Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing” Review

Pekka Rollins and Kaz Brekker

Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing” Spoilers Ahead

Shadow and Bone Season 2, Episode 4, “Every Monstrous Thing,” is the most cohesive episode thus far as it finds better pacing in moving the story forward for all the characters. While imperfect still, it accomplishes plenty in showcasing solutions and answers to the puzzle pieces. It only bodes well for some characters, but it’s the first episode that takes its time with critical moments.

While it would’ve been better if the arcs were separated into their own stories, Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing” finding another way to involve the Crows in a bigger story works to benefit the overarching themes. At the very least, with Pekka Rollins somewhat out of the way, we’re closer to Six of Crows territory with the Ice Court Heist. (We hope.) But one thing’s for certain, despite all the changes, the character arcs for the Grisha characters remain significantly better in the show. There’s no actor who doesn’t play a part in making the character they’re playing better, even when we’re frustrated by their fictional actions. And in an episode like this, a theme runs throughout the narrative, allowing each character agency to choose where they want to stand. 

Every Monstrous Thing 

Ben Barnes as the Darkling in Shadow and Bone 2x04 "Every Monstrous Thing."
Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

On a show like Shadow and Bone, everyone’s got a monster inside of them. And while only one person is setting out to create more, it’s imperative to note that everyone’s complicated enough to find challenges in their path. But the Darkling remains ruthless, especially with the Nichevo’ya unattached and out of his control. And though it’s easy to hate the Nichevo’ya for what they’ll do to Nikolai, it’s easy to commend the things for killing off Vasily. It’s been one episode too long with him, and it’s a good thing he’s gone. Sorry, not sorry.

Still, the Darkling isn’t giving up on his quest to fight with Alina by his side, and while it’s frankly a bit tiring, Ben Barnes looks good as he does it. And yet…it doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating to have the same arc repeatedly happen with the two of them. Because despite his probing in the books, show Mal is at least trying to end it all for good, and here he finds a potential solution for the shadow monsters, which sees Tolya and Zoya heading out to Ketterdam to seek the help of the Crows.

Mal continues to choose Alina, and Alina chooses Ravka, which is fascinating, and it’s all going to be greater in the long run because the women on the show have plenty of agency today. The singular moments we get of the fake engagement do the most in showing how little agency Nikolai has on these grounds—no has no sense of freedom, not truly. And maybe not until much later if the show develops the King of Scars or Rule of Wolves.

Luxuries of a Privateer

Nikolai Lantsov in Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 4

In fact, every time Nikolai refers to himself in the third person, an angel gains its wings. This episode gives us pieces of his character that show why he needed the escape in the first place. And through everything, it comes down to the detail that though his mother loves him, he’s the outsider of the family—the bastard son, the spare in more ways than one. He has no luxury of genuinely being himself, and so he deflects with humor. He pushes back. He counters. He tries. And he flirts a lot. But God, he’s flirting with the wrong person.

Someday, but not today. Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing” is about alliances; similar to “Like Calls to Like,” it’s about establishing where he stands and what he plans to do despite who’s against him and who refuses to believe in him. Nikolai doesn’t need their faith—he merely needs the opportunity to try, and that’s precisely what he does in shielding his family despite his frustration at their antics. Nikolai does what he does because, like all characters here, he’s searching for a place to belong—a place where he is wanted, despite his lineage and status. He wants to grow and be better, allowing Patrick Gibson to visibly show us how much of Nikolai’s turmoil is internal. So many of these characters are fighting through something, wanting to find an escape of sorts that’s both gratifying and worthwhile.

Merzost, Loyalty, and The Price

Bahgra and Genya in Shadow and Bone 2x04 "Every Monstrous Thing."

In an episode like this, highlighting Baghra’s role in the story matters significantly. Here we have a woman who’s been robbed of agency more than most, yet she still stands, fighting back because she blames herself even while she’s moved on. And hearing her fight for Genya by reminding the audience of who she’s been and how wrong the Darkling is for his actions is everything. It doesn’t change the damage that’s done, but words matter: “She served you loyally since she was a child, endured years of abuse on your orders, and you reduce her to an example?” And these words are a powerful reminder that Genya has had no agency because everything she’s done has been out of fear.

She had no other option. She didn’t know what else was out there for her, and she didn’t know how to move forward without serving General Kirigan. The lies she’s dealt with and the horrible things she’s had to endure only for him to turn his back on her after her one decision to run is harrowing. But watching her destroy everything in that tiny lab is the exact opposite. It’s rewarding. She should’ve done more. Far more. She deserves as much. And while it’s understandable that Alina and co. don’t believe David’s telling the truth, it’s fascinating to see how it’s going to come together in Episode 5 when we watch as Nikolai learns the truth about the king’s actions.

In the end, we know that each of these characters will have to pay the price for someone else’s actions, robbing them of the agency again and making their lives far more complicated than they should be. Genya doesn’t deserve the losses she’ll face and the heart-shattering hazards she’ll cross through, and it’s what makes the Darkling’s choices that much worse. Because holding out for any sort of redemption on his part is nonexistent at this point. It’s gone. And Baghra thankfully notes to it.

