R29 Recaps: Every Episode From Shadow and Bone Season 1

Photo: Courtesy of netflix.

In the year 2021, there's truly nothing more soothing than a good YA fantasy series about a girl destined to save the world. And Netflix's newest show, Shadow and Bone, is truly the balm for the soul fans deserve. Adapted from Leigh Bardugo's book by the same name, Shadow and Bone is an intricate tale of magic, war, and, of course, romance. There is a lot of Shadow & Bone mythology — to put it mildly — and before we dive into recaps of season 1, there's some background we should nail down first.

Shadow and Bone takes place in a fictional world where magic — known as "small science" — is rare, but real, and has inadvertently led to a state of constant war. As we learn in the first episode, it all started hundreds of years ago when a Grisha, aka people with magic abilities, known as The Black Heretic used his power to control the shadows to create The Fold, a large sea of black clouds, home of carnivorous creatures that kill most who venture inside. The Fold split the nation of Ravka in two, creating East and West Ravka, and led to war between Ravka, their neighbors to the north, Fjerda, and the southern nation of Shu Han. It is believed that the only thing that can tear down the Fold is a Sun Summoner, a Grisha who can manipulate light. Unfortunately, a Sun Summoner has not existed in hundreds of years. In fact, our protagonist Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and her friends are convinced it's more of a fairy tale than anything else.
Alina is a mapmaker for Ravka's First Army, who happens to be half Shu. An orphan, she's been shunned her entire life by most everyone, except her best friend Mal (Archie Renaux), who is also multi-racial and an outsider. The two grew up together in an orphanage and have been inseparable ever since. Until an unexpected revelation changes everything...

Episode 1: "A Searing Burst of Light"

