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"
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.
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"
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.
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”
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.
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”
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.
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.
Episode 5: “Show Me Who You Are”
The Winter Fete
At the Little Palace, Alina prepares for her big debut. She's fully embraced her identity as a Grisha now, and even tells Genya not to update her onthe lack of correspondence from Mal anymore. David (Luke Pasqualino), a Fabrikator (a Grisha who can manipulate textiles), walks in with special gloves made at Kirigan's request. The gloves can amplify her powers and separate beams of light, making it easier for her to create two balls of light with one hand. She gives them a try and they work beautifully, but she doesn't need them. She has enough power to do that all on her own.
Before her grand debut, Alina convinces Genya to let her enjoy her anonymity one last time and go outside to see the carnival. There, she walks by Jesper, who, along with Inej, the Conductor, and Kaz dressed as a palace guard, has successfully managed to get onto the Little Palace grounds. Jesper overhears Alina and Genya talking, and now that he's gotten eyes on the target, the game is on.
Meanwhile, Kaz snoops around the palace and finds a secret door leading to a fitting room for the Grisha. And the team decides that's where they'll grab Alina, after the demonstration when she's getting ready for dinner. The plan is for the Conductor to grab her, as he has a lodestone that can pick the lock to the secret door, while Inej, and Kaz cause a distraction, and Jesper will be ready with the getaway carraige.
Tonight, dignitaries from across the Fold have come to see Sun Summoner in action. But Alina isn't too worried. As she tells Kirigan when she sneaks into his quarters before heading out, she feels like this is where she belongs and she's ready to give people hope for a future without the Fold. She kisses him before leaving to get ready.
At the fete, noblemen and women whisper about the demonstration, and about the uprising in West Ravkan. One couple mentions that tonight will decide whether they keep their allegiance to General Zlatan of West Ravka, or remain loyal to the Ravkan throne. Needless to say, Alina's impressive demonstration wins them over.
Once she has displayed her powers, the entire room bows down to her, calling her a saint. Inej and Kaz, who got front row seats disguised as Ravkan guards, are stunned — Kaz, because he was adamant that the Grisha were just elaborate tricksters, and Inej, because she truly believes Alina to be a saint.
Alina, beaming with pride, is on her way to dinner when she runs into the Apparat. She should be proud, he says, but he also warns her that the power she poses as the subject of people's faith will make her dangerous.
The Truth About Kirigan
Meanwhile, unknown to Alina, Mal has also journeyed to the Little Palace. Despite being shot by Fjerdans, he insisted on delivering the news of the stag to Kirigan himself. He arrives just after the Fete, and Kirigan meets with him in his study. Kirigan immediately recognizes Mal as Alina's friend, but he pretends to be skeptical when Mal demands to see Alina before revealing the exact location of the stag. Kirigan asks Mal to prove that he knows Alina by telling him something only someone close to her would know. Mal tells the general that Alina's favorite flower are blue irises.
Of course, Kirigan has no intention of reuniting Alina and Mal. Instead, he gives Alina a bouquet of blue irises and leads her to his quarters. They're hooking up when, suddenly, there's a knock at the door. There's been an attack, a Grisha tells Kirigan. The Conductor snuck into the dressing room, but he did not kidnap Alina like the Crows intended. Instead, he slit her throat on behalf of General Zlatan, only for it to be revealed that this was not Alina at all, but another Grisha who had been "tailored" to look like her in an effort to draw out any potential threats. Without telling Alina of the situation, Kirigan leaves to deal with the suspect and instructs Alina to wait for him.
As soon as he's gone, however, a hidden doorway opens and Baghra walks in. She pulls Alina into a secret tunnel passageway, and tells her that she has to leave the Palace, now before it's too late. Kirigan, she says, doesn't want to eliminate the Fold, he wants to expand it and use it as a weapon. And he needs Alina's help to do it. Baghra reveals that Kirigan isn't just a Grisha, he's the Black Heretic — the one who created the Fold. Alina isn't convinced, but Baghra notes how Kirigan wanted her by his side always, had his Fabrikator make gloves for her as a way to keep her from pushing her powers to their full capacity, to make her dependent on him and his help. Still, Alina refuses to believe it until she realize that Baghra knows this is true because she is Kirigan's mother.
