The following contains major spoilers from Shadow and Bone’s second season (including the finale), which is now streaming on Netflix. Proceed accordingly.
The Fold may be gone, but the trouble is only just beginning for our heroes at the center of Shadow and Bone.
In the Season 2 finale, Alina was forced to stab Mal — who was revealed to be the fire bird (aka the third amplifier) — right through the heart to wield the game-changing power it took to bring down the Fold for good.
The Sun Summoner then drove the Neshyenyer sword, the only weapon strong enough to cut through the shadow, right through the Darkling’s gut. In his final moments, the man formerly known as Kirigan (whose real name was Aleksander) instructed Alina to leave no trace of him behind — a heroic request that came far too late for any hope of redemption.
“I think there’s some kind of salvation and beauty in regret. Maybe his deathbed penance is too little too late, but that is something he’s been wrestling with the entire way through, of whether it is important for him to keep that pilot light of hope alive in himself,” Ben Barnes, who plays Kirigan, tells TVLine. “I think he’s decided that it isn’t important enough to him until the very end. In the books, there’s something lovely, which we haven’t quite copied exactly in connection with him not revealing his real name to anyone except to Alina. This is our equivalent of that, having our little moment of Alina knowing that he wasn’t exactly what everyone makes him out to be, at least to himself in his moments of solitude.”
Although Zoya, Genya and Alina made sure to burn the Darkling’s body, presumably ridding the world of the Shadow Summoner, the question remains: Is he truly gone, or is there a possibility he can return?
“There’s still a severed hand,” co-showrunner Eric Heisserer notes. Daegan Fryklind, who also serves as showrunner, adds, “There’s a piece of his body that is still in play.”
One person we know to have returned from the dead is Mal. When Nina’s efforts to revive him failed, Alina turned to merzost — the dark magic that Kirigan’s mother Baghra warned came with a price — to bring him back. And while she succeeded, the pair split up after realizing that Mal needed to travel the world as the new Sturmhond and find himself before they could be together.
“He’s lost his purpose by fulfilling his destiny,” Fryklind explains. “When he’s first on the ship, [there’s] this yearning that he has to explore new worlds and see everything that he can see, and that’s taken away as they get pulled back into the Ravkan drama… Alina knows he needs to go do something else and find himself, and this is the perfect way for him to do that.”
As Mal took up the Sturmhond mantle, Alina found herself dealing with the effects of using merzost. In the final scene at Nikolai’s coronation, a Fjerdan Grisha (juiced up on a mysterious substance that made them three times as powerful) attacked the new Ravkan king in the first sign of war between both nations. Alina quickly stopped the attack by using the Shadow Cut — the Darkling’s signature move. Is she headed down the same path?
“It’s certainly hinted at the end of Season 2 that there’s maybe something brewing within Alina, a certain darkness,” Jessie Mei Li, who plays the Sun Summoner, shares. “There’s been so much talk in the show about the cost, the price you have to pay for using dark magic. She’s dabbled in that dark side of things and so, we’re going to see — after having seen the cost of it [with] Kirigan using merzost — obviously, we’re going to see something happen to Alina.”
It’s a bold move that, like most of Season 2, deviated from Leigh Bardugo’s popular books. In the text, Alina didn’t learn that Mal was the fire bird until Ruin and Rising (Book 3), and lived a simple life with him after defeating the Darkling and losing all of her powers. According to Heisserer, the Netflix show’s accelerated journey through the plots of Siege and Storm (Book 2) and Ruin and Rising was an opportunity to highlight peripheral characters.
“We felt that just doing [Siege and Storm] by itself with a little prose wouldn’t give a lot of our characters the kind of moments and growth or the season that they deserved,” Heisserer said. “It was a matter of trying to figure out what are the must have moments from that book that speak to Alina’s growth, but that also can dovetail with some of these other important characters to make sure that each of the choices they make drive the story forward and propel you into the next episode. Before we knew it, we realized that we were rushing into Ruin and Rising.”
Fryklind added that as they “crystallized Alina’s through line in terms of her want to find these other two amplifiers, having her very focused on the action of her arc through the season, some of the elements of the novel fell to the wayside.”
What did you think of Shadow and Bone‘s Season 2 finale? Grade the episode below and then share your thoughts in the comments.