Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow” brings the two storylines together in a way that, even if we saw coming within the context of the show, is still thrilling to book fans, reunites Alina and Mal, and makes us feel not just for Nina, but for a suddenly smiling Matthias, a character that must actually be commended for the great amount of growth her manages in such a short time.
The Crows dynamics are also explored in this hour, which seems kinda absurd considering I just mentioned a laundry list of things Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow” goes into. But that’s pretty much the standard with Shadow and Bone season 1, every little thing matters, either for characterization purposes, or to move the plot forward, an even though some stuff sticks out as the show taking the road of least resistance, it’s hard to blame them when the characters don’t truly suffer from it.
A couples of episodes away from the end, it’s somehow clear where this story is going, and yet, somehow clear there are still surprises in store for us. So let’s just take every moment as it comes and talk about the character beats, the confrontations and even more importantly, the relationships in Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow”:
I’M NOT BEING ANYONE’S CAPTIVE EVER AGAIN
When Alina left the Little Palace with the Crows at the end of Shadow and Bone 1×05 “Show Me Who You Are” I knew it wasn’t meant to last. Alina needed to be on another path, with Mal, for this show to go where it needed to go, for the end of the season to be the gut-punch I was sure they wanted it to be. And yet a part of me hoped there was going to be at least an interesting confrontation, a fun resolution to this problem.
At least one of those things came true, in that we got a fun confrontation between Alina and the Crows, with Jesper apparently the designated “let’s convince the Sun Summoner to stick to us” guy, which, probably valid, Kaz would have just scared her and Inej couldn’t even find her words. But the necessary resolution to this plot point still feels way too easy. It’s all too contrived, all too convenient. Especially because I’m still not even clear on how Alina got away, other than Inej let her go.
This is not a big issue that completely pulls me out of the moment, but it needed to be said. It’s the one drawback of meshing these two storylines. It does bring up some great character moments for everyone as a result, so I guess I can let it go this time. But ah, the possibilities. The possibilities!
‘CAUSE YOU’RE HUMAN
Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow” gets to the root of the Nina and Matthias storyline, allowing them to survive, together, and to find common ground for no other reason than their lives depend on it. As this is going on, we get an exchange that sort of defines who Nina Zenik is, and who Matthias Helvar will become, not because Nina made him, but because she showed him the way. “Why would you save me?” he asks. “’Cause you’re human,” she responds. And it’s a simple as that.
I mean, yes, she also needed his strength, but the first point remains. Nina Zenik is the kind of person who tries, the kind who wants to find humanity even in the people trying to enslave her, and Matthias Helvar, he is the kind of person who, despite what he’s been thought, will allow himself to look at the other “side” and consider the arguments presented against his own beliefs, his way of life.
The truth is, Matthias is scared. He’s not even just scared of Nina, though a part of him is, he’s scared of believing her. He’s scared of what he’d already begun to suspect before the storm, that she was right. That his cause was not righteous. That he was in the wrong. And that’s understandable. If all you’ve believed for your entire life is wrong, then what are you? What do you do?
Naked cuddling and Nina’s jokes aside – and the chemistry between Danielle and Calahan make Nina and Matthias scenes, which are taken directly from the book, even more delightful than I had any right to expect – this storyline is meant to underscore that people can change. But I think it’s also important to point out that Nina is a soldier. She’s Grisha. Yes, what Matthias and his people do is horrible, and hating people for what they are is never acceptable – but Nina isn’t a civilian. She’s fighting back.
And she’s also, perhaps, with Matthias, now discovering that there are wars that can’t be won just with weapons. Some wars need another approach. They need willingness, too – despite Matthias worries, and jokes, Nina cannot manipulate him into being a better person, and she did not force him to save her. Change has to be personal, if it has any chance of being real. But, and as we know, this is a question the books go into later, is Matthias the only person in Fjerda who can be saved? Or might Nina just be the key to ending this war …through something other than combat.
YOU USED TO CALL ON ME
Shadow and Bone 1×05 “Show Me Who You Are” already unmasked The Darkling, but this episode continues to underscore the little ways in which he’s anything but a good guy by bringing back Zoya, and once again showing her jealousy, and the way she’s trying to use their past relationship – which is painted as clearly sexual in nature – to gain back his favor.
Zoya does herself no favors here, but what I think the show is trying to show us is that Zoya, like Alina, like Genya, is just another girl The Darkling manipulated, another girl he used for his own purposes, another girl he didn’t truly care for, unless it served his purposes. And maybe things could have been different with Alina, but the more the show examines his previous behavior the harder it is to find a reason why us – the viewers – or Alina should have thought so.
“You used to call on me on times like this,” Zoya says, and the truly ironic part is …Zoya might not be a Sun Summoner, but she’s also not the girl he thinks she is. He was just never what Zoya needed to tap into her full potential. But that’s okay, there’s a smart mouthed, too charming for his own good dumbass in Zoya’s future who will help her understand that she can fly high without ever being tied down by a man’s desires. And I can’t wait for her to find him.
SO, WE’RE TALKING NOW?
