Welcome back to the Grishaverse! Just a quick reminder of the worlds laws and many types of Grisha that exist in the wonderful world that was created by Leigh Bardugo.
Throughout the first episode we learn that of all the Grisha groups – there is one unique Grisha that stands out and is by far the most powerful Grisha in the world. The one and only Shadow Summoner. What is believed by the world is that the power passes from son to son and that the child then grows up each generation. But we learn halfway through the show that this is not the case. It is the same man, the same Grisha, he is truly eternal. Never growing old or weak – but continuing to rise in power and influence. He runs the Second Army in the Tzar empire. The Grisha army. There has always been a myth of a Sun Summoner, a Saint who would come forth and banish the fold. But one has never existed. Until now, that is!
When we first meet our protagonist Alina Starkov, she is a cartographer with the Army. Her best friend who she clearly feels a lot more for, is a tracker, one of the best. Malyen Oretsev. The two make their way across the Fold. It being a gigantic scar full of shadows and monsters that separates Ravka. So huge in size it is more common that people attempt to cross it then to go around it. That said, many of the crossings wind up dead, eaten by the Volcra. On their journey, a foolish boy lights up lantern which is like sending out a homing beacon. Inevitably they are surrounded by the monsters within seconds. Mal gets hurt and Alina nearly gets taken by a Volcra, when unexpectedly she bursts out in unending sunshine.
When she wakes, she’s not entirely sure what happened as she is unaware that she is a Grisha. Brought to General Kirigan, he uses a Grisha test to see her power – pure unadulterated sunbeams burst from her. She is whisked away in a carriage set for The Little Palace (Where all Second Army Grisha live and train). On the way there, Fjerdian Druskelle attacks her carriage. She is seconds from death when the Darkling storms in and slices a man in half from 50 yards away. This is the first instance we ever see The Cut being used. This is something that only exceptionally powerful summoners can do. He saves Alina and then personally escorts her to safety.
While acclimatizing to her new life, she is brought before the King for a Demonstration. Unbeknownst to her, The Darkling, as well as being the most powerful Grisha, is a living Amplifier* When they connect, her powers are stronger than ever. The King agrees to leave her training to the Darkling. Initially winning over Alina with effusive charm and supposed shared dreams of the world they would want to live in, the one they, together, could create and build. To destroy the Fold and reunite Ravka, to make Grisha, who are endlessly hunted and persecuted simply for existing, safer. While some of those words are true, he, of course, has another, far more evil plan. He steals drawings from Alina’s journal and sends them out to all the Army camps – demanding they each send out a hunting party to find the mythical beast. Most laugh as this is a fairy tale to all. Whoever finds it gets a trip to the Little Palace. Mal recognizes the drawings and thinks this is Alina showing him the way to her.
If the Darkling can capture and kill Morozova’s’ first amplifier – the Stag – by melding parts of it into his and Alina’s skin – he can control her power and amplify it further – allowing him to “Redraw all the maps” and use the Fold as a movable weapon. The most powerful one the world would ever have seen. His dear old mother (who is also a Shadow summoner – though not nearly as powerful as her son) is kind enough to warn Alina and get her to escape and enter the Crows. The Crows are hired in the pilot episode to kidnap the Sun summoner and bring her back to Ravka. Their mission to get across the Fold and break into the Little Palace is no small feat. They eventually con their way inside the walls of the Palace and leave with a surprisingly willing Alina, as she had just been informed of the Darkling’s true identity and his actual plan for her and the world going forward.
Meanwhile, Nina Zenic ( a Heartrender ) gets captured by the Druskelle, and taken prisoner on a Slaver Ship, bringing her back to Fjerda to stand trial along with all the other Grisha they manage to capture. But fate intervenes, and the ship wrecks, and the man who put her in chains suddenly becomes her way out. They float on a metal strip (like Jack and Rose in the Titanic should have done) & she uses her heartrending powers to warm him up so he doesn’t die. They wash up on the ice, knowing they will have many miles to traverse and their odds of survival are infinitely better if they remain together and don’t kill each other. Slowly, they begin to fall for one another despite being natural enemies. Matthias Helvar, the Druskelle soldier, is warming to Nina bit by bit. Till they eventually decide to leave their lives behind and run away together. Until they are caught by another Grisha – who puts Matthais to sleep, Nina has the hard choice of letting them kill Matthais then and there – or putting him on a slaver ship to go to stand trial at the Ice Court. She goes with the latter, planning to rescue him before he stands test. Matthias wakes and realizes he’s in chains and believes that Nina lied and got him arrested and locked up.
For the Crows, we have Kaz Brekker, the leader of the crew The Crows and the owner of the establishment The Crow Club in Ketterdam. Jesper Fahey their resident gunslinger and Inej Gafar, their spy/wraith. For anyone who has read the novels in Leigh Bardugos’s Grishaverse, famously, there are Six Crows. But in the timeline of Shadow & Bone season 1 they have yet to all meet and join forces. So for now – we have the trio of Crows. Who embark on several heists and plots in order to make their way to the Little Palace to capture their Million Kruger Summoner. Though Inej is Kaz’s Wraith and talented “assassin” (She has exceedingly phenomenal knife skills. Because of her faith, she doesn’t believe in murder. But she crosses that line when it comes down to saving Kaz’s life or letting him die. She takes the choice of making her first kill. We see moments of connection and little snippets of vulnerability between the two when they are on their own. Something that will be explored further in season two.
They board the skiff that the Darkling is taking Alina and foreign dignitaries on, intent on killing the Darkling. Surprisingly, after they find Mal under the deck, they team up with him, as Kaz says, “If he’s not with Kirigan, then he is with us.” Inej manages to land one of her knives in the Darkling’s chest, but unfortunately, as he tells her, “It will take more than this! To kill me!” After the Darkling’s demonstration and the Crows attack – his Heartrenders wind up killing all the Dignitaries on board. He laments… “Shame… I’ll have to give that speech again.”
Amidst all this, Alina has another Vision and is visited once more by the Stag. It stares into her and then seems to nudge her vision toward the knife that’s at her feet. She connects the dots and realizes she can sever Kirigan’s connection with her and the collar – she stabs his hand, and the piece of bone melded in springs free from him. Kirigan demands to know how she can claim the Stag’s power when he was the one who killed it. She explains, “You cannot claim that which wasn’t given to you. The Stag chose me!”. Mal tackles the Kirigan off the skiff and into the Shadows of the Fold, one of the Volcra quickly attacks Kirigan.
The survivors then make their way out of the Fold and off of the skiff. They sit around a fire to regroup. Everyone has very different plans for their foreseeable future than they did an hour ago. The Crows plan to go back to Ketterdam, though they are emptyhanded as they won’t be bringing back Alina and claiming the 1 million Kruger, Alina softens the blow by giving him one of the Monarchies Crowns. Mal and Alina plan to go into hiding, bide their time while Alina gets stronger, and plan that one day, she will return and finally destroy the Fold. As far as anyone is concerned, Alina and the Crows included, the Darkling is dead – but in the very last scene of the finale, the audience sees a scarred Kirigan exiting the Fold with some new friends… And that leaves us at the very last second of the first Series finale! Stay tuned to the site for episode-by-episode breakdowns and reviews of the tantalizing season two!