“Show Me Who You Are” is one explosive, nuanced title for the amount of stuff that erupts in this episode and just how much we start to see through these characters along with their relationships. And it showed viewers exactly who these people are without telling us too much. (Which is a first for this show that previously featured a lot more telling with some characters.)
The Winter Fete is here, and The Crows are in, but before we get to see through their disguises, let’s dig into Alina coming into her own and accepting her role as The Sun Summoner. This is where her role starts to get fascinating because I’m always here for the bold showcase of agency and a woman with power finding her way to use it. (Still, we know it’s going to take a while, but this is a great first step.) In this universe, Alina is the answer and Alina is, in almost every way, the future. And after the decision to step forward from her past in the previous episode and accept her duties, it’s lovely to see that most of what happens here is her choice. You will catch me screaming about a number of things all the time, no matter what show I’m covering, and a woman’s agency is on top of the list of what I’ll always point out.
Alina is in full control at Little Palace. She is finding a close friend in Genya, more open to conversation, and she’s laughing more with those around her. She doesn’t need Fabrikator gloves because she believes in herself and her power enough to be able to show people who she is without assistance. It happens rather quickly perhaps, but because this is a fantasy and she’s driven by a number of emotions, it works in being believable. It also works because we know there will be challenges in the future. There’s now an excitement in her and most importantly, there’s a sense of belonging here. Alina is Grisha, and she is finally, fully accepting that this is a part of her identity and it’s a part of her she’s growing to enjoy.
On another note, there are also budding feelings and anyone who’s been infatuated with someone can understand that in earlier stages, especially when said feelings are reciprocated, there’s an excitement and thrill coupled with a lack of focus on other things. Alina Starkov has a crush on General Kirigan, and uh, I mean I guess, so do we. At least until you know, he shows us who he is. But for now, our heroine casually decides to go visit him to which he thinks it’s Ivan and dramatically demands for his kefta. (Sir, you can put it on yourself. You don’t actually need your Heartrender for this, you know that, right?) Though I’ll never, ever say no to people helping others in or out of a piece of clothing. It just looks good, okay? It always looks good. And it especially looks good when said person is Ben Barnes and also has chemistry with the damn kefta. It’s not just about Alina—it’s about the kefta. There’s chemistry there too. Don’t at me. This is true and you know it.
In an episode that was all about spectacle in a number of ways, conversation plays a profound role in emphasis as well and Alina telling Genya she’s never wanted to retire. She has never wanted the quiet life, which both shows and tells us that this is what she was meant for. (Get this girl to the Ketterdam library, primarily so we could see it too.) This conversation with Genya followed by Alina telling Kirigan she understands what this all represents and feels like she now belongs to something bigger touches on the cognizance within herself in a way that works. In a way that Jessie Mei Li brings to life with a poise that feels incredibly organic. There is no act in this on her end, only transparency, which is also why it works that Alina is the first to initiate a kiss after he states that she’s important to … everyone else. (We know you wanted to say “me,” bud. That wasn’t even a smooth transition.)
However, it’s the way that he’s grinning afterwards that really gets you. This grown eternal man is grinning like a nincompoop schoolboy who’s just been kissed for the first time, how exactly am I supposed to be upset when he looks like that? (And I’ll get there—the criticism and all, but for now, let me fawn over Ben Barnes.) It comes down to the fact that another thing that’s easy to believe that comes out of his mouth is “not many people surprise me, Miss Starkov.” We know there is no ounce of insincerity or toying with her in this moment. He’s telling the truth and he means every word of it—he’s infatuated by her, stunned by her, and yes, without question surprised by her and all that she could potentially awaken with him. (And this score is stunning beyond words, which never helps when I’m presumably not supposed be entranced by something.)
And the only person in this episode that doesn’t boldly show himself as others do is Kirigan—we are told about him, but what we do see is most riveting because we see consent. Which again, I’m not a book reader so I don’t know the context of how it’s played out in the books, but on the series, and in this moment, the consent is crucial in understanding that there are layers and parts of him that don’t want Alina to regret any of the things that happen here.
We get to where there’s then clear manipulation on Kirigan’s end with Mal. And while we know he’s selfishly after the stag, he’s also to a degree intimidated by the fact that Mal does have a bigger role in Alina’s life. He knows their friendship is a strong one, and he knows that there are deeper feelings here. I’m the person who gets annoyed of things like this, and thus Kirigan using Mal’s knowledge of Alina’s favorite flower to surprise her was a big no. That’s not cool, dude, but then again, I suppose I’m weak because I was able to forget after he walked back to kiss her one more time. I then spiraled. I am and will forever be garbage for someone turning back for one more kiss. There was absolutely no need to add this and once again, we blame Ben Barnes. The man is really out here trying to make us care.
