[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Shadow and Bone Season 1. Read at your own risk!]
If you are reading this, we assume that you have made it through all eight episodes of Netflix's Shadow and Bone, the young adult fantasy series based on Leigh Bardugo's bestselling Grishaverse novels. Season 1 of the epic series covered the first book in Bardugo's Shadow & Bone trilogy, introducing the world to Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphan in the fictional country of Ravka who discovers that she may be the key to saving Ravka from a dark void known as The Shadow Fold.
Alina's powers are discovered in the first episode of the series when she and her best friend Mal (Archie Renaux) come under attack from man-eating creatures known as volcra during their first trip across The Fold. When Alina literally lights up to protect Mal from being eaten, she is taken under the charge of General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), also known as The Darkling, to help her build her power in hopes that she can help him destroy The Fold and return a war-torn Ravka to prosperity. Of course, with a name like The Darkling, it turns out Kirigan isn't exactly on the up-and-up when it comes to his intentions with The Fold. In fact, he was lying to everyone about his age and he is also the Black Heretic, the man who created The Fold in the first place. The Darkling doesn't want Alina's help to destroy the void -- he wants her to help him control it so they can rule the world together.
Alina becomes aware of The Darkling's plan a little more than midway through the series, and the story becomes one about her learning to control her own power. She is able to thwart The Darkling before he can completely submit her to his will, but the closing moments of Season 1 showed that it will take more than a blast of the sun or volcra to destroy a man as powerful as he is. The final scene shows The Darkling emerging from The Fold with foreboding creatures following behind him.
Executive producer Eric Heisserer confirmed to TV Guide that the creatures following The Darkling out of The Fold are nichevo'ya -- shadow creatures that The Darkling creates using merzost, or Grisha dark magic. That reveal doesn't come about in the novels until Book 2 in the trilogy, Siege and Storm, but Bardugo, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, explained why it was important to give the audience a taste of the terrifying creatures now.
"We've just gotten a glimpse of how dangerous they are and how daunting they are," the author teased. "Personally, I love how threatening they seem and the idea of taking this character who was already powerful and giving him access to an entirely different level of power, especially because you think, 'OH! He's emerged weakened. Certainly, he will be bested!' No, The Darkling has been around a very long time, and he has more than one trick up his sleeve."
That is pretty horrible news for Alina, who ends the season believing that The Darkling is dead and that she and Mal have time to regroup and figure out a way to destroy The Fold on their own.
"She is only just beginning to discover her powers and her destiny," Bardugo elaborated. "I think that vulnerability is something that she's going to have to hold on to, that connection to her humanity, as she becomes more and more powerful, and more and more of a threat, not only to The Darkling, but potentially to herself."
Heisserer explained that Alina's last showdown with The Darkling and experiencing the power of Morozova's stag, which amplified her abilities, helped her see that she's still not close to having the power she needs to potentially face The Darkling again, or take down The Fold.
"Because she claims the power of the stag there in the final episode, she's going to know the extent and the limit of the power, and she'll have a sense of if that is enough to tear down the Fold or not," Heisserer said. "That will put her on a path to find out about the other amplifiers."
That sets up Alina's journey for a potential Season 2, but she's not the only one with major obstacles ahead of her at the end of Season 1. The Shadow and Bone series didn't just cover the first book in Bardugo's Grishaverse series. It also incorporated characters from the author's sequel novel, Six of Crows, into the mix. At the end of Season 1, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), and Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) were on a boat back to Ketterdam without the Sun Summoner they spent the entire season trying to kidnap, unaware that a crucial member of their crew -- Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) -- was mere feet away.
The series shook up the Six of Crows timeline to integrate the characters into Alina's story, but with the crew essentially together at the end of the season, we had to ask Heisserer if that meant that Season 2 could be tackling the events of the Six of Crows novel, which sees Kaz and his merry band of misfits trying to break into the Ice Court -- the most secure prison in all of the Grishaverse.
"The hope is that we can eventually get to the Six of Crows storyline," Heisserer teased. "Whether that is teased up in Season 2 or if that plays into future seasons is to be determined. We certainly wanted to set them up on that course."
There are a few red flags around rushing into the Ice Court storyline while also telling the Shadow and Bone story. In the Six of Crows novel, Kaz and his crew take the Ice Court job to kidnap the engineer of a drug called jurda purem, which allows Grisha to elevate their powers to intense heights but also makes them horrifically dependent on the drug, and almost all who use jurdra purem are condemned to die from withdrawals. It's not the kind of drug that you want someone as powerful as The Darkling getting ahold of, which means book fans may have to wait a bit longer to see the Six of Crows plot adapted into the series.
"[The idea of The Darkling getting jurda purem] is one of the reasons that we were careful to bring the characters together, but made sure the plots stayed separate and why we decided to play with the timeline," Bardugo said. "Quite honestly, we would get into a situation where instead of having lots of road with all of the book, we would have blown up the road… We had to sort of make sure that we were fighting one enemy at a time."
So prepare to see The Darkling scarier than ever in that potential second season.
Shadow and Bone is now streaming on Netflix.