Shadow & Bone, Season 2 (2023)


In this second season of the popular fantasy show, the heroine confronts her demons, the story takes a dark turn, and another chapter of the saga ends… by opening a path to the future.


It’s been a few weeks since Alina (Jessie Mei Li) defeated her enemy, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) within the Fold. She, and everyone else, assumes he perished at the hands of his own creatures, but their confrontation also taught her the usefulness of possessing an amplifier to help increase her own magic. Alina wants more than anything to tear down the Fold, a magical darkness that separates the kingdoms of her world, but she knows she’s not strong enough to do it on her own. She needs more amplifiers, found in the bones of magical creatures. She falls in with a pirate (Patrick Gibson) who may be someone other than he pretends to be.


Unbeknown to her, Kirigan has not only survived his battle in the Fold, but now has dark shadow-creatures attached to him, which arise to attack anyone who threatens him. He gathers his Grishas around him in a desire to go after his enemies, but his secondary ambition is to win back Alina—or bring her back to him through force, since “we are stronger together.” He and Alina soon realize that they share a bond that allows them to see into one another’s dreams. In the meantime, the serious Kaz (Freddy Carter) and his band of Crows return home to find his mortal enemy has taken over his business and framed them for murder in his absence. Kaz’ retaliation brings two new Crows into the fold, a heart-render named Nina (Danielle Galligan), who just wants to free her boyfriend from imprisonment, and the sweet-tempered Wylan (Jack Wolfe), who is an amateur explosives expert. But will their revenge destroy them all?


Shadow and Bone’s first season had a lot going for it, but also an imbalance between plot lines. Some of them were way more interesting and solid than others, but the pacing for Nina and Matthias was enormously slow and dull for me. This season has resolved most of those issues and makes the wise decision to leave Matthias in jail for most of the eight hour installment in favor of way more interesting characters. And there is a lot of them, maybe too many—there’s five or six secondary subplots happening all at the same time, but the show has also realized that its strength lies in the Crows, and they take center stage. Kirgain and Alina also have great chemistry, but the script allows us to get to know Mal (Archie Renaux) a little better. And yet, some of their decisions make no sense. Without giving too much away, the total reversal two characters have in their feelings toward each other in the final episode feels unbelievable. Also, the show’s tendency to paint Alina as falling for every single man she meets (Kirgan, then Mal, then she starts making eyes at a prince) makes her a rather unstable and codependent heroine, who always “needs” a man despite her protestations otherwise.


Things wrap up mostly by the final episode, which if I’m being honest drags longer than it should, until the thrilling last few minutes. But overall, this season is way more interesting, action-packed, intense, and full of intrigue and plot twists than the first season. By now we know the main players and like them, so we’re invested in their emotional journeys. And I hope we get at least one more season, to dive into the “heist” theme in one of the Crow novels. But it’s also a lot more “adult” in its content than last time around; this isn’t a PG series anymore…


Sexual Content:

Same-sex relationships and straight relationships both involve kissing, caressing, and falling back on beds, although the straight romance has more skin and heavy breathing (Nina has flashbacks a few times to her and Matthias making love; Mal and Alina sleep together one night, in a long, romantic candlelit scene). There’s no nudity seen. Two men have awkward conversations about a former one night stand between them, and one waking up to find the other person gone. Two women show romantic overtures toward each other. A Grisha angrily confronts a queen about how she killed the king by putting poison all over her body, so each time he touched her and came to her bed (against her will), he would be poisoning himself. References to the sex trade.
It’s bloodier than the first season; people are shot, stabbed, blasted with magical ice that penetrates their bodies, sliced in half with “The Cut” and fall to gory pieces. A magical serpent is slain when Alina gives it a power blast of light to the skull. Kirigan is violent with her in one of their shared dreams; he pins her wrist and body against a table, then slams her into a wall and tries to choke her. Limbs are cut off, magical wounds refuse to heal, leaving brutal scars. Characters do awful things to their family members, including cutting off their limbs to use their magic.


References to religions and Saints (those with magical abilities); lost of magical powers and persecution of those with gifts.

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