Shadow and Bone 2×05 “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)” Spoilers Ahead
Shadow and Bone Season 2, Episode 5, “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart),” could’ve been a fantastic episode if it didn’t take such a caricature, awfully stereotypical path when placing our characters at Shu Han. While I’m not one to speak on the accuracy or to bring my experience into the matter, it made things incredibly uncomfortable and off-putting. This is largely why a writer’s room should have more than just a single person of color because it’s not up to the cast and crew to provide feedback in such areas.
Further, like most of the season, the episode still feels disjointed in the grand scheme of things, mainly excelling where character journeys are concerned, leaving the plot lackluster in the Grisha-verse. But now, the Crows are getting involved, making the quest to destroy the Shadow Fold and Nichevo’ya go hand in hand with the search for Sankta Neyar’s, Neshyenyer blade. The character dynamics remain the best part of the adaptation, allowing us to see interactions coming to life in a way that feels like they’ve been copy-pasted straight from the text, even when different story arcs are pushing them together. It’s an episode that focuses on uncovering tells, hiding behind inner truths, and looking inward to find compassion where it’s necessary.
Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)
The moments between Alina, Mal, and the Darkling are challenging to care about here because we’re continuing to go back and forth between figuring out the purpose of this connection. While Baghra’s presence makes it better, and it’s good that it’s permitting time to showcase that breaking down something like this isn’t easy, the arc doesn’t make it any less pleasant. Still, at this point, the focus remains on healing Ravka and the wounds brought on by the former king, as well as the Darkling.
And the best part is everything we get with Nikolai Lantsov understanding how terrible his “father” truly is. When the queen seeks to exile Genya, Nikolai stands up to her, apologizing to Genya for everything she endured and ensuring she has a safe place here. It’s also imperative that Alina defends her first, standing by her side and understanding why she made the choices she did back in the Little Palace when her agency was essentially nonexistent. She might not have understood in “The Unsea,” but there’s growth here in allowing Genya also to grieve the years that were taken from her.
So much of what she loses and endures in the hands of the king is because of the Darkling. And so much of what she hides away, using her beauty as armor, is because it’s all she’s had externally. In the book, Genya might’ve cared more about these things, but the show gives her far more range by offering Daisy Head incredible opportunities to touch on the inner losses that no one could see beyond the façade. Beauty is armor, but not in the conventional sense—it’s meant to be her crutch to keep her from falling apart because everything’s dark inside. And that’s where her character works so well, as well as the detail of Baghra amplifying her to feel familiar heartbeats. (And how this comes back in Episode 8 hurts.)
A True King
Through every episode, Nikolai Lantsov proves that he’s the king Ravka deserves, and it’s a beautiful detail once again called back to in the finale by Dominik. He is, in every way, the type of king worthy of not only wearing the crown but making every part of Ravka better because he cares about his people more than the throne. He cares about Ravka and unity, and despite his cockiness, only some of it is armor. He’s the spare, yes, despite being the heir now, but his goodness makes all that’s to come that much more tragic.
In more ways than one, Shadow and Bone 2×05 “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)” is about finding the heart within to fix what shouldn’t remain broken. While some characters are moving away from their true identities, Nikolai is closer to embracing his, even if it isn’t what he wants. He’s in a better position to understand what’s necessary and how that can serve his country in a way that allows him to do what others before him haven’t. It ultimately breathes more life into some of the decisions he makes in his own duology, adding more depth to those texts because of the overt displays of compassion we get from him.
In every way where it matters, Nina Zenik continues to choose Matthias Helvar. Whether he’s here to witness it or not, it doesn’t matter to her. She cannot and will not forget him, owning up to who she is and taking back her agency by choosing to love him. This arc will make Zoya’s eventual relationship with Nikolai so fascinating because she, too, will understand what it means to choose someone despite all odds. She will understand what it means to fight for the monsters within someone else because it’s what Nina prepares to do with all Matthias stands for and believes in.
Love, in this sense, isn’t about changing someone (or, in Zoya’s future words: fixing), but it’s about seeing a person as they indeed are and looking toward how they could be better. Matthias was nurtured to hate, and all Nina accomplished was filling his heart with love. He might not understand it with the supposed betrayal looming over them today, but he will someday, and it’s fascinating that we see so much foreshadowing in this episode.
What begins as a sweet moment in bed embracing the new comfort of having incandescent joy with someone ends with an argument of sorts with Wylan under the impression that Jesper is patronizing his inability to read. And while we know that’d never be the case because we know Jesper Fahey as a character, Wylan Hendricks doesn’t. Thus, giving the two of them conflict like this early on in their relationships is what’s necessary to strengthen them. We don’t yet know how the Six of Crows storyline will pan out if Wylan isn’t Van Eck here, but we can still see that he’s lived through eons of heartache because of Jack Wolfe’s performances. He’s been rejected before. He’s been hurt. And when it feels that could happen again, naturally, he’s going to put up walls.
