Shadow and Bone binge-watch recap: Episodes 1-8
Shadow and Bone (TV Show)
A world of mystery, magic, intrigue, and romance awaits those who delve into Shadow and Bone, Netflix's adaptation of the best-selling Grisha trilogy of novels by author Leigh Bardugo. Premiering on April 23, the fantasy epic concerns a Russia-inspired land split in two by a supernatural rupture known as the Fold, criminals vying for control of dark, secret powers, and a young girl with legendary abilities who may hold the key to uniting this fractured, war-torn society. A YA variation of genre titans like Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, and The Witcher, showrunner Eric Heisserer's mythology-rich story has clear intentions to be a sprawling, multi-installment affair. Before it expands even further, however, check out our binge-recap of its maiden eight-episode season, and the suspenseful, amorous and intricate plot that ensnares its many human — and superpowered — heroes and villains.
Episode 1: "A Searing Burst of Light"
"When I was young, I was afraid of the dark. When I got older, I learned that darkness is a place, and it's full of monsters," intones Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Lei) at the start of Shadow and Bone. That location is the Fold, a magical realm of smoke that bifurcates the Russian-inspired land of Ravka, and is populated by winged creatures known as the volcra. Alina is an army cartographer, and she arrives at a camp at the edge of the Fold. There, she reunites with Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux), her beloved friend dating back to their childhood in an orphanage in Keramzin. Mal is a First Army corporal and tracker, as well as a fearsome, fearless fighter — he's introduced winning a bare-knuckle brawl. As in the past, Alina faces discrimination for being half Shu.
In a flashback, Alina (Kaylan Teague) is told by her orphanage headmistress Ana Kuya (Elizabeth Rider) that her parents were "eaten" by the Fold, which is perilous to cross and can't be easily circumnavigated. At the Fold in the present, Mal and Alina are thrilled to see one another. They discuss their past in Ketterdam and the presence of the Grisha, "show off" warriors with magical abilities (which they dub the "Small Science"), at this camp. The Grisha's Fabrikators have created a titanic new skiff known as the Ultralight. After Alina meets Mal's jokey friends Dubrov (Andy Burse) and Mikhael (Angus Castle-Doughty), they all hear that the Ultralight will be sailing the next day through the Fold to Novokribirsk, which will net the army food supplies and ammunition. Mal's name is called for this assignment, which surprises him and alarms Alina, since crossing the Fold is viewed as a potential death sentence.
In Ketterdam (in West Ravka), Jesper (Kit Young) shoots a hole through a bar gambler's kruge (the currency of this land), proving it's a counterfeit. Jesper's boss, criminal Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), is informed by Rotty (Narinder Samra) that someone has stolen a valuable landscape painting of Ravka ("The Fold") from a private residence and that he has a buyer for it, in case Kaz gets a tip regarding its whereabouts. In his office, Kaz is met by another member of his gang, stealthy Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), who has a lead on a life-changing job. Wealthy merchant Dreesen (Sean Gilder) is looking for a crew to cross the Fold into East Ravka to bring something mysterious back, and he's willing to pay a million kruge for the gig. Rumor has it that Dreesen has transported an enigmatic figure back to his garden district residence. Their conversation also reveals that Kaz freed Inej from indentured servitude at the Menagerie brothel, because she's "one of a kind."
Mal is caught stealing food from the tent of a Squaller named Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta). She propositions him for sex, but he declines. He gives the food to Alina and promises, "I'll find my way back to you." Kaz asks around the shady Barrel area about how to cross the Fold, which reveals that the Fold was created hundreds of years ago by a villainous Grisha known as "The Black Heretic" ("one who controls the shadows"). Another Black Heretic is in the army now: General Kirigan (Ben Barnes). The only person capable of undoing the Fold would be a Sun Summoner, although no such being yet exists. Via an intercepted note, Kaz learns that Dreesen needs a Heartrender (someone who can coax the truth out of captives) tonight. He procures one, Milana (Julia Ubrankovics), from a club called the Orchid. This takes place mere moments before rival gangster Pekka Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly), the leader of the Dime Lions, seizes ownership of the Orchid, searching for Milana.
