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Shadow and Bone 1×02 “We’re All Someone’s Monster” Review

Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov in Shadow and Bone's "We're All Someone's Monster"
NETFLIX © 2021

“We’re All Someone’s Monster” opens up with a flashback to Mal and Alina’s Grisha test indicating that they ran and hid because Alina didn’t want to be separated from him in case she was Grisha, and that’s just precious. We’ll keep saying this, but this friendship is a beautiful thing and so damn pure, it’s a solid way to start the episode and paralleling it with General Kirigan’s (Ben Barnes) introduction as he asks Alina who she is.

When Alina can’t say anything more than the fact that she’s a cartographer, Kirigan asks Zoya to explain what happened, which leads to the conversation of the searing burst of light followed by his prickly ring/knife revealing that Alina is in fact, the Sun Summoner. (Now remember, with these reviews, we’re going into Shadow and Bone with zero knowledge of the books. Yes, I know what’s coming because I’ve done my research, but my immediate thought in this moment wasn’t oh that’s a villain, instead it was, this scene should not be this explosive or riveting. You need to stop looking at her with those heart eyes, sir.) 

On one hand, it’s aesthetically beautiful, on the other hand, it’s bizarre. What’s the deal with the prickly knife ring? Why did he have to switch it from one finger to the other? Why did he have to cut her skin? And again, why did he have to look good? It’s the kefta isn’t it? The kefta makes everything look good. Or, it’s Ben Barnes.

Alina is then taken by the general’s Heartrenders Ivan and Fedyor Kaminsky (who’s a delight, by the way). Ivan, not so much at the moment. They are then ambushed by Fjerdan army, the Drüskelle otherwise known as Grisha hunters. But then there’s an incoming shadow and Kirigan sweeps in (again, it shouldn’t be this dramatic, and yet) to save the day. We realize everyone’s seen the light Alina summoned and now she rides with him. I’m garbage for many things, but I’m especially garbage for scenic rides on horseback, and the one we get in “We’re All Someone’s Monster” is a gorgeous one.

After a bit of riding they stop because Alina’s tailbone hurts, which is just a whole mood. I appreciate the honesty here. Kirigan then asks her if she was tested as a Grisha resulting her in admitting they hid, adding on that because they were already different, they didn’t need more reasons to feel like outsiders. There’s a lot of hatred in this universe that’s reflecting on modern times too closely and too painfully, but addressing it in media like this is important and necessary as long as the series is careful to handle it properly. But even fantasy doesn’t erase pain or the harsh realities of xenophobia. And it’s partly why it’s easy to believe Kirigan here when he tells her boldly “You are Grisha. You are not alone.” Is it Ben Barnes’ sincerity in this moment or is Kirigan actually being honest? Whatever it is, in this very moment it’s easy to believe that he means every word that’s coming out of his mouth. Here, she’s not alone. Here, she’s special. And the tension here is really fascinating. 

Mal thus makes the decision to go after Alina standing up for the fact that she’s real and worth it but chooses not to go after when told to think things through—to wait. And that stands as “We’re All Someone’s Monster’s” theme with most characters revealing brash decisions followed by impactful ones, ultimately, much like all of Ravka imprisoning them all in some form in the end. But Mal is determined and Mal is on a mission, we know as much. He said he’d always find her and even if he waits it out, he absolutely will.

Except right now, the only person left without a choice is Alina—the one who wasn’t given the opportunity to decide for herself in anyway, she is just told what to do and how, which makes her breakdown in Little Palace so heartbreaking. Jessie Mei Li shattered me in that moment followed by the longing for some way home—some way towards Mal, which the scene with the hands serves as a precious way to end the episode. It’s comforting, it’s wholesome, and it feels right ultimately.

“We’re All Someone’s Monster” is an appropriate title for an episode where tensions are running high, and people aren’t their best selves. It’s also an appropriate title to reveal the gravitas of each of the decisions made and starting off with an argument between Kaz and Inej is a faultless showcase of that. This isn’t the last time we’ll say this so get used to it—no one has chemistry the way these two do. And no one has chemistry the way the three crows do.

Kaz Brekker didn’t need a reason, but Kaz Brekker’s reason is so often Inej Ghafa, and we get a fairly early glimpse of that here in how their partnership works. They are two people who know each other better than anyone else does (however little the information may be), and they are as close as two people developing a partnership come. It is why this conversation works best with them because Inej brought the job to Kaz, but she knows when he doesn’t have a plan, and she knows “until sunrise” is too little time to figure out a plan and for Heleen to even approve of Inej going. Thus, their presumed conflicting interests sets the stage with intricate, delicious angst that is bound to lead to something grand and momentous. (Which it does.)

