Dear Grishaverse fans,
last week, I expansively commented on the first four episodes of Shadow and Bone’s second season. These covered the second book of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, Siege and Storm. Today, I want to finish my comparison of the books, thus the third installment Ruin and Rising, and the show. Discussing the last four episodes and its changes is the primary aim of this post, but I’ll also draw a conclusion on the whole season. Here we go…
Episode 5: Yuyeh Sesh (Despite Your Heart)
In this episode, I made sense of the opening credits for the first time. This one is brilliant: Four crows are joined by another one, a sixth one stays behind a window, kept from the others. My heart broke a little. This already puts focus on the Crows‘ story line in this episode. Given its originality, the writers could repeatedly surprise me. They also offered us intense as much as hilarious scenes, beginning with the one between Nina, Inej, and Jesper early that episode. I loved all the new scenes this original plot offered us.
Our five Crows are hired by Zoya and Tolya to steal Neshyenar from its current possessor. Together, they go to Shu Han (another new, great setting and interesting culture) and execute another amazing plan. In it, Kaz and Nina, for example, act as a married couple. Jesper and Wylan meanwhile have to deal with some difficulties. I loved how the writers included Wylan’s illiteracy into an interaction although this seems to have been the beginning of Wesper’s trouble. I loved even more how it turns out not to be it, but rather Jesper’s denial of his own capabilities as a durast. Finally, we glimpse Jesper’s backstory and losses as much as Wylan’s.
Inej is also back in the team and helping Kaz with a panic attack despite their differences. Consequently, they all work together. We even habe Nina and Zoya pulling in one direction – an unexpected, but welcomed team. Nonetheless, their different takes on love and responsibility create a tension pertained into the next episode. And this one’s finale surely makes us hold our breath until the next starts.
Other, less important storylines
With Genya and Zoya gone, the Darkling only has Fruzsi and Vladim left, but tries to shut them out and up. Although ultimately frightened by his demons, she dares speaking up about improving his strategy and thus demonstrates some cleverness.
We also get to see Hellgate and its newest prisoner, Pekka Rollins. Matthias’ cell mate challenges him due to Rollins’ part in his last cellmate’s death. While he dies after the fight, this man’s name, Demyen, is on his lips. I love how this evokes a whole heartbreaking background for this side character. He is nonetheless relevant to the point that his end sparks hate in Matthias. I also realized that, until this point, we only get to see Matthias after he is mentioned by Nina. This evokes the impression that he is solely relevant to her character motivation, not on his own.
Alina and Co gather in the tunnels.
They count their dead and wounded and Genya, who soon joins them with Baghra, tries to help the latter. Alina and Genya’s reunion was beautiful and broke our hearts at once. We also suffered from the latter’s avoidance of David who yearns to apologize and be with her. But she cannot face him with her maimed appearance at first. Instead, she encounters the queen and has to describe her degrading past with the king for Nikolai to take her side. He ultimately even exiles his mother like he did with both his parents in the book. This episode surely is about Genya and her fight for freedom and her long lost dignity. Nonetheless, she is stronger than ever, finally even talking to David and not blaming him for anything. Their conversation and kiss was all I hoped for from the book. I LOVED IT!
“You can’t fix me.” – “[…] What’s inside you is steel. It’s brave and unbreakable and doesn’t need fixing.” – Genya Safin and David Kostyk
While Niko proves to be a more pensive and selfless king than his father…
Baghra and Alina try to figure out the latter’s connection to the Darkling. Baghra kindly encourages Alina and praises her resilience through all this abuse and betrayal. Next, the sun summoner voluntarily encounters the Darkling through their linkage and plans to burn out the amplifier’s piece that binds them. Unfortunately, she’s distracted by Mal, returning after being captured by the late Vasily. Malina fight verbally and I could feel the tension as much as the love between them. I could relate to both of their sides and thus see the hopelessness in their relationship. This is why I felt once more that Alina and Niko could be a thing, especially when seeing their soft conversation and their endearing farewell hug. Alina finally sets out to find the third amplifier with Mal and Baghra.
