Skip to main content

Let’s Talk About Alina’s Powers at the End of ‘Shadow and Bone’

THAT was dramatic.

Alina Starkov, played by Jessie Mei Li, at the end of the final episode of Shadow and Bone on Netflix

By now I think we have all had the chance to see the eight episodes of the second season of Shadow and Bone, which dropped on Netflix on March 16. And that means we’ve also all seen that dramatic change in Alina’s powers in the very last scene right before the screen goes dark—much like Alina herself, one might say.

So let’s take a moment to break down what happened as we wait for Netflix to tell us whether we’ll get a chance to explore this incredible change in our protagonist in a future third season.

This article contains spoilers for the entire second season of Shadow and Bone as well as the final book in the first Grishaverse trilogy, Ruin and Rising.

What we saw in Shadow and Bone

The season 2 finale of Shadow and Bone, “No Funerals,” showed us the destruction of the Fold: Alina (played by Jessie Mei Li), her powers expanded to their maximum by the third of Morozova’s amplifiers, Mal (Archie Renaux), finally manages to tear down the Shadow Fold created by the Darkling (Ben Barnes) centuries before.

Once the Fold is destroyed and the Darkling is dead, though, Alina has to reckon with the fact that Mal seems very much dead—something that was always bound to happen, no matter how much she tried to avoid it, since the only way for a Grisha to claim the power of an amplifier is to take its (or their) life. 

Nina (Danielle Galligan) first attempts to save Mal using her Heartrender skills, but Alina soon realizes that it’s going nowhere, so she decides to take matters into her own hands. She saves Mal herself, with her own powers, using merzost—a corruption of the deepest laws of nature to which Grisha must adhere, and the same thing the Darkling used to create the Fold.

The thing is that, as Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker) had warned her multiple times, merzost always comes with a price that can’t be known beforehand but that is also impossible not to pay. In the Darkling’s case, it was creating the volcra along with the Shadow Fold—making it impossible to use as a weapon in the way the Darkling intended. 

Baghra, as she appears played by Zoe Wanamaker, in Shadow and Bone on Netflix
Baghra has always spoken of the dangers of merzost, especially to Alina (Netflix)

In Alina’s case, we don’t see that price until the final scene in the episode, in which Nikolai (Patrick Gibson) is getting crowned as the new King of Ravka with Alina standing by his side. Suddenly, a woman rises from the crowd—just as a voiceover by Kaz (Freddy Carter) explains that there’s a new drug on the rise, jurda parem, which has a devastating effect on Grisha powers.

The woman—probably an Heartrender, considering the effect she has on the crowd—slowly advances toward Nikolai, literally squeezing the life out of everyone in the room. Finally, Alina manages to gather enough strength to wield the Cut against her, slicing her clear in half. Except the Cut wasn’t her usual one made of pure light, but instead remarkably similar to the one the Darkling wielded.

The fate of Alina’s powers in the show and in the books

It’s not been explained yet, of course, but it’s safe to assume that the price Alina had to pay for using merzost to bring Mal back was having her “original” Sun Summoner powers corrupted and turning into a Shadow Summoner, like the Darkling used to be.

This is a huge change from the books, and it’s bound to leave the fandom pretty divided, just as the events of Ruin and Rising did. In Ruin and Rising, Alina also has to pay the price for her usage of merzost—even though that use of merzost isn’t for reviving Mal, but for claiming all three of Morozova’s amplifiers.

When Mal dies and his power as an amplifier becomes Alina’s, she describes herself as burning bright like a new sun. And then she feels her own power leave her completely—turning her not into the Shadow Summoner of the show, but into an otkazat’sya, taking away her status as a Grisha altogether.

Still, the Darkling ends up defeated and the Fold destroyed in Ruin and Rising as well, with other consequences from this showdown altering the fate of Ravka forever. Alina and Mal, however, are not going to be a part of the country’s reconstruction. They stage a fake funeral for Alina and they return to the orphanage in Karamzin where they both grew up to run it by themselves and care for the children there. They do make a couple of brief cameos in other books of the series, sure, but their role is pretty much done by the end of Ruin and Rising.

The Darkling, played by Ben Barnes, as he appears in the second season of Shadow and Bone on Netflix
In a sense, Alina the Sun Summoner dies at the same time as the Darkling in the books (Netflix)

So what will happen to Alina in Shadow and Bone?

It makes sense that the showrunners want to keep Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux (and Alina and Mal) in their cast for a possible season 3, and to keep them pretty central to the events as well—which is why Alina is now part of the Grisha triumvirate (taking the spot originally meant to be David’s) and Mal is off privateering as Sturmhond.

Still, the presence of a “dark Alina” dramatically alters the course of events detailed in the other installments of the Grishaverse—especially the King of Scars duology, made up of the titular King of Scars and Rule of Wolves. Will Alina’s new powers act as a deterrent against Ravka’s enemies (Fjerda in particular)? Will Alina become consumed by her shadows the same way the Darkling ultimately was and turn into an antagonist?

As a longtime fan of the book series, I’m not sure I would like this last possibility all that much, but nothing has been decided yet. We don’t even know if we’re going to get a third season, since Netflix has yet to make an announcement about Shadow and Bone‘s fate. What’s certain is that we are in for quite the ride if the show continues.

(featured image: Netflix)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.