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Anyone Else Wish Netflix Had Taken a Bigger Gamble With ‘Shadow and Bone’?

Archie Renaux as Mal Oryetsev and Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov on a ship in Shadow and Bone season 2

Shadow and Bone came back with an explosive albeit messy season 2, and there’s plenty Netflix could have done to avoid some of the criticisms. Based on the wildly popular Grishaverse novels by author Leigh Bardugo, the series quickly became one of Netflix’s most successful shows when season 1 premiered back in 2021.

With all major streamers looking for the next big thing in fantasy after Game of Thrones fell off the map, Shadow and Bone seemed a safe bet for Netflix with its massive built-in fanbase, all yearning for a proper adaptation of Alina Starkov’s heroic journey and the shady exploits of Kaz Brekker and his Crows.

So, with Shadow and Bone season 1, Netflix decided to give audiences both those stories at once. And why not? It worked, for the most part. The Crows were given a new story that could therefore be weaved seamlessly into Alina’s primary narrative, making for fun fanfiction-esque character interactions and opening the door for further crossovers in the future.

I would argue, however, that season 2 is where their paths should have diverged.

Shadow and Bone season 2 should have been Alina’s show

The crew of the Volkvony, made up of Tolya, Tamar, Alina, Mal and Sturmhond, in season two of Shadow and Bone of Netflix

Shadow and Bone season 1 worked perfectly as a setup to a larger Shadow and Bone franchise for Netflix. Many of the criticisms lobbed at season 2 lament the show’s uneven pacing, as it flits from Ravka to Ketterdam and back again, chronicling two unrelated narratives until the writers are forced to make an excuse to bring their stories back together to justify all of this being present in one show.

Why didn’t Netflix simply use Shadow and Bone season 1 as a springboard, leave Shadow and Bone season 2 for Alina, and then create a second show called Six of Crows simultaneously? The crossover potential would certainly still be there if they wanted to use it in the future, but at least no one could accuse the writers of favoring one set of characters over the other, or mashing three or four books together in an eight-episode season.

I could also go into a rant about why everything needs to be only eight episodes nowadays, with streaming services seemingly terrified of being accused of creating anything that might be deemed “filler,” but we’d be here all day. Eight episodes might be more binge-able, but it can also be too restrictive—especially for a show with as grand a scale as Shadow and Bone.

There are rumors that if Shadow and Bone season 2 does well, a separate Six of Crows show could be on the horizon. This, in all honesty, only makes me more confused as to why Netflix didn’t just take that leap of faith sooner.

The Grishaverse can still be Netflix’s flagship fantasy franchise

Netflix had undoubtedly banked on The Witcher being their fantasy flagship, a franchise that had the power to rival Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, and more recently, Amazon’s The Wheel of Time and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. But with Henry Cavill’s controversial exit, Liam Hemsworth’s even more controversial casting, plenty of behind-the-scenes drama, and the prequel miniseries The Witcher: Blood Origin an excruciating watch that not even the legendary Michelle Yeoh could save, it seems that ship has sailed.

That’s just another reason why I believe Netflix should have gone all in on the Grishaverse franchise as soon as Shadow and Bone season 1 became a hit. Six of Crows may now be a genuine possibility, but if the chatter on Twitter is anything to go by, some parts of the audience feel that the Grisha characters in Shadow and Bone got the short end of the stick this season. The replies are brutal on this one.

Given Leigh Bardugo just landed an 8-figure publishing advance to write literally whatever she wants (yes, you read that right), one would think that Netflix was aware of just how powerful her brand, and the Grishaverse, truly is. That should have been enough incentive for them to give this their all from the start.

The Grishaverse also has a slightly broader demographic, age-wise, than, say, The Witcher—just one more reason for Netflix to have gone all in on this from the beginning.

I’d love for the franchise to continue, and I will admit that I am more partial to the Crows as characters than Alina, Mal, and the Darkling (yes, even though he’s played by Ben Barnes). But at the same time, I want this Grishaverse adaptation to succeed. I think they’ve all played their parts beautifully, and their characters deserve to have their arcs seen through to the end, without anything or anyone being rushed or sidelined.

(featured image: Netflix)

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El (she/her) has been working as a freelance writer for various entertainment websites for over a year, ever since she successfully completed her Ph.D. in Creative Writing. El's primary focus is television and movie coverage for The Mary Sue, including franchises like Marvel and Pokémon, but she is happy to pitch in with gaming content once in a while if it concerns one of the few video games she actually knows anything about. As much as she enjoys analyzing other people's stories, her biggest dream is to one day publish an original fantasy novel of her own.