MINOR SPOILERS FOR SHADOW AND BONE SEASON ONE AND SIX OF CROWS AHEAD!
The crown jewel in Netflix’s hoard of fantasy franchises is The Witcher, the only original series on the streaming platform growing and expanding at such an exponential rate that it is no longer categorized under the fantasy genre, but indeed in its own separate category (albeit still largely padded out by short behind-the-scenes features). But if any other fantasy series has the wealth of never-before-adapted source material and the increasing number of enthusiastic fans necessary to support a franchise, it has to be Shadow And Bone.
Not for the first time, the name “Wylan” made it to the top five trends on Twitter today as Shadow And Bone‘s official social media outlets broke the long-awaited news that Wylan Van Eck, a beloved character in Leigh Bardugo’s Six Of Crows novels, has finally been cast and will appear in Shadow And Bone‘s second season, currently filming in Hungary. That’s pretty extraordinary. What’s even more extraordinary is that a Six Of Crows spin-off series has not yet been officially announced, although rumors have begun to circulate in recent months that one is being developed.
Until that day comes, the Six Of Crows duology and Grisha trilogy, both authored by Leigh Bardugo and set in her fictional Grishaverse, yet vastly disparate in tone and style, will continue to be compressed into one sprawling Netflix series, which borrows the title Shadow And Bone from the first book in her Grisha trilogy. Season one adapted Shadow And Bone in its entirety, intertwined with original storylines for the Six Of Crows characters Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa, and Jesper Fahey.
Season two is expected to take the same approach to the second book in the Grisha trilogy, Siege And Storm, with the Crows’ storylines gradually inching closer to the events of their own duology. And thus, it should come as no surprise to fans of the trilogy that the characters of Nikolai Lantsov, Tolya Yul-Bataar, and Tamar Kir-Bataar have also been cast. These three characters are integral to Siege And Storm and to furthering the story of Alina Starkov’s war with the Darkling. It’s hard to imagine that Wylan will have anything to do with Alina, but his initiation into the Crows gang is the catalyst for the daring heist central to Six Of Crows.
So now that you know the basics, let’s break down these characters and casting announcements, shall we? First and foremost, because he’s the one who trended highest and whose casting seems to have universally satisfied most fans, we have Wylan Van Eck – or should I say, Wylan Hendriks. Just as season one ineffectively attempted to conceal the Darkling’s true identity behind the code-name of “General Kirigan”, season two appears to be hiding the truth about Wylan Van Eck’s illustrious parentage; a secret that comes out fairly early in Six Of Crows.
In the books, Wylan adopts the surname “Hendriks” – his mother’s maiden-name – while living on the streets of Ketterdam, after leaving home at a young age and discovering much to his surprise that his birth-name is no longer safe to use. Stalked relentlessly by people who want to kill him, Wylan puts his knowledge of chemistry to good use and becomes a demolitions expert, supplying explosives to Ketterdam’s criminals. Kaz Brekker, seeing through his little charade immediately, enlists him on the Ice Court heist as a bargaining-chip in negotiations with Wylan’s father, the businessman Jan Van Eck.
Jack Wolfe, best known for small roles in The Witcher and Father Brown, will portray Wylan Hendriks – and at once, his wide eyes and prim features make him a perfect match for the character, whom the other Crows underestimate at first due to his seemingly fragile physical build, privileged upbringing, and classical education. By an interesting twist of fate, Wolfe is also set to star in a musical adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which aligns with Wylan’s own interest in music, the flute in particular.
Patrick Gibson will take on the challenging but charismatic role of Nikolai Lantsov, the youngest prince in Ravka’s ruling family who aligns himself with Alina Starkov and becomes her love-interest, as well as a chief enemy of the Darkling and of his own despicable parents. Some fans don’t believe that Gibson looks like Nikolai, by which they must mean that he doesn’t physically resemble a seven-letter word printed on a page, because otherwise he fits the descriptors neatly and brings a certain ethereal quality to the character that is very suitable.
More than that, he has plenty of experience. Gibson starred in Netflix’s ambitious sci-fi epic The OA, and has appeared in numerous key roles across films and television, including The White Princess, The Spanish Princess, Before We Die, The Darkest Minds, and Tolkien, the 2019 biopic of the great fantasy author.
After Ben Barnes, however, arguably the biggest name-talent to join Shadow And Bone is Lewis Tan, who will appear in season two as Tolya Yul-Bataar, a Shu Heartrender loyal to Nikolai who becomes one of Alina’s bodyguards and closest companions. Tan has appeared in Iron Fist, Deadpool 2, and Wu Assassins, and last year led the ensemble cast of the Mortal Kombat adaptation that raked in roughly $83 million worldwide and became a massive hit on HBO Max. He’s not an extremely versatile actor, but he’s already got Tolya’s fight-training, good looks, and the crucial smolder.
Between Tolya and his twin sister Tamar Kir-Bataar, I suspect Tamar will do most of the heavy lifting in dramatic scenes. Her character, another Heartrender, is Alina’s close confidante throughout Siege And Storm, and in Shadow And Bone their connection may be even deeper because Alina is explicitly Shu in the adaptation, like the twins. It’s implied in the books that the nation of Shu Han is vaguely inspired by late 19th Century China or Mongolia, and Jessie Mei Li (who plays Alina), Lewis Tan, and Tamar’s actress, podcaster Anna Leong Brophy, are all of Chinese descent.
Incidentally, Tamar and Wylan are both canonically queer characters in the books (and there’s some evidence to suggest that Tolya is aromantic and/or asexual). Seeing as Jesper has already been shown flirting with and seducing men in season one, I have faith that Shadow And Bone won’t leave any of their scenes on the cutting-room floor, as unfortunately happened to several queer characters in The Witcher. Taking Fedyor, Ivan, and Nina Zenik (who is canonically bisexual in the books) into account, Shadow And Bone might just challenge The Wheel Of Time for the honor of TV’s gayest fantasy series.
Speaking of Nina Zenik, both Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman (Nina and Matthias, respectively) have been upgraded to series regulars heading into season two. Daisy Head, who plays the conflicted Tailor Genya Safin, has enjoyed the same promotion. Behind the scenes, Shadow And Bone‘s showrunner Eric Heisserer will now be joined by Daegan Fryklind, who was a writer on season one.
With Shadow And Bone season two supposedly aiming for a release date later this year, hopefully it won’t be long before we see Wylan, Nikolai, Tolya and Tamar in action. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!