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The Ending Of Shadow And Bone Season 2 Explained

Based on Leigh Bardugo's trilogy of the same title, Netflix's "Shadow and Bone" combines her well-known trilogies and double set of duologies into one show. The young adult series is one of the more successful adaptations in recent years, earning an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes after its debut. The show's first season puts a twist on the first book. The second combines the final two, "Siege and Storm" with "Ruin and Rising," while also acting as a prequel to the "Six of Crows" story. Though the series' second season gets clunky at times, it delivers character arcs that provide big hints for what's to come if the show returns for a third season.

Whereas its debut season focused on bringing Grisha into the spotlight and introducing Alina to her powers, the sophomore season is primarily about destroying the Shadow Fold and restoring peace to Ravka. It introduces new characters, brings nuances to ones we already know, and sets up the upcoming wars interconnecting all the different worlds. Additionally, while the TV series makes several changes to the books, most of the arcs remain the same, allowing readers and non-readers alike to understand the story's purpose.

The following article contains spoilers for all eight episodes of "Shadow and Bone" Season 2.

Alina Uses Merzost

Perhaps nothing is more complicated in the "Shadow and Bone" universe than Merzost, the frowned-upon magic form of the Small Science (where Grisha harness their powers). Merzost comes with a price, one that Baghra consistently reminds Alina to stay away from throughout their hunt for the Firebird. In the franchise's history, only three people have used its powers: Ilya Morozova, its creator; the Darkling; and now Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li). In the book, Alina creates a nichevo'ya shadow monster, but in the season finale, "No Funerals," Alina uses it to bring back Mal from the dead. Although her hair doesn't turn white as it does in "Ruin and Rising," with three amplifiers in her command, it comes at the cost of losing Mal and a potentially dark arc in the show's future.

Further, while viewers might not be explicitly aware that Alina uses Merzost, Nina Zenik's inability to bring back Mal using her Heartrender powers, followed by the fearful look Danielle Galligan wears, proves the act to anyone paying attention. In Russian, Merzost is synonymous with "grotesque." The power essentially robs its user, leaving parts of them empty to a degree. And in the season's final few moments, viewers watch as Alina appears to be satisfied with her latest kill, a darkness rising in her eyes, likely from the magic. 

Is the Darkling Truly Dead?

The Darkling, otherwise known as General Kirigan, is a bit like Lord Voldermort from the "Harry Potter" franchise. He dies in "Ruin and Rising" only to be resurrected and experience a similar fate in "Shadow and Bone" Season 2. Still, while viewers see Genya, Zoya, and Alina burn his body, it's possible Santka Lizabeta will bring him back to life like in "King of Scars." The show's version of the Darkling is more ruthless and cunning than in the books, thanks to Ben Barnes' exceptional performances. Whatever his faith holds, this ending makes sense for the character's actions. 

The Darkling states that he wants no part of him to remain, but it's Alina who decides that they should burn his body to prevent any cult followers from bringing him back. Yet, in the show, the Darkling also seems to need more control of the nichevo'ya monsters, which begs the question of whether Nikolai will understand it better or if they'll need him for experiments of sorts. At the end of the day, we have no real signs of whether this death is permanent despite how evident it seems because of the physical body. Further, considering how beloved Barnes is in the role, there's still a chance the series could find a way to bring him back through flashbacks.

Mal Becomes Sturmhond

Malyen Oretsev's journey in "Shadow and Bone" Season 2 vastly differs from the character's experiences in the trilogy. The show fleshes him out more, making him a far better ally and partner to Alina. Mal trusts her, believes in her, and would go to the ends of the earth to ensure her safety. But he's also still the third amplifier—the Firebird. As an expert tracker who successfully leads Alina et al to the Rusalye (the Sea Whip), Mal's inability to find the Firebird as quickly later showcases his lineage to the Morozova family, as well as solidifying why he walked past three orphanages until discovering the one in Keremzin. The arc implies that the Firebird in him has been searching for Alina all along.

Thus, after Alina uses Merzost to bring Mal back from the dead, he states that he no longer feels an intense connection to her, wondering whether his actions were ever his or the Firebird's. It's easy to understand that he still loves Alina, but he needs to be away from her to figure out his true calling, stating that when he returns, it'll be their choices, not fate or destiny, linking them again. The idea makes sense in hindsight, especially when examining the "soulmate trope," yet it's an odd shift from the book. Further, the transition to Sturmhond feels a bit clunky. In the book, Nikolai takes up Sturmhond's identity with a tailored face; in the show, since his face is his throughout his journey as Sturmhond, it's strange to imply that Sturmhond is interchangeable based on who's commandeering the Hummingbird. How long Mal will stay on as a privateer or who'll take the reins after, only time will tell.

