Welcome back to Shadows House. Please step through the looking-glass to come inside.
If season one relied heavily on Hans Christian Andersen‘s literary fairy tale The Shadowseason two seems like it’s going to take its inspiration more from Lewis Carroll‘s 1871 children’s novel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. The most obvious way we see this is in the new opening theme, where Kate and Emilico are on different sides of a glass until Kate steps through, but the most interesting detail is in the numbers. I mean that literally – not only do we see that the face of the clock Kate walks through is backwards, but if you look at the numbers on the blackboard that Emilico looks at later in the second episode, we can see that those numbers are backwards as well. This symbolizes that Shadows House itself is a mere reflection of the real world, a topsy-turvy land where shadows are human and humans are dolls and nothing can be taken for granted. It’s a mirror image, run by soot where in the real world soot is merely the byproduct of coal (which would be the main power source in the show’s pseudo-Victorian setting), and if Kate really wants to change things, she’s going to have to break the glass.
That’s something we can see her working up to. Unfortunately for her, she and Emilico attracted a lot of attention during the last debut season, so there are plenty of watchful eyes on her. Among those, surprisingly, it doesn’t look like Barbara is the main threat. Barbara, in fact, may be worried about Kate rather than keeping tabs on her for Lord Grandfather, because like Barbara, Kate can produce a lot of soot. This is significant because that’s Barbara’s primary role in Shadows House – she may be a Star Bearer, but she’s mostly the energy source for the whole operation, producing well over fifty percent of the energy used by the family. Barbie’s the only one who seems to worry about what this means for Barbara’s health, and presumably her prickly nature comes from that concern for her Shadow – we see in episode two that she’s very protective of Barbara in ways that both indicate that she hasn’t necessarily been drinking the coffee and that she genuinely cares about her Shadow. This may be setting Barbara and Barbie up as a failed Emilico and Kate: they tried to go against the system, possibly even by becoming Star Bearers, as is Kate’s plan as of the end of episode two, but ultimately weren’t able to break the mirror. Is that because Lord Grandfather caught on and “promoted” the mysterious Christopher? It’s too early to tell, but it seems significant that he recommended Barbara for Star Bearer and that Barbie is specifically not shown ingesting the weekly dose of coffee, the only person besides Shaun and Emilico not to swallow it down.
Kate may be able to succeed where Barbara could not for one very specific reason that we see demonstrated multiple times over the course of these two episodes: she’s very, very smart. We’ve known that for a while, but in season one her anxiety got in the way quite a bit. But now that she and Emilico are a full-fledged team and John’s crush on her makes him more willing to go along with her, she’s got her anxiety under better control. Her plan with the secret note that spans both of these episodes is brilliant (and too out of the box for the obnoxious Susanna to figure out) and her inner detective is definitely starting to make its way to the surface. Mostly Kate’s really good at sitting quietly and listening, squirreling information away to use later, and given the sheer number of Lord Grandfather-worshipping older Shadows, this seems like the best approach to take. John’ll punch where and when she tells him to, but first Kate’s going to be sure that she has a proper target all lined up.
The first order of business is for Shaun and Emilico to figure out how to stop Ricky and Lou from partaking of the soot-laced coffee the dolls are offered every week. That’s got more urgency than anything, because the way that the syringe of liquid is proffered is disturbingly framed as if its an illicit drug. We can see that Susie and Olly are both absolutely addicted to the substance, so it’s in Ricky and Lou’s best interest for Shaun and Emilico to act quickly, before they’re too far gone to help. But if they can make even a small crack in the mirror, that will be a start – once you’ve damaged the glass, it’s only a matter of time before it shatters.
Shadows House is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.