“Shadow And Bone” 2nd Trailer!

SPOILERS FOR SHADOW AND BONE AND SIX OF CROWS AHEAD!

In all my coverage of Netflix’s upcoming Shadow And Bone adaptation, my one consistent concern has been how the series is going to juggle the various components of its sprawling story. While its title is borrowed from the fairly straightforward first book in the Grisha trilogy, Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling YA fantasy series, the Netflix adaptation is also drawing on material from Bardugo’s later (and, in my opinion, superior) Six Of Crows duology, set in the same fantasy world but in a different region, at a different time. To better link the two, Netflix is compressing the timeline and creating original storylines for the Six Of Crows characters that will bring them into contact with Grisha trilogy characters they never met in the books.

Shadow And Bone
Shadow And Bone | polygon.com

The task seems daunting. The Grisha trilogy takes place in the Russian-inspired country of Ravka, where an orphaned girl named Alina Starkov discovers that she’s the Sun-Summoner, a magical being capable of creating light – and thus powerful enough to save Ravka from the terrible Shadow Fold, an ocean of pure shadow that cuts an ugly rift through the country. The Six Of Crows duology, set years later in the Amsterdam-inspired city of Ketterdam, follows a ragtag band of criminals, nicknamed the Crows, who unite to kidnap a mage and score a hefty reward. Tonally, the two stories share little in common…and while a handful of characters overlap, they are both very much their own thing.

But the second full trailer for Netflix’s Shadow And Bone reveals the series’ solution to that problem…which, as far as solutions go, seems to me like one that comes with massive risks and the potential to completely derail the storyline of the books as time goes on. The Crows will simply unite to kidnap Alina Starkov herself.

We’ve known for a while now that we weren’t gonna get a literal adaptation of Six Of Crows in this first season of Shadow And Bone. The series is still focused on Alina and the events of her books. The Crows were always going to be playing secondary roles in this season, with the promise that their roles would be upgraded in season two, when their story could actually take off. But with this new development, I don’t understand the point in doing the actual Six Of Crows storyline anymore, even in season two…because they’re already basically using it as a season one subplot, heightening the stakes dramatically while recentering it around Alina.

I’d actually be very surprised if the story from Six Of Crows were to be adapted at this point, because I think I can begin to guess what Shadow And Bone is doing…and why, while I think it’s a gamble even Jesper Fahey would shy away from, it might just pay off.

Shadow And Bone
Mal and Alina (Malina) | syfy.com

Just as it feels like the Crows’ individual arcs are being reworked to fit into Alina’s story in season one, I believe the opposite might be true of season two…which, rather than following the events of Six Of Crows, may actually lift more heavily from the book’s sequel (and my favorite of Bardugo’s Grishaverse stories), Crooked Kingdom. In that book, the Crows return to Ketterdam with their kidnapped prize, only to be betrayed by their client and embroiled in a war of subterfuge and deceit in the city’s criminal underworld. If that’s the case, it’s unfair we wouldn’t see a more accurate adaptation of these stories – but it’s already unfair that Shadow And Bone still includes Mal, one of the worst love interests in literary history.

There’s evidence for this theory in the trailer. The Crows still receive their offer from a mustachioed older gentleman who appears to be Jan Van Eck, their backstabbing client from the books. Mal tells Alina at one point that he’ll find his way back to her if they’re ever separated, implying strongly that they will be (I see no issue with that, gotta be honest). And while the Crows don’t have much screentime in the trailer, it looks like they make it to Ravka: we see Inej Ghafa evading a jet of fire that could only have been cast by a Grisha magician, and moments later she appears to be in the Shadow-Fold itself, looking dashing while throwing knives at an unseen enemy – perhaps a Volcra demon?

We also know that Alina’s backstory in the series has been changed to make her biracial and half Shu Han (an East Asian-inspired region bordering Ravka), a change reflected in the decision to cast an actress of Chinese descent in the role. The showrunners have cited multiple reasons for this change, one of which being that it lends depth to her arc. But it could also make her taking over the role of Kuwei Yul-Bo – the Crows’ kidnapping victim, and the only prominent Shu Han character in the books – more plausible.

Obviously, the Crows kidnapping Alina and bringing her back to Ketterdam would have massive consequences…but if I’m being honest, I think Alina’s character would benefit a lot from the change. The Grisha trilogy gets kind of boring when it devolves into love-triangulations in book two, so it would be refreshing to see Alina separated from both her love interests for a minute and placed in a completely new scenario, before possibly returning to Ravka by way of the seafaring Prince Nikolai, who appears in the second books of both series’. And I won’t deny that the thought of her interacting with the Crows excites me greatly.

Shadow And Bone
Alina and Baghra | themarysue.com

The only question is how the Crows would benefit from this change, from having Alina and the Darkling (and Mal, I guess) constantly barging in on their storylines – and, as someone with a Crows bias, that’s the question that gives me pause and makes me wonder if it’s actually worth it. I also would like to know why the Crows still only have three members, and why Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar don’t even seem to have real storylines in this season (Nina does at least have a cut hat).