Plus, and I reiterate this again, asking her if she’s sure made this moment what it was. It made it feel that much more real and layered. It’s a moment that really blurs the lines between Kirigan’s motives as the Black Heretic and the man buried deep within who has found himself entranced by a woman who also wants him. You have to ask yourself here, and again, speaking solely as a non-book reader with zero context, can there be a redemption? Can we get to that place where something pulls him out of the power-hungry agenda? We’re not there yet, I don’t know if we’ll get there, but these are the kind of moments that stir the questions.
And while Kirigan shows us a small moment of who he could possibly be, this episode is about Sankta Alina. It’s about the moment where she actually changes this world and shows everyone exactly who she is. And the framing of the scene with Kirigan’s shadow filling the room and Alina’s light encompassing it is so beautifully shot, it’s hard not to adore.
It’s a moment where a woman who’s been shunned and ridiculed her whole life because of her identity gets to be the center of attention. She gets to shine. She stands before a whole bunch of terrible people and she shows them what she’s made of, proving not only to herself, but to all those in the room just how wrong they were in their prejudiced beliefs.
I don’t even know whose reaction in that moment is most beautiful, but the only correct answer is the complete awe on Inej’s face that’s the purest part of the entire episode.
Which means let’s talk about Inej—I could write a whole character study on who she is and what she’s done, and oh, wait I have. Inej Ghafa is everything and more, but most importantly, she is loyal. Her faith is never displaced, and her heart is seldom wrong even when her actions aren’t entirely martyr like. She is The Wraith after all, but as the woman who hadn’t killed before—the woman who had never wanted to, Inej kills for the first time in this episode and it’s to save Kaz. It shocks her and it stuns her, allowing Amita Suman to deliver a full range of emotions in split moment that exhibits so much and with full force. She swung, aimed towards the head and without a second thought because in that moment, all that mattered is the fact that Kaz Brekker’s life was on the line, and she needed to act.
It’s an act however, that petrifies Inej. She jumps down, double checks, tries to process, and the guilt sets in, but the detail of a disheveled Kaz insisting that she look at him in order to make sure she understands how grateful he is has yet to stop wounding me. She has to look him in the eyes because that’s where she’ll see all that he cannot express out loud.
Freddy Carter and Amita Suman are my favorite performers for this very reason because I could sit here for hours on end talking about the conversations that are being had with their characters in silence. The conversations that contribute to heartening the scene with layers that act as a fortress for them.
In a chapel of all places where for a moment Kaz’s world seemed bleak, someone was there to watch over him. Inej noticed the Inferni, and she told Kaz not to take chances, but she continued to look out for him anyway, stealthily and as quietly as she does best, she followed because they’d leave the grounds together and in one piece. Inej had an advantage in this episode, knives at the ready in spite of her disguise, she was armored, and as resourceful as Kaz is, she’s also acutely aware of him and thus would’ve undoubtedly noticed the fact that he was visibly in pain long before he started showing obvious signs.
It’s an incredible detail to pay attention to because while Kaz doesn’t have his cane in this episode, he has Inej, and she is, in a myriad of ways his armor. Kaz Brekker is to be feared for a number of reasons, he knows how to survive, but he’s not invincible, strong and resourceful, but still human and vulnerable. Which is why it was important (and heartbreaking) to see the pain that he was clearly in by showing us both the physical and emotional vulnerability behind his tough exterior. He may only need one good leg, and it could have worked if Inferni didn’t use both hands, but his pain and trauma don’t go undetected. Therefore, while viewers who haven’t read the books know so little, Carter touches on Kaz’s inner anguish with organic, nuanced shifts in his expression and physicality that tell audiences so much more about what’s going on inside of him.
This is a moment that boldly tells us that Kaz and Inej’s loyalty to each other is unparalleled. When it comes to the other’s life, there’s nothing they wouldn’t do. The choice is always evident, and they’ve shown each other, Inej especially in this moment, who they are.
Kaz might have bigger monsters in him, but Inej is not only his equal, she is his protector. His Saint, in every way. And that’s what it comes down to—she’s unmatched in her skills, but more than that, she’s unmatched because of her heart. They can argue and question each other tirelessly, but when it comes to life or death, there is no one who’d deem them worthy of living as fiercely as the other does. There’s no one who’d risk everything in the same way they would. Inej might not realize the weight of what her actions means to him in this in this very moment, but Kaz does. What she’s done for him is incomparable and it’s something he’ll always carry. The boy who’s lost everything, family, hope, a place to belong is coming to the understanding that his life matters to someone. His life is worth saving, and it matters as ardently because it’s crystallized by Inej of all people, the greatest, most benevolent person he knows.
They protect each other, and this is the moment where it becomes clear to the audience, with so few words, that these two will always have each other’s back. Kaz can and will trust Inej in life and death. He put up all that has as collateral for her freedom, and she put aside her morals for his life.
And in this episode, pain is momentarily easier to bear because it’s a partnership. It’s profound recognition and it’s immediate, lifelong gratitude that’s illuminated so beautifully, it leaves me both speechless and wanting to scream from the rooftops. For two people with zero physical intimacy and no bold declarations, the words they say to each other in silence are almost otherworldly. What Inej has done is worth everything to Kaz—what she’s shown and how she’s cared for him is something he’ll never forget. We’ll talk more about this in episode seven, but for now, Freddy Carter shows Kaz’s gratitude with exceptional nuance through an expression that’s filled with shock and immense appreciation coupled so intricately together, it’s masterful.
