Shadow and Bone 1×05 “Show Me Who You Are” is the one that doesn’t just stop the wheel, it breaks it, so to speak, with not-at-all surprising reveal to book readers, or you know, fans of fantasy alike, that General Kirigan, aka The Darkling, is the villain of this tale. The show does more than show us Kirigan’s true colors, though, it also provides us with enough chemistry to make us doubt, while at the same time setting up Mal’s collision course with Alina, and bringing her and The Crows together at last.
“Show Me Who You Are” isn’t light on the plot on The Crows side, either, with the dynamics already established being deepened, if possible, by the choices characters make this episode. This is especially true of Inej, who proves – not that she needed to – that her heart is as much into her relationship with Kaz as his has been very clearly shown to be.
All in all, this results in a very engaging episode that sets up what is the lowest emotional point for all these characters. Everyone’s feeling a bit lost right now, and that’s to be expected. It’s always darkest before the dawn, isn’t it? So, let’s try to get through this momentary darkness together as we discuss Shadow and Bone 1×05 “Show Me Who You Are”:
YOU HAVE NO IDEA
Genya lets out a few comments in this episode that, paired with what we already know of her, give us a clear picture of who she is – who she’s had to be, and also what she’s suffered. Because Genya was “given as a gift” to the Queen when she was 11, and that doesn’t just mean the Queen has been taking advantage of her since she was a child, it means the King has too.
The idea should come as no surprise, but it clashes with the front Genya puts up. And yet, it’s clear that with Alina, she has found real friendship, because she lets her guard down around her. She even goes a far as to warn Alina to be careful of “powerful men.” She, of course, means Kirigan – made obvious by her suggestion that Alina return to a blue kefta after the demonstration – but the warning is something Genya has had to learn by force.
Like all of these characters, Genya isn’t her suffering, she isn’t her trauma, but those things have always struck me as the most unforgivable thing the Darkling did. For all his aim has always been to “protect Grisha” he was never interested in protecting Genya, not truly, because protecting her would have meant losing the advantage, and that was more important to him than anything – or anyone.
She understands that, and a part of Genya cannot focus on the wrong Kirigan might have done her, because she needs him. He’s her means to an end, and her end is revenge. Against the King. Against the Queen. Against the people who thought her less. And for that, Genya would be willing to sacrifice anything …even the real friendship she’s found with Alina.
Ironically, the same episode that focuses on Genya’s trauma is the one that also gives us a clear look at who Genya could be, not without her trauma, because you cannot ever escape trauma, but despite her trauma. We see very little of her and David, just a few scenes and then her joking with Alina about it, but these are things I really hope the show gets a chance to focus on in the future.
Genya and David, in particular, are a dynamic that could truly benefit from this format. We know where the future leads with them, but it feels like we missed out so much of the journey. The foundation is here, in the little looks Genya gives him, in the way he pretends he isn’t noticing, and only looks at her when she’s turned away. And we also get a glimpse of the fighter Genya truly is, when she defends herself against Arken. Now, I just need more of that Genya. So much more.
I THINK I’LL BE ALL RIGHT ON MY OWN
A telling moment for Alina’s confidence is when she tells David early on in this episode that she doesn’t need his special gloves to split a beam of light. Our Alina has finally found herself, found her power, and realized that power is dependent on absolutely no one other than herself. Of course, as she’s doing that, the men in her life are on a collision course, and apparently more determined than ever to make their presence known.
On one hand, we have Mal, who – credit when credit is due – has never, for one second, stopped trying to get back to Alina. He went after the stag for her, he rode to the Little Palace even injured for her, and for her he even stood up to the General of the second army. There’s nothing Mal won’t do for Alina. The thing is, of course, once Mal and Alina are reunited, Mal will have to figure out where he stands, and how he can be what she now needs.
