I Care Too Much About Fictional Characters: TV Couples Who Should’ve Lived Happily Ever After

I know I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about how little I like romance novels. The truth is, though, that I actually like romance quite a lot when it is done well and when it is a secondary storyline in a larger story that is about something else. If a relationship is well-developed and populated by two characters who both have other things going on… I can be as big a shipper as anyone. As such, I’m not above being devastated when my favorite fictional relationships don’t turn out the way I think that they should.

Unlike books, which usually have one author, TV shows have a lot of moving parts. A whole team of writers, actors, networks, producers, etc. work together to create one collective story. Sometimes something that is lovingly set up just can’t follow through in TV world. Sometimes one person starts something and leaves it in the hands of someone else, someone who has a very different idea of what should happen. Sometimes a contract expires and and an actor leaves at an inopportune time. Sometimes everything goes entirely to plan and the plan is not what I wanted. These shows spurred me to make a list of my favorite TV couples who, if I’d been in charge, absolutely would have been each other’s happily ever after. In some cases, I ultimately agree that the writers made the right choices. In others, I respect the decision but disagree with it. In still others, I’m legitimately mad about the way things ended up because I think that the breakups ultimately betrayed more than just the fictional couple.

I started this post months ago, right after Supernatural‘s impressively horrific excuse for an ending. I figured I would let this sit for a while so that I could reassess and tone it down if time had mellowed my anger. Spoiler alert: it hasn’t. That one makes me mad. A couple others on this list make me mad. Some I begrudgingly understand. One I really respect and think the writers made the right choice.

In any case, this was a lot of fun, and here are my 10 TV Couples Who Should’ve Ended Up Together (with two honorable mentions for additional pairings in a show that’s already been mentioned). So, in no particular order, here we go!

Oh… spoilers for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Downton Abbey, Friends, Game of Thrones, Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, Schitt’s Creek, and Supernatural.

Sybil Crowley and Tom Branson, Downton Abbey

Why didn’t they end up together? They fell in love and got married! They were living happily ever after (relatively, anyway, considering their politics and the situation in Ireland), but Sybil died in childbirth. More to the point, Jessica Brown Findlay’s contract ran out and she wanted to leave the show so she had to be written out. Actor contracts really plagued Downton Abbey (*cough Matthew cough*).

What’s their deal? Downton Abbey is full of romances, but this is the one that really worked for me. It helps that Sybil was my favorite character long before Tom arrived on the scene. The youngest daughter of the Crowley family, she was independent and self-actualized in ways her older sisters—so focused on petty rivalries and romance—weren’t. Unlike the rest of the family, she looked beyond the privilege of obscene wealth and became socially conscious. She worked for women’s rights and volunteered as a nurse during the war because doing so was the right thing to do. Tom was the only person who really understood these passions. He supported her activism and encouraged her to walk her own path instead of bowing to her family’s traditionalism. Their politics weren’t necessarily identical, but they were both dedicated to eschewing the way things were for the way they could be. And while the servant falls for the rich girl he works for is far from an uncommon storyline, it works really well with Sybil and Tom because it demonstrates their ability to overcome class bias. Basically, they’re two matched souls who found each other in a society that really didn’t want them together, and they encouraged each other to reach their full potential.

It was really sad when Sybil died. Her actual death was very well written and acted, but it was devastating. Like I said, Sybil was my favorite character and Sybil/Tom was my favorite romance, so it was rough to lose them both in one fell swoop. It was even harder when, in the following season, the show kept trying to replace her. It kept bringing in spunky, forward-thinking girls and throwing them at Tom because, I guess, it didn’t know what to do with him without her. And it felt pretty disrespectful to Sybil, especially since all the potential girlfriends were clearly meant to be like her. Making Tom fall in love with anyone but Sybil was going to be a tough pill to swallow regardless of who it was, but trying to recreate Sybil was the wrong call. Also one of those spunky, forward-thinking girls raped Tom and the show just kinda shrugged it off, so…

The show went sharply downhill after Sybil (and Matthew) left. I can’t lay the quality dip entirely at the feet of Sybil’s death, but it certainly didn’t help. Downton Abbey eventually got it back together and I really enjoyed the end of the show and the reunion movie, but IMO Downton Abbey’s glory days are still season two, when Sybil and Branson’s romance was in full swing.

