Dearest Grishaverse fans,
It’s been two long years since the first season of Shadow and Bone brightened our days. I discussed the first book’s series adaptation in some detail back then (in German though). Today, I will cover a lot more, given that the second season does just the same. Book 2 and 3 of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo were somewhat forced into only eight episodes, accompanied by a whole story line from the later-set Six of Crows duology. I’ll point to certain aspects taken up way too soon, if you ask me, but also to the things well done by this second season. Be aware of spoilers because I will go into detail at some points, so only read this if you have watched the second season or aren’t scared of ruining your pleasure while watching.
Episode 1: No Shelter But Me
The first episode picks us up right where we left in season 1. Alina wakes from a nightmare of the Darkling expanding the fold when she and Mal are about to arrive at Novyi Zem. They both enjoy their glimpse into a free life, granting us with some cute interactions and sweet kisses. It’s nice to see Alina happy again and for better reasons than in her time with the Darkling. (I’m sorry for not calling him Kirigan. I’m still not used this name.) With the new setting, we get to discover a whole new culture throughout this first episode with more diversity in its people. I also want to highlight that beauty of a dress Alina is wearing.
This lightness and hope, the easiness and calm, is hellishly well contrasted when we transition to Ketterdam where the sun never rises. Literally. We accompany our beloved Crows coming back to the Barrel, loving them dearly again from the first second. Jesper’s cracking his jokes, Kaz is broody as per usual, and Inej spirits away when they are arrested for murder. In this first episode, we will meet their new opposite, the new King of the Barrell, that is Kaz Brekker’s arch enemy, Pekka Rollins. And honestly, Dean Lennox Kelly is a little too hot to be that asshole. But hey… who isn’t in this show? (And yes, I’m looking at you, Ben Barnes.) Kelly really embodies that pain-of-an-ass well, coming up as a villain that will surely challenge our beloved Kaz Brekker – or won’t he? We also get a glimpse into the trauma that will trigger Kaz repeatedly this season, well incorporated into the story.
It won’t take long for us to encounter the character we’ve all been waiting for this season.
Although we initially meet Sturmhond at another place than expected. He’s revealed through his too nice clothing and Kaz’ talent for observation and immediately competes against Jesper for the position of the most charming and wittiest character. I loved Patrick “Paddy” Gibson as Sturmhond from the very first minute. What a great casting decision. He’s embodying just the right balance between pain-of-an-ass, politeness, and adventure, hitting off the privateer line in his first scene for us all to laugh about. Continuing the story, Kaz shows few scruples, selling Alina out to Sturmhond to save his (or also Jesper’s?) ass. Nonetheless, he’s as cunning and realistic as ever, balancing Jesper’s lightness and making these two a duo to enjoy throughout the season.
“The Barrel doesn’t belong to kings. It belongs to bastards.” – Kaz Brekker
Back with Alina, we find her dreaming of Kirigan, getting the “Like calls to like” and “most precious” lines that were teased in the trailers. These scenes position him nicely as a looming danger and contrast her happiness. Her research for the Sea Whip as the second of Morozova’s amplifiers needed to dissolve the fold lets her meet Grisha who live freely and unafraid. I did not only enjoy this glimpse onto what could be but also the magic map that reveals the sea whip’s position through light. Unfortunately, Alina and Mal are soon spotted by the First Army and chased, offering us a wider view on the beautiful setting and an emotional scene with its people surprisingly helping them to flee. I hope we will not have seen the last of Novyi Zem.
It’s nice to be back with our beloved ones, but this first episode also offers great introductions.
We get to meet Tamar and Tolya, Anna Leong Brophy and Lewis Tan, who did not disappoint at all! They were fun and danger and continued to be hilarious. Another scene pleases us with the one and only Wylan Hendricks, played by the amazing Jack Wolfe who plays the flute when we first meet him (an Easter egg to his last major project, The Magic Flute?). In his dialogue with Kaz, we get a glimpse into his backstory, his abandonment and talent alike. The writers well incorporated him as a background genius in season 1 as he is said to have made the light weapon that Kaz applied to shield of the Darkling’s attack. Jack Wolfe met all my expectations with his shy but competent, boyish but rough-playing portrayal of dear Wylan.
This first episode brings back all our dear characters, next on Nina.