Alina is upset, she’s scared, and she’s feeling a bit lost, yet she still reaches out to Mal, no hesitation, as soon as she sees him. But, because this Alina has found her voice, this Alina has embraced her power – and not just her Grisha power, but the power of being able to express herself – she does let Mal have it as soon as they are away from danger.
It’s a good conversation, because despite the fact that they’re both feeling scared and angry, their affection for each other shines through and allows them to communicate much more effectively than Kaz and Inej do, for example. In that first conversation these two say all the need to say, from Alina admitting she never knew she was Grisha, she just lied to stay with him, to Mal telling her “I’ve been trying to get back to you this whole time.” But there’s also a lot that’s said without being put into words.
These two have been the beating heart of this storyline, and Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow” takes us back to why. They’re each other’s safe place. Each other’s port in a storm. No matter how many months have passed, how much doubt and fear they have both endured, that hasn’t changed. Mal will always find Alina, and Alina will always see Mal, in a way no one else does.
But another thing this episode does very well is set up Mal’s relationship to Alina’s powers, or at least establish that he’s never been scared of her or her powers, he’s only been scared of his feelings for her. Though, at this point, I think it would be fair to add a fear of what those powers will mean for both of them. Despite that, though, Mal never hesitates when Alina wants to follow the Stag. His new job is “bodyguard to a saint,” and he takes that seriously.
Even if that means going against his better instincts.
“I’m sorry that it took me this long to see you, Alina. But I see you now,” Mal tells her in Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow,” and his gaze never falters. His fear of losing her was keeping him from admitting his real feelings, and once he did lose her, there was nothing to do but own up to the reasons why he never wanted to be parted from her again. Alina’s journey was a bit different, because I think she already understood how she felt about Mal before, but also because she’s the Sun Summoner and her whole storyline is about owning who she is – all of who she is.
The last thing I want to point out is how Alina tries to explain to Mal about Kirigan, telling him “I made some stupid choices at the Little Palace …” something Mal shuts down immediately, because he doesn’t need her explanations. This is an important moment because Alina also doesn’t owe Mal explanations. She’s her own person, who can make her own decisions, and they’d made no promises to each other, had spoken of no feelings. However, it’s still a very good character moment for Mal that he’s able to verbalize this, because a part of me expected a little of stereotypical YA love interest anger, and the lack of that was utterly refreshing.
ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME HOW THE TARGET GOT AWAY?
Do I find a way to get a Kanej section into every review o do they just give me so much that I have to write about them every review? We will never know, because once again I have to go into their dynamics in this very charged episode, which starts with them at odds with each other after Inej decides to let Alina go.
Because it’s a decision, and they both know it. In fact, Inej doesn’t even try to lie to Kaz about it. She knows he knows, and also, that’s not the kind of relationship they have. They tell each other the truth, even when the truth is uncomfortable. Especially when the truth is uncomfortable.
Of course, the backstory here is that Kaz gambled a lot on them being able to do this job, and they’re walking away empty-handed. And it isn’t just about how he gambled the Crow Club, which Inej didn’t know until Kaz lets it out in a fit of the kind of controlled rage that Kaz Brekker is all about, but that he gambled with her safety. With her freedom.
Inej, of course, can’t know this when she asks “Is that a threat to return me to Heleen?” but she doesn’t truly ask because she thinks Kaz would be willing to do that. She asks because she wants the reassurance that her feelings are not so far off, reassurance that he actually does hold her in as high a regard as she holds him. But Kaz is unable to give her that in the way she wants, and yet, just the knowledge that Kaz put up the Crow Club against her freedom is more than Inej can handle.
More than Kaz can handle too, because what he does in Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow” is very literally run away from his feelings, moving about as fast as he possibly can. Except the thing with feelings is, you cannot ever truly run away from them, they have a way of catching up to you, like, for example, when the woman you love is suddenly injured, and all you can think of is that you’re to blame, this is all tied to what she did to save you …and what’s even worse, you can’t even reach out to comfort her.
The way he says her name, the way he always says Inej, is absolutely heartbreaking, too. He says her name like a benediction, like a prayer. Like in a broken world full of bad people she’s the only saint he’s ever believed in. Like she’s the one that keeps him human, keeps him grounded. And he can’t bear to see her hurt, but he especially cannot bear not being able to do anything about it. Kaz Brekker is a problem solver, and when Kaz runs into a problem he cannot solve, that’s when he comes undone.
Again, Freddy Carter must be commended for the intensity he puts into Kaz as he stares at Inej hurt, in Jesper’s arms, absolutely broken that he she’s hurt because of him, but also that he cannot be the one to put his arm around her, that he cannot be her support. This is important for many reasons, but not just for the obvious Kaz wants to comfort her ones, no. The biggest takeway here is that, when Inej is hurt, when she’s in pain … Kaz actually wants to reach out. His desire to be near her overpowers his fears, his trauma, and that’s a big thing. He’s still ways away form being able to actually do it, but that he even wants to …that there’s something, someone in this world Kaz Brekker actually wants to touch?