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Alina & Mal
We begin in East Ravka, where Alina and her unit in the First Army are traveling towards the Fold. She and her fellow cartographers arrive at the coastal army camp in Kribirsk, where she reunites with Mal, who is a tracker with the First Army and enjoys earning a little extra money on the side by boxing. They're expecting to be together for a while, as their units have been paired up to go through the mountains, but things take a turn when Mal is chosen to go on a special mission into the Fold.
The Ravkan army regularly crosses the Fold to trade supplies from West Ravka. Sometimes the trips are successful, but many times they are not, and Mal's assignment might very well mean certain death. He is set to leave the next day.
As if things couldn't get any worse, later that night, Alina is refused food because she is half Shu. Mal, always looking after her, decides to sneak into a tent of the Second Army — aka the Grisha army, an elite force of magical soldiers. Because of their powers and status, the Second Army gets fresh fruit and good lodging, so Mal goes to steal some grapes as a treat for Alina. Zoya (Sujaya Dasgupta), a Grisha who can manipulate air known as squaller, catches him and tries to convince him to spend the night with her, but he'd rather be with Alina.
Eating grapes on the camp, Alina begs Mal not to go on the mission into the Fold, but he must. He promises he'll make it back to her, and it looks like they might kiss, but he stops short of anything romantic.
Entering the Fold
The next morning, Alina realizes she can't stop Mal from going on the mission, so she decides she needs to go with him instead. Secretly, she burns the maps of coast of West Ravka so that the supply ship is forced to take on some cartographers to chart the voyage. Her unit is reassigned, and by the time she gets on the boat to cross the Fold, Mal can't stop her.
The boat moves through the Fold with the help of a squaller who boosts wind in its sails. A few more Grisha are on board, including an Inferni, who can control fire, and they set the rules: everyone must be quiet for the journey, and are under strict instructions not to light any lanterns. The only light they have is from one blue lantern, meant to keep them safe.
The Fold is pitch black. The only light comes from the occasional burst of lightning; the only sound are distant animal cries from the Volcra, dragon-like creatures that fly through the air and could attack at any moment — and they do. The blue lantern goes out, and one of the soldiers lights a fire lantern, attracting the Volcra. Soon, they're everywhere, killing the Inferni and flying off with soldiers left and right. One soldier, terrified, jumps off the ship and starts running. Meanwhile, Mal is grabbed, but manages to fight back. Alina shoots the Volcra and Mal falls back onto the ship, but he's injured. She runs over to him, and then a Volcra grabs her. In a moment, she's staring at Mal, holding his hands for dear life, and then suddenly, her entire body erupts in light.
On the shores of West Ravka, soldiers await the arrival of the supply ship. It's two hours late, and seems to be a lost cause. And then, in the distance, a Ravkan soldier runs out of the Fold, fainting on the ground. Meanwhile, the rest of the ship was somehow propelled back to the East Ravkan shore. Alina and Mal lay injured on the decks, side by side.
The Crows
In between all of this, over on the Island of Kerch, we meet the Crows: criminal mastermind Kaz (Freddy Carter), gunslinger Jesper (Kit Young), and Inej (Amita Suman), an indentured slave who is contracted by Kaz for her expert tracking skills. Kaz runs a casino in Ketterdam, a town run by gangs. Though it is technically a part of Ravka, but because of the Fold it is separated from the country's capital city and palace of the King, making it a bit more of a free-for-all. One night, Kaz hears of an offer. Dreesdan (Sean Gilder), a wealthy merchant, is looking for a team to cross the Fold into East Ravka and retrieve something. And he's willing to pay handsomely. The only problem is Kaz and his crew are not the only ones who know of Dreesdan's job. Pekka Rollins, a rival gang leader who has a past with Kaz, is also desperate to get the contract.
To get ahead of Pekka Rollins, and get an audience with Dreesdan, Kaz decides to get a head start and tracks down Milana (Julia Ubrankovics) at the brothel where she works. Milana is a Heartrender, a Grisha who can manipulate people to tell the truth. He buys Milana's time for the night and takes her to Dresser.
Dreesdan's prisoner, Alexei Stepanov, is the man who came running out of the Fold. He tells the Heartrender that he was saved by a Sun Summoner, and, after Dresser promises him freedom in Ketterdam, he tells them her name: Alina Starkov. Once he's given up all the information, Dresser kills him and turns to Kaz. The Crows have until sunrise to figure out a way to cross the Fold and return safely, and he'll send them on a boat to West Ravka with an advance. If they fail, he'll hand the job to Pekka Rollins.

Episode 2: "We're All Someone's Monster"