What Does Without Armor Mean for Kaz and Inej's Romantic Relationship?

"Shadow and Bone" Season 1 subtly hints at Kaz Brekker's haphephobia (fear of touch). Season 2 dives deep into showing non-book readers the root of his trauma through a series of flashbacks. Viewers get a clear understanding that he's not only the sole survivor of the Firepox outbreak, but he also loses his brother in the tragedy because of Pekka Rollins' schemes. When Inej Ghafa tells him that she'll have him without armor or she won't have him at all, she seems to be referring metaphorically to his emotional barriers. Kaz keeps most of his emotions under lock and key from his crew, and Inej is the only person who can see beyond the façade and straight into his heart.

As a woman who suffered sexual assaults in the Menagerie, Inej knows better than anyone else what it means to be physically reserved. Still, she's willing to trust Kaz with everything in her, even implying earlier in the season that trust is the other side of secrecy. So, when Kaz opens up about wanting her, it's only natural to bring in one of the most famous book lines to showcase that Inej wants all of him. For the two of them to embark on something more, Kaz needs to work on breaking down the walls he puts up. While the books do a solid job of openly placing Kaz's desires centerfold through his thoughts, in the show, Freddy Carter's performances fill the silence with necessary words. Through a subtle, affirmative nod, he confirms that he hears and understands Inej, revealing that he'll most certainly try for her.

Inej Goes Searching For Her Brother

Another notable departure from the book is that Inej Ghafa has a brother. The two of them are taken from Ravka together but end up in different places. In the "Shadow and Bone" Season 2 finale, Kaz Brekker tells her he's been tracking slaver ships, giving her a lead with the auctioneers to start searching. Though viewers don't see a direct conversation about accommodations, and when she decides to leave, we watch as Inej goes aboard the Hummingbird with Mal, Nadia, Tolya, and Tamar.

Later, through an evident time jump where clothes and hairstyles differ, Inej calls out, "There it is, the slaver ship." Only a third season will tell whether this specific ship will have her brother aboard or whether it'll be another clue. Ultimately, Inej taking on this journey without the Crows is significant for her because it demonstrates her genuine freedom. No one is tying her down, allowing her to finally experience the freedom that slavers robbed her of by bringing her to Ketterdam in the first place. This way, the idea of the Crows as a found family comes to fruition in a more profoundly poignant way. 

Nikolai's Infected by the Nichevo'ya

After the death of nearly every Lantsov, Nikolai is the only one remaining as the heir to the throne. His transition from prince to king is only part of what viewers see in the season's final moments. In a brief scene after speaking with the Apparat (Kevin Eldon), Nikolai removes his shirt to reveal a gaping hole in his shoulder and a nichevo'ya howling from inside the mirror. This scene marks the beginning of Nikolai's story in "King of Scars." While the Darkling doesn't directly infect him with Merzost as in the book, the monster impales him inside the church, leaving what appears to be the same horrific aftermath in the form of possession.

Still, this means that the road ahead for Nikolai Lantsov is about to get more complicated than every barrier in his past as the king's bastard son. He will need help more than ever now, but with Alina directly beside him and Zoya willing to "fix him" (an excellent parallel that pleases book readers who root for them as a couple), he's certainly in good hands. There's also a chance that, since Alina has three amplifiers, they could maybe control the transitions instead of allowing the monster to reign without Nikolai's control.

Jesper and Wylan Find a Label

Jesper Fahey and Wylan Hendricks (Van Eck, in the books) go from an off-screen one-night-stand to friends to lovers quickly, but there's no real label on the relationship. Jesper even jokes during a scene where he triumphantly calls Wylan "his man" for a bomb trick, then clarifies that they haven't put a label on it. Still, "Shadow and Bone" Season 2 does a great job of subtly confirming essential changes in the background, in the same way it does for Kaz in Season 1. Fans familiar with the books know that they are endgame, but the ones who aren't could be sure after the finale because of Nina's comment.

In a conversation with Kaz, Nina points out the people surrounding them by stating, "There are those defending their happily ever after. And those who don't know how to find their way to one." When she mentions the ones defending their happily ever after, the camera pans to a joyous reunion with Jesper and Wylan, as well as Nadia and Tamar. During the latter part of the examination, we see Kaz gazing toward Inej, unaware of how to move forward. Jesper and Wylan find a label without needing one because they've already made promises to see where this goes, meeting each other halfway through every obstacle since their first argument in Season 2, Episode 5, "Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)."

