Stepping as much as adapt a beloved YA collection with passionate followers is not any straightforward job. We’ve seen the rise and fall of the Twilights, Hunger Games, and Shadowhunters of the world. Up to bat now could be Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse books, a fantasy collection that takes place in a world of elemental summoners and spectacular thieves. They’ve been beloved for the higher a part of the final decade, nevertheless it was solely with 2021’s Netflix adaptation Shadow and Bone that they made it to the display screen.
Right away, showrunner Eric Heisserer made some daring decisions — pulling in characters who don’t canonically get launched until after the primary collection? Making Alina half-Shu? Adjusting the core romantic relationships? But if the primary season’s reception was any indication, these decisions had been the appropriate ones — followers ate it up.
With the second season out, the writers behind Shadow and Bone have continued to make daring choices, leaning on the books as a launching pad as a substitute of a basis. Whether or not these modifications work may rely upon how correct you want your page-to-screen variations. But one factor’s for positive: Heisserer and his crew aren’t too involved about being completely trustworthy, as long as they seize the spirit of the story.
Polygon spoke to Heisserer in regards to the challenges of adapting the beloved books into eight episodes, altering character arcs, and the plotline he was unhappy didn’t make it into the ultimate lower.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for season 2 of Shadow and Bone.]
Photos: Timea Saghy/Netflix
Polygon: You lined a lot floor in solely eight episodes this season — Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising, plus elements of the Crows duology and extra. Why did it make sense to condense a lot into this season?
Eric Heisserer: It was much less about seeking to condense issues. It was extra about ensuring that with all of the characters that we had, and all of the mouths we had been seeking to feed, we gave them a full meal. We appeared for essentially the most lively moments and scenes for these characters that helped push the story ahead the place their decisions made a distinction. And that is actually what we got here up with. We began with that concept of, How can we guarantee that every of those folks really feel like they’re contributing to the story, and aren’t simply kind of set by the wayside? What we wound up with was kind of an attention-grabbing assortment of sequences. We then needed to do a whole lot of heavy lifting to guarantee that (a) they work collectively and (b) that if we pulled from future books, that we knew we might change it with one thing simply as compelling that wouldn’t disturb any of the story round that, ought to we’ve the privilege to get to it.
Was there a scene from the books that you simply completely knew you needed to maintain?
There had been a whole lot of scenes that we knew that we needed to maintain from a number of books that we pulled from. It was solely a matter of, Can we maintain it and in addition then possibly come again to different issues that we didn’t have time for? We wished to protect quite a lot of scenes between Alina and Mal, Alina and Nikolai. Sturmhond interacting with quite a lot of folks, together with — this isn’t essentially from the guide, however to have him interacting with the Crows would find yourself being important to the best way that this season’s story performed out, and assist join the dots about stuff that occurred in season 1.
Was there a specific arc or relationship that you simply want there had been extra time to discover?
Yes, it is a nice query! We had an vital facet story that featured Feydor and Ivan from season 1 that we had written into season 2, and leaned on fairly closely. We had been excited to discover that relationship dynamic extra, as two lovers who discovered one another on both facet of this warfare between Alina and Kirigan. And we’d gotten far sufficient into it that we had Julian [Kostov] there for early press throughout preproduction. We had been hoping to carry Simon [Sears] in. Although he had a characteristic movie dedication, we had been seeking to try to discover a approach round that schedule. Then Julian caught COVID throughout manufacturing, at a time that made it inconceivable for us to discover a technique to maintain them within the season. That was heartbreaking for each me and Daegan [Fryklind].
It additionally meant a whole lot of rewriting on the fly. We had been like, Oh, what are we gonna do about this entire storyline now? And so what we’re hoping to do is present how each of those characters survived not solely the tip of season 1, however by season 2, and the way they’ll reunite with different characters if we’ve an opportunity to take action shifting ahead.
Photo: Dávid Lukács/Netflix
We see the associated fee merzost and energy has on Kirigan manifested in his scars. In the books, we see that in Alina’s hair going white. Did you ever contemplate having Alina have white hair within the present? Or was that one thing that didn’t work with the imaginative and prescient of the present?