Unsaid Promises

Jesper and Wylan first kiss in Shadow and Bone "Every Monstrous Thing."

Jesper Fahey might state that he isn’t making any promises, but his openness to finding out where his relationship with Wylan could go is a promise. It’s the decision to let someone else into his perfect brand of chaos because his life is now significantly better since the Merchling’s entrance—then and now. And the two of them laying everything bare with where they stand and who they are makes this ascend toward something bigger that much more significant. Wylan tells him he left because he believed Jesper would’ve done it first. Jesper agrees, stating that perhaps he would have, but little glimpses of his fascination with comments like “I kinda like your face,” coupled with the stolen glances at different moments, prove that they are better this way.

It’s easy to be together—to take risks and make the first move. And for Wylan to be the one to initiate the (second) first kiss, followed by a reminder of what happened last time, shows that the quiet demolition man has spirit and spunk that matches Jesper’s chaos pristinely. It’s the calm they find after the destruction—the ways to be tied to something immense and better after the first real taste of freedom. The two might not know what tomorrow holds, and they might not realize that tremendous challenges are ahead, but this here and now is their way of initiating that they’re on the same beautiful page.

Kit Young and Jack Wolfe touch on Jesper and Wylan’s chemistry so well that it’s like they jumped straight out of the books. It’s impossible not to be entranced by them, with or without book context. Their relationship is not only real and permanent, but it’s right in more ways than one. It’s effortless because what makes their quick friends to lovers leap so much fun is the detail that they save chances when they’ve been alone before. Lost in sorts, and getting to know more about their relationship is going to be perfect.

For Jordie 

Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker in Shadow and Bone 2x04 "Every Monstrous Thing."

Jordie Rietveld deserved a better fate than the cards he was dealt, and we all know as much. I grappled a bit with whether addressing Kaz Brekker’s backstory this early was a good idea, especially with Pekka Rollins, and the assessment is a hearty yes. (When your non-English speaking mother finally watches this episode and says, “what a man; I get why he’s your favorite” in Armenian, then you know we’ve won.) Frankly, it’s necessary to establish why Kaz is the man he chooses to be for non-book readers because otherwise, it could get frustrating not to know him. And with Pekka Rollins begging for mercy, it confirms that the Crows are now more than ready to take on something as massive as the Ice Court Heist.

But all this, Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing,” is for Jordie and the two boys from Lij who died that day—it’s all necessary. It’s essential to bring this to the surface and throw Kaz to the lions to show why he’s a survivor. How he crawls back out from the shadows, more innovative and stronger than before, even when all he needs is someone to look out for him. Someone to be his light in the darkness. Yet the spectacle in this episode is a testament to Freddy Carter as a performer, cementing the detail that no one could play Kaz Brekker the way he could. Not only is the writing powerful in this episode, but Carter breathes such haunting life into the past and present it’s nearly impossible to watch the first time around.

Orphans—two farm boys and a small glimmer of hope after insurmountable grief. All Jordie and Kaz had were each other, but one of them was left with haunting trauma and horrific grief drowning him at sea. Kaz Rietveld never truly left the harbor that day; pieces of him remained scattered and afloat, constantly pulling him under. This arc was imperative today for him to move forward and manage a semblance of normalcy in his life because, with Pekka Rollins tirelessly reigning as king, Kaz Brekker could never push forward. And he’s brighter than Jordie, which is why so much of this is difficult because everything that happened taught him how to be better and wiser. It doesn’t come from drowning; it comes from continuing to swim despite the tides that keep coming.

Nina and Jesper with Kaz destroying Pekka Rollins

And choosing to swim forward is inadvertently because of the people around him. His Crows—his crew, his people, his family. He doesn’t say it possessively—they’re each free to leave whenever they choose, but they are his in a way no one’s ever been before, watching over him even when he believes he’s fine on his own and he’s the one doing the caretaking. It’s why his response to Jesper’s: “You’re gonna say you can’t do this without me, yeah? And that you hate it when we’re angry at each other, but sometimes brothers fight. And that when all this is over, you’ll open a tab for me at the club of my choosing, ’cause when Pekka’s gone, you’ll take it all. That’s what you’re gonna say? Yes?” is “There’s a cap on the tab. But otherwise, yes.”

Because even though no one will ever take Jordie’s place or fill the void his death left, Jesper Fahey is the closest thing to a brother Kaz Brekker will ever have. The Crows are his chosen family—the only people he can trust to be transparent with him even when he shuts them out of the truth that buries him. Six feet under is metaphorical for Kaz Brekker, he’s been there before, and he’s there today, pieces of him gone and buried, fighting for breath and salvation at every turn. But air fills his lungs despite the beatings he takes because Jesper and Nina are here beside him. They know. They can understand without having to utter a word after this moment.

