Shadow and Bone Ending Explained: The Stag, Sun Summoner, and Black Heretic

Shadow and Bone shows us the creation of the Shadow Fold in a flashback, which attempts to cast the Darkling – then known as Aleksander – in at least a somewhat sympathetic light. After watching his beloved Healer Luda die and fleeing from an army of soldiers with orders to drag him back to the Ravkan king, Aleksander becomes determined to discover how to use the dangerous dark magic known as merzost to protect himself and the other Grisha, including his mother Baghra, in his care. But though he is able to access great power through merzost, Aleksander cannot control it and it pours out of him in an inky torrent, creating the gash in the world that is the Shadow Fold and turning everyone in its path into volcra.

The Stag in Shadow and Bone

What is the Deal with the Stag?

Though Shadow and Bone mentions Ilya Morozova, it doesn’t do a great job of explaining his importance to Grisha history, at least not beyond his genetic connection to the Darkling. In Bardugo’s books, Morozova was obsessed with the idea of amplifiers, which are specific objects like bones, scales, or animal teeth that boost Grisha power past a single person’s normal abilities. (He is also referred to among religious Ravkans as Sankta Ilya in Chains, because that’s how he was martyred after he performed a resurrection – thrown off a bridge wrapped in irons.)

The magical stag Alina, Mal, and the Darkling spend half the series is hunting has specific connections to Morozova that book fans will remember but TV viewers don’t actually need to care much about right now beyond simply being aware of the fact that the animal is powerful and ancient. Per the Darkling, its bones would make one of the strongest amplifiers ever crafted for a Grisha to wear. And since, technically, it’s the Darkling that kills the animal he can claim the amplifier’s power as his to control, even if someone else is physically wearing it.   

However, before he is able to kill the creature, the stag has a moment of true connection with Alina in which it essentially chooses her to be its avatar and receive its power, rather than allow the Darkling to claim it in her place. Your mileage may vary on whether this as effective as the book twist hinging on Alina’s decision to show the animal mercy instead of killing it outright, but there’s still something compelling in the idea that this semi-magical creature sees Alina’s worth so clearly.

Nina in Shadow and Bone

Nina Must Betray Matthias to Save Him

While on what is essentially the cutest breakfast date of all time, Nina and Matthias are discovered by a group of Grisha soldiers ready to do kill him simply for the fact that he is a Fjerdan druskelle. (Translation: Witchhunter). To save his life, Nina claims Matthias is a slave trader who’s trying to traffic her, an accusation meant to take advantage of the Kerch law that promises a bounty for him in Ketterdam.

 Since the sailors only get paid if Matthias makes it to Kerch alive, they’re willing to keep the Heartrenders from killing him outright, and Nina, who must immediately go with them in order to testify, buys some time to save him. Unfortunately, since Matthias was knocked out by Heartrender power prior to all of this going down, he thinks Nina simply double-crossed him and is having him thrown in prison as payback for his original capture of her. 

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