Moving forward with our Crows, Jesper brings me a lot of joy and with so much angst to cover on this series, I’m infinitely grateful for our Sharpshooter who’s thriving. (Especially because we know that there will be times where he isn’t and hi yes, where is Wylan?) Although Jesper’s motives to sleep with the Dima, the cute stablehand could be tied to his task to secure horses, it was nice to just have a moment on the series where two men seemed genuinely happy. If I didn’t know about Wylan, I could have shipped this. I could’ve hoped for a reunion.
And sometimes, when you’re looking out for something, it ends up finding you in the process, which made for one of the most memorable scenes in the series when Alina hid in The Crows’ carriage without them doing anything about it.
Speaking of men—I have a lot of questions about Fedyor and Ivan, starting with who decided Ivan was the better half because it’s without a doubt Fedyor. I do have a disdain for the Heartrender. Would it kill you to smile when you’re being fed sweets by a precious unicorn? Is it really that hard? So, I say this again, Fedyor is the better half and no, I will not hear any objections about this. Step it up, Ivan.
I will also hear zero objections about Genya and David because I genuinely cannot remember the last time an interaction this awkwardly delightful made me squeal as hard.
People showed up and they showed through, and Baghra set everything straight and revealed she should be queen so we have no choice but to believe her and stan. Although I have a whole lot of questions about her wanting to dispose of Mal. Talk about a grey character. We get her not wanting Kirigan to find the stag, but also, ma’am, you didn’t need to get his companion killed and you most definitely didn’t need to get him killed. But that scene where she showed Alina her relationship to Kirigan? Oof, Zoë Wanamaker terrified me. (In the best way.)
Whether it was the conversation between Alina or the conversation following with Kirigan, Baghra has clearly had years to also figure all this out and while there’s so much to her, there’s also still the fear—fear from her son, fear from what he’s done, and a plethora of darkness along with guilt buried deep within her that Wanamaker shows us with a single expression that’s so harrowing, I hate rewatching it.
There’s a lot that’s happening in this episode with the question of faith and where it’s going along with the importance of having it. And while creepy shadow Apparat is still very creepy, telling Alina to have faith was actually rather fascinating and something that gets you thinking. Faith in what exactly? Saints? Herself? The light? How much does he know and how much does he still have to show?
With the reins tied to Alina’s escape and the quest to find herself, the next three episodes do so much to really touch on who all these characters have shown us to be.
Midnight Heists and Further Thoughts
- Only Kaz Brekker would have a Plan F. And only Kaz Brekker could steal a guard’s disguise as swiftly as Kaz Brekker does. But also, only Kaz Brekker could look at an interaction and immediately understand something shady is happening, and thus, forcing him to think of as many plans in order for them access to Alina while Arken is sent after the double.
- Zoya correcting the bland white lady thinking Inej is Zemeni when she’s Suli was incredible.
- MARIE. Why did Marie have to die!? Why did Arken have to betray The Crows and the fact that Kaz knew from the second he caught that meeting? Fantastic. Resourcefulness at its finest.
- BUT MARIE. What a darling girl. I didn’t expect this to break me as much and especially the comment about not wanting to die with the wrong face? Oof.
- Alina wanting to go out and enjoy the caravan before her life changed was such a small and crushing moment because she’s the still the girl that isn’t ready for things to change, but simultaneously knows what she wants along with when to make those changes happen.
- Kaz knowing Inej’s size, but also that little head shake at her questioning him? Ingenious. #Married
- I can’t stop thinking about the fact that Inej is known for being quiet, stealthy but the sound editing made that dagger to the Inferni’s head so loud almost to emphasize the weight of what she’s done for Kaz. I can’t unhear it.
- You know what else was ingenious? Genya’s awkwardly ingenious compliment.
- It’s the way that even Ben Barnes and Archie Renaux have chemistry that’s pissing me off. This whole cast has chemistry with each other. I don’t understand. How. Why? Make it make sense.
- Mal’s confidence and the start of fighting for Alina is chef’s kiss right now. I’m still not on board because you all know my feelings about childhood best friends lovers to friends, but I’ve got feelings nonetheless about their loyalty.
- This episode should have also been called: The One With All the Stunning Themes
- The line about Kirigan not being a boy, but an eternal was so gut wrenchingly terrifying. And there’s a lot about this that I’ll cover in coming episodes.
- ALINA SNEAKING INTO THE CROWS’ CARRIAGE. JESPER’S “JUST ASK.” I got nothing, but what a brilliant way to finish an episode. Kit Young’s laugh in that moment lives rent free in my mind forever now. (No, seriously. I’ve watched it so many times, it really does.)
What are your thoughts on Shadow and Bone’s fifth episode?