She’s introduced when using her heartrender powers and meeting Kaz and Co with own motifs in mind. She surely knows how to bargain with Kaz to make him help her free her loved one, Matthias. He is shown directly after Nina’s re-introduction, imprisoned and shirtless of course. So, all the Crows are in the story, although a little bit scattered. Thus, drama is pre-programmed when we have all our five free Crows in the same frame. Seeing them stand on the roof top and watch the Crow Club go boom, my heart was pounding proudly and devastated at once. We waited for them to work together for so long and, finally, we have them all team up! Nonetheless, the tension between Kaz – gone mad in his pursue of revenge – and the others questioning his motifs and manners is visible and feelable. Especially when Kaz announces his plans to take over the Barrel and burn Pekka Rollins.
The other antagonist of the show, the Darkling, is only shown quite late, freeing some Grisha, among them Genya, from imprisonment through the First Army. He’s obviously not in a good shape but still powerful, more than ever with his amazingly designed nichevo’ya. Ben Barnes’ first re-appearance is somewhat overdramatic, but well… the Darkling is a drama bitch after all.
Less interesting to me but still entertaining to watch is Alina and Mal’s attempt to flee from Novyi Zem.
Following her lead, they do the pretty same thing as in season one: directly geting on/in the vehicle of her headhunter – in this case Sturmhond’s ship. They are accompanied by Tamar and Tolya who voluntarily and fearlessly challenge the First Army for their new acquaintances. The episode ends with Sturmhond and Alina meeting for the first time, which is a great way to make us immediately start the next one. Our favorite privateer is simply and already the best, without us having a lot of information about him yet.
What I loved about this episode:
– seeing new settings and being visibly transported from one to the other on the map
– reuniting with our dear crows and getting to better know all of them, especially Kaz and Wylan
– having Jesper and Wylan met before (what’s the deal with that? nonetheless: WESPER!)
– meeting Sturmhond, Tamar, and Tolya and seeing their badass behavior
What I would have liked to see differently:
– Jesper’s abilities as a Durast are only revealed way later in the books, so I am wondering if that won’t take away too much from his character motivation and development (the way they revealed it through Kaz’ talent for observation was genius, nonetheless)
Episode 2: Rusalye
We are immediately back with Alina and Sturmhond, having them bargaining and threatening each other in the most charming, non-harmonious way – especially on his side. With the episode’s title already teasing the sea whip, we know they will make some progress in this one. I loved the tiny Easter eggs in their conversation that ultimately turns towards the royal family. Even more, I laughed out loud when Sturmhond repeatedly forgot and did not care about Mal. He’s such a charming bastard. Although I have to say that show Mal is precious and deserves to be happy.
Alina and the Darkling keep meeting in her dreams, arguing about the Grishas’ future, about discrimination, and having Alina call him out for being pretentious. The Darkling – on the other side of the Fold – uses the frightened Genya once more to be healed from his scars. In this scene, we see his manifested, nicely visualized demons and get an idea that he can’t really control them. Daisy Head truly makes us feel Genya’s horror at their appearance, illustrating how she never seems to escape her torturers. I can’t wait for some of her powerful moments!
First real flashbacks into Kaz’ backstory allow us to meet his brother Jordie.
These moments are short but emotionally charged. We also see him unsuccessfully asking Per Haskell for a cooperation, then meeting up with the Crows. Inej and Jesper once more team up in their skepticism concerning Kaz’ plans, worrying about him and themselves alike. Nina soon proves to be the perfect addition to the group, seamlessly advancing their plan while eating her beloved waffles. She’s also asking the right questions, although some—meaning Kaz—don’t want to hear or answer them. The others finally see her as the queen that she is. As she asks about Hellgate and Matthias, we get to see him once more, struggling with his solely teased, contradicting faith and desires.
Back at Sturmhond’s ship, we see a better future under his command as Grisha and otkazat’sya work together. In his world, Grisha like Tamar and Tolya as heartrenders don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do or be. Instead, they charmingly play cards with Alina and some others, revealing their faith in her, that unfortunately did not get a lot of attention in comparison to the books.
New to the series are some allies on the Darkling’s side.
Vladim (materealki: alkemi) and Fruzsi (etherealki: tide maker) join his army. While the Darkling explores and tries to understand how to employ merzost, they have his back but stay gray in their own motivations. The writers simply had to incorporated them as new allies due to Simon Sears and Julian Kostov’s scheduling problems. Hopefully, we’ll see at least the latter in a potential third season given these rather dull replacements. Dull were the Darkling’s lines within these first two episodes as well. He was immediately outshined by Baghra’s powerful return and her punch lines.