Shadow and Bone 2×05 “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)” works best when examining it directly with the following episode because so much starts to make sense then. Wylan might not be able to read, but he’s brighter than anyone understands, allowing us to see the very fears he carries by shutting off when it seems Jesper doesn’t see that part of him. In his quietness, he’s also bold and sweet and warm and cuddly, but he’s also afraid, which adds to his layers beautifully. Jesper means well; we all know those, but damn if these scenes don’t show how much more they can bring to the surface. We’ll get there in due time, but seeing these moments work gorgeously to continue exhibiting more about Wylan’s inner workings.
“Zemeni believe that Grisha’s powers are blessings.” So much of Jesper’s identity is tied to the ambiguity of what makes him such a pronounced sharpshooter, but beyond this, tucked deep within is the profound, unmoving grief that connects him to the other Crows. It’s what interlaces their heartaches in a way that they don’t quite fully understand, but they feel through their innate desires to protect this found family through everything. They might love danger, sure, but more than that, it’s about the eventual transparency they could each unlock if they find the courage to face their heartaches. Yet, none of them can do that at the moment, but the next episode delivers on this front best with Jesper and, by extension, Wylan.
I Couldn’t Leave You
Shadow and Bone 2×05 “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)” is almost tailor-made for a man like Kaz Brekker, whose self-loathing tirelessly bars his happiness. In the words of Nina Zenik, “He’d rather push you away than admit he feels anything for you.” Because that’s what it ultimately comes down to, doesn’t it? Kaz Brekker admitting that he cares for Inej Ghafa means opening his heart up to the prospect of grief and heartache in a way that he isn’t ready to grapple with. In an episode that’s all about continuing to exhibit that nothing is an overnight fix, it does so best with Kaz when it shows him waking up from a nightmare and vigorously washing his hands from the trauma that resurfaces.
While the show fumbles in writing, it’s astonishing how well they understand the Crows, giving someone like Freddy Carter incredible material to work with in showcasing how burdened Kaz is by his trauma. It’s a shadow that follows him everywhere, even while Inej is close by to watch over him. And while he’s not pleased that she’s joined them on this mission because of their fight from the night before, he knows damn well that he wouldn’t want anyone else to see him in a near-fetal position on the ground.
I couldn’t leave you. Not like this. Inej was meant to follow the lead, but a part of her is always with Kaz, just like in “Show Me Who You Are.” In the same way that he senses when she’s close by, she’s fully aware of the instances in which he’d need her, which is why her choice not to be there the night before makes sense. She knew that he was in good hands, but at the same time, given his fears, she hears him and does the opposite today by watching over him even while he’s with someone as trustworthy as Nina. She could also find him in a crowd, move him to a safe place, and hand him his gloves, but Inej is taking his words from the night before and operating on them.
Her awareness of his needs and the decision to understand his boundaries makes her so ideally suited for him, and why the moment in the finale works so well to showcase that they’re each other’s safe space. It’s also an incredible detail that the series continues to show us flashbacks to Kaz’s life because it’s a constant reminder of how much work will have to go into toiling through his pain. He can’t get over something like this overnight. Sending Pekka Rollins to Hellgate and having his revenge won’t change anything until he properly grieves and works through the tremendous loss while understanding his own self-worth and what he deserves. And a moment like this allows him to see that though he pushes her away, she’s the lodestone who’ll show up for him when he’s drowning.
The stressful note that Shadow and Bone 2×05, “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart),” ends on is both anxiety-inducing and heartbreaking, but damn if six isn’t a whole lot better in reminding us all what truly matters on this show and why these relationships are as unforgettable as they are. Leigh Bardugo created an exceptional world, and even when the episode isn’t as strong, the characters continue to be shining lights.
Midnight Heists and Further Thoughts
- THE SHADOW AND BONE 2X05 “YUYEH SESH (DESPISE YOUR HEART)” OPENING IS MY FAVORITE OPENING WITH THE FIVE CROWS & ONE BANGING ON A WINDOW TO REPRESENT MATTHIAS!!!
- Listen, this Kaz nightmare wounded me to a point of no return.KAZ INTERUPTING WYLAN AND JESPER WITH A “RAVKA NEEDS SAVING” IS SUCH A DAD MOMENT. GOD BLESS.
- Nina’s outfit is gorgeous in this episode. That plaid with the red!? We love.
- Zoya (about Matthias): “He must be quite the slab of fur.” Have I mentioned that I LOVE her?
- Nina tailoring off Inej’s Menagerie tattoo is everything that I could’ve hoped for with these two. And then Jesper telling her about the plan without Kaz’s knowledge. I love this. He is the product of divorce right now.
- THE PUPPY PRINCE
- Sobachka! I howled. Baghra is the best.
- I lost count of the amount of times I’ve called Kaz an “angry elf” in this episode.
- Zoya: Who here hasn’t lost someone? Now see, this hurts.
- The way Kaz looks up at Inej at the tea restaurant !!!
- Also will never recovering from Nina’s “waffles.”
- It’s so heartbreaking that we kill the prisoner who was with Matthias in this episode.
- I also really love it with Kaz Brekker opens locks. And the fact that he watches Inej pass out HURTS.
- Inej playing with her knives in that one scene? I love one woman.
Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Shadow and Bone 2×05 “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart?” Let us know in the comments below.