Scene Breakdown: Knives, Trust, and Loyalty in Shadow and Bone’s “Otkazat’sya”

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Trust is a convoluted spectacle at times, a labyrinth of endless security that relies heavily on excavation—searching, cherishing and cementing. It seldom requires words in this form, it’s either buried deep or boldly on display, and when there are words, they are a parallel to what’s been established before. Trust is hard to come by, it is a rare state of ease and a deliberate exhibition of emotional revere, a promise that entails, this is it—this is a constant.  

Sometimes, the physical manifestation of trust comes at an actual showcase. It’s preserved, cultivated, and fortified in moments between two people that speaks on all sorts of complex emotions with vehemence.

And yes, this is the new romance hand flex.

There is a level of intimacy that’s unparalleled in this moment that touches on meticulously placed trust in the physical hands of one’s closest confidant, which ultimately paints a picture of belief. A moment of silence that speaks immeasurably loud—eye contact that questions, pleads, and surrenders. The most intimate moments on Shadow and Bone come to pass most effortlessly in the form of zero physical contact between Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa. It goes deeper. It’s as close as they get to a physical touch, and yet the beauty of it all lies in the unveiling weight of the act.

NETFLIX © 2021

Freddy Carter and Amita Suman show so much in such a quick moment that it’s a riveting display of how methodically their performances advance the story and strengthen the bond between Kaz and Inej.

All fourteen of Inej’s knives are her armor, tucked carefully on her being, they are her fortress and fortitude, named after Saints, and precious in every way. She can throw them when need be, lose them even in great battles perhaps, but willingly allowing someone else to care for them requires trust in its ultimate form. And Kaz Brekker could be, the only other keeper. It requires no words, only the language they tirelessly fortify and enhance. A silent conversation that ensures she can give without reluctance. When Inej must divest of her armor and her blouse for the show, it requires too much out of her. (Suman allows us to see a visible depiction of how Inej is uncomfortable in the cheers and screams because of what she’s been through—the unwanted touches, ogling eyes, and worse.) What once brought Inej joy, learning with her father, finding the balance, now requires far too many uncertainties in the darker world they’re in. But even if she’s exposed, she isn’t alone. 

A choice is given to Inej here. When Kaz turns to her slowly and cautiously, he stops before her and verbally says nothing, but his eyes and physicality tell a different story. You got this, but only if you want it. Inej understands because Inej understands their language. In the similar, perfect unison where they can both tell Jesper to “shut up,” they can speak to each other in a room full of people with no one else deciphering their words. Despite it being a task she doesn’t want, the choice matters, and quoting back his words to him, referring to the understanding that she knows what’s riding on this, she indicates that she can handle it. She’ll do it. 

Thereby, when she gives him her knives, she puts her armor in his hands—she trusts in him completely, and she lets him hold pieces of her, knowing with full conviction, he’ll take care of them, and furthermore, he’ll take care of whatever else follows. 

The magnitude of this task, the weight of what she’s physically placing in his gloved hands is integral to crystallizing the detail that their fight is together. It’s a long and winding road full of pandemonium, darkness and complications, but their trust in each other is far from misplaced. It’s real. It’s vulnerable. It’s safe. Inej doesn’t need a net, she has her Saints, but sometimes she needs Kaz Brekker’s faith in her and that’s something she always has. Said out loud or through moments of silence like this, Carter and Suman make it brazenly clear that like magnets, though physically distanced, Kaz and Inej rely heavily on the loyalty they’re drawing, carding, and dealing. Trust is a perpetual presence between them, tucked underneath layers of burdens and traumas, ready to give and take and heal.

But when everybody is watching Inej Ghafa perform, Kaz Brekker is watching them watch her. He’s scowling, shoulders tensed, cane at the ready, her knives shielded and safely tucked away, he’s ready to do whatever necessary if anyone dares to cross lines. (And the deliberate choice to show us this amidst Inej performing was crucial in revealing his acute awareness of her agency. Her safety.) She won’t vanish, not today, not right now because her armor is safely guarded. 

It’s beautifully foreshadowing of the fact that one day, in the same way that she can trust him with her knives, she can trust him with her heart, the trauma, the pain, and everything else in between. And in the same way that he could reach forward, gloved for now, slowly, intricately, he’ll find the time and place to give all that he’s able to in order to deepen, broaden, and breakthrough. Like magnets, orbiting with precision and care around the other, the trust between them is a treasure of greater depth than all the kruge in the world.

They work better together. They look out for each other, and in an episode where the running theme is the importance of shared vulnerability, their partnership is a showcase that reveals trust in its most profoundly rewarding manifestation.

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