For starters, the English major in me has stared at that title for too long questioning the grammatical impracticality while the fangirl in me has had an absolute ball trying to figure out what on earth it means, and how I could analyze it further. What is the heart of the world in this universe? What “making” are we talking about? The Fold? Heartrenders? The chemistry between everyone on this show? I don’t know, I never actually figured it out but regardless, I’m here for it.
The episode kicks off with Alina dreaming of a stag (the stag) and when she’s awakened, she’s bombarded with the Little Palace staff, but incoming Genya Safin (Daisy Head), who’s by far one of the easiest characters to love on this series from the moment she graces our screens. The staff continue to spew their racist rhetoric towards Alina being part Shu, and that particular comment about Genya changing her eyes? Kindly, f—k you, ma’am. But I’m glad she fired back at the women talking about her in old Ravkan as if she wouldn’t understand. I’d ask who raised these women, but really, I don’t want to know because they don’t deserve our attention. We’re just glad that Genya is someone Alina could rely on it Little Palace. (At least for now.) I also feel it’s crucial to add that with this episode especially, the racism is a little extreme in form. I understand the need for it, but so often, the problem with TV is that racism isn’t always this bold or overt in the real world and thus, it starts to feel forced as opposed to an organic display of what it looks like.
That said, back to Genya the gem. Genya is a Tailor, brought to the Little Palace at the age of eleven, and as she states almost as rare as Alina who’s a Sun Summoner, but naturally, she is still having a hard time adjusting to the new title and what it entails. And listen, we’d be too if we suddenly found out we were Grisha then needed to be presented to the king overnight—no normal person would adjust to such things as quickly, which means the number of times we’ve yelled leave her alone to our screens have been seemingly endless.
“You’ve been a Grisha your whole life.” And that’s what is so interesting to touch on is that even though Alina just found out about her abilities, this is something that’s always been in her—so even if it takes time, we know she will get to a place where she could use her powers freely, without reservations or fears.
Kirigan then sneaks up on them walking in the Little Palace right as she asks if a Grisha has ever escaped, noting to and pointing out then that their gifts aren’t magic, but rather small science referring to the fact that they manipulate what’s already around them. After she vocalizes that she’s being asked to do something that she didn’t even know she could do a few days ago, he poses the question that if she believes he brought her to make a fool out of her. (And we say this again, Ben Barnes does not need to make every moment this enticing. It’s absolutely unnecessary, and yet, we are jello.) The whole keep your focus on me spiel? Who else would she look at, the king? It’s just … so unnecessary to do this and to make us swoon this hard (for now).
This scene with the darkness encompassing the room? There is no scientific reason for Kirigan to step in front of Alina, get close to her and whisper: “now call the sun.” Absolutely no reason for it other than to thematically touch on light and dark … and also Ben Barnes. What exactly are we supposed to do with this information? How do we say, naw this doesn’t look good when they’re surrounded by a light that is hers, and he’s entirely beaming in the process watching her saying things like “you were perfect” and “welcome home” while holding her hand to send us spiraling, and it’s supposed to just—mean nothing? (Was it really necessary to go this hard if he’s the presumed villain?)
I know what is coming, and I’ll cover that when we get there, but for now—this positivity and the praise is winning me over a bit. Kirigan, whether with ulterior motives or not, sees Alina as the powerful woman that she is and he makes it clear not just to her, but to everyone around that there’s been no one like her. There could never be. Our shallow thoughts aside, what Barnes truly excels at here is genuinely showcasing that Kirigan is sincerely proud and enamored. He is in awe of her, and whatever that happens, that much is clear as day.
It was also lovely to see everyone congratulate Alina even though it sucked to see Zoya insult her, but since we could tell that she has clearly been through a lot (and also from a marginalized community herself), we’ll let it pass for the sake of the growth we know we’ll get to see in her character. And it leads us to their fight where Zoya uses Mal to rile Alina up landing her a punch in the face followed by Zoya using her powers against Alina, which we didn’t want to see. (We need these two to be on friendlier terms stat.) And Nadia (Gabrielle Brooks) is right why is Zoya pining after Kirigan if she can have her? Or Nikolai Lantsov. I mean, what? (I really know nothing. I’ve only heard stories.)
Alina gets a moment of quiet then and goes to explore the library, but she’s interrupted by the King’s Spiritual Advisor, the Apparat? He states that he wants to be friends. Listen, I’m not saying there’s something sketchy here, and maybe there isn’t, but this is not the way you approach someone? He does however offer her a book and tells her about how the first Grisha in history began by molding creatures into their bones to amplify their powers. And well, that just about foreshadows what’s to come rather obviously now, doesn’t it? But the dude’s creepy. Do we trust him? I don’t think I do.