“You’re not just sunshine, sunshine. You’re hope for the future!” – Sturmhond
On the hunt for the sea whip with Sturmhond, Alina, and Co, we get to see his amazing inventions, thus his genius. The sea whip is beautifully designed as well, but the fight is quite anti-climactic. It also becomes obvious that Alina does everything—even against her own aim—and immediately acts when Mal is in danger. Unfortunately, her abvious competence to react made me even more disappointed by her later. At least her lines, especially in his beautiful conversation with Sturmhond about trust, are well-written and give her character depth.
Back with the Crows
We get an intense dialogue between Inej and Kaz in which she confronts him with his selfishness and demands trust. Nonetheless, the Crows follow his plan in an entertaining, even hilarious way. Wylan and Jesper simultaneously have a delightful talk about both their working relations with Kaz Brekker. It’s yet unclear in how far they have met before but they both are aware of this circumstance shortly after. While Kaz faces Pekka in a threatening word battle that gives us a lot of Crooked Kingdom vibes, Inej—innocently and fiercely at once—battles a madman. Unfortunately, the latter fight was disappointing after what we know of Inej’s abilities. All the Crows’ confrontations converge nicely and keep the tension high. Ultimately, they are beaten up but at least Kaz has what he wanted, all others shocked about his determination and ruthlessness.
The final moments again rest with Alina who gets connected with the second amplifier and shows off her powers through amazing light effects, only calmed down by Mal. More impressing to me was Sturmhond’s decency before that, giving a speech for his comrades who fell while hunting the sea whip. In this scene, one can already get a glimpse at Alina’s hunger for power, being on a trip once connected with two amplifiers. This new-found strength finally also notifies the Darkling of her survival, who calls her “my Alina” in the episode’s last moment.
What I loved about this episode:
– chapeau to the people responsible for the nichevo’ya and the costumes (especially Sturmhond’s)
– details like Jesper making space for Kaz at the bench, acknowledging his fear of physical contact
– the Crows’ team work and some light moments with Wesper while everything goes down for them
What I would have liked to see differently:
– Matthias’ storyline that seems thrown in and lacks effect. I am curious to see if they can visualize his deep-rooted beliefs and his self-despise later.
– the Darkling’s speech that was mostly dull and made me laugh at him
– Alina’s delayed reaction to attacks, only aiming to protect Mal but no other
Episode 3: Like Calls to Like
What I specifically liked about this season is its portrayal of trauma. Not only Kaz struggles with his past, but also Alina by the beginning of the third episode. Although she’s more powerful than ever, she gets distracted and weakened by the memories of being and having her power abused by the Darkling. Nonetheless, the crossing of the Fold on Sturmhond’s flying ship, the Hummingbird was a great adventure. Sturmhond could demonstrate his steampunk engineering talent and his team fight with Tamar and Tolya. Moreover, when he later proposes to Alina with political rationality and emotional maturity, reason and strategy guide his mind, not any stupid, short-living sentiments. I liked his character’s improvement from the second book to this show and adore Paddy Gibson!
“The limp. The cane. No one’s ever smart enough to look for the real one.” – Kaz Brekker about his tells/weaknesses
Kaz deals with his backstory in flashbacks as much as with the other Crows’ skepticism.
Jesper and Nina rightfully call him out for his selfishness while Inej – sufficiently stitched together – leaves without a word. Only later, Kaz will make little concessions, opening himself a little for his wraith. We finally see them as related souls who have similar package on their backs, dealing with traumatic events in their childhood. Unfortunately, hers don’t get as much attention as his, if even any. Moreover, Kaz gets to prove his fighting ability when beating up the Dregs to successfully recruit them for his plan. What an amazing, entertaining, well-choreographed fighting scene! Obviously, Kaz is a born survivor, struggling with the present and past alike.
Jesper and Wylan meanwhile gather information for Kaz and get to know each other better. They even complementarily improvise to not get their ass kicked. Seeing Jack Wolfe/Wylan play piano, made Jesper’s and our hearts melt. Jack’s character fits astonishingly well into the story, especially when he’s pledging for Pekka Rollins’ son’s safety in front of Kaz, foreshadowing and reminding us at once of his own difficult familial situation. Wesper’s relationship develops quickly: They even hold hands later, talk and promise each other to have each other’s back. I’m still not sure what to make of their book slow burn that apparently is a One Night Stand now that they have to awkwardly figure out. But it was delightful to see them in every episode of this season for sure!
