Shadow and Bone Season 2 Review – a bloated fantasy epic with an alienating mythology

By Adam Lock
Published: March 16, 2023 (Last updated: January 10, 2024)
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Season two of Shadow and Bone is ambitious in its scope and includes moments of magic, but overall, this is a dense and dreary affair. The mythology and terminology will put off many, while the tired cliches will test the patience of the rest. Loyal fans will be satisfied nevertheless, yet this world-building feels alienating.

We review the Netflix series Shadow and Bone Season 2, which does not contain spoilers.

Netflix knows its teenage audience through and through; the streaming giants have practically streamlined their entire platform to target this section of the market, delivering binge-able products that can be consumed fast, with little effort. This strategy is reshaping the entire TV landscape and pushing out the riskier, more adult-themed projects (RIP 1899, we hardly knew you).

Shadow and Bone is the latest in a long line of young adult-themed content (along with Outer Banks, Wednesday, and Riverdale), hoping to capitalize on this highly successful working model. However, the second season of this fantasy epic over-complicates the formula, peddling complex, convoluted mythology, and unnecessarily dense world-building.

Shadow and Bone Season 2 Review and Plot Summary

Shadow and Bone is set in its own universe (the Grishaverse), much like Game of Thrones or the works of Tolkien. In this world, there are magic users known as Grisha, that are (as always) split into two sides, the heroes and the villains, the good and the bad. Sun Summoner Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) leads the good, an orphan with the power to control light. She is battling the evil, encapsulated by their leader General Aleksander Kirigan (aka the Darkling or the Shadow Summoner), played by Ben Barnes, who can control darkness.

Kirigan has created a dark, foreboding land mass called the Fold, which is starting to consume the surrounding landscape. Evil creatures inhabit the Fold, and this shadowy world destroys everything in its path. Alina must destroy the Fold before it spirals out of control, decimating countries in its wake. Yet her powers alone are not enough. She needs to gain the powers of two amplifiers, special beings that enhance her abilities. In season two, she must track down the Sea Whip and the Firebird to defeat Kirigan and the Fold.

Adjacent to this storyline is a subplot involving the Crows, a gang of criminals and thieves who embark on adventures to earn lucrative rewards. Returning to their home of Ketterdam, they discover that a crook named Pekka Rollins has taken over their establishment, and the Crows’ leader Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), seeks revenge against his old rival. As Kirigan’s army grows with unkillable shadow monsters on his side, these two storylines must merge as they hope to defeat the Darkling once and for all.

Is Shadow and Bone season 2 good?

Season two of Shadow and Bone is almost impenetrable for newbies and casual viewers. Its dense mythology and the endless conveyor belt of new characters and fresh terminology to learn feel more like homework than entertainment. But the return to Ravka will appease fans of the series nevertheless. There is enough action, drama, and romance to keep audiences hooked, and the special effects are impressive.

The series may focus on Alina and her journey, but Shadow and Bone’s secret weapon is the Crows. They are the beloved rogues that will draw in the masses. Season two continues to develop these lovable characters, giving them the devoted screen time they deserve. When we focus on the Crows, this series is somewhat elevated, and we can glimpse a much more fun fantasy series waiting to be explored, hiding underneath.

READ: Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 1 Recap

Unfortunately, the series veers away from this more enticing subplot and explores countless other fantasy teenage tropes instead. Every cliche imaginable is represented here. While the characters are separated into two distinct categories: the cheeky chappy type delivering corny one-liners as they go or the deadly serious, damaged type that triggers endless, sentimental flashback sequences. Stereotypes aside, the show is plagued by exposition and tired, predictable plot beats. Of course, it’ll be another smash hit for Netflix!

What did you think of Shadow and Bone Season 2? Comment below.

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