Honorable Mention: Thomas Barrow and Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey

Thomas really didn’t have many friends, did he? I mean, yeah. Most of that was his fault for being a terrible person most of the time, but any time someone did show him kindness he proved he was capable of friendship. Jimmy and Thomas had a rough start, but when they became real friends and Jimmy overcame his initial homophobia it seemed like they were building towards a romance. Jimmy very much had the vibe of a closeted guy overperforming hyper-masculinity. He really only ever hit on girls in front of Thomas or to prove he was straight. He wasn’t interested in Ivy until after the kiss incident, and I very much read him as overcompensating. Except apparently he wasn’t and there was never anything legitimately romantic between the two of them. Jimmy had an affair with his old (female) boss and got fired and that was the last he and Thomas saw of each other. I just wanted Thomas to be happy, okay? And Jimmy seemed like the best/only plausible partner for him.

Alexis Rose and Ted Mullens, Schitt’s Creek

Why didn’t they end up together? After dating on and off for most of the show’s run, Ted got his dream job in the Galapagos. Alexis seriously considered moving there with them, but after dating long distance for a while, it became obvious that—despite their love for each other—their lives were at a crossroads and in the long run they’d both be happier if they split.

What’s their deal? Alexis was a spoiled rich girl who moved into Ted’s town. Ted, a vet, was the most financially viable romantic interest there so Alexis decided he’d be a fun boyfriend for what she saw as a brief stay until her family’s finances improved. At first, it was a wildly unsuccessful relationship. Alexis saw Ted as a stopgap and was more attracted to another guy. But as their acquaintance deepened (after a few unfortunate proposals of marriage) and Alexis developed as a person, the two actually became very close friends. Admittedly Ted always did more for Alexis than vice versa, like when he hired her as his receptionist when she desperately needed a job but lacked all the qualifications, but eventually the two came to truly love each other deeply. One of the cutest moments of the entire show was when Alexis adopted Ted’s habit of making cringey but adorable animal puns. That moment made them feel like soulmates.

Unlike pretty much every other couple on this list, I’m actually okay with this breakup. The best relationships are the ones where the two people make each other better. A lot of TV romances tie into the individual characters’ arcs, and the relationship is kind of a culmination of the character growth on both sides and/or each partner gives the other something they’ve been searching for. In those cases, when the relationship doesn’t work out, something feels wrong. But with Ted and Alexis, the breakup is actually good writing. Not all couples live happily-ever-after, and even though Ted is a big part of Alexis’ development (love that journey for her) and she for him, their growth was demonstrated more by their mature breakup than it would have been by a continued relationship. Alexis was, at the beginning of Schitt’s Creek, defined by her relationships with men, so letting her step out on her own without the safety net of a boyfriend was really the best decision for her.

I still think she and Ted are adorable, though.

Darryl Whitefeather and Josh Wilson, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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The Merciful Crow (Mini Book Review)

When you read as much as I do, and when you’ve had a lifelong love of reading, it’s impossible to have a single, all-time favorite book. However, it is possible to have a current favorite and right now—in May 2021—my favorite book is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. The best way to get me to read something is to compare it to Six of Crows. Margaret Owen’s YA fantasy duology was not on my radar. I knew it existed, obviously (I’m a bookseller and YA is my speciality), but it wasn’t one I’d ever picked up or perused or contemplated reading. And then Shadow and Bone got turned into a Netflix show and all of a sudden everyone at work was talking about comparison titles. Someone mentioned The Merciful Crow and it skyrocketed to the top of my TBR.