We gave it a run and discovered simply how horrible wigs are. We didn’t need to try this disservice to Jessie [Mei Li], or to the followers, and felt like there needs to be one other approach for us to showcase the presence of merzost in Alina. In the final scene of 208 [season 2, episode 8], I feel does a reasonably daring [job].
Sturmhond is such a beloved determine within the books and an enormous a part of why Nikolai is a fan favourite. But Nikolai sheds his privateer identification pretty shortly after which passes it off fully to Mal. Why was this the appropriate method for Nikolai and Sturmhond within the present?
In the present we have a look at two dynamics. The first is Nikolai ascending to king of Ravka and figuring out that’s going to be his full-time place and basically retiring the identification of Sturmhond — a minimum of for the foreseeable future, as he’s sort of obtained a rustic to run. And then we had Mal, who has kind of misplaced his identification. He’s been on observe and realized that he had one thing that he was destined for, and fulfilled that position and had an vacancy of goal that he wanted to fill. Over the course of the season, I feel we did our greatest to showcase his curiosity and affinity for sea journey. For him to have the chance to step into that and tackle Sturmhond… We thought it was becoming and gave Mal a brand new dimension to discover, a capability for him to get snug with who he’s earlier than he decides to come back again and pursue Alina.
Mal and Alina go their separate methods on the finish of the season, which is an enormous departure from their fates within the guide. Why make this determination for Mal and Alina going ahead?
It felt essentially the most emotionally trustworthy for the 2 of them on this stage of their relationship, contemplating that he has misplaced his approach by way of his goal, and that she has an enormous goal now in control of the Second Army. But that doesn’t imply that they’re not nonetheless in love with one another. I feel they very a lot are. They’re simply apprehensive about their futures, and to guarantee that they’ll return with confidence. The final scene between Alina and Mal speaks to the reality of their hopes and fears.
Then I imply, from a practicality standpoint of the present, we don’t need to lose Jessie or Archie [Renaux]! We’re not gonna lower them for some Ravkan cottage. That could be a horrible selection on our half! For one, they’re wonderful human beings — like Jessie simply brings a brightness to the set each time she exhibits up, and actually leads the best way by way of exhibiting the solid and crew the kind of present we’re.
Speaking of the solid, the solid of Shadow and Bone actually embodies their characters so nicely. What was one thing they delivered to the roles that stunned you or simply felt, like, so in sync?
Anna [Leong Brophy] and Lewis [Tan] frolicked and began behaving like siblings immediately, which was shocking and pleasant. Lewis began this bit like Brad Pitt’s character in Ocean’s Eleven the place Tolya’s simply consistently consuming one thing at all times within the background. He’s aware of meals, which makes him Nina’s finest buddy as quickly as Nina meets him. I assumed that was lovely.
We had initially thought to place Paddy [Gibson] in a disguise for Sturmhond, the place we had been making an attempt to think about possibly giving him some slight facial prosthetics or another make-up that may alter his bodily look. [We] discovered it to be not as efficient as we wished. With Paddy exhibiting off what he can do by way of physique language with a barely completely different accent, and the truth that there’s no international TV within the Grishaverse that may permit folks to know what this wayward prince from an jap nation protected by a lethal Shadow Fold would appear to be… We’re like, You know what? Actually, we’re OK.
Where did the inspiration behind the brand new Crows heist come from?
That was an answer born out of the need of realizing that to try to put the Crows in with the Ravkan storyline and in opposition to the nichevo’ya, it simply was a really one-sided battle. The nichevo’ya would simply slaughter all people and we didn’t just like the sound of that in any respect.