We finally meet Baghra here and the woman clearly isn’t to be trifled with as she calls Alina out on her inability to summon the light without the Kirigan clutching her arm and hitting her to do so on her own. Ma’am that’s not the way to go, but we’ll see where this goes next week with what exactly inspires Alina to really use her power.
She continues writing letters to Mal, but it doesn’t seem like they’re going anywhere, however the last one stings a bit because clearly she feels alone and thus, the need for familiarity and comfort through Mal is entirely understandable.
They’ve been each other’s anchors from day one and the connection the two of them have evidently goes beyond anything she could form here in the Little Palace. Mal being Alina’s true north is a beautiful notion, and as I’ve said before, strictly using my personal biased with childhood friends to lovers, if they remained friends—this connection between them would be even more extraordinary. But whatever happens, the closeness is evocative. In a world that is hard and cruel, the two of them not only had each other in the past, but they have each other in the present even while they’re apart. This is a bond that matters and it’s a bond that’s lovely, but Alina is the answer in a lot of other ways, which is why it was also easy to appreciate Mal trying to get to her as well.
There is only one member of the six Crows we’ve yet to meet in season one, but hopefully we’ll see Wylan next season. But in this episode, we finally get Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman) however, our trio of Crows don’t actually get to meet them because since this is a prequel, Nina is captured by the Drüskelle army right before the others come in to meet her for their journey.
Once captured, Nina recognizes Matthias through the bow in his pocket and notices that he’s the one who caught her from behind arguing that five against one was a weak move. And I’ll be frank, since I knew nothing during my first watch, I felt nothing here other than the inclining that these two will stir up a lot in later episodes, and it’s going to be a thrill to dissect. For the time being, you tell ‘em, Nina! And her entrance was incredible, too as were her fighting skills.
Additionally, the fact that right from the beginning we were told about how firmly Nina believes in the fact that Grisha should be given choices in how they operate is so riveting considering so many of them are to a degree, prisoners in Ravka (even when their lives are presumably great).
On the other side of the tracks that quite literally aren’t connected—they need to actually find a way to get across the fold so they’re each tasked with something to do, and Kaz gets Milo the Goat.
On par with what rings as the episode’s theme of finding true north, so few characters actually know theirs, they are searching, however unknowingly even, for their anchors, their heart in this dark, gruesome world. (And more on that in the next episode.) But Inej’s faith is her true north and the exploration of this is without question, my favorite thing about this series and about her character.
To be given the opportunity to see someone so outspoken about their faith through glimpses that are bold and full of utmost conviction is everything to me. And Inej’s faith is integral to the character journey in myriad of ways, and in this episode, it stands contrary to Kaz’s belief that hope is dangerous. Hope is actually the one thing that people can have and could hold onto. And seeing the juxtaposition in their opposing viewpoints continues to be so flooring because while they’re so scrupulously kindred in a plethora of ways, their differences challenge the other with stunning vehemence.
I’m so close to adding a segment titled “How Did Amita Suman’s Performance Slay Us All Today” because really and truly, she is unmatched in her poise and vulnerability. The fascinating thing about Inej is that she isn’t afraid of many things, and she is especially proud of her faith. She’s also not afraid of being vulnerable and vocalizing her heartaches, which interestingly around someone like Kaz who seldom opens up, you’d think she’d be more reserved. Instead, Inej is open and transparent when she needs to be, which is something that serves to challenge him beautifully.
When you hear the cracks in her voice and watch the palpable heartache climb in her eyes as Suman says “Kaz, this is all that I have left of them” it’s impossible not to feel every ounce of the seclusion that Inej has noticeably lived through since the separation from her parents. In a single moment, whether you know Inej’s backstory or not, Suman makes it clear that the aches Inej harbors can be vastly overwhelming and thus faith is entirely how she fights through it.
When she mentioned the necklace that her mother stitched for her and brought it close to her lips, my heart sank. And Kaz isn’t entirely cruel in this moment either, he’s stoic still, but he isn’t apathetic because while he doesn’t agree, he knows, with every part of his being just how much this means to her. He listens to Inej when she speaks. However, because of his own experiences, he knows that in searching for what’s lost, monsters are found its place instead, and he doesn’t want that for Inej. So, he steps a little closer, softens his voice and expression ever so slightly and tells her to find ways to move forward. Small steps. We’ll get there.