All the amazing fight scenes demonstrate that Kaz, Inej, and even Alina can hand out a beating.
When Alina and Sturmhond crash land on the Darkling’s side of the Fold, they are welcomed by the First Army. We all anticipated this hilarious moment when he’s revealed as Nikolai Lantsov, the king’s younger son. As expected, Alina punches him right in the face – I loved it! Nonetheless, they make their way to the Spinning Wheel together, that is, Nikolai’s safe place for Grisha. There, they reunite with Nadia and first meet her brother Adrik. Zoya meets up with Alina to apologize and promises to have her back against Kirigan.
I loved to see these girls (and others) team up against the Darkling. Especially because he’s got his best materealki back. Although Genya tries to warn David as they reunite, they are both caught at the Darkling’s hideout and made to cooperate with him for his mischievous plans. It was a cruel pleasure to see these precious characters reunite.
While Alina’s allies gather and even David joins them after leaving Genya to be maimed by the nichevo’ya, the Darkling’s ever-growing desperation results in cruelty. His dialogue with his mother Baghra is the first well written one for him and intensely questions the difference between lessons and mistakes. Baghra surely has the upper hand in their relationship, although she is imprisoned and gets her finger cut off to be used as an amplifier.
This episode was rushed and lacked some credibility despite its many great scenes.
Genya and David’s attempt to flee was not well done, seems even absurd. The Darkling creepily spying on the sleeping Alina through their connection almost made me puke because it reminded me of all those fans shipping them. After he left, Alina wakes and goes to Nikolai, dressed only in her night gown, presenting her made decision to his proposal which we will see revealed in the next episode.
What else prepares us for the fourth episode are the scenes in Hellgate. Matthias encounters imprisoned wolves – animals sacred to his culture – and finally another prisoner when fighting in the arena. Nina observes how he initially denies fighting but ultimately defends himself quite brutally. When she calls out for him, their gazes meet intensely, until he turns away and returns to his cell. She is caught by Rollins and offered a deal to help Matthias, if she pays out Kaz Brekker… Insofar, these cliffhangers really left us hanging.
What I loved about this episode:
– having Kaz demonstrate his own ability to physically fight instead of sending the others out
– seeing Nikolai as himself, acting more maturely, but still as charming as in the book
– reuniting with David, Nadia, and Zoya
What I would have liked to see differently:
– Genya and David’s attempt of fleeing as it seemed even absurd to me
– having Inej’s trauma barely noticeable while Kaz’ struggle becomes highly visible
Episode 4: Every Monstrous Thing
This episode opens at the Royal Palace, having Alina, Niko, and his pretentious family dining together in front of Grisha and First Army commanders alike. Surprisingly, Niko’s older brother Vasily got re-casted. His character acts more villainous but similarly proud and stupid as in the books. Alike Zoya, Vasily is not a big fan of the pronounced engagement nor of Alina’s promotion to leader of the Second Army, but at least Zoya sees the necessity for an alliance to fight the Darkling. Even more surprising to me was that I began to ship Niko and Alina in this episode given their well-written, harmonious dialogues. I’d be fine with them being friends nonetheless, especially due to Mal’s heartwarming confession to Alina.
“You’re my flag, Alina. You’re my nation, not this swap.” – Mal Oretsev
On the other side of the fold, we see alliances come to an efficient end.
Kaz masters his putsch against Pekka Rollins thanks to his amazing fellows whose teamwork will always be my favorite part of this show. Most of the plan’s execution, nonetheless, relied on his own genius mind. His scene with Rollins was probably the longest of the whole episode but deserved all our attention. Both opponents’ parts were masterfully enacted, juxtaposed with some intense, emotional flashbacks. For those not familiar with the books, the following events must have been surprising as well, revealing Kaz to rather make use of his reputation as “Dirty Hands” than of kidnapping. I loved to see this story line from Crooked Kingdom come alive on screen!
“They ended up on the streets and they both died. But one of us was reborn.” – Kaz Brekker
I especially loved Wesper working together and getting closer. We even get the “I kind of like your face” line. The writers attributed the pestilence deception to Wylan, not Nina, which worked just fine for me. Nina was granted another important part in the plan’s execution. The Crows‘ teamwork was prefaced by some amazing verbal interactions during planning. Kaz surely lacks no mental capacity but the one to talk out things with his friends. That is why Jesper takes Kaz’ presumed words into his own hands – I loved that part! I also enjoyed the quick, visual rush through their plan. It’s followed by our first “No Mourners, No Funerals” of the season. Wylan’s reaction to it and Inej’s amazing reply to that is pure gold. I won’t describe it; you know what I mean. It just gives the Crows so much substance and character.
