Shadow and Bone has a variety of complicated lore, mixing storylines and mythology from all seven of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse books. Season 2 places one specific side of Grisha tradition on the coronary heart of issues, as Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal (Archie Renaux) tackle the mission of monitoring down amplifiers to be able to destroy the Fold. Their quest uncovers startling truths that create ripple results that go far past the anticipated and set the stage for a possible third season that may wade into new Grishaverse territory.
Understanding the historical past of amplifiers and the way they work is essential to understanding this season of Shadow and Bone — notably the ending. So let’s break down the whole lot you have to learn about amplifiers, together with that ultimate twist.
What’s an amplifier?
Amplifiers could be traced again to Ilya Morozova, one of many first identified Grisha. Tons of of years in the past, Morozova got down to create a manner of accelerating Grisha energy to assist them higher shield themselves from persecution — which is similar line of fake altruism Kirigan hides his personal hunt for energy behind. Also called the Bonesmith, Morozova used merzost and his finger bones to create impressively highly effective animals that, when killed and fused right into a Grisha’s physique, boosts their energy. For the time being the amplifier is fused with a Grisha, they’re in a position to see the creature’s ultimate reminiscences, which feels like a really disagreeable expertise since these are typically the animal’s POV of being murdered.
Whereas uncommon, there are a number of amplifiers in existence, together with people, comparable to Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker) and Basic Kirigan (Ben Barnes), whose bones will also be used to create amplifiers. Nonetheless, this observe is taken into account heresy for apparent causes.
The extent to which an amplifier magnifies a Grisha’s energy varies relying on the animal. Some solely improve a Grisha’s energy a minimal quantity. There are three legendary amplifiers — Morozova’s beasts — which can be so highly effective, although, that the majority consider they solely exist in kids’s tales. However like a lot Ravkan folklore, these tales are firmly rooted in fact.
As a result of amplifiers have been created utilizing merzost, Grisha solely ever take one amplifier of their lifetime, believing that having a number of would trigger them to lose management of their powers. However with a lot at stake, Shadow and Bone season 2 finds Alina racing to gather all three of Morozova’s amplifiers, satisfied that she’s destined to convey them collectively to destroy the Fold, whatever the danger to herself.
What are Morozova’s amplifiers?
The stag performed a outstanding position within the first season of Shadow and Bone. Alina dreamed of the creature all through the season, however it was Kirigan who led the hunt for it — to not destroy the Fold, as he claimed, however to broaden it and additional set up his management over Ravka.
Within the books, it’s mentioned the stag is a part of “the making of the center of the world,” which is the supply of all Grisha energy. Ravkan folklore additionally paints the stag as a sort being who grants needs and may discuss. Sadly, that final half will not be true — although the stag’s benevolence is.
When Mal and Alina discover the stag, Alina discovers she doesn’t must kill it, because the stag chooses to share its energy together with her. Whereas she’s within the means of bonding with the stag, Kirigan and his supporters arrive and shoot Mal up with arrows. Alina is then given the selection: save Mal or stop Kirigan from killing the stag. A distressed Alina chooses Mal, and Kirigan decapitates the mythic stag as a grieving Alina watches on.
Kirigin forces David (Luke Pasqualino) to fuse the stag’s antlers into Alina’s higher chest, however they don’t totally take up into her physique. Horrifyingly, the antlers stay protruding out of her clavicles. Kirigan additionally has a small piece of antler embedded into his personal hand to forge a connection permitting him to manage Alina’s powers. (Within the books, David makes an unbreakable collar for Alina, which is sufficient for the Darkling to manage her powers and saves us all from the disturbing imagery of chest antlers.)
[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone season 2.]
As soon as Kirigan and Alina are contained in the Fold, she takes again management of her skills when she cuts the little bit of antler out of his hand. With the stag’s energy now her personal, the remainder of the antlers are totally absorbed into Alina’s physique (hallelujah). Nonetheless, some residue of the stag stays in Kirigan’s hand, making a psychic hyperlink between him and Alina that persists till Baghra cuts off his hand in her dying moments in season 2.
The ocean whip
The second of Morozova’s beasts is the ocean whip. With the assistance of Nikolai (Patrick Gibson) and his crew, Mal and Alina monitor down the ice dragon within the caves of a distant island. Alina offers the order to seize it alive, assured that the ocean whip will select to bestow its energy on her the identical manner the stag did. However when the ocean whip assaults Mal, Alina kills it — as soon as once more selecting an amplifier’s loss of life to protect Mal’s life. Alina has two of the ocean whip’s scales fused into her physique, although in contrast to the antlers, they continue to be seen on her wrist like an embedded bracelet.
