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Ben Barnes and Jessie Mei Li Discuss “Shadow and Bone”


Mar 29, 2023

Image Source: Netflix

If the end of “Shadow and Bone” season two surprised you, you’re not alone. After two seasons of dramatic buildup, season two brings the story’s central plot line to an abrupt conclusion — though of course, it adds more than enough intrigue to the very end of the show to lead to a third season. (The following contains spoilers, so don’t read on if you haven’t watched “Shadow and Bone” season two.)

By the end of “Shadow and Bone”‘s second season, it seems like things have worked out well for the good guys. After a long and bloody fight, light has triumphed over shadow, the Fold is gone, and Alina has killed General Kirigan. For Jessie Mei Li, who plays Alina, the season two finale was an incredible moment for her character. “I was so excited. I was really excited ’cause it is different from how it goes in the books,” Li tells POPSUGAR of the show’s ending. “I was thrilled, especially, to see what happens to Alina. I thought that was really cool.” Meanwhile, Ben Barnes, who plays General Kirigan, says he “[expects] everyone to shed a single, beautiful tear.”

Alina doesn’t destroy the Fold alone, of course. Much of “Shadow and Bone” season two revolves around Alina’s pursuit of amplifiers, which are usually bones, teeth, or scales from certain magical creatures that can be used to enhance Grisha powers, though they can only be used by the person who killed them. Typically, Grisha can only use one amplifier in their lifetime, though of course, Alina isn’t just any Grisha.

In the first season, General Kirigan gives her the first of three amplifiers created by the first and most powerful Grisha, Ilya Morozova — a collar made from an ancient, enchanted stag. At the beginning of season two, Mal (Archie Renaux) manages to track down the second amplifier, a sea serpent. In spite of Alina’s hopes of gaining its powers while keeping it alive, she winds up having to kill it, though even with two amplifiers, she’s still not strong enough to destroy the Fold.

“I expect everyone to shed a single, beautiful tear.”

Mal and Alina soon set off to find the third amplifier, called the Firebird. They’re accompanied by Kirigan’s mother, Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker), who’s decided to turn on her son after seeing the truth of his malicious ways. As they journey, Baghra reveals that she is Morozova’s daughter. The trio head to Morozova’s workshop, where Baghra discovers that Mal, Alina’s loyal friend and lover, is actually a resurrected version of her little sister, who Morozova had made into the third amplifier long ago. In short, Mal is the Firebird.

What Happens to Mal at the End of “Shadow and Bone” Season 2?

Desperate to avoid killing Mal, Alina devises a plan to stop Mal’s heart for two minutes with the aid of a Heartrender so she can use his power to destroy the Fold. But when things go awry during a bloody final battle, Alina is forced to stab Mal through the heart, and she is then able to use her enhanced powers to destroy the Fold and kill General Kirigan.

She then runs back over to Mal, who Heartrender Nina (Danielle Galligan) is desperately attempting to heal. As she kneels over Mal’s body, Alina recalls something Baghra had said when they were visiting Morozova’s workshop. “You’d have to use merzost,” Baghra says in the flashback. “Swear to me you’ll never use it. You will not know what price it demands until it is too late.”

What Is Merzost, and Does Alina Use It?

Merzost, which is Ravkan for “abomination” or “magic,” is a way of creating something out of nothing, though it always requires a sacrifice from the person trying to use it. Soon after the memory of what Baghra said about merzost crosses Alina’s mind, Mal comes back to life. Later in the episode, Nina essentially confirms what was heavily hinted in that scene: Alina was the one to bring Mal back to life. We can infer, then, that she used merzost — and if there’s a season three, the cost of that choice will be at the center of the narrative.

Post-resurrection, things are already different for the newly revived Mal, who finds that he no longer feels the magnetic pull that initially led him to Alina and allowed him to find her anywhere in the world. “I don’t feel it anymore. It left me as I died,” he says, saying he’s not sure he’ll ever know “whether my bloodline and your powers are the only reason we ever met and the only reason we fell in love.” Alina resists this at first, but eventually, she lets him go, encouraging him to go out into the world as a privateer.

In general, despite the main villain having been vanquished, things don’t end awesomely for any of the show’s lovers. Later, we see Kaz (Freddy Carter) try to tell Inej (Amita Suman) about his feelings for her, but she resists him, saying she will “have you without your armor, Kaz Brekker, or not at all.” We also see Nina try to rescue her lover, Matthias (Calahan Skogman), from prison, though it goes horribly wrong, and he winds up being dragged back behind bars.

What Happens at Prince Nikolai and Alina’s Coronation in “Shadow and Bone” Season 2?

At the end of the episode, Prince Nikolai (Patrick Gibson) is preparing for his and Alina’s coronation when a royal adviser comes in and encourages the soon-to-be-king not to hold his coronation on the Fjerdan festival of Hringkälla. He argues that it would worsen the ongoing disconnect between the otkazat’sya (aka the nonmagical) and the Grisha, though the prince refuses to budge. After the adviser leaves, the prince examines a nasty-looking wound on his chest; meanwhile, the camera pans to another wound on his back that expands before our eyes. Suddenly, in the mirror, Prince Nikolai sees one of Kirigan’s nichevo’ya shadow monsters in the place where his reflection should be.

At the coronation, a furious-looking woman sitting in the audience stands up, looking ready to snap. As she does, we hear Kaz in a voice-over telling the Crows about a dangerous new weapon — a highly addictive drug called jurda parem that apparently enhances Grisha power by a thousandfold. The woman, presumably an angry Fjerdan, then appears to use her clearly jurda-parem-enhanced powers to try to kill everyone in the room.

Alina moves to attack the woman, but she shoots a shadow from her hands instead of her usual ray of light — a shadow that resembles the dark clouds Kirigan always fought with. This hints that somehow, either by killing Kirigan or using merzost, some of his shadow summoning powers have been passed along to her and possibly to Prince Nikolai as well.

So at the end of “Shadow and Bone” season two, while Kirigan and the Fold are indeed gone, Ravka is definitely not free from shadows. The disconnect between the Grisha and the otkazat’sya still remains, and remnants of The Darkling seem to have found their way into both Prince Nikolai and Alina. Mal and Alina’s relationship also hangs in the balance, as does the status of what appear to be nascent feelings between Prince Nikolai and Alina, not to mention Kaz and Inej. At least Jesper (Kit Young) and Wylan (Jack Wolfe) seem to have a shot at a happy ending.

“I feel like it ends on quite an exciting note,” Li summarizes. “It’s really a bit of a cliffhanger.”

“Shadow and Bone” season two premiered on Netflix on March 16.


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