What I loved about this episode:
– the completely new story for the Crows
– unexpected pairings within their plan’s execution
– Kaz’ panic attack early and later in the episode and Inej helping him
– Jesper’s trial to get clean with Wylan and the latter’s words of truth
– Alina’s struggle with the Darkling’s past abuse of her and her hopeless relation to Mal
– Niko’s and Genya’s powerful scenes including their closest and most loved ones, and hard choices
What I would have like to see differently:
– seeming subordination of Matthias’ storyline, although this one seems generally thrown in
Episode 6: Ni Weh Sesh (I Have No Heart)
This episode offers a lot of revelations. On the search for the fire bird, Alina promises never to use merzost. The sole mentioning of this power evokes the notion that it will in fact play a bigger role later. Baghra serves not only as a teacher to these two youngsters, but also tells them about her own youth and horrible deeds. I loved how her questions towards Mal wove his backstory way better into the main plot than the book did. The following reveal of his blood relation to Morozova and Baghra, of his nature as the third amplifier, seemed way better grounded and made more sense. Next to her amazing lines, Baghra also proved to be willing to sacrifice her own life to cut off the connection between the Darkling and Alina. Her death thus had more reason but was no less heartbreaking than in the book.
“Know that I loved you, Aleksander. Know that it wasn’t enough.” – Baghra
Mal is the firebird
Even before the Darkling lost his mother, his last resort seemed to be killing innocent. He not only threatened Alina with, but already did destroy orphanages. He struggles for control, not even able to command his own shadow beasts. Although Baghra cuts off his hand and thus his connection to Alina as her last good deed, he gets another one. This one is made by Vladim and amplified with powder from Baghra’s bone, more powerful after her death. While connecting to it, he sees Mal revealed as the firebird, which puts Mal’s life into even greater danger.
Alina will struggle with this new knowledge as well by the end of the episode. Of course, she’s not willing to sacrifice him, and suggests running away. Heartbroken but deeply in love, they have sex. Finally, Mal puts off this outfit he was wearing the whole season! Sorry, I had to mention this. His lack of style consciousness aside, this scene was really romantic.
The Crows and their backstories
While being poisoned, the Crows encounter quite different hallucinations. Kaz meets his brother in a literally breathtaking fight. Inej, on the other hand, has her breath taken away by being REALLY close to Kaz in her dream. She ultimately is the first to realize their experience’s artificiality and to wake up. We get to see Tolya’s biggest fear, losing Tamar, and Jesper’s late mother. She taught him to shoot and her death kept him from openly using his Durast powers. All those scenes are intense, interesting, and extremely telling. Finally, we get some more backstory to the other Crows after focusing on Kaz so long.
Meanwhile, Wylan spent his time with butterflies, giving a monologue about love and revealing his feelings for Jesper. When he realizes the others‘ misery, he saves them with his genius mind. At least until Ovhal turns up, and out to be a fabricator. And not just a normal one: She’s able of manipulating even the small traces of metal in the Crows’ blood. The following fight is extremely well choreographed and tense. In the end, its her being a fabricator that sparks her affiliation for Jesper and makes her hand over the blade. She also advices him to be true to himself.
„Hope is dangerous. Clouds your judgement.” – Inej Ghafa
While Inej and Kaz deny what they have seen in their hallucinations, Jesper and Wylan get their shit together. They admit their feelings, kiss, hug, and are simply the light at the end of this episode. Zoya would probably like to have puked seeing them, but Nina contrasts her aversion to love with hers for Matthias. She even assures Zoya that one of these days, she will be swiped off her feet by a love just as deep.
Niko and his new world order
We also get amazing, moving scenes with Niko. He reunited with an old friend, Dominik, who’s at least known to those who have already read King of Scars. At his side, Niko united the First and Second Armies. I especially love how David and Genya stepped towards the First Army people, cooperated with and helped them.
A beautifully written and juxtaposed moment connects all of our story threads. When Saint Neyar/Ovhal talks about her love for her husband, her words encapsulate all our characters’ fates. The Darkling has lost his mother. Jesper and Wylan love each other despite their differences. Alina and Mal are doomed to not have a happy ever after. Kaz and Alina can’t get to each other due to their trauma and his pride. Even Matthias and Nina’s star-crossed love story is evoked with a small glimpse on the prisoner. Neyar’s monologue advocates for not guarding against feelings, an advice all of them should take to heart. Pictures and words together draw this emotional scene.
