Of all the confrontations that fans of Shadow and Bone had been waiting for, this was one of them, and though a shorter scene than a lot of others, what’s most surprising is how intricately it set apart two men in power. (However different said power might be.)
(Before anyone jumps at my throat, I like The Darkling as a villain. And I don’t normally like villains. Ben Barnes is riveting as the smug, manipulative Shadow Summoner (who has chemistry with everyone and everything), but in these scenes especially, the villainy is coming through. Which as is, it’s great.)
However, the essential takeaway from this scene has been the detail focusing on a conversation about agency that does a lot to bring to light who Kaz Brekker is. It’s one man asking another where a woman is, and another responding with the fact that perhaps she fled on her own because she didn’t want to be held captive anymore. Kaz Brekker isn’t exactly righteous, and when need be, he could be cruel too, but Kaz isn’t out for his own personal gain when it comes to damaging someone good.
And where Inej Ghafa is concerned, the woman he needs most, he understands the importance of her agency more than anything else.
But agency isn’t something that the Darkling understands and it’s so fascinating that in this scene of all scenes, Kaz brings that up without even knowing just how much the Darkling is yet to do. It sets up so much of the emotional beats in episode seven and eight where it’s clear that Aleksander’s vision has blurred between his own thirst for power and vengeance. He appears to need Alina, which Kaz could understand, but it’s a need that doesn’t take into account agency.
It’s a crucial conversation, amidst an anticipated battle that you really have to question its presence for. At this point, though he hasn’t voiced it out loud, Kaz has already dropped the decision to capture Alina. As a character who runs everything through multiple times in his head, he understands the weight of what he’s initially set out to do, how it impacts Inej, and though it’s established further later, at this point, a woman being held captive isn’t worth any of the kruge that can be offered.
It becomes a moment of power vs. street credibility because how exactly does a kid from Ketterdam escape from a man with as much strength as Darkling could harness through the shadows? He uses a bomb, trickery, and in doing so proves to the audience that Kaz Brekker is always two steps ahead of everyone else. He might always have the answer to everything, but he is so often prepared because that’s what happens when you’re forced to survive the way he has.
A mortal and an eternal clash over another person’s agency, but the mortal escapes after establishing the importance of people being allowed to leave. It’s also a moment that hits as evocatively as it does because the larger message that is being addressed is at the very core of what makes Kaz so different than most criminals. He can be a monster when need be, but his heart is in the right place because when people aren’t deserving of his rage, they aren’t going to see that side of him. He understands what it means for a woman to be stuck in a place that’s toxic for her. Thus, knowing the stories, knowing Alina willingly came into their carriage, he understands the colossal need for escape in the same way that Inej was given the freedom when she joined his crew.
And thus, more than a moment of street smarts, it’s a moment that blatantly showcases just how different both men are, which brings forth such fascinating dualities if and when they clash again, which I personally hope it’s soon because it made for an excellent scene.