Matthias Remains in Hellgate

It isn't difficult to decode that Matthias wouldn't be leaving Hellgate this season, but the finale poses more problems than answers. While Hellgate is indeed an impenetrable prison, Kaz and the Crows successfully break him out in "Six of Crows." But throughout Season 2, Kaz repeatedly affirms that it's impossible. Even though many storylines in "Shadow and Bone" act as prequels for the Crows, it's straightforward to assume that perhaps the team leader just hasn't found the right way. Nevertheless, there's a simple path by the end with a pardon from Nikolai on both Nina's and Matthias' behalf, so long as he stays out of trouble.

Unfortunately, in the final few moments, Matthias gives in to Pekka Rollins' bargains to try and forget his feelings for Nina. However, because Kaz pays the guards to keep Matthias out of fights, he and Pekka go about it through the "illegal" route. When Matthias refuses to fight wolves, who are the symbol of Fjerda, guards brutally take him away. Nina experiences the same treatment outside the cage, leaving the pardon document on the floor. Not only will breaking Matthias out be even more difficult than before, but this could also pose more issues with Pekka Rollins calling shots from the inside. He plays a major role in the duology, so it's hard to imagine we've seen the last of his character.

There's a New Crow Club

The new Crow Club viewers see at the end of "Shadow and Bone" Season 2, "No Funerals," is the one readers know in "Six of Crows." It's an extension of The Slat, and the Dregs are now Kaz Brekker's gang. It's more sophisticated, a little grown up, and significantly more admirable than their older location, which Pekka Rollins steals at the beginning of the season. Additionally, this version of the Crow Club shows that the characters are more comfortable with their roles. The series never clarifies how much time passes between the destruction of the Shadow Fold and everything we get in the final few moments of the finale, but it's safe to assume it's at least a month, if not more.

Considering how old The Slat is when we see it in Episode 2, there's no justifiable way to remodel as exquisitely in the Victorian era as they do. The passing of time also signifies a growth in the characters, which could mean that Kaz is working on shedding his armor. It's also worth noting that there's a callback to Season 1, Episode 1, "A Searing Burst of Light," where Inej proposes that there's a girl named Kesh at the Menagerie who's like her, prompting Kaz to declare no one is. Kaz decides to hire Kesh and many of the girls at the Menagerie as servers, specifying that there will be no skin trade here. This decision allows him to govern much of the Barrel in a far more admirable way than Pekka Rollins, meriting the respect necessary for growing his reputation.

Is David Really Dead?

There's an unspoken rule in television where fans generally believe that if they don't see the body, there's a high chance the character could still return. It's what happens on countless shows, fantasy or otherwise. Baghra amplifies Genya to feel familiar heartbeats, and she takes the absence of David's as proof of his death. While it's true he could be dead, considering that he's still alive in "King of Scars," there's hope still that he survives.

Even if he doesn't, the final few moments give Genya a quiet moment to grieve, where she finds a lone ruby stone and sketches for an engagement ring, signifying that David was planning to propose to her. So much of what transpires between the two is one tragic step after another, and in Season 2, no character endures horrors the way Genya does in the Darkling's hands. He viciously attacks her, scarring her entire face, and then his monsters seemingly take David, leaving her alone to bear the heartaches and trauma from endless abuse. Though he dies eventually in the books, the show finding a way to bring him back for a little bit longer (or forever) could be a good thing.

Jurda Parem is on the Market

Jurda Parem, a highly addictive Grisha drug, makes its appearance in the final seconds of the show's finale, leaving everyone in the room gagging and spouting blood before Alina kills the culprit. Through Kaz Brekker's narration from the Crow Club, he states that the chemist responsible for creating it now awaits trial on Fjerdan land after fleeing upon realizing his actions. In the duology, the chemist is Bo Yul-Bayur, and his arc results in the notable Ice Court Heist from "Six of Crows."

In an Entertainment Weekly interview for Season 2 with showrunners Eric Heisserer and Daegan Fryklind, Heisserer mentions that since they won't use the plot point now, they "have bigger ambitions" for the Ice Court Heist later. With the final scene leaving viewers with the aftermath of Jurda Parem on the market, as well as a newly refined Crow Club in capable hands, it's only a matter of time before they rescue Matthias and find contact with Inej to take on their most impossible heist yet. "Shadow and Bone" changes substantially from the books as it combines storylines from three different series, so there's still a chance that the story readers know won't be what we get on screen. Additionally, while characters like Alina and Mal don't interact with the Crows in the books, there could be more crossovers in the future, if and especially when Alina dabbles with the dark arts after using Merzost. Ultimately, the cards are available for something bigger following the bloody cliffhanger.