We know very little about their partnership at this point because so much has yet to be rooted and established, but we know that Kaz Brekker would never leave her behind. We also know that no mission or heist is complete without the Wraith; thus, when the words “then maybe you stay here” leave his mouth, we can see him instantly regret it in a moment that brilliantly exhibits bountiful intensity towards the high stakes of it all. 

Freddy Carter’s swift and seamless change in emotions as he plays off of Suman’s incredible means of standing her ground are astounding to note. The deep breath he lets out, the slight crack in his voice, and the immediate, subtle delicacy in his expression that replaces Kaz’s rage easily shows the audience everything we need to know about how remorseful he truly is.

Beginning “We’re All Someone’s Monster” this way is an ode to the idea that people don’t always think things through, and what ultimately happens in those cases is the closest person to them gets hurt in the process. Henceforth, someone’s monster is indicative is of their moral compass. On a show like Shadow and Bone, in a universe like this, they’ve all got them buried within. While book Kaz might think more than he acts and doesn’t always express what he wants to, TV Kaz is primarily about the actions—or at least he tries. Staring towards the rain and waiting, he could’ve voiced something deeply sincere if it weren’t for Pekka Rollins. And we know this because through his now softened mien and gentle expression full of longing, Carter shows us that Kaz’s mind isn’t focused on formulating a plan, but instead, he has been trying to figuring out ways to make matters right with Inej.

In place of an apology, we get a confrontation that’s almost unbearable to watch and as readers, aching towards what it alludes to—a bigger, darker moment, and one that’ll hopefully be full of satisfaction for Kaz and his trauma. My heart broke when Pekka said he’d dump him into the harbor because simultaneously in that moment Carter’s means of touching on so many emotional beats within Kaz were harrowing to watch. Still somehow the ruthless Bastard of the Barrell and the little boy who’s lost everything.

To then immediately cut to Inej at the bar with Jesper stating that she knows Kaz has no way into the fold, and that she’s noticed the way he looks when talking about Pekka Rollins touches on the element that so much of what they know is because of how observant they are of each other (even when the details come in pieces). 

I’m pretty sure I also screamed #married (just like that) when they both stole Jesper’s shot. (I’m pretty sure we all did, right?) This crew. Their dynamics. The symmetry is on point even while separated.

Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that they are all monsters, and on par with the episode’s theme, decisions for Kaz are so often made of spite—he doesn’t need a reason, but he sure does have one. And no matter what Pekka Rollins tries to do, he’ll use it to his advantage. Kaz Brekker doesn’t back down no matter what’s on the line, instead he looks towards the players at club, he uses his resources and tries to make a way even while the odds appear to be against him.

This might just be one of my favorite moments for Kaz because while there’s still so much to learn about him, this is a scene that clearly showcases just how much of his resources he’s used to navigate the world around him. The look in his eyes throughout this scene is almost terrifying, but at the same time, it isn’t grave or hollow, there is focus, determination, and something more, which the closeup exhibits tactfully. 

Kaz Brekker isn’t just resourceful, he’s clever—knowing specific details about how people from Ravka count their money, what they mention and what they don’t, serves to illuminate the fact that those who are careful with when they speak and to whom, are often the wisest amongst us. Whatever he did to get here, he paid a price and repeatedly used his mind to do so. 

When the Ravkan woman reveals her daughter is Grisha and they fled the war, Kaz uses that to their advantage in order to find out how, which leads to a man called the Conductor, and the only information they can get on him is through a performer Kaz knows named Poppy.

Kaz finds Poppy then sees that a calling card which also came for Inej was sent to Poppy as well coming to the conclusion that Heleen knew about their plans because of Pekka and would hurt the Conductor if it meant sabotaging Kaz’s plan. (Further proof of his resourcefulness.) 

Since we know that Inej’s indenture hasn’t been paid in full, Heleen could still use her whenever she sees fit and thus manipulates Inej to kill, stating that if she wants to go with Kaz, she needs to do this for her now. Gross. 

And as we know, Inej refuses to kill.

Inej goes to Jesper for help initially, and tragically disrupts a pistol show he’s putting on with himself, in the streets, for the mirror? Go Jesper go. He hesitates at first, not because he wouldn’t do anything for her, but because what would be difference? He knows the answer and the three of them often challenging each other this way is stunning to see. He agrees after she vocalizes that he knows why, but when she hears Kaz coming, Inej disappears. How does she do that? We’re still trying to figure it out too, Jesper

It’s fantastic is what it is, but more than that it’s the conversation about Inej refusing to kill followed by Jesper answering that since he’s still alive, he’d absolutely trust her with life and death. And that’s also the interesting thing because Kaz asks a question he knows the answer to, except not the how, and while that’s something we get answered later on, it’s not a draw on whether or not Inej is trustworthy, but a clear distinction instead of how hard it actually is for him to trust someone at all. It shows us more of his aversions, his loneliness, and the inability to really believe that someone out there cares deeply for him. (Which is why what happens in episode five is such a big deal but more on that later.)