What I loved about this episode:
– Baghra’s death has more meaning, not just symbolic
– the new Crows story surprised me a lot and gives this whole episode a frame
– Niko once more proves to be a worthy leader
– Genya and David making the first move towards non-Grisha
Episode 7: Meet You in the Meadow
This episode’s title already emphasizes Mal and Alina’s relationship that will eventually come to a heartbreaking end. We are even reminded of their shared childhood from his perspective as he takes on but no less struggles with his deadly fate. While bathing, he is visited by the Darkling, who’s preparing his fierce army near Keramzim in real life. Sending his Grisha out to kill the king, he personally tries to manipulate Mal into leaving Alina and living. Impressively, Mal wins the upper hand in their conversation. He does the same in the following council meeting with Niko and others. Although Alina tells him not to, he reveals the truth about his bloodline. This results in all of the present to gather ideas and work out a plan together. Well done, Mal – way better than Alina.
Nikolai as everyone’s best friend
Niko, more than Mal, keeps Alina from doing something stupid and consolidates her. He also is the voice of reason with Dominik who suspects that the king has feelings for the sun summoner. I love their friendship but already saw some heartbreak laying ahead. Niko moreover talks to Mal about the latter’s dream of having a life like Sturmhond, even hugs him, and promises to look out for Alina. Another arising friendship I did not see coming but appreciate. Once more, Niko gives an amazing speech this episode, encouraging all his followers. Then he flies off to Keramzim with his team, at least, that’s the plan.
Another sweet conversation between Genya and David preludes the incoming chaos.
The Darkling’s Grisha attack Nikolai’s flying ship so it crashes down. Many die, the rest tries to make their way back to the fort, hurt and chased by the Grisha. They and we realize how strong – and reckless – the newly amplified Grisha are. Eventually, Dominik is the one saving their asses through his knowledge of the fort.
Meanwhile, David hesitates too long to amputate Mal’s finger that Alina’s supposed to use as an amplifier. Before they get to it, a nichevo’ya attacks and separates them. That the writers showed David as caring and nervous before doing something necessary but violent made his following apparent death more heartbreaking. Especially, because he sacrificed himself to protect Genya. We felt her intense shock and suffering and it was probably the emotionally worst part of the whole season.
The Darkling patiently awaits Alina and Mal inside the fold but also expands it further, plunging all at the fort into chaos. Nonetheless, Tamar and her team bravely set out to get to Niko and help him. Alina and Mal find themselves similarly encountering volcra, that kill and eat soldiers. It made me furious to see how Alina did not even try to help them for a long time. Not until Mal is in immediate danger. What a dick move of her. Eventually, she can’t even save him, and they are both rescued by Inej using Neshyener. I LOVED HER SUDDEN, POWERFUL ENTRANCE.
The Crows join the fight.
Tamar and Niko who are trying to hold off the attacking Grisha are falling back again and again, before they receive unexpected support. Honestly, their strategy was pretty weak, not even slightly well-written, compared to the attackers‘ one. Thus, it’s no surprise they lose people (DOMINIK!!!) and ground. The writers presented the attackers’ overpower and our side as disappointingly stupid. It takes Jesper, Kaz, and Wylan’s help to ultimately kill off the remaining Grisha. I enjoyed their smooth introduction and help even more than Inej’s. Especially because they all brought their abilities to the fight and brilliantly employed them. Their genius contrasted the before-seen lack of idea and hopelessness of the fight.
All by himself, Tolya took on some Grisha, thus demonstrating his skills without sharing the spotlight. He also senses Tamar with their magic necklaces (so cute!) and eventually reunites with her after the battle is „won.“ All these small reunions are surely the best parts of this episode.
Zoya and Nina meanwhile bravely accompany Inej, Alina, and Mal into the fold.
At least then, Alina uses her powers to guide and shelter them. With Mal as her amplifier, she tries to tear down the fold. Inej and the other two girls admire the beauty of her power. We do as well, but mostly experience this magnificent moment through their eyes. Destroying the fold seems to work until the Darkling disturbs their attempt. Alina and Kirigan both use the cut against each other, Alina hurting the Darking, but the Darkling deadly hitting Mal in return. We are left fearing for Nina’s (being taken by a nichevo’ya) and his survival as the fold stays intact.
What I loved about this episode:
– emotional, longed-for reunions
– Matthias‘ inner conflict is nicely visualized through his tense interaction with Pekka Rollins in his individual screentime
– Niko lifting everybody’s and our spirits
– the Crows saving the day!
