‘Shadow and Bone’: The Black Heretic’s Tragic Past Forms Alina’s Twisted Future (RECAP)

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COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021
COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Shadow and Bone, Season 1, Episode 7, “The Unsea.”]

It’s said that every good villain believes themself a hero, and Kirigan (Ben Barnes) most certainly does. And, like other good villains, at times you can almost agree with him. Yes, Grisha deserve to live free of punishment and suffering; yes, what happened to them in the past was horrid. But his methods are corrupt and manipulative, and it’s for that reason that Alina (Jessie Mei Li) won’t join him. Well, that and the constant lying.

While Kirigan moves the pieces of his plan into place, Alina pays the price for showing mercy in a pivotal moment. The Crows decide whether to pursue that million kruge or call it quits, and Mal (Archie Renaux) just wants to keep Alina safe.

David Appleby/Netflix © 2021

The Birth of the Black Heretic

We get a bit of Kirigan’s backstory, and we learn how he created the Shadow Fold. The king was rounding up Grisha and killing them, and Kirigan was on the run. He stops at the home of a woman it’s implied he’s romantically involved with, and they’re supposed to flee together, but the king’s soldiers show up. He goes outside to confront them, and he gets shot by several arrows. But — surprise! — his love is a Healer, so as fast as he’s shot, he’s safe.

That all goes downhill, though, and fast. The soldiers restrain him and find her, and they mortally wound her in front of Kirigan. His rage is powerful enough to break the restraints, and, in one swoop of shadow, he beheads the entire company. He then heads to a Grisha hideout, where she dies, and he goes to see his mother. Here, we get a little explanation for what’s going on. Apparently, Kirigan used his powers to “win a war” for the king, but in doing so, according to Baghra, he made the king afraid of Grisha and “started a war” on their people.

Baghra — who, apparently, taught her son everything he knows about killing, and doesn’t want him risking his life to save the Grisha people — tells her son to flee to Kerch and return when the king is dead. Instead, Kirigan gets the bright idea to create his own army using his powers, even though Baghra forbids him to do so. Of course, as we already know, it goes horribly wrong… and instead of creating an army, he creates the Shadow Fold instead.

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Mercy with Deadly Consequences

Alina and Mal manage to find the stag, but when Alina has it in her sights, she’s not willing to kill it. “Maybe there’s another way to do this,” she says, approaching the animal. She touches it, and her powers glow, and for one, magical moment, everything seems like it might be fine. And then the stag is shot, and then Mal gets shot, and then Kirigan shows up. He offers Alina a choice; if she allows him to kill the stag, he’ll get Mal to a healer. She won’t let Mal die, so she accepts the deal, and with one deadly cut, Kirigan kills the animal.

Later, Kirigan uses the stag’s bones to create an Amplifier. But it’s no ordinary Amplifier; once it’s bonded with him and Alina, it allows him to control her powers. Now he has control over both the light and the darkness, and it’s safe to say he won’t be using his powers to destroy the Fold.

They all travel back to East Ravka, to the First Army lines. In a Grisha tent, Alina meets Genya again, who tells her that the Apparat is now ruling in the king’s stead, and the queen is confined to her quarters. Oh, and in a major departure from the books, Genya was spying on Alina the whole time she was at the Little Palace — they were never truly friends, and Genya kept Alina’s letters from reaching Mal. “Be careful of powerful men,” Alina hisses. “You should’ve included devious women.”

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Faith in Friends

Meanwhile Mal, with the help of a very friendly goat that had a key around its neck, manages to break free from the place where he was being held. This obviously displeases Kirigan, who’s still trying to convince Alina that everything he’s done has been to make Grisha safer (she tells him that they could have been equals, but he doesn’t care who loses as long as he wins). He says that if Mal gets anywhere near Alina, the guards should put the tracker down.

The Dregs make plans to head back to Ketterdam, since, as Kaz (Freddy Carter) says, their funds are dwindling and it’s time they cut their losses. It seems Inej (Amita Suman) won’t be going with them, though, since she now has a shot at freedom and doesn’t want to go back to the Menagerie.

That leads her and Kaz to have a heart-to-heart that night by a fire, where he tells her she was right about Alina. That doesn’t mean he has faith in her Saints, though. “I have faith in myself,” he says, “and you, and Jesper.” He believes in his Crows, his friends, and he promises Inej that if she comes back to Ketterdam, she will not return to Tante Heleen.

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Crossing the Fold

Kaz’s new plan is to cross the Fold by sneaking on Kirigan’s ship, as he’s heard the general plans to cross the next day. Inej sees right through it and asks Kaz if he’s just trying to get Alina again, and that million kruge. “So, all you want is to cross the Fold?” she asks him. Kaz nods, and it seems that’s settled.

They find themselves some new clothes, and papers, and get themselves onto the skiff. Mal also sneaks onto the skiff, and Alina and Kirigan board as well (he lies to her again, saying that Mal is in a tent and that he won’t be harmed as long as she cooperates with him). And they, along with an audience believing they’ll witness the dissolving of the Fold, set out into the blackness.

Other Observations

  • I’m happy they chose to include a bit of Kirigan/The Darkling’s backstory in the first season, if only because seeing it is so much better than just hearing about it. Yet another good change from the source material.
  • The only change I’m not quite on board with was the Genya and Alina scene in this episode. In the book, Alina is a lot more forgiving; she understands why Genya did what she did and that she didn’t have a choice. I’m sure that if Shadow and Bone gets a second season that forgiveness will come, but it’s a bummer to see Alina’s only female friendship fractured.
  • I could’ve made this observation in every episode of the season, but the costumes are just spectacular. Alina’s dress near the end of this episode is lovely, even though it marks an unpleasant occasion.
  • That scene with Mal and Kirigan didn’t happen in the book, but I’m happy it was included here. It frames Alina’s powers as both a blessing and a curse — she’ll live a very long life, but she’ll see everyone she loves who isn’t Grisha die around her — and it also makes it abundantly clear that Kirigan feels no matter what he does or who he hurts, Alina will, eventually, forgive him. (Not likely, pal!)

Shadow and Bone Season 1, Netflix, Now Streaming