That said, let’s get to what is actually my favorite performance in the episode, which is Amita Suman’s exhibition of underlying pain all throughout. If we were doing an MVP section for each episode, she’d be the choice for today, without question. (She’d actually be the choice for every episode if I’m being frank.) Suman broke me from the moment Inej started arguing with Kaz, then she stunned me when talking to Heleen, but when she was trying to buy time before killing the man, I was a goner. 

We can see just how hard Inej is fighting to find the will to do so, searching, seeking for absolution and convincing herself it’s for all the Suli kids taken from their parents. But when the Conductor starts talking about how he’d never and that he could help, it’s the small glimmer of hope which Suman wears that is so gorgeously telling. We aren’t just seeing the Wraith in this moment, but we are looking into the eyes of a little girl even while she’s got a knife to the Conductor’s throat, clearly reliving the trauma of the separation as she tries to remember specifics about the slavers who took them.

It’s the anguish and turmoil that she wears so organically at the mention of the Sankta Lizabeta—the questioning of her faith and the fact that what she’s doing goes entirely against her beliefs. But she has no choice, not right now anyway. Ask the Saints for me rings loudly as it’s the unveiling of her sadness and rage, which she uses to do something she genuinely believes will benefit her and mainly, other Suli kids more. 

Because that’s evidently what all this is about for Inej—it’s about ensuring that what she’s gone through by being sold to the Menagerie is something no other child lives through. But Inej’s kill doesn’t come tonight because the Conductor is their way through the Fold and no matter how hard they tried to sabotage it, Kaz Brekker has outsmarted them.

For Kaz Brekker, the choice is always going to be Inej Ghafa. However, the assumption that he is choosing the Conductor over Inej’s freedom is entirely understandable because these two have ways to go in solidifying just how much they mean to each other. But Kaz specifying that it wasn’t one or the other, followed by a quiet nod promises his word is not only true, but however subtle, it further proves (at least to us) that if there was a choice, it’d be her freedom. Always.

Heleen was never going to give Inej her freedom even if she did kill—she’d raise the price. She’d fight dirty because as Kaz says to Jesper, he knows how she operates and surviving in Ketterdam requires ruthlessness. While that’s something he models after himself, it isn’t something he’d let others, especially his crows be subjected to. 

And what Inej doesn’t know—what destroys us as viewers is that what Kaz Brekker does next solidifies the very detail that there’s always a choice, always a reason. And that very reason is always going to be Inej. If you weren’t already shipping these two, this last moment was bound to do the trick. 

The framing of this scene owns me a little, not gonna lie. It’s the voice over about Mal stating: “We’re all fools. When our closest friend is in trouble, we do foolish things,” that comes just as Kaz walks through the doors to Heleen’s office. He is absolutely a fool—a fool who might not have had a plan initially, but the prospect of leaving Inej behind wasn’t something he’d grapple with for long. Kaz puts up the Crow Club up for collateral—a foolish thing perhaps, but one we know he’s pondered on. When it comes to Inej, there’s clearly nothing he wouldn’t do. When he said you will (be a part of the mission), he meant it. (And we’ll get into the you won’t for our review of episode seven.) Two words. It’s all takes. Inej is his to lose now, it’s all his to lose now. But is it really a loss, or the ultimate form of freedom in a myriad of ways? 

“We’re All Someone’s Monster” is an episode that focuses on the foolish ambitions and the greed that’s inside everyone, but ultimately, it’s a showcase of the fact that much like a coin, everyone’s got their other half—the monster who is theirs, the one they look to, call to, and rely on. And it only gets wilder from this point further. 

Midnight Heists and Further Thoughts

  • I hate guns and I hate pistols and I hate everything about what they represent, but dammit I cannot deny the fact that Jesper and his style owns a piece of me. He’s damn right when he says he looks good doing it because he does. No one else could be this smooth. No one else could steal every scene they’re in as delightfully.
  • Magical handkerchiefs are apparently a thing that exists in this universe.
  • This is the first and only time (this season) we hear someone call Kaz “Dirtyhands” to his face and did anyone else scream a little?
  • Jesper asking for explosives. Kaz refusing. WYLAN WHERE!? But also, perfect banter is perfect.
  • THE SCENE WITH INEJ TAKING OUT ALL HER LIVES. That’s it. That’s the thought.
  • I will get over a lot of things but I will not get over Kaz and Inej both rage taking Jesper’s shot. I will never get over Jesper just needing a damn drink because same. 
  • I want a red Kefta.
  • Listen, I know we’re all about Ben Barnes, I get it, but Freddy Carter running his fingers through his hair in that one scene, you know the one, is singlehandedly the hottest moment in the entire show and I’m ready to fight anyone who disagrees.

What are your thoughts on Shadow and Bone’s “We’re All Someone’s Monster?” Tell us in the comments below.

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