What I would have liked to see differently:
– stupid teamwork before the Crows’ arrival
– overpowering Grisha on the Darkling’s side who have no substance to their characters
Episode 8: No Furnerals
Saved by the Crows, Nikolai and Co return to the fort and walk into the fold. The Crows keep supporting them; Kaz even offers his cane to the limping king. Unfortunately, they soon have to take shelter from a volcra. Jesper as a durast effectively barricades the door, suddenly highly aware and able of his powers. In there, a nichevo’ya appears and they fight it with physical weapons and Wylan’s phosphorous bombs. Despite the tenseness of this scene, Jesper lightens our mood by calling Wylan “his man.” I had to laugh out loud when he takes back his words shortly after because they haven’t put a label on their relationship. He always has the best lines during fights.
Somewhere in the fold…
The Darkling awakens from his unconsciousness, while Inej and Zoya battle the volcra. In a moving, teary act, Alina kills Mal, facing their shared years in fast motion in his moment of death. Then, she destroys the fold with her amplified powers. Thus, they all find themselves in daylight, rid of all volcra, but left with the nichevo’ya. Inej and Zoya take on this challenge next. Meanwhile, Nina awakens from the sudden light and tries to heal Mal in vain. Unfortunately, we established before that she’s not a good healer.
Alina is devastated but faces the Darkling who offers to be her monster, to carry the hate of the Ravkan people. He even acknowledges her current and future pain and sacrifice. Their dialogue is intensely foreshadowing whatever lays ahead of Alina. The Darkling points out that her future will resemble his. Nevertheless, she is certain to save herself from such a fate. When she attacks him, the nichevo’ya strangle her, although he tries to hold them back. Inej once more pierces the creature with the blade. Realizing his lack of control and general loss, the Darkling loses himself in thought, picturing Alina as his sole moment of happiness. He gets snatched back to reality when Alina kills him with the blade. I did see it coming, but was pleased by this moment nonetheless.
Death of a Darkling
With the Darkling and his nichevo’ya dead, Nikolai and Co are saved, but not before the king is pierced by one shadow demon. As it dissolves, some of the darkness creeps into his wound, finally giving us an important part of Ruin and Rising. Surprisingly, he does not transform immediately, but only realizes his fate later, shortly before his coronation. For now, he gathers all who are left from the attack and starts rebuilding his realm.
After Alina resorted to merzost to save Mal – Nina not wholly understanding but realizing Alina’s deed – they return to the fort. With Merzost, Alina goes one step furthe, although being just warned by the Darkling that “There’s no turning back.“ She personally seals her fate. Untroubled, she gratefully hugs Inej and leaves her to see her Crow friends. She herself goes after Mal who questions if he really loves her or if it was solely fate binding them. Their split was surprising but real and welcomed.
Inej and Kaz share an intense staring moment, before Jesper hugs her. Nina is fully incorporated into the Crows’ adventures with Jesper hilariously imagining books about their tales. They leave for Ketterdam. Nina is eager to free Matthias with a pardon from Nikolai while the convict asks to be put back into the arena to get distracted from his troubling thoughts. While Nina tries to get the pardon through, he encounters wolves in the ring. We watch in shock, as he rejects fighting them and knees down. In a telling moment, they take his side against the guards. Matthias’ love for them is immensely moving. Although I initially damned Nina for losing the letter during the ensuing chaos, it surely would not make any difference for him after he kills a guard. His imprisonment won’t end on legal terms.
More heartbreaking is the moment when Genya returns to the room, she had to leave David in. She can neither find him nor sense his heartbeat. Later, she cries her eyes out, especially when finding a ruby and a sketch for a ring in his belongings. I hate the writers for robbing us off David so soon after these two were reunited. Despite Genya’s suffering, I reject believing that he is dead for real, given the lack of a body.
I have to praise the focus on the women in this show and the moment in which Zoya, Genya, and finally Alina lit the Darkling’s burial pile. It was, on the other hand, a bit disturbing to have Nikolai give another touching speech over his burning body. It was, nonetheless, interesting to see Mal at his side, opposite the girls who are eventually left on their own and hug. These three are gold!
Potential lovers break up for now
Alina offers Mal a position as her guard’s captain but also to set him free. Their conversation is emotional, but mature, and I love it as it is. The offered vacancy to his liking turns out to be the one of a privateer. He is even nicknamed the new Sturmhond by Nikolai. Thus, Mal sets off to the sea, parting ways with Alina for now. We’ll see what the future brings for them. I am glad for him to explore the world and himself for a while. He’s accompanied by Nadia, Tamar, Tolya, and Inej, and they will hunt down slave ships just as the latter always dreamed of doing.