At first glance, the comparison is obvious. I mean, crows. But having finished The Merciful Crow, I can’t in good faith point Grishaverse fans there. My main takeaway from Six of Crows is that I could not stop reading. The action is so breakneck and compelling that I had to wretch myself away. The Merciful Crow has nearly the exact opposite effect. I was bored and I didn’t care whether any of the characters lived or died.

My mind wandered while I was reading, and by the time I got to the end, I was skimming more than reading. I read some Goodreads reviews, and it seems that I’m far from the only one whose attention wavered. The plot is just not that interesting. There’s an evil plot to murder the prince, who fakes his death and for some inexplicable reason really needs main character Fie to escort him to his allies. Sure, eventually he finds out that she’s handy or whatever, but at the beginning, when he makes this plan… he thinks her caste is stupid and useless. Imagine putting the safety and wellbeing of yourself, your best friend, and your kingdom in the hands of someone you see as subhuman. Like, hooray for overcoming racism and stuff, but it makes no sense that he’d ever be in the position to do that.

The stakes are also somewhat iffy. We’re told that the evil queen is evil and that if she got to rule it would be the end of the world as they know it, but also… yeah, okay. She’s already the queen, and it’s not like the king is doing all that much. Really the only thing going on in this kingdom that the reader is privy to is discrimination towards/murdering of Crows, so it’s not like we can be all that fussed about a change in regime even if we’re promised that things would get worse. At a certain point, if you tell me the same thing that many times without adding details or clarifying anything, it sounds like empty boasting. Yeah, she’s the worst. The most evil. The baddest. You’d be terrified if you ever met her, because she’s BAD. The villains we actually do see aren’t any more memorable. Admittedly I did just admit to skimming a lot, but by the time Fie has her climactic standoff with the trackers who were hunting her, I barely recognized the names of the trackers, and couldn’t conjure up any details about them aside from this guy is really good at tracking and they captured this girl at one point, right? And then let her go for some reason?

My lack of comprehension isn’t entirely my own doing, though. I absolutely hated the writing style. Even if you ignore the maddening word choice (I wanted to throw something every time Fie used the word “ken”), the style is frustrating. It overuses repetition. Any time the story needs some tension, Owen peppers in a not if, when like that’s super dramatic, but I was just like… yeah, that’s how time works. You don’t spend your life training for a job you’re never going to do, but when Fie’s Pa tells her that she’s actually going to become a chief she acts like it’s the most earth-shattering piece of information she’s ever received. And the writing is… sparse. Now, I’m no fan of excessive description, but it does serve a purpose. The Merciful Crow jumps from action to action, and even at the beginning when I was paying full attention I had a hard time figuring out why Fie did anything. For a character who is largely defined by her dedication to duty and the denial of her own desires, she has very little interiority. We’re never in her head long enough to ken* what makes her tick. Forget about knowing why something happened, sometimes I couldn’t even figure out what happened. I don’t know what kind of vibe Owen was going for with her style, but boy howdy did she miss the mark for me.   

*see how annoying this is?

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Kate in Waiting (Mini Book Review)

Obviously I was going to read Kate in Waiting as soon as it came out. I love Becky Albertalli and the only reason I wasn’t a theatre kid in my youth is my lack of singing, dancing, and acting ability. I knew I’d love any book that Becky Albertalli wrote about the theatre scene, but the specific premise excited me even more.

A few years ago, I read a very bad book about two “platonic soulmates” who had their friendship tested when they both fell for the same boy. I like romance well enough if it is compellingly written and only takes up a limited part of a narrative, but I hate it when romance supersedes all other relationships. I was excited by the promise of a novel that would weight platonic best-friendship over romance, and was crushed when I instead got the weakest friendship I have ever seen committed to paper. Honestly, I think that book seeded the idea for the novel I’m currently writing, because it teased a story I wanted to read but gave me something I have no interest in.  

