Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster” improves on an already great first episode by focusing not just on the characters, but the relationships, allowing the story to move forward plot-wise in the way the show requires, and more importantly, drawing a very obvious parallel between Malina and Kanej, the two OTPs at the center of this story.
“We’re All Someone’s Monster” also gives us our first glimpse of Ben Barnes as General Kirigan, aka the Darkling, aka the villain of this tale, and Barnes cuts a striking figure indeed. This should not be surprising, Ben Barnes is a tremendously talented actor, and if there’s someone who can bring nuance to a villain it’s him. In Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster,” however, the General has not yet revealed himself to be the villain book readers know him to be, and instead appears as a harsh, if ultimately justified figure.
If the first episode sets up the world and the dynamics, this one sets up the emotions that are meant to carry us through, and despite Ben Barnes’ presence, it’s clear the show is betting on Malina and Kanej to do so. If you’d asked me before I watched, I would have said at least the Kanej one was a good bet. Now? Now I’m pretty sure it all works, or at least, it will all work for anyone who isn’t coming into this with their minds already made up.
So, let’s talk about the expected Kanej feels, the unexpected Malina ones and the Darklina connection as we review Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster”
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
A part of me gets it, especially at this point of the story. What The Darkling is offering Alina isn’t just power – a power she always had, and that she suppressed so she wouldn’t have to be alone, but also the chance to be part of something. That’s incredibly appealing to the orphan who’s always just wanted to belong, even if it comes with a lot of expectations.
Alina doesn’t yet realize, but she isn’t the girl she thought she was, she isn’t the one Mal has always seen. And that’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. She shouldn’t have to choose to be less to loved, and if Mal can’t – won’t –accept the real her then he doesn’t truly deserve her. But this isn’t about Mal, at least not yet. This is about Alina realizing that she can choose her power.
The same idea, of course, applies to General Kirigan. Alina isn’t just the little orphan from Keramzin any longer, but that doesn’t mean Alina won’t always be that person. She can be powerful, and strong, and yet be vulnerable and smiley, kind and soft. We don’t have to give up a part of ourselves to be strong – and we don’t have to be just one thing. Kirigan sees Alina and he sees the power, he sees what she could become if she stayed next to him, and he finds that appealing. The same goes for her, I believe.
Alina is a fighter. She’s scrappy, and she’s tough. She’s also immensely powerful, and she’s never had a chance to be that, to do that. She’s never had a chance to be truly herself, because she’s always been living by other people’s standards. The problem, of course, is that she seems to be going from Mal’s standards to the Darkling’s. The true measure of a Alina will be when she finally discovers what her own standards are. She doesn’t have to be what Mal expects of her, what makes him comfortable, but she also doesn’t have to be what General Kirigan wants her to be, not unless she wants to.
Who is Alina Starkov? No man can tell her that. No man should. It’s all up to Alina to find that out, and we’ll be here with her, every step of the journey. We already saw the Mal part of it, and now it’s time to explore who The Darkling thinks she is, or could be. In the end, though …what Alina decides to be, is completely up to her.
WE’RE ALL FOOLS
“…and when our closest friend is in trouble, we do foolish things,” is spoken as two men are doing foolish things in Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster.” We’ll get to Kaz’s foolishness later, for now let us focus on Mal’s, because Mal is all heart this episode, and that doesn’t always translate to good decisions.
Of course, Mal is scared. He wakes up, Alina is nowhere to be found, and he hears she’s been taken to the General’s tent. Even with no more information, that’d be enough to scare the living daylights out of anyone. But they also claim she’s Grisha, and Mal knows that’s wrong. Or he thinks he knows that’s wrong. He knows Alina better than anyone, after all. He would know, wouldn’t he?
But he doesn’t, not really. Alina never knew what she was, never wanted to know, hid any possibility deep inside her, felt like perhaps she needed to do that to be with him. And though Mal didn’t know, cannot be held responsible for Alina’s choices, the truth of the matter is that he has never truly seen her before. Not for who she is.
He asked her once, back in that meadow, if she didn’t want to know. If she didn’t want to be Grisha. “Not if we can’t go together,” she said, and they were both kids, so that made sense. Except now she’s being literally dragged off, away from him, to live the life she should have lived from the beginning. And that’s not just scary, that’s heartbreaking – for both of them. Especially because they don’t get a chance to say goodbye, or even to reassure themselves.
True to form and the teachings of the orphanage, both save their breakdowns for later, when they’re alone. And it is then, when they’re at their most hopeless that Mal and Alina reach out to each other, metaphorically, more than physically. Because the truth is, though they’re just discovering there’s a lot they don’t know about each other, one thing remains: whoever Mal is, and whoever Alina is, they will always, always be there for each other.