The Crows aren’t the only ones expressing their brilliance and resilience in this episode.
Alina trains with Tamar and Nadia to focus the second amplifier’s powers, envisioning the Darkling to focus her aim. Her memories are nicely integrated every now and then, with visual effects making them stand out from the rest. Alina furthermore needs to deal with their presumably newest ally – David. He apologizes, brings Morozova’s diary, and warns her of the nichevo’ya and the Darkling’s use of merzost. Alina’s skepticism makes her actions seem integer, contrary to her consideration of using merzost. I nonetheless loved her hinted flirt with dark powers throughout the season.
Additionally, Inej struggles with her loyalty to Kaz and her aim to protect and save all indentured persons in Ketterdam. Surprisingly, she does not really get into any fight this episode. Instead, she demonstrates her deepest motivation by freeing women from a trade ship. She also has to deal with Kaz’ cold side when he pushes her away for being a “weak link.” Lastly, Genya faces her new maimed appearance – and the Darkling – with horror first and proud defiance in the end. I also never knew that I need her and Baghra to team up, but their joint breakout was everything!
The writers effectively foreshadow what is there to come in the next episodes.
Integrating Lives of Saints by Leigh Bardugo to bring the Crows back into the final battle was a brilliant idea. They will be sent them off to steal Neshyamar, Saint Neyar’s blade that can cut shadows. While Tolya and Zoya leave to recruit them, many things happen in the Royal palace during the last minutes. The festivities for Niko and Alina’s engagement degenerate to a massacre as expected based on the book. I enjoyed seeing Vasily die, nonetheless. Surprisingly, the writers killed off the king next, so that we would never get Genya’s powerful ruination line.
During their escape, Alina gets distracted by another Darkling appearance and lights up as he touches her. This once more nicely visualizes their joint power. When she sees him next, he’s surprisingly real and talks her into going with him. Or so he thinks. Battling his monsters and him together, Adrik looses his arm and Alina almost brings down the whole building. It appears that Alina is in fact more powerful than the Darkling. An interesting finale for this fourth episode, taking up at least some parts of the second book’s final battle. I missed her bleached hair, nonetheless.
What I loved about this episode:
– Inej as the sole breaking through to Kaz who’s lost in his memories, but also him offering her a way out twice
– Niko’s outfits once more, surprisingly as well all of his interactions with Alina (Who needs Mal?)
– the whole Wesper scene with Wylan’s shyness, Jesper’s concessions, and their KISS
What I would have liked to see differently:
– more of the Grisha working together against the Darkling like in the book
– more materealki at work, I really missed their inventions that made the final battle that special
Siege and Storm goes Netflix
These four episodes cover the story of Leigh Bardugo’s second Grishaverse installment. Many say that this sequel is not exiting and forgot most of it. I remember enough to be slightly disappointed. In it, I loved the way Alina joined forces with many other Grisha to finally battle the Darkling with a great plan. They solely lost due to its rushed execution given the unexpected attack. Instead, there were many parts of this season that seemed rushed.
I enjoyed seeing all our dear characters again and finally meet new ones. Nikolai, Tamar, Tolya, and especially Wylan were well casted. They added another layer of entertainment and bravery to the fantasy plot. Other characters seemed thrown in, especially Fruzsi who is emotionally bound to the Darkling without any backstory.
The Crows’ story already incorporated a massive part of their second book, Crooked Kingdom. Of course, the writers wanted a proper story for them, and they served us a great visualization of especially Kaz’ struggle with his past. So far, all other Crows are not much discussed or further outlined. Their story line was pretty Kaz centered. Nonetheless, we were served many awesome moments with all five of them and – above all – Wylan and Jesper. So thanks a lot for this part.
“Understatement is overrated.”
“I love it when you quote me.”
– Nikolai Lantsov
A last praise to the amazing costumes, effects, and transitions. I cannot say often enough that I love this show, its cast, and most of the way it’s produced. My sole complaint seems to concern the rushed script. We’ll see how much more content from the Grishaverse books this season will cover and integrate. There are four more episodes that I will comment on next week, if time allows me to finish another that expansive post till then.