How Netflix’s Shadow And Bone Season 2 Revitalizes Tired Fantasy Tropes

Although season 2 has only managed to widen the gulf between Nina (Danielle Galligan) and Matthias (Calaghan Skogman), their dynamic mimics the star-crossed lovers trope, where their different worlds collide in the most surprising ways. Fantasy is no stranger to doomed, borderline “forbidden” romances, where, for instance, a vampire and a vampire-hunter fall for each other, with several variations of this dynamic between hunter and hunted. Nina, a Heartrender, is prey for the likes of Matthias, a drüskelle from Fjerda trained to hunt and kill Grisha since birth. As expected, tempers fly after the two meet, but the two are able to meet halfway after overcoming massive odds, only to be wrenched apart due to a fundamental misunderstanding. Despite following the basic beats of this standard trope, Nina x Matthias embodies the hope that generational hatred/conflict can be overcome with love, however cheesy that sounds. The bottom line: it works.

However, the epitome of a doomed romance is undoubtedly Kaz (Freddy Carter) and Inej (Amita Suman), two individuals bogged down by their trauma to the point they cannot even openly articulate what they feel for one another. As Crows, they shared mutual respect and camaraderie, but their circumstances limit any space for emotional vulnerability, which has a dear cost in this world. Season 2 pushes the envelope in terms of Kaz’s need to avenge his brother, while Inej wants to be free of her indentured contract. While they achieve these things, it is enough — while Kaz’s trauma hinders him from experiencing physical or emotional intimacy, Inej is painfully aware that hope is a dangerous thing, portrayed viscerally when the Crows are incapacitated by a poison gas that induces vivid hallucinations. While Kanej burns with the curse of an impossible union, we burn with them.

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