Before they leave, we see Inej and Kaz saying farewell. He offers her not only a way to potentially track down her brother, but also a way out of his crew by being cold and not speaking his desires. Then, when she was just leaving, he did, asking her to stay because he wants her to. Seeing this intense scene from Six of Crows well enacted, and even hearing the “without armour” line, was too much for my heart to take.
“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.” – Inej Ghafa
What comes next…
Nikolai is told by the suddenly reappearing Apparant that his claim to the throne and power rest solely on Alina. When he picks her up in her coronation gown, she looks stunning but evoke my skepticism after rejecting a pretty dress earlier that season. Is that foreshadowing her increasing hunger for power? She also stands next to Niko at his coronation, after having heard that he would kiss her but only when she would want to have him too without having Mal in mind. Niko’s such a beautiful soul, and totally shippable with every other good soul in this show. He simply deserves the best. It was fun to have Zoya enter shortly after and proclaiming that she could fix him. Another great foreshadowing.
Alina also plans the future, with Zoya training Grisha, and Genya overseeing business in the palace. Herself, Alina wants to travel. Together, they are said to form a triumvirate. That surely hurts all readers of King of Scars, given that David is part of that union in it. It also makes less sense than in the book in which the triumvirate is constituted of one of each Grisha order. Nonetheless, I loved seeing them standing and facing the future together.
Nikolai’s coronation is juxtaposed with a voice over by Kaz.
In Ketterdam, Kaz takes over the Crow Club and offers to pay for the release of all indentured people. At the end of the episode, the Crows are offered a deal on behalf of humanity as it encounters another danger. We see this drug called jurda parem have an amplifying effect on a guest at the coronation. She kills dozens and makes all our present beloved characters suffer. That is, until Alina kills her with a shadow cut. While this plot line sets off a great adventure for the Crows, foreshadowing their story in Six of Crows and their potential spin off, Alina’s fate seems more sealed than ever. As her power turn dark and she smiles after killing a woman, she seems to go exactly down the path the Darkling envisioned for her.
What I loved about this episode:
– a new ending for Alina and Mal, allowing us to see them in potential future seasons
– the Crows being well-woven in, their spin-off being teased at thrillingly
– the strong women pulling in the same direction and having each other’s back
– Mal becoming Sturmhond
What I would have liked to see differently:
– Inej setting off with Tolya, Tamar, and Co to chase slave traders
– Jesper being suddenly pretty familiar with being a Durast
– both above mentioned developments take away from their motivation in the Six of Crows storyline
– having David killed off so soon after his reunion with Genya, or is there a chance he survived?
– having the Apparat reappear out of nowhere while his storyline from the book was completely left out in this season
Ruin and Rising goes Netflix
These final four episodes potentially contained what the writers wanted to use from Ruin and Rising. I found many plotlines to be left out of this adaptation, but some new endings woven in. Especially Alina and Mal’s open ending sparks hope for a third season. Personally, I hope to see more of Nikolai and his hopefulness contrasted with the new darkness inside him. He was the highlight of this season for sure. His charm and his outfits but also his thoughtfulness brightened my days more than Alina and her powers. For her eventual turn to the dark side… I’m excited to see what that will bring about. Although the script sometimes lacked great lines on other characters’ parts, Alina’s were great. And Jessie convincingly portrayed her complexity and also her selfishness, surfacing every now and then.
For all that the writers left out, I could imagine them to take some of them up in the following scripts, given that Alina is still in the story.
I loved what the writers offered to Baghra, to Dominik and Niko, to Tolya and Tamar. These characters were well integrated into the plot. On the other side, the Darkling’s allies were rather dull. I am not sure how they could have resolved that given the schedule problems of his former allies’ actors, but this was the biggest flaw of the season. Concerning the Darkling… His final moments moved me, although I still don’t think that he is redeemable in any way. Thank you, Ben Barnes for portraying his character in all his complexity.
Other books involved.
The Crows got an original plot to be incorporated in these final battles. The writers beautifully incorporated one tale from Lives of Saints. I was really suspicious at first but ultimately loved this part a lot. The only regret I have about their inclusion into these events is their situation at the end of the season. Especially Jesper and Inej developed in a way that anticipate their characters’ struggles and inner conflicts in their own books. I already miss the slow burn between Jesper and Wylan, too. Given the Crows‘ last moments in this season, one can nonetheless see that the writers are setting them up for an individual show. I’d highly welcome a spin off for the Six of Crows books because their parts of the season(s) were my favorite for sure.