INEJ IS YOURS TO LOSE NOW
“What was that? You want to tell me?” Inej asks Kaz at the beginning of Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster,” and we have to start there, because just the fact that she asks says so much about their relationship. We’ve seen Jesper, presumably Kaz’s second, walk on tiptoes around Kaz, and here is Inej basically telling him that he’s been dumb, feeling like she can just walk up to him and say so, and Kaz isn’t upset with her because of what she’s saying, if anything, he’s upset because she’s right.
But before we go swim in the lake of Kaz’s many issues – a lake the show isn’t really diving into in the first season – let’s take a second to consider Inej’s, and what it means, for someone of her background, to trust Kaz Brekker enough to know that she can be free with him. Free to contradict him, free to disagree with him …just …free. If there’s anything Inej wants is freedom. If there’s anything she’s fought for, it’s that. And when was the last time Inej was truly free? Who was the last person who made her feel this way?
Has there ever been anyone?
Inej doesn’t recognize the enormity of that her words, of the fact that she doesn’t have to think twice about them, it’s just common place to her, just as Kaz cannot process the enormity of not just his feelings for her, but his need. He’s built a reputation out of being the Bastard of the Barrel, caring about no one, and always having a plan. And Inej just has to show up and all of that crumbles. And and a part of Kaz sees it, he just can’t admit it. So he lashes out.
He lashes out because, no, he doesn’t have a plan, and he hates that she can see through him. No one should be able to, he’s Kaz Brekker, after all. He lashes out because it’s been many years since someone has caught a glimpse of the real him, seen past the walls he puts up and understood him. And that makes Kaz feel less alone. Except, for Kaz, there’s this fear that any positive feeling takes away his edge. And he cannot afford that. Kaz Brekker is a man on a mission, and he isn’t even close to being done.
So, basically, Inej is the chink in his armor, and he knows that. But he also knows he cannot possibly do this job – or basically any job, at this point, without her. Which means Kaz is going to sit there and fake it till he makes it. Or at least, that was the plan. Until Inej threw some truths at his face and he, of course, lashed out, because Kaz Brekker has the emotional maturity of a two-year old. He’s also a little bit of a drama queen. At that point, though, any other reaction from Kaz wouldn’t make sense. They’re both thinking of themselves first, letting fear rule their actions.
The funny thing about Kaz is that he’s bluffing, he totally is. He would never leave her, not just because he needs her for the job (and Kaz Brekker never goes into a job without the upper hand) but also because he knows what leaving her behind would mean for her. And I don’t think he himself believes the words that are coming out of his mouth. But Inej does. If Kaz says he’s leaving without her, she believes that. If Kaz implies the job is more important than her, she believes that. Inej trusts Kaz, yes. She trusts him to protect her, she’s his investment, after all (🤣🤣). She trusts him to have her back. But she doesn’t trust him to put her first.
And she shouldn’t. When has Kaz Brekker put anyone before Kaz Brekker? That’s not how Kaz operates. And though Inej might feel free enough with Kaz to call him out on his bullshit, to say what she thinks, good or bad, that doesn’t mean she grasps the things he would be willing to do for her. There’s one way she could, when he himself doesn’t.
Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster,” however, pushes Kaz much closer to – if not an understanding of what the feelings mean – an acceptance that he cares enough about Inej to risk everything. Kaz Brekker isn’t the type to sit down and examine what his decisions mean, but Kaz doesn’t make rash decisions, and he’s not the type for avoidance, either. Just because he doesn’t say it, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know it. And it’s hard to argue that Kaz doesn’t realize what his decision at the end of this episode means.
Since Kaz is far from being able to own up to his feelings, the most important part of this episode – from the viewers’ perspective, since Inej doesn’t ever see it – is Kaz attempting some sort of apology/explanation or whatever it is he was going to say, when he thought Inej was coming back. Because that’s Kaz putting himself out there, or at least being willing to try …just to make Inej feel better. To make her feel secure. There’s nothing to be gained by Kaz apologizing, or explaining, and yet he was still going to do it.
He doesn’t get to tell her that that he’s sorry, or that he would never leave her behind, and since Inej would never expect him to, the whole thing more or less blows over, but it shouldn’t. Kaz regretting his words, Kaz looking upset – not at what someone else did, but something he said – that’s new. Unfamiliar. Groundbreaking. Kaz Brekker has trained himself not to feel, because feelings can be used against him. But Inej slipped inside his walls as silently as she slips into his room to give him information, and now there’s no getting her out. And I’m pretty sure Kaz wouldn’t want to, even if he could.