General Kirigan arrives at the camp to watch the Ultralight set sail. Unwilling to let Mal go without her, Alina sets fire to the army's maps of West Ravka, which compels her commanders to send her cartographer unit on the voyage. Mal is not happy about this. They enter the gloomy, eerie Fold, and though they're told to keep quiet and remain in the dark, a boy lights a lantern that attracts the volcra. The creatures kill many, setting accidental fire to the ship. Alina's fellow cartographer Alexei (Antonín Mašek) flees the ship. Alina shoots a volcra that has Mal in its clutches. Injured, Mal tells Alina, "I'll meet you at the meadow," and when a volcra grabs her, Alina spontaneously bursts into blinding light. Later, at the West Ravka port of Novokribirsk, General Zlatan (Tom Weston-Jones) and his men witness Alexei emerge out of the Fold on foot.
Kaz brings Milana to Dreesen, who has her use her magic on his captive: Alexei. Under her spell, Alexei confesses that he witnessed a Sun Summoner. Everyone is stunned by this, and Dreesen rewards Alexei for this information by shooting him dead. Dreesen announces that he'll hire Kaz for the job if Kaz can figure out a way through the Fold. If not, the gig will go to Pekka. The prize Dreesen seeks, for one million kruge? Alina Starkov.
- Poor Alexi — he pined for Alina, only to be forced to reveal her Sun Summoner identity and then take a bullet for this unwitting betrayal.
- A bit more geographic information would make this drama clearer.
- It would be nice to know why sailing skiffs are the ideal method to cross the Fold.
Episode 2: "We're All Someone's Monster"
Flashing back to their days in an orphanage, young Alina and Mal hear a bully tell other kids about the arm-prick test used to determine if someone is a Grisha. When it comes time for those tests to be administered, Alina and Mal flee and hide. Alina doesn't want to know if she's a Grisha because she fears being separated from Mal.
Back in the present and now out of the Fold, Mal is evacuated to a medical tent. Alina, who has a broken collarbone, is taken to General Kirigan's tent. Alina denies being anything other than an assistant cartographer in the Royal Corps of Surveyors, but everyone has now seen her true identity: the Sun Summoner. Kirigan tests her with a bladed ring, and a column of flaming energy bursts from her arm into the sky, proving — despite Mal's prior disbelief — that she is a Grisha.
Kaz and Inej quarrel over the former's lack of a plan for finding a way through the Fold by sunrise. Inej bolts and Pekka arrives in Kaz's Crow Club office to deliver a threat: either give up the Dreesen job willingly and live or don't and die. At the bar, Inej tells Jesper that Kaz has no plan, and moreover, that he's obsessed with getting revenge against Pekka (for a yet-undisclosed reason). Inej gets a note summoning her to the Menagerie, where her former employer/owner Tante Heleen (Deirdre Mullins) offers her an assignment: if Inej kills a man named The Conductor, a.k.a. Arken Visser (Howard Charles), Heleen will grant Inej her freedom (something Kaz still doesn't have the money to purchase). Inej agrees.
Despite her desire to reunite with Mal, Alina is sent by carriage to the Little Palace, the headquarters of the Grisha (in Os Alta) and, thus, the most secure place in Ravka. On the ride, she's informed by a man named Fedyor (Julian Kostov) that Alina's kind — the Etherealki — were thought to be a picture-book myth. Fedyor's military compatriot Ivan (Simon Sears) explains that being a Grisha spelled doom until they built the Little Palace and began displaying their formidable powers. Now, Alina holds the key to destroying the Fold and, in the process, making average humans accept the Grisha. They're subsequently set upon in the woods by the Drüskelle, the elite members of the Fjerdan military. The Drüskelle kill many Grisha warriors and aim to execute Alina. But at the moment she's about to be killed, Kirigan — also known as The Black General, or simply The Darkling — arrives and halves her would-be attacker with a power known as "The Cut."
Riding on horseback to the Little Palace, Kirigan tells Alina, "There is matter to everything. Even air. Or shadow. Too small to see." Alina surprises him by saying she doesn't want to destroy the Fold; far from a gift, her Sun Summoner power now makes her a target. Kirigan consoles her by saying that, as a Grisha, she'll never be alone.