Baghra gives Alina strict instructions to hide under the palace where food is stored. Some of the Grisha, she says, are still loyal to her, and they will take her into hiding until Baghra comes up with a plan. Tired of being a prisoner, Alina decides she'll take her chances and go her own way. She sneaks out of the Palace and hides in the trunk of a carriage parked outside, hoping to hitch a ride to freedom.
The Getaway Car
As for the Crows, Inej and Kaz were spotted by Grisha at the Fete and split up in an attempt to get away. In their rush, Inej saves Kaz's life by killing an Inferni. By the time they meet up with Jesper outside, they're desperate to get out of there, with or without Alina. But, Jesper knows something they don't. He leads them to the carriage he managed to steal and, as they're riding off, informs them that the Sun Summoner is currently hiding in the trunk of their carriage.
Meanwhile, Kirigan returns to his quarters to find Alina gone. Baghra tells him that she has fled, and adds that Grisha loyal to her have "disposed of" the tracker. What she doesn't know is that the Grisha who tried to kill Mal to keep him from revealing the location of the stag failed. Mal listens closely to their exchange from behind a tree.
Episode 6: “The Heart Is An Arrow”
Nina & Matthias
In the dungeons, Kirigan and Zoya interrogate the Conductor. He tries to frame the Crows, but Kirigan knows that the Conductor has ties to General Slatan and the West Ravkan rebellion. Desperate, the Conductor offers to switch sides and kill the General for Kirigan, but Kirigan kills him instead. He’s got enough to worry about with Alina on the run and Nina still in the custody of the Fjerdan witch hunters. He decides to go after Alina while sending a team of Grisha after Nina.
Nina, meanwhile, can’t exactly wait for Grisha to rescue her. The Fjerdan boat got caught in a storm and was destroyed. In the water, she finds Matthias slowly freezing to death on a piece of debris. She wakes him up using her Heartrender powers, speeding up his heart rate and getting his blood flowing again. At first, he doesn’t want anything to do with the witch, but they need each other to survive, so they come to an agreement. She’ll keep his heart pumping if he can swim them to shore.
Once on land, their tentative alliance continues. Depending on what side of the border they’re on, she’s either his prisoner, or he’s hers. But for now, they just need to find their way to shelter through these snowy mountains before night falls. Eventually, they happen upon an empty cabin, filled with furs and a fireplace. Nina immediately strips out of her wet clothes and bundles up in a fur, but Matthias stubbornly refuses to be that vulnerable with a witch. Eventually, Nina wears him down, and he reluctantly gets into bed with her to warm up. The next morning, Matthias is still hesitant. He doesn’t like Nina’s lack of modesty, or her fighting spirit, but her charm, and unwillingness to let him hate her, is wearing him down.
As they set off again through the mountains, the banter continues, until Nina falls through thin ice, into a hidden ice cave. For a moment, it looks like Matthias might just let her die, but he saves her and even gives her his fur. Together, they decide on a fresh start.
Alina’s Great Escape
Alina manages to escape from the trunk of the carriage, only to find Inej, Jesper, and Kaz waiting for her. They offer her safe passage through the Fold to West Ravka — an effort to get her to comply with their planned capture of the Sun Summoner — but Alina sees right through it. She uses her powers to startle them, but Inej isn’t too affected. Still, she lets Alina go.
Walking around the town of Ryevost, Alina tries to get her bearings and go under the radar, but when soldiers recognize her as Shu and start harassing her, she can’t stay hidden for long. She attacks, blinds one soldier, and runs for the woods, where she runs into Mal.
