I just finished not only the re-watch of Shadow and Bone, season one, but season two as well. Full-time authoring is allowing much more relaxed entertainment consumption! Be careful, the rest of this post has a bunch of spoilers, so tread carefully if you haven’t watched season two!
First, I will admit to being very skeptical of season one when I originally watched it. The idea of folding Kaz Brekker and his crows into Alina Starkov’s Sun Summoner/Darkling storyline seemed overly ambitious, and ripe for ham-handedness. But, I was more than willing to give it a try. After all, Kaz is nothing if not opportunistic, and the chaos in Ravka presented all kinds of opportunities.
Overall, I was very happy with how the Crows were melded into the first season. Cutting back and forth between Ravka and Ketterdam kept the pace snappy, and since I already loved the characters from the books, I never felt like one story was cheating me of watching the other.
(As an aside, I love, love, love the television interpretations of every one of these characters. I don’t have one quibble with any of them, other than the fact that I might love Jesper more than the others!)
The end of season one was satisfying and felt right. It obviously wasn’t where the books went, but it also didn’t feel like Kaz and his crew had just been melted over Alina’s plot like so much unnecessary cheese sauce.
Season two, is another story. Literally, another story, and partially confirmed the initial fears I had for season one. Now, in the second season, we start to see the artificial lines tying these two groups of characters together. It also doesn’t help that the main plot (Alina vs. the Darkling) takes a pause for her to find the Sea Whip. During which time the Darkling does…nothing? Or at least, not much.
The show also tried to make the Darkling more vulnerable, I think so he wouldn’t be the boogeyman he was in the books. But this also had the effect of weakening him, and I don’t think weakening your villain has ever strengthened your story.
I did like how Sturmhond was brought in. That felt very smooth.
But the side quest given to Kaz’s crew to bring Neshyener back to Alina is some of the ham-handed stuff I was afraid of. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed that who arc, and the final encounter with Sankta Neyar. And I won’t ever say no to a little more Asian rep. It was a great device to (try to) teach Kaz a little humility, and act as a catalyst for Jesper to level up. But like much of season two, it felt slow and rushed at the same time.
And this feeling of the story being simultaneously too slow and too fast really came to a peak at the finale. Fights that didn’t make sense, with people standing around gawking, instead of, you know, fighting. Fights that were clearly written to allow someone to swoop in and save the day (can’t waste that awesome sword). Alina running around inside the Fold, very oddly not using her light to save First Army soldiers being killed right in front of her. What?
The end of the Sun Summoner arc in the books was quite pat. Bardugo tied a really pretty bow on the whole story, and I still listen to the last chapter of Ruin and Rising from time to time. I just love how she pulled everything together, and let’s face it, happy endings are, well, happy.
And, I get it. Netflix knows this is a good thing. So they want to milk it. But they don’t need to cram every one of these characters in each season. The end of season two clearly sets up the jurda parem arc from the Six of Crows duology. So, poor Mathias was brought up in season one, just so he could stay in Hellgate until season three? But how are they going to involve Alina?
The final scene with Alina was a nice touch to show the power of parem, and Alina’s lingering connection to the Darkling’s power was good foreshadowing (ha!), but… I was just, happier, with the way the Sun Summoner story ended in the books. Having Alina keep her power is an obvious wedge to keep her and Mal apart, and maintain tension in their relationship. But, I just don’t see where this is going to go with them. Their story was about her finding and coming to terms with her power, and the legacy of that power. Now she’s going to be ruling Ravka? And politicking? (Unless they’re going to turn her into the villain?)
As much as I enjoyed the Shadow and Bone books, I loved the Six of Crows duology way more. Probably because I don’t care much for the YA content in the Shadow and Bone series. And heists. I love heists. I’m even more worried about a Six of Crows spin off now, because if they try and shoehorn Alina back into the Ice Court heist, just…what?
While season one gets 8.5/10, I’m downgrading season two to 6.5/10. I still have hope (a lesson from Nikolai) so I will remain cautiously optimistic about whatever Netflix brings us for season three.
What about you? What are your thoughts on how the Grishaverse has been brought to TV? Let me know in the comments!