Kaz busts a woman for cheating at cards in the Crow Club and forces her to admit that she and her Grisha daughter snuck through the Fold unscathed and unnoticed via the services of a smuggler named Arken. She indicates that, after this safe passage, she and her child stayed with an Emerald Palace stage performer named Poppy (Micah Holmes). Kaz and Jesper visit Poppy and learn of Arken's whereabouts. When they get to his place, Inej has already been there, pressing him on intel about her long-lost brother, from whom she was separated years earlier, as well as about the man with the silver tooth who took him (his name is Gregor, or maybe Griggs). Arken, who sold Inej and many others to brothels like the Menagerie and the White Rose, realizes that she is of the same faith he is ("Sankta Lizabeta!"), and thus won't kill him. She opts to anyway but is stopped by Kaz, who says that by sparing Arken — and getting him to reveal a way into the Little Palace — they can find Alina, net the million kruge, and secure her freedom.
Mal plans to desert the First Army and rescue Alina from the Little Palace. Dubrov and Mikhael convince him to abandon this suicidal plan and instead gain entry to the fortress by earning an invite through battlefield bravery. Kaz visits Heleen and announces that he's taking Inej on his upcoming job and will finish purchasing her freedom when he returns. For collateral, he leaves Heleen the deed to the Crow Club. Once in her Little Palace suite, Alina hides a pair of scissors under her pillow for protection. Lying in their respective beds at night, Alina and Mal imagine looking at each other — and holding each other's hands — as they did long ago as kids hiding in the orphanage field.
- The Second Army is the Ravka unit comprised of Grisha. Mal’s commander explains that, over the years, the Grisha have turned out to be far less invincible than their powers would suggest.
- The influence of 19th-century Russian on Shadow and Bone is most evident in the tall bushy hats and uniforms worn by First Army soldiers (not to mention the characters’ names).
- Even in a far-off land such as this, orphanages are still miserable places for kids to grow up.
Episode 3: "The Making at the Heart of the World"
Alina awakens from a dream about a giant stag with enormous antlers. As she writes to Mal about the upside of her new life, she's brusquely tended to by attendants led by Genya Safin (Daisy Head), a Tailor with the power to fix and modify appearances. While a racist attendant suggests that they fix Alina's Shu eyes, Genya is kinder and gets Alina ready for her forthcoming meeting with King Pyotr (David Verrey) and Queen Tatiana (Georgia Reece). She leaves Alina's left palm scar alone, per Alina's request.
In Novokribirsk, Arken tells Kaz, Inej, and Jesper that he knows a Heartrender named Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) who can help them sneak into the Little Palace. While most Grisha grew up in the Little Palace and are loyal to it, Nina believes the Grisha should get to choose whether or not to serve the Crown. She hates involuntary service even more than the Fjerdans, against whom the Crown — and the Grisha Second Army — are fighting. Alas, by the time they arrive at her hotel room, she's already been nabbed by members of the Drüskelle and tied up in a ship headed for their homeland, where she'll be tried and likely executed, for being a Grisha.
Arken has a backup plan. He sends the trio to gather supplies, including a goat and 20 pounds of coal. No matter Kaz's orders, Jesper takes a detour to a gambling house, and Inej visits a monument to those who've perished in the Fold. She's searching in vain for the names of her parents, whom Kaz reminds her are Sulis, and thus would have traveled around, rather than through, the Fold. The thing Inej wears around her neck is the only item she has from her parents.
Wearing a ridiculous veil on her way to see the king, Alina is joined by Kirigan, who explains that the Grisha don't wield magic but, rather, "Small Science" because they manipulate that which already exists. In the royal chamber, Kirigan proclaims that Alina "will change the future. Starting now." He has her successfully exhibit her power. Kirigan tells the king that Alina may not be able to destroy the Fold on her own and that he'll be training her. The king agrees but says to do this quickly since it's imperative that the Fold be destroyed so that Ravka is united under his rule, thus thwarting the West's desire to secede and become its own sovereign nation. In Novokribirsk, Kaz witnesses Zlatan street-preaching sovereignty to the masses and then surreptitiously meeting with Arken.