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Alina The Sun Summoner
In a flashback, we learn that Alina and Mal were meant to be tested to see if they were Grisha as children, but when Mal was injured and couldn't participate, Alina decided to hide from the testers so that they could stay together.
In the present, an injured Mal is taken to a medic in the First Army camp on the coast of the Fold, while Alina is taken to a Healer (a Grisha who can, well, heal physical wounds) before being escorted to a tent full of Second Army, where General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) is waiting for her. Kirigan is, essentially, the number one Grisha. A Shadow Summoner, he has the same power as the Black Heretic who created the Fold. He confronts Alina about her powers, but she's still in denial, so he cuts her arm and the entire tent watches as a beam of blinding light comes out of her. It's true: she's the Sun Summoner.
Before Alina can even process her new Grisha identity, she's whisked away and taken to the Little Palace, where Grisha train under the eyes of Kirigan and the King. She doesn't even have a chance to say goodbye to Mal.
Stuck in a carriage with two Grisha, Alina learns a bit more about her new life. Her guards tell her that the Grisha were hunted but now, they're feared. And if she proves herself to be the Sun Summoner, they'll protect her, because she's the only one with a shot at taking down the Fold.
Along the way to the Little Palace, they're attacked by a group of Fjerdans, witch hunters from the north. They manage to kill a few Grisha and guardsmen, and one of them almost gets to Alina when Kirigan shows up and uses his shadow magic to literally cut this man in half.
Alone, Kirigan attempts to bond with Alina, telling her that she'll always be a target, but that she's not alone. Together, they can destroy the Fold, he says, before insisting that she ride with him the rest of the way to the Little Palace, which he calls the most secure place in all of Ravka.
To Alina, the Little Palance is more like a very fancy prison — and her cell is huge. She has an entire bedroom to herself, complete with a closet full of clothes and a luxurious bathroom. She grabs a letter opener from the desk and goes to sleep with it under her pillow, wishing Mal was there to hold her hand.
The Conductor
In Ketterdam, Kaz is desperate to find a way across the Fold. But Inej has another problem. She's still property of Heleen (Deirdre Mullins), the Madame of the Menagerie, a brothel which has been renting her out to Kaz. She won't be allowed to leave Ketterdam without Heleen's blessing, and while Kaz has been slowly paying off her debt, he doesn't have enough to buy her freedom just yet.
Strangely, when Inej goes to Heleen that night, she's surprised to hear that Heleen already knows of the Dreesdan job, and she has a proposition for her. She'll settle Inej's debt if Inej kills a man for her. She implies that the man is nothing but a human trafficker, like the one who sold Inej, and hands her an address where he can be found. Inej doesn't kill, it's against her religion, but with no other options, she heads to the address.
Across town, Kaz finds a lead. He identifies a woman from East Ravka gambling in his club, and questions her. He doesn't want to get her into trouble, he says, he just needs to know how she managed to make it across the Fold. She doesn't know much, but she has a name: The Conductor. And, luckily, Kaz's hunt for the Collector leads him right to Inej and the man she's just about to kill.
They can't kill the Conductor, which means Kaz will have to come up with something else to barter for Inej's freedom. Without telling her, he offers Heleen the deed to the Crow Club, saying he'll either pay her in full for Inej after they're done with the job, or she'll get to keep the club for good.

Episode 3: “The Making at the Heart of the World”

