‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 2 butchers characters, rushes plots


Shadow and Bone season 2 premiered March 16 with new characters, bigger plotlines, and a more expansive setting. (Photo taken from Netflix)

If you’re anything like me, the minute “Shadow and Bone” Season 2 premiered on March 16., you parked yourself on the couch and prepared to binge. After the first season instantly became my new gold standard for book-to-screen adaptations, expectations had skyrocketed for the new installment. Jam-packed with plot, action, romance and new characters abound this season promised to rival the first.

It’s these high expectations that made it all the more frustrating to watch some of my favorite character’s development and plotlines be rushed. 

“Shadow and Bone” Season 2 combines and alters the plot of the second and third books in the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy. When the season starts, Mal (Archie Renaux) and Alina (Jessie Mei Li) are attempting to find the second amplifier on the True Sea, the crows have returned home only to find Pecca Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly) has taken over the Barrel, Matthias (Calahan Skogman) is trapped in Hellgate and the Darkling (Ben Barnes) continues trying to draw Alina to his side. 

The show introduced some new characters – most notably fan-favorites Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson) and Wylan Van Eck (Jack Wolfe). These characters, particularly Nikolai, are a highlight of the season, with Gibson perfectly capturing the charming and racketeering personality of his book counterpart.

Another success of this season is the exploration of the Crow’s pasts, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) in particular. His aversion to touch is explained through vivid hallucinations of his past, that left even me shivering with horror. Relationships between the Crows are also developed masterfully, with the tension between Kaz and Inej (Amita Suman) rising nearer and nearer to a breaking point.

Where the problems arise is in the butchering of characters from the “Shadow and Bone” book series. 

While I still hope Netflix will renew “Shadow and Bone,” I’m left mistrustful of how the series will continue in the future.

— Maya Hruskar ’23

While Alina is certainly more reserved and hardened in the second season, her naivety sticks in a way that it didn’t in the book – her want for power, while mentioned, isn’t made out to be as troubling or considered as a parallel to the Darkling. Her good-intentions and self-sacrificing tendencies are unfortunately mixed with an annoying lack of forethought and overall stupidness. This problem is emphasized as the show switches between her blind goodness and the perspective of the intelligent and calculating Crows.  

Mal is thankfully made more likable in the series than in the books, but still struggles to keep up with the other competing love interests, Nikolai and Kirigan. Though Renaux tried valiantly to make his one-tone character most interesting, I found myself continuously hoping that Alina would friendzone him again.

The true tragedy of this season is how much they rush and flatten the arc of the best character in the series – the Darkling. Deliciously evil with just hints of heartbreaking humanity, the Darkling has been the most compelling character in the season from the beginning. I even found myself at times rooting for Alina to become evil and join the Darkling, or for him to just win outright. 

The books left the reader in sympathy and constant want for a redemption of the Darkling, which is a major point of tension throughout the series. The series eliminated this option quickly and reduced him to being a total bad guy until a brief monologue later in the season, that just left me even more angry at how wasted his character was this season. 

Perhaps the Darklings’ plotline in this season, not letting him explore the full potential of the character, was an effort to prevent the series from becoming reliant on him – which it has been from the start. Nonetheless, the compelling nature of his character made it all the more maddening to watch him be butchered and rushed. 

While I still hope Netflix will renew “Shadow and Bone,” I’m left mistrustful of how the series will continue in the future. “Shadow and Bone” will have much to prove if they’re granted a third season, but the series remains so charming and full of potential that I can’t help but root for it in spite of mistakes made this season.