In the aftermath of her performance, Alina is warmly greeted by all, including Zoya, although in a whisper she slurs Alina as a "half-breed." Alina has fight training with Botkin (Hon Ping Tang), during which she spars with Zoya, who taunts Alina by implying she slept with Mal (a lie) and gets a fist in the face for it. Then she gets in trouble for using her powers against Alina. Knocked out, Alina again dreams of the stag and later visits the library to research it. There, she's met by the Apparat (Kevin Eldon), the king's shady spiritual advisor, who says he wants to be her friend. He tells her about the "Lore of the Stag" and the legend of the Bonesmith, one of the very first Grisha. Knowing his kind would be persecuted, the Bonesmith devised a plan to magnify Grishas' powers by creating mythical animals from his own finger bones. Killing one of those animals, and melding its bones with one's body, amplifies a Grisha's power.
The Apparat gives Alina a book, "The Lives of the Saints," and sends her to Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker) to hone her Grisha abilities. Baghra is not very friendly, questioning and challenging Alina in her darkly lit cave dwelling. She informs Alina that Kirigan has the capacity to amplify other Grishas' power, and asks Alina if she can summon the sun on her own. She sends Alina away until the girl believes she truly is the Sun Summoner.
Having acquired most of their needed supplies, Arken leads Kaz, Inej, and Jesper through a minefield to a train that runs on tracks of his own construction. They take this through the Fold but are attacked by volcra. Jesper makes up for procuring less coal than they needed by shooting the attacking volcra, allowing them all to make it out of the Fold.
At a gala dinner alongside her new friends Marie (Jasmine Blackborow) and Nadia (Gabrielle Brooks), Alina has her meal checked for poison by an Otkazat'sya food taster. Ivan reads a list of war casualties at the front and denounces Alina for dining extravagantly rather than working day and night to destroy the Fold and bring the nation's conflict to an end. In her room, Alina writes to Mal that she's wracked with fear and self-doubt about her new power, position, and responsibility — and, thus, who she is. Nonetheless, she knows that Mal is her "true north" — her home — and that to survive, she must be with him again.
- Alina’s Shu heritage is, ostensibly, akin to being Asian, although the show keeps such parallels vague.
- Jesper’s volcra-blasting feat on the train results in Shadow and Bone’s most showy CGI moment so far, and makes up for the frustrating visual murkiness of the Fold sequence.
- Needing a food taster to avoid being poisoned is never a good sign.
Episode 4: "Otkazat'sya"
Mal marches with his regiment through the war-torn town of Chernast as we hear his narrated letters to Alina, from whom he hasn't received a missive in weeks. Their inability to receive each other's mail is a constant thread during this fourth episode. After gazing at a scar on his palm (which matches Alina's own scar), Mal hears from his commander that Kirigan is offering a trip to the Little Palace to the volunteer who tracks down the mythic Morozova's Stag. He agrees to this task, and Dubrov and Mikhael opt to join him.
Perturbed about not hearing from Mal, Alina agrees to go riding with Kirigan. They visit a remote woodland fountain where Kirigan used to hide as a child and whose carvings recount the tale of his infamous ancestry. Kirigan is the descendant of the Black Heretic, an ancient Shadow Summoner who grew hungry for power and rebelled against King Anastas. The Black Heretic tried to build his own army by using the forbidden science that Morozova once used to create his amplifiers. Unfortunately, he failed, creating the Fold instead — which killed him and countless others. Kirigan's life goal is to undo his predecessor's sin. He believes Alina is the key to his salvation. "You and I are going to change the world, Alina," he tells her, solidifying their outcast-savior bond.
Without Nina, Arken has no faith that they can break into the Little Palace during its winter fête to snatch Alina. Kaz counters with a scheme that begins with a heist: they'll break into the Royal Archives to nab the Little Palace's blueprints. This is a success. Then, they join a traveling carnival troupe that's performing at the fête, with Inej serving as an acrobat and Jesper as a sharpshooter.
Alina's training with Baghra is going badly because she wants to rely on Kirigan's power rather than standing on her own two feet. Some druggy tea sends Alina into a memory of her Grisha testing at the orphanage when she hurt herself (creating her palm scar) to trick the testers into thinking she wasn't a Grisha. In the Fjerdan ship, Matthias (Calahan Skogman) tries to feed Nina, who's suspicious of his motives. They both articulate their prejudiced distrust/hatred of each other. When the boat begins taking on water during a storm, Matthias is ordered by his captain to kill any prisoners before they sink.