Enter Kate in Waiting. It’s exactly what I wanted You and Me and Him to be. Kate and Andy actually are best friends. They love each other deeply. They’re proud of each other. They take care of each other. When they both fall for the same guy, they make sure to preserve their friendship, because they agree that their relationship with each other is the most important thing to them. It also helps that Matt, the love interest, is actually a likable character. If both your main characters are going to fall for the same guy, you’d better make for darn certain that the reader can see why they’re so into him.

There aren’t a lot of surprises in Kate in Waiting, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not exactly the sort of book that requires a lot of mind blowing twists, and in fact if I hadn’t been able to predict most of the major plot points there might have been a problem. If I weren’t able to read between the lines to figure out what was actually going on ahead of narrator Kate I would’ve unfairly written off a few characters as assholes. Thankfully for them, I could tell what was really up, and was able to comfortably like everyone.

Also, if you’re hoping to be shocked by plot twists while reading a romcom… you might be in the wrong genre.

The only thing I didn’t like about Kate in Waiting—and this is laughably minor—is the cursing. I’m not prudish about language. I have no issue with it, but it doesn’t feel quite organic here. There’s a threshold for the word “fuck.” Use it sparingly enough and it can be surprising or funny, but overuse it and you sound a bit desperate and ridiculous. Kate crosses the line. It’s easy enough to ignore, but it has the same effect as overusing any other word: it starts to distract.   

I adore musical theatre, but I’ve never been a part of it. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to see behind the curtain, so to speak. I am deeply ashamed of myself that I didn’t recognize the musical the characters put on. I’d heard of Once Upon a Mattress, but I had neither heard nor listened to it. I’m honestly flabbergasted, because I am obsessed with musicals, and it never occurred to me that the book would center around one that I knew nothing about. I’ve since rectified that—I listened to the OBC recording while writing this review—but I wish that I’d been more versed on Once Upon a Mattress before I started the book, because I’m sure that it would’ve added an interesting dimension to the story. Oh, well. Rereads. 

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Midnight Sun (Mini Book Review)

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, also known as Twilight Take Three, was a huge deal when it came out nearly a year ago. It was such a huge deal that I preemptively decided to wait until the craze had passed before I even attempted to get it from the library. I think the waiting list was longer than three hundred people at one point. In any case, the call for it has slowed enough that I was finally able to check out a copy and read it for myself.

Twilight from Edward’s point of view is exactly what you’d think it is, but also more of it than you’d expect it to be. I knew that most of the book would be retreads of what I’d already seen in Twilight and Life and Death, but I didn’t realize how lifted it would be. When Stephenie Meyer said it was Twilight from Edward’s POV, she really meant that literally. Every scene from the original novel (or, at least, every one between Edward and Bella… so, most of them) is written out here as well, word-for-word where the dialogue is concerned. Probably to make up for this, Edward has a mental responses to nearly every single line. Sometimes he’s furrowing his brow because he still can’t read Bella’s mind. Sometimes he reiterates how much he wants to eat her. Often he reflects on how much he wants to murder Mike or how every woman in existence is madly in love with him. Occasionally he’ll note that he doesn’t really know why he said what he said, mostly when his remarks are unnecessarily cryptic and bonkers even for him. Honestly, very little of it is anything that couldn’t be easily read between the lines in Twilight. Midnight Sun is nearly 700 pages long, but if you whittled it down to the new scenes or insights it would probably be a hundred pages or less. It’s definitely a fun read. Edward is so cringily melodramatic that I laughed aloud more than once, mostly at lines that I think were meant to be taken seriously. Still, a laugh is a laugh and I did have fun. But did reading it give me any new insights about Twilight? No, not really.

