We have officially made it halfway through Netflix’s Shadow and Bone. This adaptation for Leigh Bardugo‘s novels by showrunner Eric Heisserer is just simply astounding. In the last episode, we watched as Alina (Jessie Mei Li) struggled to find her way within the walls of the Little Palace and as Kaz (Freddy Carter) nearly made it through the Fold with their loves. In episode four, “Otkazat’sya,” Mal (Archie Renaux) volunteers for a dangerous mission, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) takes Alina under his wing and the Crows plot a heist the likes no one in East Ravka has seen before.
DISCLAIMER: This is a recap which means – you guessed it, spoilers ahead! If you are not caught up on the series, I highly suggest bookmarking this page and returning once you are done. The entire Shadow and Bone season one can be found here on Netflix.
“Otkazat’sya” opens as Mal and his company are marching forward to Chernast, a town that Fjerdans are attacking. As they march forward, we learn that it has been weeks since he has seen Alina and is narrating the third letter he has written her and that he hasn’t heard from her. He has been trying everything he can to get word to her, but everyone just denies him. Scrawled on the walls is the imagery of a saint of light with phrases like “our saint has arrived” scrawled on one side and “too late” on the other.
Mal is struggling to figure out what his relationship is with Alina that makes it so important that he sees her. As the mail is being passed out, he anxiously waits for his name to be called, but there is nothing. General Bohdan (Hugo Speer) informs the pathfinders that a new assignment has come in from Os Alta. General Kirigan requires trackers to find Morozova’s Stag, the same Stag from Alina’s dreams. The tracker who is successful in finding it will be invited to the Little Palace. Mal realizes that the drawing is Alina’s and that this is a sign for him to follow and volunteers.
At the Little Palace, Alina waits patiently for Genya (Daisy Head) to arrive with letters. Unfortunately, Genya doesn’t bring any, but she does have a riding outfit and boots for Alina’s horseback riding trip with General Kirigan. Alina is clearly annoyed with being trotted around town and just wants to focus on doing what she needs to do to get back to her life. Genya reminds her that this is her life, here at the Little Palace.
Alina mocks the idea of staying in the Little Palace and comments Zoya (Sujaya Dasgupta) just waiting to squaller her back into a wall or worse. Genya tells her not to worry about Zoya anymore since she was removed from the palace grounds. General Kirigan sent her away to ‘reassess her priorities’ before coming back. Now that she is out of the way, Genya warns Alina to hurry up, which only makes her worried that he is angry. Genya thinks the new outfit, a black kefta, will fix that. But Alina chooses to wear her blue one with the golden trim instead, believing that black is his color.
Outside, Alina meets with General Kirigan, who asks why she decided not to wear the kefta he sent. She reminds him that he is the only one who wears black and he fires back, asking why she is so willing to be like everyone else. Alina doesn’t know what it is like to be like everyone else and Kirigan agrees that today (and most likely anytime in the future) will she find out. Before they ride off, he asks her to call him Aleksander.
In Kribisk on the eastern side of Ravka, Kaz, Jesper (Kit Young), Inej (Amita Suman) and Arken (Charles Howard) have safely made it through the Fold and found their way into a bar. Jesper believes the trip across went…well and we get a flashback to a few frightening moments from the last episode. Arken is worried that they won’t be able to find a way into the Little Palace without the help of Nina (Danielle Galligan). Since the palace is holding a party and the entire place will be crawling with members of the second army.
Kaz shows up with plans of his own. They are only three days travel from the Little Palace and the only thing they need to worry about is finding a way in. He learned that the Kribirsk archives house blueprints for the Little Palace, but they are kept locked away. This excites Jesper, who realizes that it’s time for a heist. Jesper says goodbye to the goat Milo leaving a bullet behind so he can remember him and then heads out. Kaz asks Arken to make some friends who would be willing to transport them to the Little Palace.