Within the books, we’re given a bit extra backstory on the ocean whip. The legend says the creature is a cursed dragon prince named Rusalye. Eternally caught within the type of the ocean serpent, Rusalye is made to protect the waters bordering the Bone Street, a northern portion of the True Sea. Whereas this story could seem tragic, Rusalye isn’t precisely a sympathetic determine: In line with folklore, Rusalye routinely kidnapped girls to be his underwater companions, however since there was nothing to feed them beneath the ocean, all of them starved to loss of life.
That is the place issues get sophisticated and a bit bizarre. The final of Morozova’s beasts is the firebird. However the firebird isn’t the third amplifier; Mal is.
Wait. How is Mal the firebird?
Because it seems, folks simply assumed the firebird was the third amplifier. Joke’s on them, although, because the third amplifier was Baghra’s beforehand unmentioned sister.
In season 2, Baghra reveals that she’s Morozova’s daughter, however that he by no means accepted her because of her shadow skills. When Baghra’s sister broke her cherished clay swan, the one reward her father ever gave her, Baghra misplaced management of her powers and killed her. Morozova resurrected the lady utilizing merzost and his finger bone — the identical manner he resurrected the stag and sea whip — and turned Baghra’s youthful sister into the third amplifier. This energy was then handed down by means of her bloodline, and finally to her descendant, Mal.
Being a Morozova is information to Mal, who remembers nothing about his organic household. However the indicators have been there all alongside: After his mother and father have been killed within the warfare, a younger Mal wandered the nation searching for an orphanage and handed a number of earlier than selecting Keramzin, which he says “felt like house.” Mal being subconsciously drawn to Keramzin, the place Alina was, and his heightened monitoring means are penalties of him being one in every of Morozova’s amplifiers. This revelation leads Mal to query whether or not he and Alina are actually meant to be collectively romantically, or if he’s solely a instrument to serve in her journey to larger, higher issues.
Total, now we have to say that Mal takes the revelation of being an amplifier pretty effectively — or not less than an entire let higher than Alina does. Having killed the stag and sea whip to save lots of Mal, Alina’s devastated to be taught she’s now imagined to kill Mal to save lots of Ravka. Martyr Mal is able to sacrifice himself, however Alina remains to be satisfied there’s one other manner.
Sadly, the choice is taken out of Mal and Alina’s palms when he’s injured throughout the ultimate battle with Kirigan. As Mal lays dying, Alina stabs him within the coronary heart to be able to use his amplifier powers to destroy the Fold. Alina then kills Kirigan and has Nina (Danielle Galligan) try and resurrect Mal utilizing her Heartrender abilities. Nevertheless it’s Alina’s secret use of merzost that finally restores him. Although Mal will get his life again, he loses his skills as an amplifier, and with it his monitoring skills and innate sense of his “true north.” Alina additionally should pay the price of utilizing merzost. In an enormous break from the books, Alina discovers she not has the powers of the saintly Solar Summoner however has taken on the dreaded shadow skills of Kirigan.
So there isn’t even a firebird in any respect?
Within the present, no. Within the books, sure. Nonetheless, the firebird isn’t totally a hen.
In line with myths, Sankta Vasilka turned the primary firebird after utilizing her Grisha powers to weave herself wings that allowed her to flee a power-hungry sorcerer making an attempt to pressure her into marriage. This whole slay is what earned Vasilka the title of Saint of Unwed Girls.
Firebird lore doesn’t cease there. The creature is taken into account the image of Ravka and tied tightly to its historical past. In line with legends, the firebird’s flight path is what drew Ravka’s authentic borders and the Lantsov household is even mentioned to be descended from the creature. (This fable makes much more sense realizing that the firebird has — or not less than had — a human type.) There are additionally tales saying the firebird can weep diamond tears, its feathers heal any wound, its wings present you the longer term, and that it may possibly sing a military to sleep like one large, fiery Jigglypuff.
The firebird briefly even seems in Damage and Rising when it assaults Mal and Alina, who handle to trace it down. However after Mal’s amplifier powers are activated, the firebird leaves them be, understanding they’re not a menace to its life.
The firebird has fairly spectacular resume and ability set, so no marvel folks thought it was the third amplifier as a substitute of the lovesick himbo with a startlingly eager sense of path.