And knowing that Nina came to him first further proves that she’s in this for the long haul. No matter where she goes from here and who she becomes, the Crows are her family. Her people are in a dark world where so much is uncertain and she could be herself, appreciated as is, and looked after. It’s what they all do—look out for one another, even when they don’t know what they’re fighting for and why it all matters. It makes everything that transpires in “Rusalye” worth it. This is the fight of Kaz Brekker’s life, but it’s theirs too—it’s everything, and it changes the game significantly.

When the Chips Fall

Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker in Shadow and Bone 2x04 "Every Monstrous Thing."

“In a few hours, when the chips fall… it’ll give me some comfort to know that you’re with me in the shadows.” Kaz Brekker has never been more vulnerable than he is in Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing.” It’s a simple line, but his walls are down in a way they’ve never been because after telling Inej some of the truth, it lifts the weight off his shoulder, allowing him to understand that he isn’t alone through any of this. He might not fully grasp what he’s saying, but part of what makes the moment worthwhile is that it’s the God-honest truth. Kaz Brekker is alive when she’s beside him, off in the shadows, or near. The pain lulls a bit, his demons quiet down, and he’s a little at peace because of her. Whether he realizes it or not, she is his beating heart and telling her as much, then making her promise to leave if something goes wrong, is his way of noting that her life is infinitely more important than his.

But Inej Ghafa would never leave him. The only thing she could promise is that Pekka Rollins would beg, and even if she isn’t there to see it, that’s exactly what happens because entrusting her with Fifth Harbor, the base of the operation, means that none of this could fall into place without her. More lives are saved because of her. She’s the reason the chips fall, and she’s the reason Kaz Brekker finds the courage to speak up and fight. And the one truth about Inej is that she’ll never leave Kaz unless she knows with utmost certainty that someone’s beside him. She would’ve been in the shadows if he were alone, without Jesper or Nina. If no one was beside him, she’d be the first to abandon whoever needed her for him.

Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa in Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 4

Yet that wasn’t the case here, and deep down, Kaz knows it, but confronting Pekka Rollins isn’t as terrifying as not knowing where Inej is or if she’s okay. In a world where he believed he could never care for someone as profoundly as he cared for Jordie, the shark-eyed boy fell in love with the only source of constant light in his life. And through all of it, despite his own needs, with or without his inability to give all of her, Kaz Brekker wants Inej Ghafa to be free—free from her indentures, him, and everything that ties her down. Because that’s what love equates to at the end of the day—the decision to be selfless even when it tears everything inside you apart.

But Kaz Brekker is also brash and when he’s full of rage, he’s going to say things that he doesn’t mean which is why everything that comes out of his mouth here destroys him in a way that Inej can’t quite fathom yet. He calls her the weak link when in reality, he knows that she is his greatest strength—the reason he could face it all today. The reason that he would fight through hell to ensure that he survives and do anything to give her the freedom she deserves. Kaz Brekker is many things, but he isn’t a coward, yet deep down, he’s still a kid forced to grow up too quickly, and the only semblance of normalcy that’s left comes from the chosen family he consistently decides to fight for.

Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa in Shadow and Bone 2x04

She’s his world—we’ll be kings and queens, Inej—by my side is a promise he needs, the only hope he could genuinely use. He might not realize that this is love, but it’s what he feels in every way—the desperation, the whirlwind of emotions he can’t quite fathom; it’s all because of her. Kaz Rietveld might’ve died in the harbor, but Inej Ghafa is the reason Kaz Brekker’s soul still fights to survive. She’s the light in his shadows, the glimmer of hope, heart, and everything that’s good in a cruel world where all he recognizes is pain.

Shadow and Bone 2×04 “Every Monstrous Thing” doesn’t say or show that the blood feud with Pekka Rollins is over. A man like that will always find a way, but this puts Kaz Brekker on top—this lets him breathe for a moment, giving him the reprieve necessary to figure himself out to be a better leader. In more ways than one, it’s only the beginning for many of these characters. 

Midnight Heists and Further Thoughts

  • “Someone else can lead the second army. Nikolai could find a new bride.” ZOYA NAZYALENSKY, THAT’S YOU.
  • “Any holiday that mixes cold brew with a little light role-play is fine by me.” Oh?
  • “No Mourners. No Funerals.”
    Wylan: Why do you guys say that? Why isn’t it just “good luck” or “be safe?” / Inej: We like to keep our expectations low.” WE GOT THE QUOTE.
  • Tamar calling her axes “her girls” is everything.
  • David regretting everything in this episode hurts me so much.
  • “It’s a little unsettling how you talk about him like he’s someone else.” No, Mal. This is what makes Nikolai great. 
  • I can’t believe we wasted screentime on a character like Vasily.
  • Watching Pekka Rollins and Kaz Brekker go head-to-head, resulting in the former begging, will always be one of the greatest moments in TV.

Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Shadow and Bone 2×04 Every Monstrous Thing?” Let us know in the comments below.


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