At the Little Palace, Alina and Kirigan have taken a rest and are throwing coins in a fountain. As Alina gazes in, he asks her what she sees. Instead of saying herself, she responds that she sees someone’s version of her. Kirigan believes that she is just finally seeing the real her. He asks her how she likes living at the Little Palace and while things are good, she does share that she is struggling to see where this future will take her.
Kirigan explains that he understands her feelings. As a child, he would run away and hide due to his relation to the most hated Grisha in Ravka, the one who created the Fold. He would find himself at that very fountain making the same wish over and over – to be anyone else. Alina recognizes the art on the fountain as the story of the Dark Grisha, how he was hired as a military adviser for the king. As he would come to be called, the Black Heretic grew hungry for power and the king grew more worried.
In an attempt to stop him, the king placed a bounty on his head and any Grisha who still sided with him. The Black Heretic knew he was outnumbered, so he used the same science Morozova used to create the Stag and other amplifies to create his own army. However, where Morozova succeeded, the Black Heretic failed and killed himself, countless others and created the Fold. Kirigan opens up that he has spent his whole life trying to undo what the Black Heretic did, but others just see him as the problem and the person to blame.
Alina knows that Kirigan sees her as his solution, but she knows that if she fails, then the world will turn on her and she will become the new Heretic. He promises her that he will never let that happen and that he will stand by her side through all of this. Alina finally makes her wish though we don’t know what it is.
At Chernast, Mal is writing another letter to Alina to let her know he is heading out on this mission. He is ready to head out on his own when Dubrov (Andy Bruse) and Mikael (Angus Castle-Doughty) join him. He thinks they are just there to provide him with rations, but it turns out they are going with him. Unwilling to let him go alone, they have decided to join him. They just ask that he track them down dinner and share half the cut when they find the Stag.
“Otkazat’sya” brings us back to Alina is training with Bahgra (Zoë Wanamaker), but things aren’t going well. We get a montage of Alina trying to summon the sun with Bahgra smacking her arm over and over when she isn’t able to. After some time, Alina can finally summon a small sun in her hands, but Bahgra tells her that it isn’t nearly enough and sends her away.
Marie (Jasmine Blackborow) and Nadia (Gabrielle Brooks) try to make Alina feel better about sharing their experiences. Alina tells them that once Mal gets there that things will get better. He always knows how exactly what to say to help her get through things. They start to question Alina about her relationship with Mal, but she tells them that it isn’t like that and that she has invited him to the palace so they can meet him then.
In Kribirsk, Kaz arrives by carriage at the archives and pretends to be a sculptor building a piece for the party at the palace and requests to see the blueprints. He throws a bit of phosphorous under the man’s shoe, leading a trail directly to where the blueprints are hidden. That night Jesper sneaks in dressed as a guard and turns off the lights so Inej can sneak in through the ceiling and make a copy of the blueprints before making her way back out the way she came.
All goes according to plan until someone realizes the lights were turned off. Not able to exit through the roof, Inej quickly comes up with another plan and with the help of her extremely cool thief skills, a well-timed shot from Jesper and Kaz waiting at exactly the right spot, everyone makes it out alive with the blueprints to the Little Palace. A most successful heist indeed.
Back at the Little Palace, General Kirigan meets with Fedyor (Julian Kostov) in his private offices. He asks him if he has ever worked with a Heartrender by the name of Nina Zenik. Fedyor knows who she is and even compliments her as one of the strongest Grisha in the second army. Kirigan shares that Nina has been on a secret mission for him but hasn’t reported in as of late. He is worried that if she is in trouble, she will need their help and asks Fedyor to find her for him.
Kaz and the crew look through the Little Palace blueprints and realize that they have no way in or out. Arken was worried that this plan wouldn’t work and behind them, we watch as an aerial dancer falls from her rope and slams into the ground. I get the impression that Arken might have had something to do with this unfortunate accident.
Mal and his group have started tracking a herd that Mal believes have an incredibly smart alpha leading them all from a pile of deer poop. He continues pushing forward following the leftover skat and Mal narrates another letter he is sending to Alina. He knows he may never send the letter, but he wants her to know that he will find the Stag for her and that it might be the only thing he is still able to do for her.
