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Shadow And Bone Season 2 Majorly Misfires In Adapting Beyond Siege And Storm

Contains spoilers for Season 2 of "Shadow and Bone" 

Season 2 of Netflix's "Shadow and Bone" is bad. This may sound a bit harsh, but given some illogical choices made by the writing team, it's hard for fans of the book series to argue anything but. Instead of adapting the second book in Leigh Bardugo's ongoing series of Grishaverse novels, "Siege and Storm," Season 2 adapts the second and the third ... and the fourth ... and the fifth, too. The simple truth is that no respectful adaptation can successfully condense so much material into a singular, high-quality season. The narrative becomes this patchwork, Frankensteinian thing, with haphazard stitching that falls apart whenever lightly jostled. 

Even Season 1, which primarily follows Bardugo's first Grishaverse novel, only extends beyond its borders to introduce characters that don't appear until the fourth. And these additions were conceived as something of a prequel for Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) and the rest of the Dregs because their stories in the duology "Six of Crows" and "Crooked Kingdom" are so popular. 

In ransacking the series for spare parts, Season 2 excises most of what made "Siege and Storm" a compelling read. Had "Shadow and Bone" followed a more logical trajectory, though, Season 2 would have been a political drama that shone a light on the troubles raging through Ravka. And that doesn't even begin to cover the slow-burn romance. Here's what we missed out on.

The political drama that never was

In Season 2 of "Shadow and Bone," Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux) get to experience a fraction of the events detailed in "Siege and Storm." The pair meet Sturmhond (Patrick Gibson), a pirate who aids in their hunt for the Sea Whip, a magical creature Alina needs to kill to gain its power. Then Sturmhond reveals himself to be Nikolai Lantsov, the second-born prince of Ravka. Nikolai promises to make Ravka better, then offers Alina his hand as part of a strategic marriage to soothe the aches between Grisha and Otkazat'sya (read: Russian wizards and Russian muggles). Almost immediately thereafter is the wedding ceremony, where General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) murders most of the royal family. 

Readers will note that these three events in the book are separated by many, many chapters. The excursion with Sturmhond is essentially in the right place, but the proposal is somewhere in the center of the book, and the wedding massacre is at the very end. What's missing is Ravka and its people. In "Siege and Storm," Alina slowly comes to terms with her newfound authority. Yes, she still becomes general of the Second Army but the Grisha are slow to trust her. She gets to forge that bond through trial and error. 

She also has to contend with the citizens of Ravka, who consider her a living saint; the royal family, who consider her a parasite; and the Apparat, who considers her a puppet. Through everything, Nikolai guides her, and Alina transforms into an experienced leader. Someone fit to face the Darkling. Someone fit to be a queen. 

The romance is not as compelling

In Season 2 of "Shadow and Bone," Alina and Mal are ready to manifest the second half of the title in the first episode. The pair are vocally devoted to each other, sharing smooches as often as possible. Again, readers will note that no such adoring attitude exists between the pair as they are written in "Siege and Storm." They still love each other but their ability to express such affection is buried beneath layers of teenage angst.

Had Netflix opted to respect the source material, Mal would have grown bitter and resentful while Alina garnered power in Os Alta. Although adamantly tethered together, Alina's station in the Ravkan capital is clear while Mal's is far murkier. What's more, as Alina and Nikolai parade their faux marriage in public, Mal is forced to step further and further away, lest anyone suspect that Alina and Nikolai are feigning love for political reasons. 

Mal internalizes his unspoken or otherwise poorly communicated rage, only releasing it through back alley brawls with Grisha soldiers. It's not pretty, and Nikolai takes every chance to make things worse by prodding Mal's bruised ego with barbed jests. It works, too, because Mal realizes that every single man vying for Alina's hand, even the wretched Darkling, bears greater social status than he could ever hope to possess. Overall, it's a much more complex, interesting romantic storyline.

In total, Siege and Storm barely gets four episodes

In Season 2 of "Shadow and Bone," the narrative of "Siege and Storm" is so truncated that the book is ancient history by Episode 5. That means that only four episodes are dedicated to Bardugo's second installment in the Grishaverse. And it's not even four full episodes, either. Half of the footage from each of those episodes belongs to the Dregs, who are equally sprinting through their own storylines. It's not just the political and romantic drama that Netflix excised, it's everything that couldn't be wrapped up in a wiki summary. 

Readers of "Siege and Storm" will recall that Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker) never found herself imprisoned by her son in the second book but rather by the Ravkan throne. Alina would go to her, desperately seeking aid, and receive naught but cryptic mysteries and a solid tongue-lashing. Genya Safin (Daisy Head) never found rescue in the Darkling's arms but rather sought him out, deliberately betraying Alina in the process. Her return stings a lot worse in that particular context. But how would non-readers know any of that? 

In no uncertain terms, Season 2 disrespected every story it stole from within the Grishaverse, but it performed a special disservice to "Siege and Storm," which rightly should have been the focal points of Netflix's return to Ravka and its people. With so little to look forward to now, it's hard to imagine Netflix can ever right these wrongs with future installments of the series.