Well, that feels like a miracle in and of itself.
Since he isn’t there, however, Kaz the planner, Kaz the leader, turns his attention towards the only thing he can do – figure out a way to get them out of there. Because there’s no way they’re leaving Inej. There’s no way Jesper is leaving Inej. That thought doesn’t even enter their brain. The Crows are many things, but above all, they’re a team. For better or worse.
FINE, BUT BE SMART ABOUT IT
One of the best parts of Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow” was seeing two worlds collide, and we get that as Kaz Brekker faces The Darkling, Jesper and Ivan go head to head, and Inej is forced to kill the other Inferni twin, Polina, who nonetheless manages to hurt Inej enough that this affects what the Crows can do from here on out.
All the confrontations are interesting, Inej’s and Polina’s because it’s so charged with Inej’s previous decisions. Inej didn’t want to kill, and she did it for Kaz, only for Kaz, but Polina doesn’t know that or care, truly. All Polina knows is that her brother is dead, and she wants vengeance. And she uses her powers against Inej who, nonetheless, manages to get the better of her and tries to afford her some mercy. If there’s anyone who understands the pain of losing a sibling it’s Inej, after all. But Polina responds by referring to Inej as “Suli trash” and threatening to track down and kill not just Inej, but everyone she loves.
Considering that the only reason we’re here is that Inej is capable of doing anything to protect the people she loves – Kaz Brekker in this instance – her decision to pull out the knife and let Polina bleed to death shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. Inej might not be willing – had not been willing – to kill to save her own life, but Inej will do whatever it takes to protect her people.
Jesper and Ivan, meanwhile, go head to head, and it almost feels like Jesper is toying with Ivan in this scene. Jesper is really good with guns, we know that, but when, after having beaten him, Ivan asks Jesper “what are you?” that’s supposed to be the same question people not familiar with this universe are asking. Of course, we already know the answer, just as we know why Jesper really, really doesn’t want to talk about it.
Finally, I have to mention that the Kaz/Darkling confrontation was the thing I didn’t know I needed form this show. It’s also a thing that, in normal circumstances, wouldn’t have happened. Kaz Brekker isn’t the type of man who normally lets himself be caught in the middle of a fight he cannot win. But there was no avoiding this one, and what’s the other thing we know about Kaz Brekker? Oh yes, that he’s always prepared for about 50 different eventualities.
The confrontation is perfectly them, both are about as in control as they can be, considering the circumstances, and Kaz gets the upper hand this time, mostly because he’s able to catch the Darkling off guard, and honestly, the Darkling has bigger things to worry about than Kaz Brekker. But this was still a fun moment of the two worlds merging in a way I never quite expected to get, and one in which, unlike other plot points in Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow,” the end result actually made sense.
Things I think I think:
- Don’t care much about Arken, carry on.
- I’d say smug isn’t a good look on Ivan, but that’s basically his only look.
- Have we talked about how Ben Barnes is hot? We have, right? He is.
- The way he says “thieves.”
- Zoya and Ivan just walking away, letting the Darkling do whatever he wants with Arken says a lot.
- Why is Jesper in charge of convincing Alina?
- Fedyor is actually like yes I will gladly bring one of theirs, that is absolutely my number one priority, oh, wait ….
- But how did Nina get out of the chains? Chains wouldn’t break.
- See, Rose. Jack could have fit on that door. Nina and Matthias made it!
- “Shu currency is no good here, girl. Move along.”
- No racism here, nah. Not at all.
- My biggest issue with the continued racist jabs is that we’re presumably not getting into the Shu Han plot for what …4 or 5 more seasons? The balance if horribly off.
- “I speak six languages. It’s part of my job.”
- Kaz’s hair in this episode is A+, just saying. Kaz in general is too much this episode, but the hair might be why.
- Ben Barnes and Freddy Carter sharing a scene is almost too much for me, okay?
- “It was pretty clear she wasn’t interested in being a captive anymore.”
- Low blow, Kaz.
- Bested by …a trick.
- We gotta assume Kaz’s demo man provided him with that phosphorus bomb. And Kaz’s demo man, right now is probably ….
- Again, me caring about Mal’s friends is …what was that word again? Ah, yes. Inconceivable!
- Brum mention! Gah, that just reminds me of PAIN.
- The way Kaz and Jesper are just standing there, waiting for Inej. Not going anywhere without their girl!
- Kaz really likes hitting people with his cane.
- David throwing a book at someone is the most perfectly David thing.
- EXCEPT FOR THE RAISED HAND THING.
- I TAKE IT BACK, THAT IS THE MOST PERFECTLY DAVID THING.
- If it weren’t for the good will Mal has earned, the whole “you really developed an appetite” thing would have rubbed me the wrong way.
- The way Ben Barnes says “adorable” might be the highlight of this episode. I’d say I want it on a gif, but it loses about half it’s power without the inflection in his voice.
- “She’s going after the Stag.”
What did you think about Shadow and Bone 1×06 “The Heart is An Arrow”? Share with us in the comments below!
Shadow and Bone is available to stream on Netflix.