Shadow and Bone is finally here! The first episode is jam-packed with a lot of characters and scenes, so here’s a recap!
*Spoilers for Episode 1 below!*
The first episode of Shadow and Bone opens with darkness. We see our protagonist, Alina Starkov (Jessica Mei Li). She’s an orphan and mapmaker for the First Army of Ravka, but she differs from the rest because she is half-Shu, or half Asian. A few of Alina’s fellow cartographers are racist, ostracizing her. Her unit is on their way to The Fold, a shadowy barrier that has split Ravka in half. It’s filled with monsters, but people have to cross it for trade, and the only way out is through. It’s here that we meet her best friend Mal (Archie Renaux), who grew up at the orphanage with her. Mal was a sensitive boy, but he toughened as he grew up, and is now a skilled tracker in the army.
We also are introduced to Grisha, who are decked out in beautiful robes called keftas. Grisha soldiers can essentially practice magic, which is called “Small Science.” They are either etheralki (who can manipulate air, water, or fire), corporalki (who can heal or manipulate the human body), or materialki (who can work with metal and chemicals).
In the Ravkan army, Grisha are part of the Second Army. After some introductions, we see both the First Army and the Second Army gathered and waiting to receive orders. The general is letting them know who is going to attempt to cross The Fold on a brand new skiff. As the general calls more and more names, he ends with Mal, alarming both him and Alina.
We then cut to Ketterdam, a country West Ravka and The Fold. We’re in a bar where we meet the Crows, a rowdy and tough group of rogues. Jesper (Kit Young) is a gambling gunslinger. Charming and delightful, he’s very into gambling. He’s stopped by Kaz and his trusty cane (Freddy Carter), and he tells Jesper to get back to work.
Kaz, the leader of the Crows is stopped by a man who is looking for a stolen painting that’s worth 10,000 Kruge, the currency of Ketterdam. Kaz says he’s not interested in finding the painting, only for us to see it in his office. Here we meet the final Crow, Inej (Amita Suman). She is “the Wraith,” a quiet and deadly assassin. The duo discusses a job that’s worth a lot of money, enough money to change lives: a million Kruge. The mission: they have to cross The Fold into East Ravka and bring back something. We’re also given a glimpse into their past when we find out that Kaz is in the process of paying off Inej’s contract at a place called the menagerie.
We’re back with Alina as she waits in line for food. She experiences racism for being half-shu and is sent to the back of the line. She leaves the tent with no food, prompting Mal to sneak into a Grisha tent to steal fruit. He runs into Zoya (Sujaya Dasgupta), a Squaller, or a Grisha that can manipulate air. Zoya attempts to seduce him, only for Mal to brush her aside. Once he brings Alina the stolen fruit, the pair share a few tense moments reflecting on what’s about to happen, thinking about the Volcra, the monsters in The Fold.
Back in Ketterdam, the Crows are trying to figure out how to cross The Fold. It was made by a Shadow Grisha centuries ago. They have one in the army now, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes). But he can’t destroy The Fold. Inej says they need a Sun Summoner, a mythical Grisha who can manipulate light. But for now, the Crows need a Heartrender, a Grisha that can manipulate the body. But they’re competing against someone named Pekka Rollins. Kaz and the Crows head for a Brothel – the Orchid – to find Milana, a Heartrender.
Meanwhile, Alina has a flashback to her and Mal attempting to run away from the orphanage as kids. Present day Alina finds the map of West Ravka, which is on the other side of The Fold, and she burns it. When the general notices, she volunteers to cross on the skiff with the assigned unit. Except her whole unit gets assigned. Mal wants Alina to go back, but there’s nothing he can do.
They use a special blue lantern inside The Fold, which is terrifying. It’s a dark and terrifying desert, complete with lightning and the sounds of monsters – Volcra. The blue light, which doesn’t attract monsters, goes out, and someone lights a normal lantern instead, which attracts the Volcra. They’re winged bat-like demons that swoop down and begin to pick everyone off. Alina’s friend Alexi jumps off the skiff, making a run for it. Mal gets hurt, prompting Alina to shoot it with a rifle. They both are injured laying on the skiff and remember the meadow they ran away to as kids. Alina gets picked up by a Volcra.
And a white light glows from her.
In West Ravka, we see that the boat never crossed. But Alexi made it.
In Ketterdam, Pekka Rollins has killed the owner of the Orchid Brothel. But Kaz already has Milana. He brings her to Dreesen, who is hiring for the job. Dreesen wants a heart render to interrogate his prisoner, who turns out to be Alexi. We then find out that what we saw happen to Alina was two weeks ago.
In East Ravka (and two weeks ago), the skiff returned with survivors. They talk about how something lit up, filling the fold with light and destroying the Volcra.
Back with the Crows, Alexi can’t remember what happened, but Malina helps with her powers to manipulate the body. Alexi remembers seeing Alina light up like the sun, and he tells them. Malina heals a wound on his hand, and then Dreesen kills Alexi. He tells the Crows they have until sunrise to figure out how to pass through the fold. Their new mission: bring back the Sun Summoner.
First of all. Wow. This episode had a lot in it. The series is combining two book series that take place in the same universe: Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows. That means there is a large cast of characters, and the show seems to be handling it well! The effects were pleasantly surprising, and I found myself rewinding to watch an Inferni (a Grisha that wields fire) train towards the beginning of the episode.
While there are times when the dialogue can feel a tad cheesy, the visuals are stunning. From the embroidery on the keftas, to the propaganda posters in Ravka, to the casinos in Ketterdam, a lot of attention and care went into the production design, and I truly appreciated it.
I am excited about the next episode! The Crows are not a part of the initial trilogy, and I was shocked once I found out how they tied into the story. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
You can stream Shadow and Bone right now on Netflix!