Shadow And Bone still looks very promising and well-produced, however, and I’m excited to see if anything can make me interested in the events of the Grisha trilogy. I’m not totally sold on Six Of Crows being used as a subplot in Alina Starkov’s story, but if it means Crooked Kingdom (or some version of that story) might be the focus of season two, you better believe I’m gonna grin and bear it.

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Shadow And Bone” 1st Trailer Needs More Crows

SPOILERS FOR SHADOW AND BONE AHEAD!

I like the Six Of Crows duology more than the original Grisha trilogy. I know, I know, real original, right? But as someone who infinitely prefers reading an action-packed heist adventure with a diverse crew of antiheroes to wading through endless chapters of Alina and Mal bickering over literally everything, I’m going to stick with my boring Grishaverse opinion. And thus, it’s no surprise that the first trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of Shadow And Bone didn’t really pique my interest fully, because…there’s a lot of Alina, and a lot of Mal, and while I believe actors Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux are probably going to put in the work to try and make their characters engaging and relatable…I’m still not convinced that’s possible yet.

Shadow And Bone
Alina And The Darkling | deadline.com

To give credit where credit is due, the Grisha trilogy (the first of multiple series’ by Leigh Bardugo set in the Grishaverse, where magic runs rampant in a gritty late 19th-Century-inspired fantasy world) does incorporate one of my all-time favorite tropes: palace intrigue and political scheming. And the first season of Shadow And Bone, which will adapt the first book in the bestselling trilogy alongside some wholly original stories featuring the Six Of Crows cast, seems to feature just as much palace intrigue as the books – if not more. For those unfamiliar with the premise of the book, Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li in the Netflix adaptation) starts out a humble orphaned mapmaker before discovering her magical ability to conjure sunlight: a gift that comes in handy when your kingdom is split in half by a demon-infested ocean of inky, uncharted darkness, hindering trade and leaving those trapped behind “The Shadow Fold” struggling. Alina gets recruited into the Grisha, a small army of sorcerers who operate at the upper echelons of high society, all while maneuvering political and religious crises, and a love-triangle involving her best friend Mal and her Grisha partner: the infamous Darkling.

The love-triangle is fairly unpopular in the fandom, with both of Alina’s potential love-interests being widely hated-on for various reasons (the Darkling is a backstabbing tyrant, Mal is…Mal), and it doesn’t feature too heavily in the first trailer for Shadow And Bone, which wisely focuses attention on the series’ spectacular CGI budget and action sequences, some of which seem to be infused with a dose of horror. The catalyst for Shadow And Bone‘s events, Alina’s attempted crossing of the Shadow Fold and the reveal of her powers, is getting a perfect page-to-screen adaptation, by the looks of it – the dreadful silence inside the Fold, the rush of wings as volcra demons amass in the darkness, the suspense, and then the reveal of one monster about to bite a man’s head off from behind: good stuff. Don’t be fooled by the books’ YA rating: the Grisha trilogy and particularly the Six Of Crows duology get really dark (and not just because the Darkling can literally conjure up shadows).

Shadow And Bone
Six (well, three) Of Crows | syfy.com

Unfortunately, the trailer just barely squeezes in individual shots of the three main Six Of Crows characters who will be introduced in season one, implying that they and their subplots will not be a primary focus until season two at least. That saddens me greatly, because I already think I’m going to love them: Freddy Carter has won me over with his portrayal of crime lord Kaz Brekker, just from the intensity of his glare and the confidence with which he swings his cane; Kit Young looks radiant and fun as chaotic bisexual sharpshooter Jesper Fahey; and Amita Suman as assassin Inej Ghafa appears to be taking the lethal energy she displayed in her first-look image, and applying it brilliantly to her physical acting. Of the three Crows, she stands out the most – ironically, since her whole storyline revolves around being undetectable. I want her to have epic fight sequences, Netflix! Don’t force me to sit through hours of “Malina” content when I could be watching Inej brutally knife people!

With the series’ in-universe timeline still a confusing mystery and plot details for the Crows’ subplot a secret, I still don’t understand how the two vastly different storylines will intertwine organically – though the showrunners insist there’s a connection. But with the characters of Nina and Mathias still completely absent from the conversation (except for an embarrassingly bad first-look image that conveyed nothing whatsoever of their characters’ rich and unique backstories or personalities), and Wylan Van Eck not appearing in season one, don’t expect any tease of the actual Six Of Crows plot until the season finale, at least.

I feel like Shadow And Bone fans will collectively raise their eyebrows at me if I don’t talk about the Darkling at all, especially given that he’s the series’ main selling-point, but honestly – what is there to say? He’s got fantastic hair, the kind of luscious mane that practically requires a soft breeze to be rippling through it at all times. But Ben Barnes, despite looking and sounding the part, isn’t really radiating the kind of palpable seductive charisma I had anticipated from arguably the only truly iconic character in the Grisha trilogy. I’m willing to believe this is the fault of Netflix’s marketing, though, as it seems reluctant to reveal the Darkling as the series’ main villain.

Shadow And Bone
The Darkling And Alina | tvinsider.com

So while the rest of you are busy digging your trenches in the endless Darklina vs Malina shipping war, I’ll be over here minding my own business (I always preferred Alina’s dynamic with Nikolai anyway, and he won’t be in season one), and happily stanning my Six (well, three, for right now) of Crows.

Trailer Rating: 6.5/10