“Pray, scream, do whatever you have to do to push this out of your mind and move on.” If I loved this line less, I might be able to talk about it more, but the fundamental verity behind this statement is Kaz acknowledging something he doesn’t quite understand. There’s a fine line between believers and unbelievers and how they speak to each other, but the detail that pray comes before all else functions as his acceptance of Inej’s faith. Because while Kaz doesn’t fully understand or believe it and while he might scowl at it, he accepts it entirely and that’s what speaks so highly of his character. Inej will always have agency with Kaz, and she’ll always be given the safe space to be herself.
Prior to this however, Kaz poses the question of knowing what a million kruge means to him, but what does it mean to the rest of them? And first, he looks immediately towards Inej, who replies with freedom. But the question here stands as what does it mean to Kaz? He doesn’t always need a reason, but ultimately, and so often, especially considering what’s at stake, a million kruge to Kaz equates to Inej’s freedom from the Menagerie. Inej isn’t just a spy or The Wraith, she isn’t merely there to guard doors and corners, she is indescribably significant to Kaz in more ways than one.
Whether he recognizes the gravitas of his emotions yet or not isn’t of importance right now, but his act is enough to tell us that while he cannot afford her indenture in full, more than anything, he cannot afford to lose her. Her freedom is worth more to him than all else and he’ll pay whatever price necessary.
True north as we know can also be a person, and though Kaz and Inej haven’t fortified this yet, there’s a reliance both Carter and Suman draw on in this episode that’s almost harrowing given the stakes. This friendship and partnership they’re solidifying is going to make everything that much more beautiful later. It’s the way that they look at each other first before choosing to trust Arken with the detail that there aren’t any landmines. It’s a step together. It’s the way that we see Kaz looking directly towards Inej once the conductor says they should say their goodbyes now while the volcra are attacking. And ultimately, it’s the way that they are so visibly aware of each other. This language they speak that no one else can even begin to understand starts to shine through incredibly from this episode.
So, what’s Jesper’s true north? Milo the goat? This series really brought in an emotional support goat and it worked. I don’t know, I’m second-guessing cats or dogs now—maybe we should all just get goats. Maybe this will put an end to all the anxiety so many of us deal with. It could work. We won’t know if we don’t try.
Jesper’s gambling addiction is fully brought to light and not even the slightest bit sugarcoated, but the fact that he’s a Fabricator? We’re just not going to talk about it yet, are we? Instead, we’re going to watch him brilliantly and singlehandedly take on all the volcra and attacking them with style. (And largely thanks to Milo. Credit goes where credit is due.) They are now safely across the fold but still need a way into the Little Palace. . .
“The Making at the Heart of the World” is a solid episode that kicks things into motion with such entertaining fashion it’s riveting. One minute we’re swooning, the next we’re screaming about symmetry, and by the end of it, we’re looking into where each of their hearts lie and where they’ll end up.
They’ve all got a true north—a place or a person that’s unlike anyone else. Someone who’ll make crossing the Shadow Fold with easier. And it’s not always the same person or the same thing, but this idea that they’re each aiming for something along with somewhere to go sets up these stories through fascinating details.
Midnight Heists and Further Thoughts
- Shadow and Bone | Grishaverse author Leigh Bardugo being the first to hug Alina. We see you. And we love to see it.
- How does Kaz always look so put together? This is stupidly unfair. I said what I said. There’s only so much more that I can handle. The fitted blazer under the coat? Who asked for this? I am but a mere mortal, how am I supposed to cope?
- Jesper freaking out about the tracks might never stop being funny. Jesper just breathing is everything to me. I don’t know how someone looks so cool in everything they do (even while he’s screaming at the top of his lungs).
- Nina yelling at Matthias and defending all Grisha was A+. The enemies to lovers excellence starts strong.
- Inej rolling her eyes in the carriage after Kaz calls Alina the “alleged” Sun Summoner is a whole mood and the kind of thing we need as gif reactions. #Married
- Also, Inej’s jump down as Kaz walks right by her? Glorious. The symmetry between the crows will never not floor me.
- If we were Alina, we’d also be annoyed by that veil. Why doesn’t it at least cover her whole face? It was gorgeous, but the angle is so bizarre.
- Everyone’s had a chance to hug Milo the emotional support goat except Inej and that’s just not cool with us. After the episode she’s had, GIVE HER THE GOAT.
What are your thoughts on Shadow and Bone’s third episode?