Sho sol, Sankts and Sanktas. It’s been a week since the release of Shadow and Bone‘s second season, and although we likely all binged the eight episodes within 72 hours, we at FYA HQ took a bit more time to give the season the full scientific treatment it deserves.
And recover from our experiments with the drinking game, ’cause it’s brutal. (All pants to Stephanie for coming up with the particulars!)
Y’all, we have thoughts. With that, let’s head to the lab!
The Official FYA Shadow and Bone (Season 2) Drinking Game
Take A Drink When:
- The map visuals appear
- The Hummingbird (Nikolai’s flying ship) appears
- Alina uses her sun-summoning powers
- You recognize a line from the book
- Mal and Alina share a romantic moment
- Alina dreams of the Fold or the Darkling
- Nikolai makes you laugh or makes you wish he could be your TV boyfriend
- Slo-mo is used during a fight scene (sorrynotsorry if we get you wasted)
- You want to be BFFs with Nina
- Inej runs out of knives during a fight
- Tamar or Tolya do some adorable sibling thing
- You’re over the Darkling pouting alone in his room AGAIN but can’t find it in you to fast forward because you like looking at his pretty face
- Jesper and Wylan are cute together
- You want to be BF(renemies)Fs with Zoya
Take A Shot When:
- The cheesy episode title card appears (they’re SO bad)
- Major characters meet for the first time or are reunited after time apart
- There’s a Kaz flashback
- You see Matthias (it’s criminal—har de har-—how little Matthias there is this season!)
- The Firebird reveal happens
- The insanely too-long battle scene in episode seven finally ends
Pour One Out For:
- That one guy during that fight scene with Pekka Rollins (trust me, you’ll know)
- When a cool character dies
Finish Your Drink When:
- Inej and Kaz threaten to melt the screen
- Nina or Matthias flashback to A Very Special Memory and you just want more of that instead of what we do get
- That moment at the end of episode eight happens. Congrats—you survived season two!
Characters and Caricatures
Mandy C.: Since watching Season 1, I’ve been of the mind that the folks who cast for this show deserve major raises, ’cause these folks are perfection. So I had high hopes for the newcomers to the crew—but also high expectations. Nikolai is one of my favorite Grishaverse characters, and his personality stands out amongst the crowd. I think Patrick Gibson could have hammed it up slightly more, especially while in Sturmhond persona (where was the prosthetic nose?!), but the charm was there. Wylan was another that I had high expectations for; the Jesper/Wylan ‘ship is my favorite in all of the books, and I needed some of that good good chemistry. I honestly got a bit distracted by Jack Wolfe’s too-sweet face (if he’s not a fae, he’s Peter Pan), but loved how genuinely sweet he came across. Anna Leong Brophy and Lewis Tan had a great brother-sister rapport in the roles of Tamar and Tolya, respectively. And I loved to hate Rachel Redford’s Fruszi, who I’m pretty sure was invented for the show. But where there are villains, there need be people who hench.
Stephanie: In addition to the familiar faces, there were some new book characters coming in this season, and I was definitely most excited for Nikolai (Patrick Gibson) and Wylan (Jack Wolfe), although Tamar (Anna Leong Brophy) and Tolya (Lewis Tan) were a close third/fourth. I’ll be honest that I’ve only read these series once when they first came out, so perhaps my expectations dimmed with time, but I liked them all! I thought Gibson was quite adorable and charming as Nikolai, and I would totes throw him my support in favor of his crappy family. Wolfe captured the shy and hoping-for-a-family part of Wylan I (seem to) remember. I wouldn’t have minded more of Nikolai’s childhood friend, Dominik (Louis Boyer) either, HEL-lo. I also felt a little like Kaz (Freddy Carter) whenever Inej (Amita Suman) showed up because I could not take my eyes off her when she was on screen, she is SO pretty. If nothing else, this show is a feast for eyes!
Pluses and Minuses
- I don’t remember too many quibbles about the production value for season one, but there were parts where it was abundantly clear that not a lot of money was being thrown at this second season. The last few episodes, especially when the amplified Grisha were attacking Nikolai and his group, felt very low-budget with so few extras, and it felt like that impacted the way they choreographed the fight scenes and the pacing of the plot.
- Speaking of fight scenes, OMG was that amplified Grisha nonsense painful to watch. It was LITERALLY ten minutes long with no cuts to other storylines. I feel like if the Crows got like four whole minutes of screentime in one sitting it was a miracle, yet let’s please ignore all the other storylines to watch the “good” Grisha get absolutely creamed until Wylan and his grenade show up. I saw someone on Reddit say something to the effect of, I’m sorry if this makes me a war criminal but how did they not take the opportunity to kill the bad Grisha while they were sitting around mourning their dying friend. Exactly what I was yelling at my TV. Take the advantage!
- I had to laugh when the Darkling told Baghra to, like, stop preaching to people, when his favorite thing to do this season was tell people how they should think and feel because he is so Old and Wise and has Seen It All. The show gave the Darkling nothing interesting to do this season. The show made me BORED watching
Bin BonsBen Barnes! Straight to jail!
- I did not hate seeing Pekka Rollins get his comeuppance (for all that it lasted). Also Dean Lennox Kelly who played Rollins was making me all sorts of conflicted because underneath that old-timey beard, I was feeling strangely attracted to that Irish accent and like I was a few steps away from, like, reading a mafia romance.