“Otkazat’sya” transports us to the ship Nina is being held captive on. The same Drüskelle (Calahan Skogman) who tied her up comes back down with food for her. When she refuses to eat it, thinking it’s poison, he takes a bit out of it, proving her wrong. She then understands that he is providing her with food because he wants something from her. He blames it on the fact that she is used to being lied to that she can’t accept that he would be giving it to her out of the kindness of his heart.
Of course, she is right in this case and he tells her that he is bringing her food in return for answers. He asks her if she chose to be a Grisha and if her parents were. Instead of giving actual answers, she just throws the questions back in his face. She believes that he is just trying to make him feel better about sending her to her death. He reminds her that he doesn’t care about her or the other Grisha since all they do is kill his people.
He accuses Nina of using her abilities to stop people’s hearts, but she informs him of all the ways she can comfort someone by using them as well. He finally asks her about her boss, the Darkling, who we know to be General Kirigan, but she refuses to provide him with any information. She would rather starve than be a traitor. Knowing he isn’t getting anywhere, he offers up the bread as some sort of peace offering, but she spits it back into his face.
Back at the pub, Kaz, Jesper and Inej are worried they have failed, but Jesper has some ideas for the future that the others aren’t huge fans of. Just as it looks like they are out of options, Arken brings over Marko (Pedro Llyod Gardiner), the leader of the traveling troupe Pomdrakon Players. They will be performing at the Little Palace, but their star performer is out of commission. It looks like Arken did actually have something to do with this, though anything for the cause, right?
Of course, as the premier talent agent for Ketterdam, he had just the idea. It looks like they want Inej to take this woman’s place in the show, granting them access to the Little Palace. She hands over his knives to Kaz and puts on quite the show, securing her spot in the troupe. Jesper shows off his fancy gun work to secure his spot, but Kaz decides he would rather find his own way.
At the Little Palace, Alina is training for Bahgra again. Struggling, she suggests possibly getting an amplifier to boost her ability. Bahgra warns her that she has nothing worth amplifying and that General Kirigan can’t be her crutch forever. Alina tells her to try to be more supportive and motherly, and Bahgra fires back that she will always be looking for a mother. Angered, Alina shoots up and summons the sun again, this time stronger than before. Bahgra sort of congratulates her and then tells her the tea she drank is finally taking effect.
In the next moment, we are thrust into a flashback with Alina. The younger version of her (Kaylan Teague) and Mal (Cody Molko) are making plans to run away when they are caught by Ana (Elizabeth Rider). We hear Bahgra in Alina’s mind asking her what memory they are in. Alina opens up that this is the day the testers came. Alina watches as her younger self uses glass from a broken cup to cut into her hand to ruin the test. They announced her not Grisha and she stayed at the orphanage with Mal. The event left a scar in her hand, the same scar she refused to let Genya erase.
Back in the present, Alina shares with Bahgra that she wasn’t aware that she was Grisha at the time; she just did whatever she had to do to not be separated from Mal. Bahgra accuses her and denying herself who she really was, but Alina swears she was just trying to protect Mal. Bahgra tells her to stop holding back, or more Ravkan children will suffer as the war continues.
Later while Alina is alone, she sneaks out of her room and comes across General Kirigan’s quarters. He is looking over a map of Ravka and warns Alina that their enemies are terrified of her. He also shares that there is an uprising and rumors of forming their own country in the West. Kirigan opens up about his struggles to help end this war and how their own people turn against them. As the shadows seep in closer and closer, Alina reaches out and touches him, which amplifies her power. She creates a shield around them that burns all the shadows away.
She tells him that he is not alone in this anymore and he reaches out to touch her. He tells her that he has been waiting such a long time for her to arrive. Before things can go any further between the two of them, Alina chooses to leave. He thinks about going after her but instead locks the door and turns back to his work.
