Shadow and Bone season 1, episode 1 recap – the opening chapter explained

By Daniel Hart
Published: April 23, 2021
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Netflix series Shadow and Bone season 1, episode 1 - A Searing Burst of Light


Episode 1 does a thorough job in setting the stage, surfacing a few characters and making the audience understand what is at stake.

This recap of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone season 1, episode 1, “A Searing Burst of Light”, contains spoilers.

Welcome to our coverage of the eagerly anticipated Shadow and Bone — Netflix’s next roll of the dice to secure a staple series — it’s a YA series rolled up into a fantasy world — what can go wrong? Anyway, let’s recap Shadow and Bone season 1, episode 1 — titled, “A Searing Burst of Light”.
To begin proceedings, the first scene shows a ship in– destruction and fire is surrounding it. Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) narrates, explaining how when she was young, she was afraid of the dark, but when she got older, she learned that darkness is a place that is full of monsters. She states that she lives in East Ravka but has never felt welcome because she looks like her mother, who looks like the enemy. Alina explains her situation further; her true enemy is the Fold that ate her parents — she grew up in an orphanage. Now older, she wants to find a way out.

“A Searing Burst of Light” gives up a quick whistle-stop tour of Alina’s background, and it is quite fascinating, especially if you are not aware of the original material.

Mal the fighter

Of course, episode 1 is all about bedding in the characters while setting the base of the story — welcome, Mal (played by Archie Renaux).
In the present, Alina serves in the army. In a flashback, a young Mal Oretsev shows a young Alina an animal. The young Mal wasn’t a brave boy, but in the present day, he is partaking in underground fighting. He wins with ease. After his win, a man with magic threatens to fight him, but Mal and his friends drag him away. Mal catches up with Alina afterwards, and it’s clear they are close, calling each other best friends. Surely fans will be wanting these two to be a couple instantly — the chemistry is instant.

Mal is given the assignment to cross the Fold

The General of the army gives out instructions. A supply run needs to go across the Fold — Mal is chosen for the expedition, and Alina is worried that he’s been transferred from her unit. She doesn’t believe it’s a normal mission. The issue with the Fold is immediately apparent.
Mal tells Alina that they need him for the expedition. Alina offers to shoot him in the foot to get him off it. They are both not comfortable with the expedition. Alina asks Mal not to cross it, but he says, “orders are orders”. Clearly, Mal is a man of stubbornness and pride.

Introducing The Crows

Episode 1 then moves to Ketterdam, Island of Kerch, to trigger the story of The Crows. After introducing Jesper (played by Kit Young) and his gambling ways, Kaz Brekker (played by Freddy Carter) is told that someone stole a DeKappel from a Merch’s private residence — it’s a painting — a landscape of Ravka. It’s worth a lot of money. Kaz is a keen buyer and a thief of arts. Inej tells Kaz about a significant job worth a million kruge — it’s an assignment by Dreesen — a wealthy merchant; he’s looking for a crew willing to cross the Fold into East Ravka and bring back “something” — he didn’t say what he wants to be stolen. Kaz is interested in this mission. The intrigue has overwhelmed him, but he is also intimately intrigued in Inej as well.

Kaz prepares

Episode 1 sells Kaz as a resourceful, trickery man who can put himself in prosperous but dangerous situations.
Kaz puts a plan together as he wants to find a way to cross the Fold safely. He asks around the community for tips. Dreesen sends out a message for the need of a Heartrender (these people can get the truth out of others using their magic) — he believes this is his way in. However, he also learns that Pekka (a local rival) knows about it — scenes flit to Pekka who is hurting someone for a Heartrender so he can take it to Dreesen. He’s clearly a menacing man.

Alina finds a way to join the expedition

General Kirigan, who leads the Second Army, arrives — Mal and Alina are curious about him. Mal prepares to leave and tells Alina that he will be back soon. Alina’s eyes well up, and she remembers her friendship as a child with Mal. They’ve always done things together. She burns geographical data regarding the other side of the Fold. Learning that they have lost data, the army needs someone to redraw these maps on the other side of the Fold. Alina offers to go, and she is accepted on to the expedition — by doing this, her whole unit is assigned. Awkward!

Entering the fold

“A Searing Burst of Light” then entices the viewers by introducing them to the nightmarish world of the Fold.
When Alina heads on the sand skiff, Mal tells her to get off — he’s worried that she’s joining him, and there’s an emotional rift between them. Alina promises him that she will make it. Suddenly, a Grishi gives the troops an update on how they will go through the Fold. The ships set off. When they enter the Fold, it’s dark and silent — there’s storms brewing, but it is eery. Monstrous type creatures can be heard, and the crew are on edge.
Despite being told not to do so, one of the men lights a lantern and a creature attacks their sand skiff — they are clearly attracted to light; there are casualties instantly, and the skiff is on fire. Alina is shellshocked, but when she sees Mal is in danger, she helps him. A creature grabs Alina and Mal try to hold on to her — suddenly, a burst of glowing energy emanates from her — hence the episode is titled “A Searing Burst of Light”.

The event

Episode 1 then flits to Novokribirsk, West Ravka. General Zlatan is looking at the Fold. A single soldier walks through it and makes it to land.
Kaz has managed to steal the Heartrender under Pekka’s nose. He heads to Dreesen’s estate and brings the Heartrender, and asks for exclusivity on the job. Dreesen reveals he has Alexei Stepanov, who crossed through the Fold on foot. Alexei saw an “event” — something detonated and obliterated the volcra (the creatures that attacked the ship). Following scenes show the skiff returning to Kribirsk, East Ravka, at high speeds; it hits the harbour. Zoya finds Mal and Alina unconscious on the skiff floor.

The ending

Dreesen believes Alexei knows what the “event” was but has had a traumatic lapse. He wants the Heartrender to get it out of him.
She asks him what happened in the Fold. Alexei recalls running away and seeing a bright light on the sand skiff — Alina is floating in the air — Alexei says he saw a Sun Summoner. The room is in shock at the details — Alexei tells Dreesen that the Sun Summoner is Alina Starkov. Dreesen has the information he needs, so he brutally shoots Alexei in the head. Dreesen tells Kaz and others that they are the only people with this information West of the Fold. He wants them to prove that they can get through the Fold and back with the offer of an advance. If they don’t, he’ll give the job to Pekka.

Shadow and Bone season 1, episode 1 does a thorough job in setting the stage, surfacing a few characters and making the audience understand what is at stake.

The East Ravka archives
  • Zoya, a Squaller, has taken a keen interest in Mal. She’s nervous before the expedition and tries to lure Mal into sex.

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