Shadow and Bone season 2 review: Watch the Crows fly
It's time to return to the Grishaverse.
It's time to return to the Grishaverse, as Shadow and Bone season 2 is finally here! The second instalment in the Netflix series, based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, catches up with the Sun Summoner herself, Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), after she freed herself from the clutches of General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) and after her failed attempt to destroy the Shadow Fold.
Accompanied by Mal (Archie Renaux), she vowed to make destroying the Fold her life's mission – and in season 2, that's where we find her. She's on a quest to secure two more amplifiers after the stag, the sea whip and the firebird, both of which she's hoping will make her powerful enough to destroy the Fold. But, as expected, this journey is even more complicated than it sounds.
Meanwhile, our Crows, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) and Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) have new members on board. There's plenty to love about Shadow and Bone season 2. The stakes are higher than ever before, which makes for gripping viewing – and despite their rock-solid bond, Alina and Mal aren't immune from the tensions this causes.
But the best part of the season is, as many fans of the books may have predicted, the Crows. Learning more about Kaz's backstory is an absolute essential in season 2 and it's done beautifully, with a series of horrifying flashbacks and a hallucination that explain everything about his beginnings in life. On top of that, the gloriously stubborn dynamic between him and Inej is brought to life incredibly well by the actors.
Jesper's love life is also explored more in season 2, as Jack Wolfe brings us the intriguing Wylan – and once again, the actors play it pitch perfectly. Meanwhile, Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) is a perfect addition to the band of misfits as she desperately searches for a way to free Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman). Her loyalty is constantly tested, with the character proving herself time and time again.
More like this
In comparison, Alina's ongoing struggle could seem a little dulled-down, but the introduction of Patrick Gibson's Nikolai Lantsov does well to offset this, bringing some much-needed comic relief in the moments when Alina and Mal get a little... much. The season does well to set up a final battle between Alina and Kirigan, and only time will tell as to whether Shadow and Bone will continue for another season or become a victim of Netflix's cancellations.
Here's hoping it continues, because Shadow and Bone is still facing one big issue that has plagued it from its beginnings – it simply needs more time. It's brutally difficult to do Bardugo's rich world-building justice, and sort of impossible to do in two eight-episode seasons.
Season 1, more than season 2, struggled with that, with some viewers sure to be left a little baffled by the world and dynamic group of characters suddenly unleashed upon them. But even the second season, which massively benefits from giving us backstory, a little more explanation, and more time with these glorious characters, can be a little difficult to grapple with at times if you haven't delved deep into the Grishaverse books.
It's a lovely problem to have. Basically, this story gets better the more time is given to it, something that certainly can't be said for all fantasy series. But unfortunately it does suffer more than other stories when it's given such strict time constraints. Perhaps, in hindsight, Netflix could have gone with 10-episode seasons to remedy this. Or, if the story does continue to a third season, it's something the streamer could consider.
Fingers crossed it's given the chance.
Shadow and Bone season 2 is available to stream on Netflix now. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.
Check out more of our Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.
Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.