Mal and Alina continue on through the woods, only stopping to talk once they’re at a safe distance from Ryevost. Both Alina and Mal confront each other about their unanswered letters, and Mal asks if Alina has been hiding her Grisha powers from him all this time. He adds that, when he saw the drawing of the stag, he thought it was a message from her, telling him to come find her. Instead, it was just proof that Kirigan had gone through her private things and stolen the drawing from one of her journals. Baghra was telling the truth.
Together, they keep walking until nightfall. They won’t starve – Mal brought supplies — but, he says, the trick will be not to freeze to death. And for the first time, Alina shows Mal her power. She takes his hand and creates a ball of light to keep them warm. She’s worried he’ll be afraid of her, but he’s not. He’s just happy to see who she really is.
The next day, as Alina tends to Mal’s gunshot wound, they come up with a plan. He wants to get Alina through the Fold and run West, but Alina can’t run from this fight. She wants to go after the stag herself and amplify her power so that she can defeat Kirigan once and for all. As they continue their journey, Mal comments on Alina’s newfound appetite and awkwardly compliments her, saying she looks healthy and better than ever. “Is that what being a Sun Summoner does to you?” he asks, causing Alina to wonder if there’s something about the her powers — and Kirigan’s — that has allowed him to live so long.
The Crows Face Kirigan
After Alina gets away, Inej, Kaz, and Jesper regroup, with Inej admitting that she let Alina go. She didn’t sign up to abduct a real Sun Summoner, but Kaz is still refusing to admit that Alina has real power. He’s so frustrated that he lets slip that if they return to Ketterdam empty handed, Heleen will get the Crow Club. But that’s something they can worry about later. For now, they have bigger problems, like General Kirigan being hot on their trail.
The General arrives in Ryevost just as the Crows are preparing to leave, but they have a plan. The three split up, each taunting one of Kirigan’s Grisha to chase them. Inej is recognized by an Inferni, the sister of the one she killed at the palace, while a Heartrender chases Jesper into a laundry, and Zoya goes after Kaz. Jesper manages to best the Heartrender, shooting him multiple times in the same spot, eventually bruising him through his bullet-proof kefta. Inej, however, has a bit more trouble. The Inferni manages to injure her before she can best her. Inej doesn’t want to kill again, but when the Inferni promises she’ll never stop until she gets revenge on Inej and anyone she’s ever loved, she has no choice.
Kirigan corners Kaz in an alley, but is thrown off when Kaz tells him that Alina fled — and she’s not going back to him. With some misdirection, Kaz is able to escape before Kirigan can use his shadows to kill him.
After ditching the Grisha, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper reunite and decide to steal Kirigan’s carriage and make their getaway. But, Kirigan, the Heartrender, and David the Tailor aren’t deterred by this temporary defeat. When a local soldier lets slip that a tracker had come around earlier looking for Alina, Kirigan realizes they must be going after the Stag. And, he’s got a secret weapon. Before Alina left the palace, Genya gave her a ring made of a rare metal not native to Ravka. If David gets within one mile of her, he’ll be able to sense it.
Episode 7: “The Unsea”
The Fold Origin Story
Hundreds of years in the past, Kirigan, then known as the Darkling, rides a horse through the woods, arriving at a secluded cabin. He’s greeted by a woman, Luda, a Healer. They begin to pack up to go on the run, but soon the cabin is surrounded by soldiers. They’re here for the Darkling. He pretends to surrender, allowing the soldiers to shoot him with their arrows (guns, it seems, have not yet been invented) as Luda heals him from inside. He’s hoping to intimidate them, convince them that he is a god. But, a soldier searches the house and finds Luda. It seems Luda and the Darkling have been training Grisha in secret, and the soldiers kill her on the spot. Furious, the Darkling snaps all of the men in half, grabs an injured Luda and goes. He takes her to the Sanctuary — which looks suspiciously like the Little Palace — where Grisha have been hiding out, but it’s clearly too late for her. Upset by her death, the Darkling goes to check on his mother, Baghra. She has to go, he says, the King is coming after the Grisha and he wants to kill them all.