At night, Alina finds a similarly sleepless Kirigan pondering a table map of the ongoing war. He's concerned that money for the campaign is running low, an uprising is gaining steam in the West, and their own people are turning on them. She takes his hand, and a dome of light ignites around them. The look in Alina's eyes indicates that her feelings for Kirigan are growing. Still, before he can kiss her, she retreats to her room. The next day, when she doesn't receive mail from Mal, Alina furiously races to Baghra. Her hurt and anger finally allow her to manifest her powers.
Mal, Dubrov, and Mikhael cross into snowbound Fjerdan territory. They're attacked at night by Fjerdan soldiers, and after triumphing, Mal is mowed down by a turret gun. He has a memory of getting himself imprisoned at an army camp to be with Alina. When he awakens, he kills the remaining soldiers, albeit not in time to save Mikhael and Dubrov. Somehow, he rises to his feet, at which point the mythic stag appears. We hear him say, in his letter to Alina, that she is his true north, immediately after Alina — in the Little Palace — has Genya erase the palm scar that binds her to Mal.
- Jesper’s comic-relief weirdness is in full effect in this episode, when he sadly bids farewell to his now-beloved pet goat Milo.
- Inej’s slipperiness during the heist, coupled with her aptitude with blades and her previously seen ability to vanish into thin air, marks her as a de facto ninja.
- Matthias and Nina’s hate-to-love relationship is preordained, while Mal’s successful survival of multiple gunshot wounds is preposterous.
Episode 5: "Show Me Who You Are"
Despite suffering what should have been grave injuries, Mal makes it back to a First Army camp on the outskirts of Chernast. Presumably after recuperating (which we don't see), he's assigned to travel to the Little Palace with Tofin to inform Kirigan that he's found Morozova's Stag.
Kaz and company infiltrate the winter fête posing as carnival troupe performers (with Kaz disguised as a guard). Genya informs Alina that there's still no word from Mal, and flirts rather obviously with David Kostyk (Luke Pasqualino), a Fabrikator whose gift to Alina on behalf of Kirigan — a device that'll facilitate her powers — she politely rejects. Alina plans to wear black for her winter fête display of her powers, proving she's now in thrall to Kirigan.
Inside the Little Palace walls, Kaz lays out his plan: they'll grab Alina in her dressing room, which is hidden behind a secret door only accessible by a Grisha. Jesper tells Inej that he doesn't care if Alina is the real deal, so long as they get paid. He also flirts with a stableman. The next morning, Alina convinces Genya to join her on a tour of the carnival, where Jesper overhears their conversation and thus positively identifies Alina. Arken says that he can open Alina's dressing room door with a lodestone in his possession, so Kaz assigns him that task, and says they'll clear a path for his and Alina's escape.
Alina and Kirigan meet in private and discuss her nerves about her coming-out party that night, and about the monumental responsibility she now has to Ravka. She kisses Kirigan passionately. In the stables, where he's trying to steal horses for their eventual escape, Jesper flirts with Dima and then has great sex with him. At the party, a dignitary remarks about General Zlatan's absence at the winter fête, and his plans to create a secessionist alliance with the Fjerdans. In front of the king and queen, as well as numerous onlookers, Alina is presented by Kirigan ("She will bring liberation to us all"), and finally shows off her Sun Summoner abilities, which compels many to begin praying to her ("Sankta Alina"), including Inej.
Mal and Tofin arrive at the Little Palace. Kirigan meets with Mal, recognizes that he's Alina's true love, and demands to know the precise whereabouts of Morozova's Stag. Mal refuses to divulge that information until he sees Alina. Kirigan tests Mal's knowledge about Alina (she likes blue irises, apparently), and then uses that info to woo Alina himself. On her way downstairs, Alina is confronted by the Apparat, who warns her that she's becoming quite dangerous because now she's at the center of a power that could crumble nations and birth empires: Faith. Baghra hears that a tracker has arrived with knowledge about the stag's location, and orders her minion to kill him because they cannot let Kirigan obtain the stag.
Mal is led by this minion into Baghra's cave, where Tofin has already been murdered, and a fight breaks out. Mal survives, killing his attacker. Meanwhile, Arken accesses Alina's dressing room. When she arrives, he slashes her throat and shoots Genya. But the person he assassinated was merely one of Alina's doubles. He's caught in the hallway. Kaz knew Arken would attempt to assassinate Alina (because of Arken's prior meeting with Zlatan). Kaz is subsequently tracked by an Inferni named Pavel (Andy Apollo), whom he fights in a church. Inej ends Pavel with a dagger to the head, proving that she is willing to kill — at least, for Kaz.