Because Alina has changed. And yes, she might be on the run and reeling at the end of this episode, but Mal’s a tracker. He will find her. That’s not in doubt. The thing that’s in doubt is how he’ll react once he does. Because what Alina needs isn’t a boy who can’t find his words, and cannot conceive of, much less understand, what she can do. What Alina needs is a partner. And Mal better figure out soon if he is just the guy chasing after her, or if he can be the guy next to her.
I FINALLY FEEL LIKE I BELONG
At one point in this episode Alina reasserts to Kirigan who she is, what she wants, her expectations for herself, and for him, ironically talking about how together they can offer Grisha and Ravkans hope for the future. Except The Darkling doesn’t care about Ravkans, he only cares about Grisha, and even then, he only cares about Grisha in the big picture. He’s lived a long life, and somewhere along the way, a little bit (okay, most) of that humanity was lost. Now there’s only his mission, which he truly feels is a righteous one.
This is more or less the explanation for the way he treated Genya. It’s not that he didn’t care for her, didn’t care for one Grisha suffering, but he’s the General, the one with a plan, with reasons. How can he deviate to protect one soldier if he wants to win a war? Would he be a good General if he were to sacrifice the possibility of victory for one person? Of course he wouldn’t be, he thinks, and that justifies everything for him.
Alina is a person, a bright, beautiful woman who perhaps does evoke something in him. Hope, if nothing else. Hope that one day his people will be free, because together they could make the world he dreamed of. She’s a safe person for him to love, in so many ways, and perhaps that’s why he seems to be nearly there, because she’s as powerful as him. She’s his equal. He won’t lose her. Which means he can allow himself to truly imagine a future with her, one where he isn’t alone.
But he doesn’t really know her, either. He doesn’t care for Alina, he cares for what she can do, what she can bring to their partnership. The little things, the one even he knows are important, or he wouldn’t ask, those he gets from Mal. And I do believe there’s a part of him that wants her to want him, but he isn’t truly allowing her to see him, so how could she care for the true Aleksander?
If this had been a different story, these two could have been a perfect dark couple. The heroine doesn’t always need to “redeem” the bad boy, maybe once the bad boy can turn her dark. Maybe they can rule together. But every tale needs a hero, and Alina might not be the perfect one, but it’s clear that she wants to be the hero. Her reaction to Baghra’s revelation says it all. Her choice to walk away says it all.
To book readers, Baghra’s revelation that The Darkling intends to use the Fold as a weapon, that he means to expand it, that he created it …isn’t a surprise. I’m not sure it was a surprise even in the books, though I can’t truly remember at this point. Baghra also drops some other harsh truths in that conversation, as she tells Alina she’s trying to save her from living the rest of her life as a slave, and mocks her connection with The Darkling by asking her, point blank: “Did he want you distracted by dreams of your future with him?”, telling her he’s had centuries to master lying to naïve girls and probably the cherry on top: “Did you think this was about you?”
And she did. We can’t even blame her for that. Alina found her power, found her strength, and made her choices. Just because it turned out she chose the villain doesn’t mean there is no power in the fact that she made a choice. And it’s clear in this episode that kissing The Darkling, that the start of a relationship that could never be, that was Alina’s choice. It just wasn’t an informed choice. She wasn’t choosing between two things; she was choosing what was in front of her believing there was nothing else.
If he truly cared about Alina, and not just about her powers, he’d want her to make that choice. He’d want her to choose him with eyes wide open. But he doesn’t, and that means that as much sexual tension as there is between them, as much desire as there is in their gaze, their relationship is never more than that. And now, with Alina knowing that he created the Fold – the one that killed her parents, the one she was always meant to go through – it feels like there’s really no going back for the two of them, not romantically. But the story isn’t over, and one way or another, the hero and the villain always come face to face at the end, don’t they?