A lot of the book seems to be interested in rehabilitating Edward’s image. Edward is a toxic boyfriend. Everyone knows that. That is not news. Meyer and Midnight Sun really don’t want that to be true, though, so Edward spends a lot of time comparing himself to regular teenage boys and angsting about his choices, probably in an attempt to downplay the fact that he’s more than a hundred years old and likes sneaking into a teenage girl’s room to watch her sleep. That’s creepy, Edward. Sorry. In one scene he oils Bella’s window so it will slide open more quietly. Yikes, man. He tries really hard to justify why he’s watching her sleep by angsting about whether or not he’s any different than a regular Peeping Tom (sorry, Ed, but no, you’re not) and obsessing about how if he doesn’t see Bella with his own two eyes it means that she’s in imminent danger of being murdered by ninjas or eaten by sharks or something. He doesn’t use those examples, obviously, but he keeps going on and on about how Bella is a danger magnet and how everything dangerous will find her and blah blah blah she’s better off if a murderous predator hangs out in her bedroom while she’s unconscious. It would be deeply disturbing if Edward weren’t so absurdly over-the-top dramatic that it’s funny.

Also, for a guy who claims to have put his good old murderin’ days behind him, Edward sure fantasizes about murdering Mike a lot. Midnight Sun casts Mike in an incredibly unflattering light, probably because if he were at all decent some people might prefer him to Edward. I remember I did back in Twilight’s heyday. I mean, he was a normal, inoffensive human boy who liked Bella and had her back in gym class. He was pretty cool. On the Edward-is-Not-as-Bad-as-He-Seems-Tour, though, he’s a creepy, possessive jerk who crudely pictures having sex with just about every girl he walks past. How do you make Edward look less creepy? By making Mike more creepy, I guess. Jasper got creepier in Midnight Sun, too. There’s a scene where he creepily hangs out near Edward and Bella because their love is like a drug to him. Yikes. I still like Jasper. He’s definitely one of the most interesting characters in the series, going from the most evil vampire (he killed so many people, not to mention the Confederate thing) to the most empathetic. I also liked that he tried to eat Bella and on the whole seemed kind of over Edward and Bella’s mushy gushy thing. Sad that’s not the case and that he’s actually as obsessed with them as they are with each other. It was pretty cool to see him fully in action, though, since he’s usually such a side character. His power is way more expansive here than we ever saw it in the original series. I don’t know if that’s because Meyer hadn’t fully figured Jasper out when she first published Twilight and had to retroactively explain why James didn’t freak the heck out when he saw him and century’s worth of vampire battle scars.

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Good Neighbors (Book Rant)

I’ve read a lot of good books this year. Almost everything has been a four or five star review. I suppose, though, that all good things must come to an end. A good run ended with Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan. I did not like this book. I raced through it because I could not wait to be done with it.

What’s it about?

When a sinkhole appears in a wealthy suburban town, it reveals a dark underbelly. A young girl disappears into the sinkhole. A father is accused of rape. An angry woman whips her neighbors into a violent mob. Temperatures climb, and a mass exodus leaves only the worst neighbors behind.

What’d I think?


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April 2021 Wrap-Up

Last month, my reading choices were typically me. I read exclusively YA fantasy by my favorite authors. This month was very different. I mean, I’m me, so I did still read a few YA books… but for the most part I strayed away from my usual fare. I read a heavy piece of literary fiction, an intense memoir, and a children’s classic. It’s always important to try expanding your horizons, and I always have the best intentions, but at the end of the day I like what I like. I keep thinking that someday I’ll mature out of the Y in YA, but the more supposedly highbrow adult literature I read, the more I like YA. I honestly think that, on the whole, it’s better.