Alina and Kirigan get hot and heavy in his chamber, but when Kirigan is called away (to be informed about the foiled assassination attempt), Baghra appears behind a secret door and whisks Alina away. While navigating a dark passageway, she clues Alina into what's really going on: Kirigan is the "eternal" Black Heretic himself, and he intends to use her power to expand the Fold and wield it as a weapon. He's also hunting Morozova's animals to enhance his evil power. Baghra knows all of this because she's Kirigan's mother. Baghra sends Alina onwards and instructs her to take a right at the fork. Instead, like an idiot, Alina goes left and winds up in the stables.
Outside, Baghra confronts Kirigan, telling him that she's killed the tracker (which isn't true) and that Alina is gone. Kirigan isn't happy about this and threatens her. Mal overhears this conversation from nearby. In front of the Little Palace, Jesper watches as Alina sneaks over to a carriage and hides in its trunk. When Kaz and Inej report to Jesper that they failed to secure Alina, he laughs and simply has them all ride off on the carriage, their coveted prize in tow.
- A bit of narrative corner-cutting is no big deal, but Mal’s miraculous recovery from being gunned down in the woods — without any explanation — is going a bit far.
- Between Genya and David, Jesper and Dima, and ostensibly Kaz and Inej (on top of the steaminess of Alina and Kirigan), this episode works hard to romantically pair off its characters.
- Kirigan’s outing as a villain is, let’s say, not a big shock.
Episode 6: "The Heart is an Arrow"
Zoya brings Kirigan to Arken, who's interrogated about his plot. He attempts to lie, but between Kirigan's cunning and Ivan's Heartrender skills, it's for naught. He admits to partnering with Kaz, Inej, and Jesper to cross the Fold, as well as working for Zlatan while denying he had anything to do with Nina's disappearance. He tries to strike a deal with Kirigan, but instead, winds up choking to death in darkness.
Alina uses her powers to extricate herself from the locked carriage trunk. She flees after blinding Kaz, Jesper, and Inej, the latter of whom lets this occur. Kirigan hears from Fedyor that Nina was betrayed by Zlatan and abducted by witch-hunter Matthias, and he sends Fedyor to retrieve her. Following the destruction of their ship, Nina and Matthias survive the stormy seas by partnering together, with him pushing the raft and her keeping them warm — an agreement struck only after much bickering since Matthias detests the untrustworthy "trickster" Grisha.
In the East Ravka town of Ryevost, Alina is slandered for her Shu heritage by a street vendor, and then fights a bunch of racist soldiers. She flees into the woods, where she's found by Mal, who's been tracking her since the Little Palace. She tends to his wounds, and they have many heart-to-hearts over the ensuing couple of days, with Mal not caring that she may have had a fling with Kirigan, and apologizing for not fully "seeing" her before. He pledges to be her bodyguard. She convinces him to travel north to find Morozova's Stag because she correctly deduces that Kirigan wants it to enhance his evil powers, and thus the only way to deal with him is to acquire the Stag's powers for herself. That might also help her close the Fold, which would be good.
An encounter between Zoya and Kirigan reveals that they used to be sexually involved; Zoya is jealous that Kirigan now only has eyes for Alina. Kirigan assembles a team that includes Zoya, Pavel's Inferni twin Polina, and David — who's a Durast — to hunt down Alina and her kidnappers. At a tavern, Kaz fumes at Inej for letting Alina escape, and for believing she's a real Saint. He lets slip that he's put the Crow Club on the line in exchange for her freedom. The trio is then set upon by Kirigan and his cronies. Inej fights and kills Polina, and Jesper uses his guns to take down Ivan, who's wearing a bulletproof kefta — although Jesper doesn't kill him because a boy is watching, and he's apparently a softie at heart.
Kirigan faces off against Kaz, who states that Alina wasn't abducted but, rather, was fleeing the Little Palace. Kaz uses an explosion to get away. He reunites with a wounded Inej and Jesper, and they steal David's carriage.