So we had been making an attempt to determine what it’s that would unite these two teams the best way that we united them in season 1. It was a mandate from Netflix to make this magic trick occur once more. So we went into the season 2 writers room with that concept of like, OK, how can we pull this off once more? [Co-showrunner] Daegan [Fryklind] present in her reread of The Lives of Saints, the story of Santka Neyar and the blade written into the story by Leigh as being so sharp it might lower by shadow. We thought that was the important thing to it, by way of the mission that they’d go on, after which the additional little bit of enjoyable could be who from the Ravkan storyline would come over and rent them and go together with them on this mission. We tried quite a lot of character mixtures and landed on Tolya and Zoya as being essentially the most enjoyable.
How did you land on which characters to carry collectively?
In the books Zoya is aware of Nina, and we wished to play into that relationship dynamic somewhat bit. She had educated Nina in some unspecified time in the future. Both of the siblings [Tolya and Tamar] are Shu, so it made sense to have certainly one of them. And in realizing that Tamar, and Joanna [McGibbon]’s character, Nadia, had been growing a little bit of a relationship within the story at that time, it felt extra like she would keep behind. So these two came to visit and obtained to be an out of doors perspective to all of the attention-grabbing relations dynamics with the Crows. They simply ended up being a whole lot of enjoyable to put in writing.
The fandom of those books is drawn to those very iconic strains. Some of them make it; a few of them don’t, simply by the variation course of. But how did you determine which strains to verify to include?
We boarded our writers room and everybody — even all the way down to our writers’ PA — might are available and put a line of dialogue, or 4, on there as a wishlist. There had been extra must-haves, and it was only a matter of seeing if we’d get to them multi function season. Or if we discovered a technique to discover these in later seasons. Even if it felt prefer it was materials that we lined. Because because it’s been demonstrated… The title of my manufacturing firm is Chronology. So it’s one thing which means we’re not fairly tethered to the timeline in the identical approach because the books. We’re making an attempt to verify to seize the spirit and feeling. If there’s a approach for us to return to that and discover a house for [a part] within the dialogue we are going to. Particularly, the Crows’ strains had been fairly heavy for some time till a few of my different writers stepped up and and showcased their love for the Shadow and Bone trilogy as a result of there’s simply a whole lot of nice, snarky strains from Alina, and naturally there’s a ton of Nikolai and Sturmhond strains that we had been excited to get to.
With regard to iconic strains, Mal will get a moderately notorious tattoo of the phrase “I am become a blade” within the books. Was that one thing you considered together with, or was it simpler to let go?
That was simpler to let go. The concept of tattoos on this world are usually for establishments. So it was arduous for us to make this a chunk that’s extra about people. What we did as a substitute was modify that line of dialogue, and have him say it to Alina: “The whole country will become your blade.”
The romantic relationships have at all times been an enormous a part of the collection — and one thing the followers love. Mal and Alina’s and Jesper and Wylan’s relationships appear to have modified essentially the most, whereas Inej and Kaz and Nina and Matthias are fairly true to the books — what made a few of these relationships work as they had been for the display screen and others want some changes?
We look to attempt our greatest to protect the aesthetic constancy of the books and pay our deep respect and like to the supply materials. There’s additionally the truth that in adaptation, you’ll encounter issues that don’t work the best way they need to within the adaptation that labored positive within the books. And a few of that comes from the truth that you could have as much as a dozen completely different artistic voices within the combine all from completely different walks of life with completely different cultural relationship backgrounds. That actually shed a light-weight on each the Mal and Alina relationship and the Jesper and Wylan relationship, in that they introduced private expertise in the actual world to those relationships, these dynamics. Particularly with Jesper and Wylan, [we] discovered an iteration that felt trustworthy to the individuals who most determine with that couple. And allow them to be, I might say one of many healthiest relationships on the finish of season 2, if not the entire present.
That last scene, the place Alina makes use of the Cut to kill a Fjerdan agent, is especially surprising and gory — what was the intention behind it?
It was extra a case of showcasing how Alina’s worth for utilizing merzost has manifested. That she didn’t escape and get away with resurrecting her boyfriend totally free. It additionally demonstrates that she’s going to be round for subsequent season. In the guide, she’s stripped of energy and retires. And as I stated earlier than, we weren’t about to lose Jessie.
Season 2 of Shadow and Bone is now streaming on Netflix.