YOU SHOULD HAVE ONE OF US WITH YOU
There’s an interesting side of the Kanej dynamic established in this episode, that of Inej the protector. We’ve seen Kaz in that role before, specifically in episode 2, and this time the focus is on the other side of that dynamic, as Inej looks over Kaz, worries about him, and understands him …more than anyone else. Of course, Kaz’s reaction to the possibility of losing Inej already made clear this wasn’t a one-sided thing. You don’t value someone like Kaz values Inej just because they’re useful. But Shadow and Bone understands you also don’t build an OTP without clearly establishing both character’s feelings, and that’s what this episode is all about.
It’s also the episode where Shadow and Bone does the best job with Kaz’s disability, something that is never forgotten, but that had been mostly in the background till this hour. Like in the books, Kaz’s disability isn’t a weakness. He isn’t ashamed of it, and he often uses people’s preconceived notions about that disability against them, like in this episode, where we get to see Kaz whack someone with his cane, and not just once. What others might consider a weakness, Kaz has turned into a strength, and “Show Me Who You Are” showcases that.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that Kaz doesn’t push himself too far sometimes, and this episode does a good job of showing that, because Kaz’s disability shouldn’t be treated as the kind of thing that is only present when the plot requires it. “Show Me Who You Are” also does a good job of showing Inej as the caring person, standing on the sidelines. Her job isn’t to prop up Kaz, he doesn’t need that. He doesn’t want that. Her job is just to be around to lend support if he requires it.
Well, that, and to know him better than anyone else. Did you all catch how both Inej and Jesper absolutely knew the plan wasn’t what Arken thought it was right away?
But back to the point – the tension between Kaz and Inej is at one of the highest points in this episode, with Kaz still unable to even look at Inej in that dancer’s outfit, as if just looking at her were somehow disrespectful, less than she deserves. This is much deeper than that, though, and it can probably be tied to Kaz’s issues with touch, and Inej’s issues with consent, plus the respect they both have for each other as people.
Above all things, Kaz and Inej understand each other at a level no one else has ever understood them. This is a scary thing, and yet one that they both pretty much accept, if never truly put into words. They communicate with a look, they disagree, they tell each other what they feel, and they would do absolutely anything for each other, no questions asked. Inej gets a chance to prove that this episode – again, not that she truly needed to – when she kills someone to save Kaz’s life.
This might not seem like a big deal in the world they live in, but let us remember Inej had trouble mustering the courage to do this very thing to get her freedom during “We’re All Someone’s Monster,” had to try to convince herself Arken was a bad man before she even attempted it. In this case, though, the person she is killing doesn’t matter. All that matters is saving Kaz.
Later, however, the real Inej shines through. She wouldn’t change what she did, and she wouldn’t change the result – Kaz is alive and unharmed, but Inej still stands there, broken at what she’s had to do. Broken at the person she’s become. Inej isn’t a saint, but she isn’t a killer either, has never wanted to be. Kaz, who knows her, understands the enormity of what just happened, and in that moment, you can almost see him holding himself back from touching her.
This is something very particular that I discussed with Freddy Carter when I had the pleasure of interviewing him, because especially in this moment, I got such a sense of Kaz just wanting to reach out, and something Freddy shared was very much intentional. Kaz can’t reach out to Inej like another persona would, because trauma isn’t a thing you just brush away when you want, but he tries with words, the words he usually can’t find. And then, when he moves past her, this time, Kaz doesn’t keep the usual distance. He doesn’t stop himself from brushing her shoulder.
It’s a tiny thing, a mere brush. No skin contact. And yet, it’s so much more than we’ve seen from Kaz without being forced. It’s a decision, to let Inej in a little further, or at least to not keep himself so separate from her. There’s still a long way to go, for Kaz, for Inej, for the relationship they might one day manage to have. But for now, they got each other’s backs, and they always will.
The caveat being here that Kaz knows this. He’s known it for a while. Inej doesn’t truly know the extents he’s gone to do the same for her. But that isn’t the kind of thing you bring up without meaning to pay it off.