Washing ashore in a showy Fjerdan land, Matthias and Nina continue bickering — because he hates the Grisha, and she hates his intolerance — even once they take shelter in a whaler's hut. Their inevitable romance subsequently blossoms, first when Nina forces Matthias to strip out of his soaking wet clothes and get in bed with her to stay warm, then when she laughs at his praise for his patriarchal society's traditional gender roles (where women are demure and compliant), and finally when, while trudging through the snow, Matthias admits he likes her and saves her from plummeting to her death.
David tells Kirigan that he can track Alina via a ring Genya gave her. Kirigan hears from the soldiers Alina roughed up that she fled into the woods, heading north, and that a tracker was also inquiring about her. He now knows she's with Mal and searching for the stag.
- There’s no way Polina could know that Inej killed her brother since only Kaz witnessed it.
- From the beginning of their cat-and-mouse skirmish, Jesper’s refusal to simply shoot Ivan in the head makes no sense, nor does his eventual act of mercy.
- Mal’s compassion and understanding of Alina’s situation prove that he’s a progressive, modern kind of guy.
Episode 7: "The Unsea"
"The Unsea" begins with a flashback to Kirigan's origins as the Black Heretic. He rides through the night to his home with a Healer named Luda. Soldiers follow him there, and after a confrontation, they murder Luda before his eyes, causing him to slaughter them all. Kirigan returns to a Grisha stronghold, where no one can save Luda. He finds Baghra, who blames Kirigan for the king's hostility toward Grishas. Furious, Kirigan disobeys his mother and uses his ancestor Morozova's merzost (i.e. magic), creating the Fold and turning enemy soldiers into the volcra.
In the present, Inej stitches up her wound, which makes Jesper queasy. Later, Kaz admits that Inej was right, and that Alina is the Sun Summoner. He also lets her know that he doesn't believe in religion, but he does believe in her, thereby expressing his affection. In the snowy forest, Alina and Mal find the stag. At the moment she's going to shoot it, Alina decides, "maybe there's another way to do this," and approaches the creature. Before she can commune with it, Kirigan and his men attack. They seriously wound Mal. Alina uses her powers to protect the stag from Kirigan. But faced with saving the animal or Mal, she opts for the latter, allowing Kirigan to kill the stag. Kirigan takes them both prisoner.
Using his Grisha powers, David makes Alina absorb a necklace made from the stag's antlers, and Kirigan absorbs a stag bone in his hand — thereby giving Kirigan the power to control Alina's Sun Summoner abilities. This makes Kirigan a literal controlling man and negates his attempt to convince a betrayed Alina that together, they can do anything.
In camp, Alina is visited by Genya, who announces that the king has fallen ill, the queen has been quarantined, and the Apparat is now running the country. This is clearly a coup orchestrated by Kirigan. Moreover, Genya reveals that she's been working as Kirigan's spy the entire time, both because she's a Grisha and because the king sexually assaulted her for years. She also never sent Alina's letters to Mal. Regardless of her sob story, Alina remains righteously angry at her former attendant.
A healed Mal is visited by Kirigan, who tells him that he read all his letters to Alina. Kirigan says that because he and Alina are eternal, he can wait for her forgiveness, whereas Mal will just grow old and die. Later, Mal cannily escapes imprisonment. Kirigan has another argument with Alina, who's furious about being exploited and turned into a puppet. "We could've had this. All of it. You could've made me your equal. Instead, you made me this," she seethes. Kirigan recognizes that he can't convince her of his mission's righteousness, and states, "Fine, make me your villain."
Kaz, Inej, and Jesper steal some dignitaries' clothes and papers and board the same skiff that Kirigan and Alina are on (they plan to nab Alina once they're back in Novokribirsk). Once in the Fold, Kirigan supposedly intends to use Alina's power to destroy it. Mal is hiding on the ship, and as they make their way into the gloom, Kaz comforts his compatriots by proclaiming that no one will die today.
- Kirigan’s backstory illustrates that his villainy is a direct byproduct of discrimination, which gives him a sympathetic motivation for wanting to strike back against the king, and humanity.
- Inej’s disclosure that she learned to sew herself up while working at the Menagerie indicates that her time in the brothel was anything but pleasant.
- Mal has taken a lot of physical damage over the course of the first seven episodes.