I had a lot going on this month–mostly planning my sister’s highly elaborate but COVID safe birthday party–so I unfortunately don’t have a full review for a lot of these this time around. Some are still to come, though…

Here’s what I read…

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

The unfortunate thing about We Begin at the End is that it has interesting ideas. It’s about the dangers of living too much in the past and how the desire for revenge can poison everything. It reflects on guilt and the realities of living with trauma and neglect. It could have been a brilliant novel, but it falls very short because the execution is simply not up to the task. It takes too long to get to its main ideas. It muddles things up by thematically advocating for moving forward instead of looking back, but seemingly reversing that at the last second. There are a few moments that seem to glorify sacrificial suicide. There are unnecessarily sexualized descriptions of the mainly one-dimensional female characters. Most of the plot is illogical. We Begin at the End depends on coincidence and implausibility to work. It has some interesting ideas and themes, but ultimately the writing is too weak to support them and the end result is a chore of a novel that is more tedious than entertaining, and more annoying than enlightening.  

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My usual reading goal is to read 10% classics. That sounds like an easy goal, but I’ve been doing a bad job of it lately. I normally like classics when I actually get around to reading them, but I rarely feel driven to them like I do with YA. I would never stumble across Little Lord Fauntleroy on a bookstore bookshelf and think, this sounds right up my alley! I only picked it up because my sister owns it and lent it to me when I said I needed something to read. I didn’t have particularly high hopes because I remembered generally disliking The Secret Garden and A Little Princess in my youth, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is a sweet and wholesome novel, if a little too sappily sincere in moments. I’d be lying if I claimed I didn’t cackle at the sheer number of times that characters were struck dumb by the undeniable handsomeness of an eight-year-old child. Still, much as I might personally wish for a sarcastic quip or self-referential aside, there’s something to be said for unabashed positivity. The modern reader in me kept expecting and even wanting Cedric to learn of his grandfather’s true nature, but as I reflect back… eventually his grandfather’s true nature legitimately changes, in part because of Cedric’s ignorance, so why does it matter if Cedric knows that he became kind only after meeting Cedric? Cedric is utterly guileless, and while he does have a bit of the irritatingly precocious about him, as a whole he makes for a winning focal point. I’ve become cynical over the years, and it’s nice to visit a world where a single pure soul can change the world for the better.

White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin by Michael W. Clune

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is another one I borrowed from my sister. She reads lots of memoirs, and I do so only very, very rarely. Still, she’d been telling me that it’s good for more than a year and I’m always game to diversify my reading… even if I go back to my favorites immediately afterward. As she describes it, “I wouldn’t exactly say that I enjoyed reading it, but it is really good.” I agree with that assessment one hundred percent. This is a tough read because it is all about a man’s battle with addiction. The writing is actually brilliant. Clune uses language powerfully to bring the reader into his spiraling mind at his lowest points. It’s terrifying. There’s a description towards the beginning about the type of person who becomes an addict, how some people can take the drug and forget about it and others who take it and forget everything else, that particularly stood out to me. White Out is harrowing, but as a person with an addictive personality it was especially horrifying for me. I’m obsessed with books, TV shows, musicals, and soda but I would be in big trouble if I got hooked on anything more dangerous. So yeah. White Out is a great book, but it’s not exactly a fun read.

Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli

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Shadow and Bone Season 1 Review

I have been looking forward to Netflix’s Grishaverse adaptation for a long time. I read enough that picking a permanent favorite book is more or less impossible, but Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo has been my favorite for coming up on three years and I have therefore rarely been more excited for an adaptation. I was excited enough for Shadow and Bone for its own sake, but even more so because it was going to give me the chance to share my enthusiasm for the Grishaverse with members of my family who don’t read much but could be persuaded to watch a TV show. My hopes were high, not just because I wanted the show to do justice to the amazing books, but also because if it wasn’t great my family was going to think me crazy.

Warning: If you have not finished the show, there will be some spoilers. I’ll mark them with the word SPOILER in red at the start of those paragraphs/sentences. There are a few Six of Crows spoilers, so if you have finished season one of Shadow and Bone but have not read Six of Crows, avoid anything with a blue SPOILER marker.


Thankfully, the adaptation is very, very good. It’s not perfect, but it’s very fun.