WHERE YOU ARE DOESN’T MATTER NEARLY AS MUCH AS WHO YOU’RE WITH
Jesper is the guy with the luck this episode, in the right place at the right time to get the information they require, complete his part of the mission – despite a little detour – and oh yes, snag a Sun Summoner. And Jesper is also the guy with the best lines this episode, as he says to his fling, “Better to act without thinking than think without acting.” Except, the thing is …Jesper is not acting without thinking. On the contrary, Jesper is being as deliberate as Jesper can ever be.
There’s always a concern when it comes to bisexual/pansexual characters that they can be portrayed as their “slutty” stereotype, and though Jesper is indeed having a romantic liaison in the middle of a mission, he isn’t being distracted by his lust, he’s using someone – and getting some good sex in return, apparently. So, despite the fact that he is, indeed, the only character on this show to be portrayed in an actual sexual act to this point, I don’t think the show can be accused of leaning on this stereotype, at least not yet.
In fact, if Jesper is fulfilling a stereotype, it might be that of the “comedic relief” in the midst of a lot of Kaz and Inej seriousness, but Jesper isn’t that either, because these characters don’t just fit one thing. Sure, Jesper might sometimes take things less seriously than his friends, but Jesper is not the butt of the joke – unintended or otherwise. He’s just a guy who, at times, acts like Inej’s older brother, and yet, also Kaz’s little one. He’s gentle with Inej, he’s sure of Kaz, he’s confident, and he’s quick on his feet, and he also, as we’ve seen in previous episodes, makes mistakes, gets it wrong, and sometimes causes trouble.
He’s a lot of things, and that’s exactly what he should be. That’s human.
Things I think I think:
- No one thought Mal was going to die, but doesn’t it feel like there’s something weird about the fact that he didn’t die? Or at least about the fact that he wasn’t badly wounded enough that he couldn’t walk back?
- Kaz as a guard is priceless. Maybe it’s just how good Freddy Carter is as Kaz, but even seeing Freddy these days seems to me like seeing Kaz in disguise.
- “No guns, no knives, no weapons of any kind.” Inej and Jesper: Sure, sure.
- It’s good to see Alina having fun, laughing. It’s clear she has found a part of herself she didn’t know existed.
- The real love story of this show is Alina and libraries.
- “Assuming Saints get to retire,” is another fun line.
- I am Inej as she tells Jesper, “No human being should ever be as proud as you are right now.”
- Genya’s whole, “I can’t wait to see Zoya’s face when she sees you.” LOL. No one likes my baby Zoya.
- Jesper, always in the right place, at the right time.
- We all knew the Conductor was shady, right?
- Apparently, Jesper intends to have children some day. Good to know.
- Yes, you do sense a little disdain for Ivan. You are correct. Not even Fedyor can make him likeable.
- The Darkling makes …jokes?
- Zoya’s, “She’s Suli,” about Inej is …more important than most people realize.
- “You look lovely, by the way.”/”You look like you needed saving.”
- The Apparat’s only job right now is to be creepy.
- “There is something far greater than armies, something strong enough to topple kings and generals, to crumble nations and birth empires. Faith, Alina.”
- We should all remember that.
- “Is it my size?”/ ”You have to ask?” is top-notch married couple stuff.
- I will say this about Baghra, I always appreciated how at least someone had a plan. Not a great one, considering how many years she probably had, but a plan.
- “What if you’re wrong?” Inej asks. Is Kaz ever, though? About something other than feelings, I mean.
- Never trusted Arken, but never really cared either. Glad Kaz didn’t trust him.
- Why are you following weird people into dark corners, Mal?
- Mal’s literally unkillable.
- “I warned him there’d be a price.” Yeah, kids. They never listen.
- The Baghra/Darkling confrontation is A+. Zoë Wanamaker really owns the role of Baghra.
- A skilled tracker IS going to find her now.
- Hilarious how Kaz and Inej have very different things to tell Jesper.
- “Just ask.”
What did you think about Shadow and Bone 1×05 “Show Me Who You Are”? Share with us in the comments below!
Shadow and Bone is available to stream on Netflix.