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‘Shadow and Bone’ boss explains Alina’s dark finale twist and major changes

Shadow and Bone Season 2 doesn’t follow the exact trajectory of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels but certain changes were necessary to make, showrunner Eric Heisserer told Newsweek.

The Netflix hit’s new season sees Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux) join forces with ally Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson) in order to find the final two amplifiers she needs to increase her powers to take down General Kirigan, aka The Darkling (Ben Barnes), and tear down the Shadow Fold.

As she does this, the Crows—Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young)—plot revenge against Pekka Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly) with the help of Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Wylan Hendricks (Jack Wolfe).

But Alina’s story in particular takes an unexpected turn in the finale, and Heisserer spoke to Newsweek about the decision and why other major changes were made to the original books.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone season 2

Season 2 of Shadow and Bone adapts the last two books in the titular trilogy, named Siege and Storm other Ruin and Rising respectively, and it takes elements from Six of Crows other CrookedKingdom while also setting up the story for the King of Scars duology from Bardugo’s series.

Heisserer explained that streamlining the story to include plotlines from multiple books “came down to necessity” given the show’s large cast.

“The discoveries we made in the first five weeks of the writers room, when we were looking at Season 2, were major tectonic shifts for us, in that we realized so much of wins and storms—because it’s solely through Alina’s point of view—didn’t give us much interaction […] with other major characters,” Heisserer said.

“And when you have a cast list as big and exciting as ours, we knew right away that we needed to find as aerodynamic as possible a story that allowed us to hit on the moments with Alina’s development and her arc […] but then allowed us to shift over to any of Nikolai’s team, or the Crows, or any number of other new characters that we had introduced here. So, it was about having a lot of mouths to feed really.”

One such important storyline involving Alina is a complete shift from the books, because the character does not lose her powers when Mal sacrifices himself so she can receive the third amplifier, as written in the trilogy. She also brings Mal back to life using Merzost (dark magic), something that doesn’t happen in the books.

Rather than the character losing her powers as punishment for greed, Alina’s fate may be much darker. This is because the final moments of the season see her wield shadow and use The Cut, a power that she apparently took from the Darkling after killing him in the final battle.

The idea that the Darkling may not be gone for good is an idea that will be familiar to book fans, as Bardugo introduced a character named Yuri in the King of Scars duology and he plays an important role in the villain’s return to the novels.

When asked directly if Alina might take on Yuri’s storyline instead, Heisserer said that “there are some things that I can’t speak to right now” but the writers were excited to show a darker side to the character.

“What I can say is we definitely wanted to hang onto Jessie with all our lives,” he said. “We weren’t about to retire Alina here at the end of this season. There’s just so much more to do with her, and to enjoy with her.

“And I think none of us were keen on taking away her powers and placing her essentially as an Otkazat’sya [a person without Grisha powers] going forward.

“It’s good to have her as a power player in the story, particularly right now with her position and her relation to Nikolai.”

He went on: “And yet there had to be a price for using Merzost to bring Mal back, and we landed on what you saw for the final scene as a way for her to confront all the things that Kirigan may have been warning her about , and, where we go in the next season, we’ll absolutely touch on that.

“It seems that what we try our best to do in the end of each season is tee up what the next season’s major internal conflicts are going to be, and these end episodes are the ‘f*** around’ chapter and the top of the next season will be the ‘find out’ chapter.”

Shadow and Bone makes other noticeable changes from the books. For example, because Alina keeps her powers, her relationship with Mal is different by the season’s end, and they do not get married and re-open the orphanage they grew up in. Instead, Mal chooses to take on the title of Sturmhond from Nikolai in order to find his purpose again.

“We had to be honest with ourselves about where that relationship ended up, and the conversation that Mal and Alina have just comes from the emotional transparency that they’ve built with each other.

“Were we in Mal’s shoes, any of us would be thinking the same thing: ‘am I only here because of some greater force at work, or is it a choice? And how can I prove it to myself? And how can I prove it to her?’

Shadow and Bone Season 2 doesn’t follow the exact trajectory of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels but certain changes were necessary to make, showrunner Eric Heisserer told Newsweek.

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