Photo: Courtesy of David Appleby/Netflix.
Alina's Training Begins
Alina wakes up from a dream about a giant, glowing stag to find a parade of maids storming into her room. They need to get her ready to be presented to the King. One of the maids whispers to a Grisha that they should start by making Alina's eyes "less Shu," but Genya (Daisy Head), a Grisha Tailor who can modify appearances, ignores her and decides to prepare Alina herself.
Genya prepares Alina and gives her the lay of the land, before passing her off to Kirigan, who will present her in court. In the palace, there is a small audience of Grisha and noblemen, and then the King and Queen of Ravka, who are eager to see what Alina can do. Despite only having produced light once in her life, Alina is asked to perform. Kirigan engulfs the hall with shadow and grabs her wrist, amplifying her power. Light erupts out of her and creates a bubble of brightness around her and Kirigan. The King is impressed, and demands that she train to take down the Fold so that he can stop an uprising in West Ravka. Kirigan agrees and declares that he wishes to train her personally and without interruptions.
After her demonstration, Grisha from the Second Army huddle around her, in awe of her once in a generation power. Zoya, the Grisha who propositioned Mal, approaches and offers her a hug, calling her a "half breed" under her breath. And that's just the beginning. The next day, at fight training, Alina decides to challenge Zoya to a fight. Things get heated, and she punches Zoya, who retaliates by hitting her with a gust of wind so strong it knocks her out. She has another brief vision of the stag before waking up.
The Bonesmith
This isn't the first time Alina has dreamt of the stag. She thinks it comes from an old children's story she and Mal used to read at the orphanage. Now that it's back in her head, she heads to the library to find the book with the stag legend. In the library, she runs into the Apparat (Kevin Eldon), the King's creepy spiritual advisor. He tells her of the real story behind the stag — the story of the Bonesmith, one of the first Grisha in recorded history. According to the Apparat, the Bonesmith (aka Morozova) wanted to amplify the power of the Grisha and used his magic ability to create animals from his own bones to make animals infused with power. Legend has it, if a Grisha kills one of these animals and melds a piece of its bones to theirs, the Grisha's power will be enhanced exponentially.
Having told her of the story, the Apparat walks her to her next lesson and gives her a book titled The Lives of Saints as an act of friendship before dropping her off with Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker). An older woman who trains Grisha in the caves under the Little Palace, Baghra is a tough woman who is not easily impressed by Alina's power. She tells Alina that she was only able to impress the king because Kirigan enhanced her power, and she needs Alina to be able to do it on her own.
Meanwhile, Alina writes letters to Mal, but receives no response.
The Crows Cross The Fold
The Crows and the Conductor, meanwhile, make their way to West Ravka, close to the edge of the Fold, and they need a plan to sneak into the Little Palace. Luckily, the Conductor has a woman on the inside: a Grisha named Nina (Danielle Galligan), who is a heartrender and a radical who doesn't believe that all Grisha should be made to serve the Ravkan king. Not so luckily, Nina has been kidnapped by an elite group of Fjerdan witch hunters known as the Drüskelle by the time the Crows get to their rendez-vous point. The Conductor wants to give up, but Kaz isn't turning back now. He says they'll figure out how to get into the Little Palace once they've crossed the Fold.
To cross, the Conductor will require three items: 20 pounds of alabaster coal, a peck of Majdaloun jurda, and a goat. Kaz goes for the goat, Inej is sent after the Majdaloun jurda, and Jesper will gather the coal. While gathering the items, Kaz comes across a West Ravkan revolution rally, and sees the Conductor slip into a back room with the man leading it. File this moment away for later.
Later that night, the Conductor leads Kaz and Inej to train tracks near the border of the Fold. Jesper is running late — he was distracted by people gambling on the street and managed to lose all the money he had been given to buy coal. So, he stole it, and barely made it to the train tracks before the men he stole from could kill him. The Crows and the Conductor pile into a small train engine and take off, but there's already a problem: Jesper has only managed to steal 16 pounds of alabaster coal, not the 20 the Conductor asked for. The goat that Kaz picked up does, however, prove to come in handy. Turns out, it's an emotional support animal, and Jesper becomes exceptionally attacked, especially once the Volcra begin attacking their transport.
For a moment, it looks like they're not going to make it, but, thanks to the soothing powers of the goat, Jesper is able to shoot the Volcra attacking them, and the extra boost they get from the creatures sends them out of the Fold and into East Ravka.

Episode 4: “Otkazat’sya”

