“Shadow and Bone” Season 2 on Netflix: Crows are the best part

Season 2 sells itself with massive effects and apocalyptic spectacle, but The Crows’ story is much more satisfying on a smaller scale.

Strip away all the CGI smoke monsters, cultural pastiche, and made-up languages ​​from “Shadow and Bone,” and at its heart, it’s still Chosen vs. The tale of the Dark Lord. Now in Season 2, the Netflix series is such a beautifully crafted fantasy epic that networks could once build an entire series around it. There’s a dense mythology of history and palace intrigue, and a love triangle or two. The show debuted in early 2021 amid a still-questionable TV landscape, pointing to a possible future of effects-driven literary adaptations.

But despite the heroes and villains linked by fate — the living saint Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) who mentally communicates with her sworn enemy The Darkness (Ben Barnes) — and the CGI central elements, a massive dark matter entity called the Fold, which divides a whole. nation in two – there’s a better show beneath the glittering genre trappings. “Shadow and Bone” Season 2 is worth it for The Crows.

Alongside Alina and the Darkness’ conversation about saving or destroying all living things is a much simpler story of a handful of cunning criminals trying to make their way through a bleak underworld. The group is led in spirit, if not always in action, by the enigmatic, gloved Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), a stoic leader who has connections everywhere with Ketterdam’s beach scum and villains. Along with Kaz on his various journeys are the sharp-shooting, clever Jesper (Kit Young) and the nimble, spirit-like Inej (Amita Suman). This season, the crew meets demolition expert Wylan (Jack Wolfe) and Nina (Danielle Galligan), who has the gift of hearing and controlling people’s hearts.

There’s a noticeable difference every time “Shadow and Bone” jumps from Alina’s story to Ketterdam’s organized crime hub to things closer to the barrel. What is repetitive and fast-paced in the storyline that defines the rest of the series becomes much freer and more mobile when the focus shifts to the “team on a mission” side of things. If it seems like two different shows, they almost necessarily are. Leigh Bardugo’s original trilogy novels follow the physical and metaphysical wars surrounding The Fold in the main series that gave the series its title. Kaz & Co is more of a series of side stories told in two separate books that form a side-by-side series.

Putting it all together is the tricky, delicate balance of “Shadow and Bone”. And to be fair, Season 2 gradually finds a way for them to interact with each other so they don’t feel like they’re completely in their own atmosphere. But there’s something far more fascinating about watching people use their superhuman powers for robbery than for total domination. For them, the task is not to figure out the rules for using a magical artifact with mystical powers. The task is to sneak into a heavily guarded building, catch the artifact, and get out alive.

Shadow and bone.  (LR) Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey in episode 201 of Shadow and Bone.  Kr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

Amita Suman, Freddy Carter and Kit Young in Shadow and Bone

David Lukács/Netflix

“Shadow and Bone” occurs more often, but its strengths lie in painting with smaller strokes. Last season, series creator Eric Heisserer talked about how much work went into making the card games in a casino-type club stay true to this fictional world and not just take something from our own. Kaz, Jesper, and Inej give the show more of a chance to appreciate those details and get rid of having to worry about huge mythical beasts or complicated conversations about the logistics of empowerment rituals.

Even the Ketterdam fight sequences feel more grounded than the “fight against a tennis ball” feel of some of Season 2’s other big Shadows and Bones. For those in and around The Barrel who are Grisha (people with narrow but powerful magic), the biggest special effect is his hand wave. Watching someone clutch their chest because the person across from them activated their heart-stopping power is just as satisfying (if not more so) than watching a group of people run away from a giant, menacing sea dragon. For a show whose characters can summon the infinite power of blinding, brilliant light, the other half of “Shadow and Bone” often feels more like a magic trick.

A big part of that is because the Crows are incredibly charming, both individually and as a unit. Li and Barnes have their own brooding, steamy energy that serves his wife well. It still doesn’t compare to the fast-paced, fast-paced life that Young, Galligan and Suman bring to theirs. They’re the kind of group that can be impressive even when watching a distant explosion from a rooftop.

Smaller parts of everyday life – small prayers whispered over dead enemies, mottos spoken before going to work, the simple snapping of a knife in and out of the sheath – then highlight the big, steampunk design choices even more. more. An assassin’s wrist-mounted weapon is the kind of detail that’s easily lost in the dark when trying to defeat a centuries-old wizard. But on the bare bay streets of the seedy seaside capital? This is worth noting.

Balancing the small and the universal, the light and the doomed, is a problem that currently saturates the biggest forms of entertainment. So it’s no surprise that a reliable Netflix series with franchise-like ambitions is caught between these two worlds. If anything, The Crows is a reminder that in adaptations and glitzy genre visuals, bigger isn’t always better. Sometimes you just need the right team.

“Shadow and Bone” Season 2 is now available on Netflix.

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