Baghra blames her son for their current predicament. He showed the King of Ravka too much of his power, making all Grisha a target. The Darkling wants to stay and fight, but Baghra thinks he should run with her, and hide out until a new King is crowned and has a problem only Grisha can solve. Then he can return and save the day. Besides, there aren’t enough Grisha to make an army, and even if there were, most Grisha are Healers, Fabrikators, Tailors — not fighters. And so, the Darkling resolves to make his own army. As a descendent of Morozova, they have his journals, and despite Baghra’s warnings that any magic of that magnitude would be unpredictable, he decides it’s worth it.
The Darkling is able to find a spell in Morozova’s journals to increase his magic, his veins grow black, and he no longer needs to do fancy Grisha hand gestures to summon the shadows and use his powers. When the King’s army comes to the sanctuary, he sends the Grisha away and faces them head-on. He summons his new power to kill the soldiers, but then they take over him. Black smoke consumes him and the Fold erupts from within him, turning the men into Volcra, killing others, and separating West and East Ravka.
Once the Fold is up, he takes Baghra and runs.
The Stag, The General, and The Sun Summoner
In the present, Kirigan and his Grisha track Alina through the forest, as Alina and Mal line up the shot for her to kill the stag. Looking at it, however, Alina is reminded of her dreams about the creature, and she knows she can’t kill it. She ditches the gun and moves towards the stag, who seems to watch her intently. Just as the two connect, the stag is shot. It falls, but is still alive, and the Grisha attack. Mal is shot with an arrow, dying on the ground near Alina, and she uses her light to protect him and the stag. But she can’t do that forever, and Kirigan knows that. He promises that he’ll have his Healer save Mal if she gives him the stag. Mal begs her not to, passing her a knife to kill the stag herself, but she refuses. She has to save Mal. She brings down her defenses, allowing Kirigan to kill the stag and take his antlers. Mal is saved, but they’re both taken prisoner.
Alina is now shackled, unable to perform magic. She watches as David fashions the antlers into a kind of necklace and places it on her. He takes another piece of antler bone and places it on Kirigan’s hand and performs a ritual linking the two. The antler pieces sink into both Kirigan and Alina, seemingly bonding them forever. And when Kirigan walks over to Alina and grabs her shoulder, he’s able to access her light. He has control of her power now.
The next morning, they arrive back in Kribirsk, where Alina is taken to an extravagant tent. She and Kirigan will make a grand demonstration the nest day during a routine crossing of the Fold. Genya meets her there, but she’s definitely not an ally anymore. Kirigan has finally promoted her to a rank within the Second Army, and she confirms to Alina that she’s been Kirigan’s inside man in the royal family all along. She’s even poisoned the King for him, although that part was also for her, as she implies that the king has abused her since she was a child. She tells Alina that the Aparat is currently ruling Ravka before she leaves.
Meanwhile, Mal, handcuffed in a supply tent, gets a visit from Kirigan. The Darkling taunts him with his letters to Alina, all of which he personally intercepted, and makes clear he isn’t afraid of Mal’s threats to kill him. Even when Mal tells him that Alina will never forgive him for what he’s done, Kirigan is unphased. He can wait as long as it takes for Alina’s attitudes towards him to shift. Mal, on the other hand, will get older and die eventually.
More determined than ever after Kirigan’s visit, Mal manages to escape, with some help from a friendly goat — the same goat Jesper bonded with on his trip across the Fold — and a bullet Jesper had given the goat to remember him by.
The Final Voyage
Having determined to return to Ketterdam, even though they failed to retrieve the Sun Summoner, the Crows have also made their way to Kribirsk, though Inej is clearly thinking about separating from the Crows before they return home. She almost leaves before they reach Kribirsk, but a heart to heart with Kaz stops her. He admits that the Sun Summoner is real, and he promises her that even if they return to Ketterdam, he won’t let her go back to the Menajerie with Heleen.
So, the team decides to sneak onto the next skiff crossing, which just so happens to be a major trip for Kirigan and Alina. Kaz promises that they won’t take a run at Alina, but will just impersonate a foreign dignitary and his guards to sneak onto the boat and hitch a ride below deck. Nothing can be safer than traveling across the Fold with the Sun Summoner, right?
