed to fans of the found family trope because of how Bardugo skillfully created a group of morally gray misfits with pasts that readers could find themselves in. As the characters deserve to have their stories told, fans deserve to see their lived experiences reflected in how their favorite characters face down their pasts and take control of their destinies. As Bardugo has said, “Shadow and Bone is very much a chosen one story, and Six of Crows is very much about people who aren’t chosen, who don’t have royal blood or grand destinies, and who the world views as expendable.”
While the writers were able to creatively merge those themes together in many places, watching Shadow and Bone has often felt like watching two separate shows with their own tones and narrative priorities. Making that official by greenlighting Six of Crows only helps both shows create their own identities, providing separate but equally enticing experiences for fans who can’t get enough of the Grishaverse.
Shadow and Bone season two is now streaming on Netflix. You can find our other coverage of the show here!