Despite mixing in characters from its sequel series, Shadow and Bone is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the novel for which it’s named. It does make a few changes, particularly at the end, but by and large it sticks to the book very well. When it was announced that Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows would be adapted together, I think a lot of us were expecting a Shadowhunters type show, the kind that takes the characters and the vague idea behind the books and cobbles it into something entirely different. That’s always a risky move. Sometimes it turns out brilliantly, but for every Umbrella Academy that improves on its source material in every conceivable way, there’s an Eragon that changed everything and is universally reviled. Shadow and Bone would have had to make a really great new plot if it was going to change it, because those original books are great. Thankfully, the showrunners recognized that and kept everything very book-accurate. Mixing the Six of Crows characters into the original Grisha trilogy, strangely, changes very little about either storyline, and it solves what could have been a glaring issue with the show: everyone likes the Crows better.

Like, I like Alina and the Darkling’s story as much as anyone, but I LOVE Six of Crows. When I first read Shadow and Bone, I was like “Cool,” and put it aside and didn’t think about it again. Then I read Six of Crows and fell in love. When I returned to Shadow and Bone with that love, I was much more inclined to appreciate it. It’s a good book, but what comes later is much better. From what I’ve seen online since the show dropped, even people who haven’t read either series prefer the Crows, with Jesper often topping the list as the most popular character. Bardugo’s writing and her characters improve as she goes. Mixing the morally ambiguous Crows and adding the particularly relevant social commentary by making Alina Asian Shu elevates Shadow and Bone without necessitating drastic change. If the show gets renewed, it can only get better. Just wait until Nikolai shows up. Just wait until we get all SIX of Crows. I love the show for what it is, but I also love it for what it will be once the few remaining pieces of the puzzle click into place. I know logically that there was no way to pigeonhole Wylan into season one, but I still really missed him.

I thought the show did a good job of providing some small surprises for book readers without drastically changing anything. The plotline with the Conductor is a lot of fun, both because it shows Kaz in his scheming element and because it plausibly shows another aspect of the Fold. There are opportunists everywhere, even Ravka, and it was quite interesting to see characters aside from the Darkling who would use the Fold to their own advantage. Shadow and Bone the book is in first person, so it’s very possible that this kind of thing was happening beyond Alina’s view. His scheming makes a lot of sense. It fits into the universe and the story and complicates things without ultimately pulling anything wildly off track. Also, it makes Alina’s position more blatantly dangerous. SPOILER We’re told in the books that some people might wish her ill, but hearing that and seeing an assassination attempt in progress are two different experiences.

The crows plotline, I thought, works surprisingly well. I would’ve been happy to see them in any capacity, but the way the two storylines combines is pretty brilliant. It gives the crows a heist, which obviously they need because heists are their jam, but it also adds to Alina’s narrative. Seeing her story make its way across oceans hits it home how much power she has to potentially change more than just Ravka. Of course there are shady characters after her, hoping to nab her for their own gain. It’s to our benefit that these shady characters are so delightful that we half want them to succeed.

Biggest Book-to-Screen Changes:

SPOILER There are a few things that I think the show could have done better/shouldn’t have changed, particularly in the last episode. I don’t entirely understand why Netflix messed with the mythology of Morozova’s Stag and amplifiers in general. In the books, amplifiers are a much bigger deal. Zoya, one of the first Grisha Alina meets, has one and throughout her training Alina often wishes for one to hasten her progress. When she learns of the stag, a particularly powerful amplifier with its own rules, it seems like the answer to all her problems. The twist is all the more shocking because it goes against everything Alina has been led to believe about amplifiers, and because it is an example of the Darkling using her ignorance against her. In the show, the stag and the Darkling are really the only two amplifiers we ever see. It’s not a special amplifier. The only reason that the Darkling is able to gain power over Alina is because of the way David melds it into the Darkling and Alina both. That’s all mostly okay.

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