The morning of the big voyage, Kirigan fetches Alina in her tent and attempts once more to win her over. He insists that everything he’s done has been for the Grisha, and that he had never intended for the Fold to become what it did. He promises that he put that collar on Alina so that together, they could conquer the Fold. But conquer and destroy are not the same thing.
The duo make their way to the skif, Alina chained to the deck. Inej, Kaz, and Jesper manage to sneak aboard, as does Mal, who hides in the hull. And off they go into the smoke.
Episode 8: “No Mourners”
As the skif goes further and further into the Fold, things start to get tense. Zoya, who is using her powers to propel the skif forward, starts wondering why Kirigan hasn’t had Alina destroy the Fold yet, and another Grisha informs her that he actually has orders to get Zoya to stop them right before they get to West Ravka. On deck, Alina begs Kirigan to let her do something, but he refuses. She tries to summon the sun on her own, but with the collar around her neck, she just doesn’t have enough power. Kirigan uses her power to create a tunnel of light through the Fold for the travelers. He won’t destroy the Fold, why would he, he asks Alina, when it is the best weapon he has?
Below deck, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper form a plan. They can tell that something’s off with Alina, and Kirigan must be planning on using her to attack West Ravka and stop the uprising there. They’re trying to figure out their best plan of escape when Inej spots Mal in the back. She brings him out with a gun to his head, but he proves himself an ally. All he wants, he tells the Crows, is to save Alina and kill the General. And as long as he’s not against them, Kaz says, he’s with them.
The skif stops inside the Fold, just in sight of the West Ravkan docks, where General Zlatan has just given orders to his men to kill everyone on the skif, including Kirigan. It’s time for one last demonstration. Grabbing a hold of Alina, Kirigan uses his power to move the shadows and amplify the Fold. Slowly, it encroaches on West Ravka, killing an entire city and plunging them further into darkness. Betrayed, Alina tries to tap into her power to help save West Ravka, and it almost works, but Kirigan stops her. He then turns to the noblemen and dignitaries on the skiff. He wants them to go home and tell their respective governments that Ravka is in charge now. He can change the borders of the Fold at will, attack any city he pleases, and war would be futile. The diplomats on the boat try to stand up to Kirigan, telling him that he won’t be seen as a savior, but a threat. He’ll turn the entire world against the Grisha. So he has his Heartrender kill them too.
Having heard the cries from West Ravka, Inej and Mal emerged on deck to fight. Zoya, who had family in West Ravka, summons the wind again to get the skiff moving forward against Kirigan’s orders, and when another Grisha steps in to stop her, Inej attacks. Mal, on the other hand, goes straight for Alina, but a Heartrender stops him in his tracks.
The deck erupts in gunfire and violence when Kirigan realizes Zoya has begun moving them out of the Fold again, and Jesper and Kaz emerge to join the fight. Inej is able to land a dagger in Kirigan's torso, but he’s able to tear it out and seemingly heal himself. He drops the dagger on the deck beside him and uses his powers to bring the shadows back onto the skiff.
Things are looking bad. Alina is panicking and reaching for Mal when, suddenly, she has a vision of the stag. The stag moves towards her, bathing her in light and motioning to the knife Kirigan just dug out of his torso. When Kirigan reaches out to her, she grabs the knife and stabs him through the hand, knocking out the fragment of the stag that tied them together and reclaiming her power. The stag chose her, she says, not him. Caught off guard, Kirigan doesn’t notice when Mal lunges at him, knocking him off the ship.
Alina tries to use her light to save them all. Suddenly, her light disappears when a Heartrender still loyal to Kirigan turns on her. She passes out before Jesper is able to shoot the Heartrender, leaving Mal and Kirigan in the Fold without any light. But, Kirigan’s injury has made it more difficult for him to control the shadows, and Mal is able to best him by distracting him enough for a volcra to swoop in and take him. Mal gets back to the ship, and is able to wake Alina up just in time for her to summon her light and save them all from the Fold.