Photo: Courtesy of David Appleby/Netflix.
The Legend Of The Black Heretic
Alina continues her training, and begins to fit in more with the Grisha — all while writing letters to Mal that inevitably get no response. Slowly, she tries to embrace her new life, and that includes her budding friendship with Kirigan, who asks her to call him Aleksander and offers her a kefta (a coat worn by Grisha in the Second Army) in his signature black color. One afternoon, he takes her out on the grounds to an old fountain engraved with the legend of the creation of the Fold.
According to legend, centuries ago, the Black Heretic was a military advisor to the king. Soon threatened by the Grisha's power, the king placed a bounty on his head. In an attempt to build an army, the Black Heretic used old forbidden magic and created the Fold instead. The Fold killed hundreds of people, including the Black Heretic. And now, Kirigan, a direct descendant of this Grisha, is desperate to close it.
Alina is afraid that she'll fail to bring down the Fold and the people will turn on her. She'll be the new Heretic. But Kirigan assures her that he would never let that happen and together, they will change the world.
Alina & Kirigan Grow Closer
In her training with Baghra, Alina is taken back to her testing day, and it's revealed that she didn't just skip the Grisha test at the orphanage, she cheated it. Since Mal was injured and couldn't be tested, she decided to trick the test, cutting herself in the palm of her hand because when one is injured, the test will come up negative. Alina sees this as a sign of her connection to Mal, but to Baghra, it's just more evidence of Alina holding herself back for others.
Later that night, unable to sleep, Alina goes for a walk around the Little Palace and stumbles into Kirigan's quarters. He's up late looking at a map of Ravka, mulling over a potential uprising in West Ravka. He admits that he feels hopeless and alone when thinking of the potential war that lies ahead. Alina grabs his hand, bringing light around them, and for a moment, it looks like they might kiss. But, she leaves before anything can happen.
Nina & Matthias
In the Little Palace, Kirigan tells one of his Grisha soldiers, Feydor, that Nina has been working a special mission for him but has not been heard from in weeks, and orders him to begin a search. It turns out, Nina isn't a radical at all, she's just an East Ravkan spy.
Held prisoner on the Fjerdan ship, Nina begins talking to one of her captors, Matthias (Calahan Skogman), who brings her bread in exchange for information. He wants to know more about the Grisha — are they born or made? Clearly, the Fjerdans don't really know about what the Grisha really are, or the limits of their powers. Nina refuses to tell him anything, taunting him about his misinformation. He asks about Kirigan, but she says she'd rather die than be a traitor. Still, he gives her the bread and leaves.
Next time we see them, the Fjerdan boat is approaching a storm. The Captain tells Matthias that if the storm gets the boat, he is to kill the prisoners; an order that comes as quite a surprise to the witch hunter, who naively believed that the Grisha would receive fair trials in Fjerda.
Mal's Mission
Just as Alina has not received any of Mal's letters, Mal has not received any of her's. So, one day, when a General mentions that Kirigan is offering a trip to the Little Palace as a reward to the soldiers who can find Morozova's stag, Mal is intrigued. And once he recognizes the drawing of the stag as one of Alina's, he volunteers. His friends Dubrov (Andy Burse) and Mikhael (Angus Castle-Doughty) join him, and together they head north.
Mal, an expert tracker, is able to track the stag north into the snowy mountains that separate East Ravka from Fjerda. Soon, they enter into Fjerdan territory and go behind enemy lines. Still, as he hunts for the stag, Mal writes letters to Alina, though he knows they'll never get to her.
One night, the trio are attacked by Fjerdans. Mal and his friends are able to kill three of them, but just when they think they're safe, two others with a machine gun start firing. They shoot Mal in the shoulder, and he is immediately down for the count.
He flashes back to some of his early days in the First Army, when he attacked another soldier who had said something racist to Alina so that he could see her in the brig. He hit the man with a bottle, smashing it into pieces, resulting in a scar on his palm identical to the one Alina had given herself to cheat the Grisha test — the one she's currently asking Genya to "fix."
Somehow, Mal survives, but by the time he regains consciousness, both his friends are dead. He manages to get up, grab a gun, and kill the last two Fjerdans. As he stumbles away from the scene, he hears a noise that reminds him of Alina. A noise he now realizes was connected to her ability to summon the sun. He follows it, and there, behind the trees, is the stag.
The Crows Find A Way
Finally, now that they're in East Ravka, the Crows must find a way to get to the Little Palace. Luckily, they have arrived just in time for the Winter Fete, a grand event that could provide them cover to sneak into the Little Palace. But, they'll need more information to make their plans. So, Inej, Kaz, and Jesper stage a heist of the Royal Archives to make a copy of the Little Palace blueprints while the Conductor is tasked with making friends at the local bar in the hopes of finding someone that can get them to the Little Palace.
After they successfully steal the blueprints, they reunite with the Conductor at the pub where a group of circus performers are getting ready to take the stage. Suddenly, an aerial artist falls to the ground. Apparently, the Conductor identified the group as one going to the Winter Fete, and sabotaged the artist so that Inej would be able to take her place. Jesper also lands a spot in the troupe using his expert marksmanship, and the Conductor presents himself as their manager. As for Kaz, he says he'll find his own way into the palace when the time comes.  
More recaps to come.

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