Aboard the vessel, Nina appears to have fallen unconscious. It turns out the ship has hit even rockier waters and it turns out the ship might break. The captain tells the Drüskelle, who has been conversing with Nina, to kill the captives if that is to happen. He argues that they are meant to stand trial, but the other tells him they will die either way. As the captain heads back upstairs, we can see Nina has overheard the conversation but was just pretending to be asleep.
“Otkazat’sya” then jumps to Mal and his crew as they continue forward after the Stag. The weather has gotten exceedingly worse and they have crossed into enemy lines. Mal gives them the option to turn back, but they refuse and stay with him. We jump back to Alina at the Little Palace, awaiting a letter that still hasn’t come. She beings to rethink all of her moments with Mal and instead of seeing him as support like she used to, she starts to see him in a different light.
In her head, she hears Bahgra reminding her that needing anyone makes her weak. In a moment of enlightenment, Alina lets go of her need for Mal. She returns to Bahgra and proves to her that she can truly use her powers. Now that she can do that, her real training can begin.
Back in the north, we see Mal writing to Alina again, expressing how he truly feels. That when he saw her powers, he also heard a sound. This high pitch tone that he would hear when she would hold his hand as children. And as he sits there writing, he hears the sound again. When he goes out to investigate, his camp is overrun by Fjerdans. Mal takes a few shots to the chest and as he lays dying, we are thrown into another flashback.
After just joining the first army, Mal goes off searching for Alina and learns she was arrested for fighting with the quartermaster. He goes off and picks a fight with him as well and ends up in the brig alongside Alina. When she asks him what he is in for, he just shrugs it off as the usual. He also shows her where they had to stitch him up, causing him to have a scar just like her. Back at the Little Palace, we see Alina ask Genya to erase her scar.
While the Fjerdans believe all three are dead, they let their guard down long enough that Mal is able to kill them. He narrowly escapes, but Mikael and Dubrov are killed. In the aftermath, Mal rises and finally comes face to face with the Stag and at the Little Palace, Genya erases Alina’s scar. “Otkazat’sya” comes to a close with Mal narrating in his letter that when he was talking about true north, he was always talking about Alina and now he can see the way to her.
Halfway through Shadow and Bone and I am nowhere ready for this season to be done. “Otkazat’sya” was the first episode where we truly see the relationship between General Kirigan and Alina grow. It is easy to see how similar they are to each other. Both having suffered at the hands of others because they are different. It would make sense that by working together, they can tear down the Fold. But something just seems off about everything. And this stems back to my feelings that almost everyone is using Alina. Even in the trailer, it makes it very clear that she needs to be careful who she trusts. Even the letters she is writing to Mal (and vice versa) are being kept from being sent and received!
I’m also excited to see her truly accepting herself finally. Through the flashbacks and the choices she has made in the first few episodes, we have seen that she does what she can to protect Mal. She leans on him for support which, as Bahgra points out, makes her lean on other people too. When she struggles with her powers, she asks about amplifiers instead of trying to really embrace who she is. It was wonderful finally seeing her come into her own, though I’m not happy about her trying to erase who she was or her connection to Mal. But I have a feeling the two will come together again since he found the Stag.
As far as Kaz, Jesper and Inej’s story, it looks like they have finally found their way within the Little Palace. How Kaz will get there is still a mystery, of course, but Inej and Jesper were able to put their skills to use in a unique way to score a spot in the circus troupe. It is exhilarating to see how they can use their skills and brains outside of fighting. And can we talk about that heist? They really do put the Peaky Blinders to shame.
What I was most excited about for “Otkazat’sya” was diving more into Nina’s story. She is on this ship with the Drüskelle (who we do know is Matthias) on her way to stand trial for her “crimes”. Watching the two interact really gives us a more personal view of how outside countries view the Grisha and what struggles they endure while the war rages on. The last we saw them, it really sounded like the ship is going to capsize in the storm and I’m worried Matthias is going to try and kill Nina like he is told. All we can do is dive into the next episode and hope for the best!
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