Nina & Matthias
Meanwhile, in the snowy mountains, Matthias and Nina make it back to the town of Arkesk. They’re in Ravka, which means that Nina is no longer a prisoner, but she must hide Matthias, who is behind enemy lines. Safely hidden in an apartment above a pub, Matthias tells Nina that he will journey North at nightfall, but she wants him to stay. Together, they fantasize about going somewhere where they can be together, even if it means leaving their lives behind and being labeled as traitors to their people. They’re about to seal the deal with a kiss when Matthias’ stomach growls, so Nina decides they need waffles first.
Sitting at the pub downstairs, enjoying their waffles, Nina and Matthias are interrupted by Fedyor, the Grisha Kirigan had ordered to go after Nina. A Heartrender, he knocks Matthias out by stopping his heart and confronts Nina. Fedyor can tell that Nina has grown fond of Matthias, and tells her that she must bring her new friend to their general and turn him in, or Fedyor will brand her a traitor. Out of options, Nina suddenly yells that Matthias is a slaver who has captured her. Earlier, she had overheard a man in the pub saying that he was working as a bounty hunter for slavers, and got paid when he arrested a slaver and a victim willing to testify. She claims both, and, unwilling to fight a pub full of innocent people, the Grisha let the bounty hunter take Nina and Matthias.
What Happens Now?
Alina, Zoya, Kaz, Jesper, Inej, and Mal have safely made it into West Ravka, but now what? An entire coastline has been decimated, the Fold remains, and there’s no way Alina will be welcomed by anybody after what happened in the Fold. The only thing they know for sure is that the group has reached a tentative alliance. Inej promises she will always be there for Alina if needed, and Jesper promises not to try to kidnap her. Kaz is a bit tougher to crack, but Alina buys his silence with Ravkan jewels she had been forced to wear for Kirigan’s demonstration.
Alina wants to destroy the Fold once and for all, but she isn’t strong enough. And Zoya warns her that she cannot stay in Ravka. The Apparat will hold onto his new power and blame Kirigan’s massacre of West Ravka on the Grisha. Her best move is to hide away, regroup and regain her strength before returning. Alina promises that she will return and finish what she started, and Zoya leaves to check on her family in Nobrovisk.
Kaz, Jesper, Inej, Alina, and Mal head for Os Kervo. From there, they’ll sneak onto a ship to Ketterdam and go their separate ways. The Crows have some scores to settle, and Kaz promises to use one of Alina’s jewels to buy Inej’s freedom once and for all. She will go with him, she says, but if she determines that Alina needs her help, she’ll leave without question.
On the ship to Ketterdam, the group splits up, with the Crows sitting at one end of the deck and Alina and Mal getting settled on another. Below deck, meanwhile, Matthias is chained up in a cell. Nina tries to tell him that this was the only way to save him, but he doesn’t believe her. She’s a witch who tricked him into reversing their roles, he insists. She says she won’t testify against him and will drop the charges once they reach Ketterdam, but another prisoner chimes in and says there won’t be a trial for years. Forced to leave, Nina promises Matthias that she will fix this, and he just has to trust her.
On deck, Nina overhears the Crows talking. They need a plan now that they’re returning to Ketterdam without the Sun Summoner they were hired to abduct. Kaz has an idea, but he’ll need a Heartrender, which Nina just so happens to be. She doesn’t tell them who she is, but when she overhears two men saying that the Sun Summoner is dead, she asks the Crows if they know if it’s true. Kaz responds that he doesn’t know if it’s true, but he does know that the Sun Summoner is real.
As the ship sets sail, Mal and Alina agree that they’ll run for a little while, but, now that the Darkling is dead, they’ll get back to the Fold and she’ll tear it down for good.
Back in West Rafka, Kirigan stumbles out of the Fold, looking a bit worse for wear. He walks out into the light, black blood pounding through his veins, and mumbles, “Follow.” And a couple huge shadow creatures emerge from the Fold behind him.