The Importance of Adding Milo the Goat

This year’s Netflix adaptation of fantasy author Leigh Bardugo’s trilogy, Shadow and Bone, garnered popularity and praise, both for keeping faithful to the spirit of the books and for making bold changes that made the story better suited for TV. Some of these changes are large and noticeable, like the decision to incorporate the storylines of the Crows from the Shadow and Bones companion duology, Six of Crows, or changing the race of the main character, Alina (Jessie Mei Li), to part-Shu.

But a subtler change hides within plain sight, and though the addition to the story is small, it plays a large role in the characterization of one of Shadow and Bones’ protagonists.

Milo the goat was introduced as part of the Conductor’s (Howard Charles) plan to take the Crows across the Shadow Fold. As the Conductor divvies out instructions for the Crows to gather supplies for the dangerous trip, they are surprised to hear that a goat, of all things, is one of these important items. The Conductor only mentions the goat after glancing at Jesper (Kit Young), seemingly adding it to the list as an afterthought.

Nonetheless, the Crows agree to find the goat without question. The animal is a humorous mystery at this point, its purpose mainly comedic, as Kaz (Freddy Carter) continues to be menacing with an adorable goat tucked under his arm. The juxtaposition between the dark and brooding Kaz Brekker and Milo the goat is charming, and is reason enough alone to warrant Milo’s addition to the series. But this is far from the goat’s only contribution.


The other two items’ purposes quickly become obvious, but it isn’t until the monstrous Volcra start attacking the train that transports the Crows and the Conductor across the Shadow Fold that Milo’s purpose becomes clear. As the Conductor lists more dangers about crossing the Fold, dangers that he failed to mention before the train is moving. Jesper begins to panic, prompting the Conductor to instruct him to hold the goat. Jesper assumes that Milo is bait for the monsters, but the Conductor is quick to correct him: the goat is a tool to calm anxious passengers during crossings. A quick appraisal of Jesper upon their first meeting was all the Conductor needed to insist that Jesper is the type of person who would need Milo’s comfort.


However, just how effective Milo is for Jesper isn’t something the Conductor could have foreseen. On the surface, Jesper is easily distracted, either by activities that promise him instant gratification or by high-stress situations, just like the Volcra attack in the middle of the Shadow Fold. As Jesper holds Milo, the situation on the train gets more and more out of hand. Out of the three Crows and the Conductor, only Jesper becomes calm and collected, thanks to Milo’s help. He stands up and carefully walks right toward the danger and shoots the Volcra down with perfect aim, killing the monsters and saving the lives of everyone on the train.

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Such a quick change in Jesper is unexpected, even to Kaz and Inej (Amita Suman), but for those who are familiar with the Six of Crows duology, this short bout of heroism should feel very in character. Jesper’s portrayal in the Netflix series stays true to his character in the books: he searches out fun but his short attention span and inability to think things through often cause trouble to follow him wherever he goes, and he can even ruin some of Kaz’s carefully-laid plans because of this character flaw. But throughout the books, Jesper proves himself reliable in a pinch, especially when he has something worth protecting.

Though it may seem like a stretch to compare Milo the goat with a human character, the animal’s effect on Jesper is reminiscent of his dynamic with Wylan, a character as yet unseen in the TV series but prominent in the books. Wylan’s presence often inspires renewed bravery in Jesper, at least after they have time to develop a meaningful relationship as fellow Crows.


Wylan’s absence from the first season is felt throughout the episodes, especially since without him, the core group of Crows is only three members strong. Out of the entire gang, the members of which include Kaz, Inej, and Jesper crossing the Fold, and Nina (Danielle Galligan) and Matthias (Calahan Skogman) getting shipwrecked, only five make an appearance, leaving Wylan as the only Crow still absent.

Though he is a skilled demolitions expert, Wylan is also very new to street life in Ketterdam. This lack of experience as a Crow gives him a sense of innocence that first causes friction between him and Jesper and then later becomes a means of connection between the two, as Jesper begins to grow protective. Their dynamic is one of the most engaging relationships in Six of Crows, not only because their clashing personalities can be funny to watch, but also because their character arcs, while not exclusively tied to each other’s, often include the other person as an integral piece.

Now that Wylan has been confirmed to appear in Shadow and Bone season two, it’s somewhat safe to assume that he will play a large role in the next step of Jesper’s character arc. Throughout the duology, their arcs are often connected to each other’s, as Jesper and Wylan learn from each other and grow as people.

Though Milo the goat is far from being a prominent human character, he brings out the qualities in Jesper that are soon to be seen through his interactions with Wylan. When someone (animal or human) that he cares about needs protecting (unlike Kaz and Inej, who can both hold their own in a fight), Jesper can snap into reliable friend mode in a heartbeat. For all his flaws, a hint of Jesper’s loyal nature is on full display during the crossing of the Fold.

Though extremely subtle, the addition of Milo could be considered a form of foreshadowing. In any case, Milo’s addition to the adaptation is a fun and subtle way to highlight Jesper’s more positive qualities and to hint at character growth to come.

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