- Thanks for that lead-in, Stephanie. I’m going to come right out with it: Pekka Rollins is hot. Is he a good person? Hell nah. Did I enjoy watching/listening to him on screen? Hell yes. I’ve realized more and more lately that I’ve reached a turning point in my life, and it’s no longer the norm for me to swoon over 20-something actors (who, at this point, could literally be my children, she says as she turns to dust and blows away). Instead, I’m all about the silver foxes, the distinguished gentlemen, the folks who have laugh lines and actual years behind their eyes. But I digress. I would punch Rollins in the face in a hot second for what he did to Kaz, but I’d feel bad for entirely superficial reasons while doing so.
- And again, you’re right—there was a lower quality to this season than I expected. I’d specifically like to call out the super obvious soundstage Ketterdam sets and the atrociously dated title cards, which looked like something from early 2000s DVD box sets. I’m not asking for a Rings of Power-level opener, but I feel like I could have made these myself in iMovie.
- It was also pretty obvious that they tried to do too much in eight episodes. I’m happy that they mixed the Six of Crows crew into the Shadow and Bone storylines, but there is already a lot going on with just the battle against the Darkling and the folks involved with that. Shoehorning the Crows into those plots feels a bit forced, and even if you’ve never read the books and have no idea that they’re not supposed to be mashed together, it’s clear that certain things were rushed and/or seemingly forgotten. (Poor, poor Matthias.)
- I did appreciate how much of Kaz’s backstory we got to see, though, even if it took time away from the Crows’s heisty adventures. His past is heartbreaking, but the representation of trauma and trauma-caused mental illness was fantastic. Major kudos to Freddy Carter for those panic attacks. I could literally feel them through my TV screen.
- And Tolya’s penchant for poetry? Chef’s kiss.
Books and Shows
Mandy C.: I’m assuming/hoping we’ll get a season 3 to wrap up the Shadow and Bone trilogy and segue into Nikolai’s books and a Crows spin-off/”solo” show that can lean harder into actual Six of Crows storylines. (Although, how they’ll do that before the, uh, thing happens with Matthias, I’m not sure.) I feel bad for Jack Wolfe if they do the Ice Court storyline, though, considering Wylan spends much of the book looking like Kuwei. As with any adaptation, there’s no telling what the showrunners will do/how they’ll pick and choose which storylines to tell or what to create anew. Basically, I just want Alina and Mal to vanish off to their “retirement” so that we can spend more time with the Crows. Because even if the show takes liberties with their known stories, their plots are always going to be more entertaining.
Stephanie: On one hand, I hated the whole Apparat manipulation and Saint stuff from the third (?) book, so I’m kind of glad they ignored that storyline completely. If they were wrapping up Alina’s books two and three to give future season three to the Crows and their Ice Palace heist, all the better! (Although the showrunners are talking about a Six of Crows spin-off if this season gets enough viewership so, like…how exactly does that work?? You already mushed their stories together here.) But with that ending I assume they’re going to a) start delving into King of Scars and b) their own made-up storylines, and some of their writing this season was…a choice.
While I liked seeing some specific moments and backstories from the Crows, it felt weird to pull things from Crooked Kingdom and reveal them before other plots. Pacing is definitely one of this season’s biggest issues–why rush Wylan and Jesper together (with a made-up one-night stand off-screen??) and then give us literally nothing for Nina and Matthias? I think if there is a season three then Kaz and Inej being a slow-burn for two seasons works, but I feel like the way the “I’ll have you without armor” speech made it feel like Inej was demanding Kaz get over his physical touch issues to be with her versus the emotional armor I feel like she was referencing in the book.
Grisha and Crows
Stephanie: Like season one (and like the books), I was still more interested in the Crows than the Grisha drama, although with the new characters like Nikolai and the twins I paid a bit more attention than I planned. Alina just doesn’t feel like a strong enough character to be sanctified and have three guys fall in love with her and just automatically be put in charge of the Grisha army with zero strategic know-how. (See also: me screaming at my TV, “Use your damn powers!!” when the Fold rolled in and she’s standing there watching the volcra eat all Ravka’s soldiers.)
Mandy C.: Crows 4 Lyfe. Give me the rapscallions, the found families, the impossible heists, the snappy one-liners, the brooding/pining, the grey morality. As much as I think Alina’s storylines have a place in the Grishaverse, they’re the folktales while the Crows’s are the action movies. And I’m someone who’s favorite movies include the Fast and Furious franchise.
Conclusions and Thoughts
Mandy C.: The Grishaverse is one of my top 5 favorite literary locations, and the one I’d likely most want to visit were that possible. Pretty much solely because of the characters—certainly, Ketterdam’s not really a vacation hot spot—and the relationships that they have with each other. (And a little because of the magic.) So it hurt to see a lot of those relationships be rushed or glossed over in this season. And the fact that this season so obviously had a smaller budget (or said budget was spent on the many new additions to the cast) has me worried about the possibility of more, especially with Netflix’s unknowable cancellation policies. Overall, this season certainly doesn’t hold up to the high standards set by the first, but Siege and Storm had its fair share of Bridge Book Blues, so I’m going to keep hope alive for what’s to come. (We can’t just leave poor Matthias in Hellgate! Regardless of what that means for his future.(IYKYK.))
Stephanie: I don’t understand why adaptations often forget the reason we enjoy something in the first place: give us good character interactions in a decently-paced and less frenetic plot, and we can forgive a lot. I felt like I was constantly looking for more of what I wanted (the Crows hanging out bullshitting with each other, seeing the Grisha do cool magic, Matthias shirtless) and less of what the show thought I cared about (long, slo-mo fight scenes, the Darkling brooding alone, yet another Mal/Alina hug). If there was to be a third season or a spin-off Crows show, I’d still watch, but my expectations are going to be quite low.
Have you binged season 2 yet? If so, let us know if you agree or disagree with our scientific findings in the comments!