Episode 8: "No Mourners"
As the skiff enters the Fold, Kaz, Jesper, and Inej go below to hatch a plan. They catch Mal lurking there. Up above, Zoya is told that she's to stop the ship before it reaches the western docks, so there's an audience for Kirigan's forthcoming feat.
Nina and Matthias hide out in a room above a tavern in Ravka. Both realize they'll be branded traitors by their people if they run off together, but neither wants to separate because they're in love. When they go downstairs to eat, Matthias falls unconscious, thanks to the powers of Fedyor, who tells Nina that he won't report her turncoat behavior if he can take Matthias as his prisoner. To prevent this, Nina sets a group of bounty hunters on Fedyor. These men take Matthias away since they can label him a slaver and collect a bounty on his head. Nina goes with them.
Kirigan uses Alina's powers to create a tunnel of light for the skiff to pass through the Fold. When Alina asks him to destroy the Fold, he counters, "It's the greatest weapon we've got," thus confirming what Baghra told Alina about Kirigan's designs. Zoya tells a shipmate that her family lives in Ravka. That's too bad for her — and for General Zlatan and his army, who are waiting there for the skiff — because Kirigan uses Alina's power to expand the Fold and consume all of Ravka, turning its inhabitants into volcra. "They are traitors who tried to kill you. This is retribution," Kirigan tells Alina.
Mal, Inej, and Jesper go topside to fight, followed by Kaz. Zoya, horrified by what Kirigan has done to her home (and family), tries to move the ship out of the Fold and then fights alongside Inej. Kirigan kills the dignitaries aboard the skiff. Amidst the ensuing insanity, Alina is visited in a vision by the stag, which illuminates a nearby Inej blade that struck Kirigan, albeit not fatally. Alina subsequently uses that blade to slash Kirigan, removing the stag bone that was embedded in his hand. Alina now understands that she can wield the stag's power because the animal chose her, and she uses her power to make the Fold recede.
Mal and Kirigan fight, falling off the skiff. In the gloom, Kirigan is attacked by a volcra. Ivan seriously injures Alina and is shot by Jesper. Mal returns to Alina's side, and she wakes up. She then uses her powers to clear a passage for the ship out of the Fold.
Later, at a campfire, Inej pledges her loyalty to Alina. Jesper convinces Kaz to let Alina go free, since it's bad form to kidnap the woman who saved them. Alina gives Kaz some royal jewelry to keep him quiet; he can use it to purchase Inej's freedom from Heleen. Alina worries that she'll now be hated and hunted because she didn't fulfill her destiny and destroy the Fold. Mal says they'll return to finish that job one day, but not now since she's weak and they're on the run.
Zoya bids farewell to Alina, warning her that she's now in grave danger. She tells Alina to stay alive because Saints become martyrs before they become heroes. They all agree to head for a ship that'll take them to Ketterdam. On their walk, Kaz and Inej agree to stick together.
In the bowels of a ship, Nina visits a caged Matthias, who slanders her as a devil. He won't accept that she had him captured by these men in order to save him from Fedyor (and Kirigan). They're on their way to Hellgate, and though Nina says, "I can fix this," he doesn't believe her.
Kaz, Jesper, and Inej board the same ship. Jesper expounds on the three things they learned during this mission: that people with trains are evil; that you can't kidnap human sunbeams; and that greed is a poor motivator. They know that Dreesen and Pekka are waiting for them back in the Barrel, but Kaz has a plan — one that requires a Heartrender. Nina overhears this and strikes up a conversation. Mal and Alina then board the ship. "It's you and me now, like the old times," Alina says. "I like those odds," he replies. They promise to come back and tear down the Fold.
In the closing scene of Shadow and Bone's first season, Kirigan crawls out of the Fold, injured, furious, and alive. Once on his feet, he turns around and commands the Fold, "Follow." It does, in the form of two-legged smoke-monster figures emerging from its depths.
- Staging the final ship battle in total darkness makes narrative sense, but it turns the centerpiece sequence into a semi-incoherent mess.
- We never learn what Inej names the dagger given to her by Alina, making it yet another of the show’s cliffhangers.
- Perhaps the series’ funniest moment comes when, after telling the dignitaries to return to their homelands to recount his evil feat, Kirigan has Ivan kill them, prompting Kirigan to sigh, “Shame. I’ll have to give that speech again now.”
Shadow and Bone (TV Show)