This all feels very unfamiliar to book readers, because this is backstory to the Kaz we get in Six of Crows and, at times, it feels like this isn’t that Kaz, that this Kaz is more advanced in the recognition of his feelings. But the thing about Six of Crows is …we don’t see everything from Kaz’s POV, just parts of it. And there’s a lot of poetry to what he does say about Inej and even to Inej in that, so I can’t say this Kaz feels out of character to me. If anything, it’s just a deeper exploration of things we all already knew Kaz was hiding.
Ironically, after his encounter with Pekka, Kaz tells Jesper, “Never make decisions out of fear. Only out of spite,” and yet before Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster” is over, he’s walking into Heleen’s and making a decision out of fear. And need. Maybe even love. You know, all those emotions Kaz would pretend he doesn’t have, and doesn’t want.
Kaz, however, isn’t the only one acting out of character in Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster,” Inej lets her fear drive her to not just see Heleen, but take her up on her offer. Part of this is justified fear that Kaz would leave her behind – we’ve already discussed how she has no real reason to believe otherwise, even if he’d just come out and say it, which he’s incapable of doing at this point in the story – but another part is fear for Kaz. This is a big job they’re taking, and a dangerous one. Letting Kaz go might mean never seeing him again, and Inej can’t take that.
She’s also incapable of truly processing the reasons why she can’t, so she resorts to anger, focuses on what the loss of Kaz would mean for her freedom, and not for her heart. And yet, even from that place of anger, when Kaz stops her from killing The Conductor and she questions whether he would choose this man’s life over her freedom, she still puts the knife down and trusts that Kaz knows what he’s doing, not just for himself, but for her.
His reaction shows that just as she’s never sure if he truly cares, Kaz has his own doubts about their relationship. Inej owes him a debt, and a part of him has a hard time processing that she could be around him not just because she has to, but because she truly cares about the person he is underneath all that armor. How can you believe another person could love you, if you don’t even love yourself?
“…and when our closest friend is in trouble, we do foolish things” the voiceover says, and it’s not just about Mal, but about Kaz as well. The parallel between the two ships is clear, and just like with Mal and Alina, the show isn’t making Kanej outwardly romantic yet. But they are making it clear that, for Kaz, there’s only Inej, and viceversa. No possible love triangle here. If anything is going to keep them apart, it’s their own issues.
Things I think I think:
- Super cool how the intro changes depending on the episode.
- I really love the younger versions of Mal and Alina, okay? Okay.
- When he reaches for her hand, as kids. And then again, as they lie there wounded. MY HEART.
- The way Inej looks at Kaz when he says, “Then maybe you stay here.” will haunt me forever.
- And the way he looks after she says, “Maybe I won’t be here when you get back.”
- Like he can pull this job off without you. Like he wants to.
- Who has ring like the one Kirigan has? That’s a villain move if I’ve ever seen one.
- Again, fuck Pekka Rollins.
- Jesper’s “take that bet” to Inej speaks of his trust in Kaz.
- “You all right boss?”/”No.” feels like a bigger exchange than it sounds. Kaz admitting he isn’t alright? Now, that doesn’t happen every day.
- Super confused by Jesper’s, “Did he remember you?” question about Pekka Rollins, because it implies Jesper knows something about Kaz’s backstory with Pekka, which is something he, himself, seems to implies he’s in the dark about to Inej. It’s also something he shouldn’t know.
- I’m assuming this is about something else, especially considering Kaz’s, “If he had, I’d be dead.” answer.
- Which means the question is …what did Kaz and Jesper do to Pekka Rollins?
- All good, Mal running after the coach didn’t give me any feelings at all.
- The way I hate Heleen.
- “You’ve got as many knives as I’ve got teeth.”
- But the fact that Jesper would say yes to Inej, and that Inej dared to ask is …big.
- The good news is I don’t think we’re meant to like Ivan.
- “Out here, when you’re different, when you look different, everything’s at risk of becoming a fight.”
- When Jesper said, “We need a demo man.”
- YES, WE NEED WYLAN.
- Jesper’s whole, “I’ve trusted her so far, and I’m still alive, so, yeah.”
- Kaz’s look of pure contempt when Jesper touches him. And it’s Jesper.
- Alina’s got some spunk. I love it.
- Thank God Inej is thorough.
- My heart broke at Inej’s “brother.”
- “Am I a prisoner?”/”All of Ravka is.”
- I mean, valid.
- THE CROW CLUB. THE CROW CLUB.
- Look, that’s basically a love declaration, isn’t it? Which means he will, of course, not tell her.
- He’s staking everything on this job. EVERYTHING.
- The bit with the hands. THE BIT WITH THE HANDS.
- I’m never going to be okay.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster”? Share with us in the comments below!
Shadow and Bone is available to stream on Netflix.