I was really looking forward to Shadow and Bone Season 2. I had loved binge-reading my way through Leigh Bardugo’s original Grishaverse trilogy, obsessed with fellow fans over the Six of Crows duology, and enjoyed the first season of Netflix‘s bold adaptation. But the newest season of the fantasy show — which dropped on Netflix this morning — is a horrific mess. And everything I hate about Shadow and Bone Season 2 can be summed up by a random bee that buzzes onto Zoya (Sujaya Dasgupta) during one of the most poignant scenes in the Season 2 finale.
What is up with that Shadow and Bone bee??? Superfans on Twitter and interviews with the showrunners are already out there saying it’s an Easter egg that connects to Sankta Lizabeta, but these are words that mean nothing to me. Instead, all I saw — as a TV critic — was a random bumblebee that felt totally out of place. It didn’t read “reference to lore character” as much as it did “production mistake left in by accident.” And that sort of sums up my problems with Shadow and Bone Season 2.
The cast, once again, gave their all to bring Leigh Bardugo’s beloved characters to life this season. Unfortunately, the production this season lacked care or focus, focusing more on squeezing in as many winks to Grishaverse mythology as possible than making a good show. The mashed up storylines made barely any sense. The characters I loved seemed like pale shadows of themselves. The wire fights are ludicrously bad. At one point, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) rushes into a heist without a plan and I thought, “Surely, they’re going to reveal this is part of his secret master plan,” and it wasn’t. I started Slacking my co-worker asking if there was a mythic sword in the books I totally forgot about. I screamed at my screen: “Oh my god, why don’t they just do the Ice Heist already?!?!”
Shadow and Bone Season 2 is an epic disappointment and if you disagree, that’s fine. But that bee really is emblematic of what went wrong.
Let me set the spoiler-filled scene. In Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 8 “No Funerals,” our heroes eventually beat the Darkling (Ben Barnes), aka Aleksander Kirigin. Alina (Jessie Mei Li) destroys the Fold by killing her beloved Mal (Archie Renaux) and harnessing his Firebird power. She also has the help of, uh, Inej (Amita Sujan) jumping around the Fold with a mystical sword the gang borrowed from an immortal saint in Shu Han (which isn’t so much a place in Shadow and Bone Season 2, as much as an indoor set decorated up with lazy Asian stereotypes). Alina then stabs Kirigin just as he’s flashing back to their really steamy Season 1 kiss and he dies.
Kirigin has one deathbed request. He wants Alina to make sure there is nothing left of his corpse that future Grisha can use for evil. She builds a pyre where the Fold was and all of the surviving characters (including Mal, whom Alina used merzost to bring back from the dead only to have him be like, “Oops, I don’t know why we’re connected anymore. Guess I’m going to be the Dread Pirate
Roberts Sturmhond now”) gather to burn the Darkling. Afterwards, as the characters scatter, Alina, Genya (Daisy Head), and Zoya watch the pyre burn. And here’s where it happens.
A bumblebee buzzes into frame and lands on Zoya’s shoulder. Zoya sneers and brushes it off. Alina watches this and then we cut to the women looking on at the pyre.
Now, I’m sure some hardcore Leigh Bardugo fan whose read all the books a million times immediately understood what it meant. I, a woman who read five of the seven Grishaverse books several years ago, do not. And that’s a problem because this is supposed to be a TV show. Not an Easter egg hunt for super fans.
Indeed, the entire second season of Shadow and Bone should come with a warning for non-book readers. There were too many plot points, too many characters, and too many details to keep track of. Even said superfans might find themselves a bit befuddled! The changes from the books were sometimes absolutely insane. The way the season ends with various couples remixed played out like unhinged fan fiction. I’m sorry, but was that Tolya (Lewis Tan) checking out Inej?!?! Is nothing sacred?!?
Shadow and Bone Season 2 wasn’t all bad, I guess. I liked every scene where Kaz and Inej were alone with their simmering sexual tension. I liked watching Zoya and Nina (Danielle Galligan) team up. Tolya and Tamar (Anna Leong Brophy) were well-cast. Jesper got to bend metal. David (Luke Pasqualino) got to simp for his Genya. But overall, it’s a show that’s lost its way trying to do everything but the one thing dorks like me really want: the Ice Heist.
I assume the Shadow and Bone showrunners want to save the Ice Heist from Six of Crows for the third season, but Season 2 was so atrocious, I’m not sure they’ll get that Season 3 order. Which is too bad, because I assume I was supposed to find out what was up with that bee in Shadow and Bone Season 3. Alas… Some random fan on Twitter will just have to explain it to me because the show couldn’t bother to.
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