Saturday, March 18, 2023

REVIEW: 'Shadow and Bone' - Alina Requires a Sacrifice From Mal Without Wanting to Face the Consequences in 'No Funerals'

Netflix's Shadow and Bone - Episode 2.08 "No Funerals"

Forced into an impossible situation during her fight with Kirigan, Alina makes a fateful decision that alters her relationship with magic - and Mal.

"No Funerals" was written by Eric Heisserer & Erin Conley and directed by Mairzee Almas

Alina and Mal are destined to always find each other. That was a mantra that guided them through every tough time in their lives. They could always count on each other. And yet, it took on new context during the second season. At first, Mal was Alina's trusted tracker who could find the mythical creatures that could amplify her abilities. And then, it was revealed he was the Firebug. He had to die in order for Alina to destroy the Fold. Everyone tried to find another way to achieve this outcome. One is eventually found. It simply involves Alina breaking her promise to Baghra. She surrenders to a dark piece of magic not caring what the consequences will be. As such, the season ends on an ominous note where the future remains uncertain despite the fall of the Fold. Alina achieves her goal. She has been motivated by the noble idea of saving Ravka. The country needs to be made whole again. Kirigan and his army of Grisha are the enemies who stand in the way. It was dire during the penultimate episode where Alina and her allies were seemingly trapped with no way to escape. That made it rousing when the Crows appeared with the tools necessary to turn the tide. The true strength always resides within Alina. She's seen as a saint. She is the only person who can create a new era for the world. She succeeds. She kills Mal to obtain the power she long sought out. Kirigan argues for why he remains necessary. He needs to serve as the villain to her hero. Without him, the country will not remain unified under Alina's vision. She has such lofty ambitions. Not everyone is guaranteed to listen to her or agree with her strategy to protect Ravka. That's a concern for the future. Alina has remained resolute in her current mission. She acknowledges how little power and control Kirigan actually has. The nichevo'ya protect him. However, he has no control over these shadow creatures. They are the latest extension of his being. So much is possible because of what he created within the Fold. Most of it is destroyed by the light Alina radiates out. That doesn't solve every problem. It's a massive start to earning redemption and fighting for a better world. Alina has complete clarity. She must kill Kirigan. That's not a question up for debate. Meanwhile, she will do whatever it takes to revive Mal. She does so even though he returns to her without the crucial link that defined so much of their relationship. Now, he's left to wonder if he served his entire purpose. He was meant to always strengthen Alina. He was never meant to exist as his own person. He now has that opportunity. It may not lead him back to Alina. If it does, then their love is more than what destiny forced them to be. It's simply heartbreaking because the various aspects of her mission that she trusted so much are suddenly gone when Alina seemingly achieves all that she has ever wanted.

This season was chaotically plotted. It covered a ton of ground. It moved at such a brisk pace. That never took away from the power of some significant character moments. Some decisions later undercut what was effective. It was so satisfying to see the buildup of Kaz's feud with Pekka Rollins and his eventual takedown of the gruesome criminal. And yet, it was rather boring to continue with Rollins as he joined Matthias in prison. In fact, every time the narrative cut away to the prison it lost momentum. The show prides itself on every story building to a collective moment by the conclusion of each season. Matthias is isolated in such a dramatic way. It doesn't even receive a major resolution either. The ending shows how powerless Nina remains despite the support of the King. That was true all season long. Nothing changes. That's lame. She actually had better utility this season as a member of the Crows. She's still weighed down by a story that everyone is basically telling her to forget. It's easy to be on their sides too. Meanwhile, the stakes of what was happening in Ketterdam weren't always operating on the same level as the events in East Ravka. Part of that comes from the Crows simply being more dynamic characters with varied interests. Some of their stories got repetitive after awhile too. It was still thrilling to see Kaz process how achieving personal vengeance didn't actually improve his standing whatsoever. He still finds himself incapable of admitting what Inej means to him. That makes it easier for her to step away now and go off on her own journey. That's what she needs to do. Kaz helps her on that path even though it's devastating to him. Jesper and Wylan are the ones who ultimately get to accept happiness as part of a duo standing firmly in acceptance of who they are. That was a powerful journey. The various sacrifices made along the way were a mixed bag though. Baghra stood her ground knowing she was the only one who could cut off her son's ambitions. She sealed herself off knowing this was the personal mark she could deliver. She trusted Alina to finish the job. Meanwhile, David ensuring Genya escaped to safety at his expense was effective when the show played it with near certainty of his fate. The finale infers that he was killed. Genya has to make peace with that slight ambiguity. Moreover, Alina's power grows stronger thanks to Mal's death. Then, he's revived and leaves her. Everything then turns to her own abilities shifting to the shadows. A new threat already lurks. Nikolai needs to lead with complete certainty if he hopes to unite the country under his leadership. And yet, his injuries are far more extensive. They serve as an extension of the Fold. That suggests all of this still pivots around what Kirigan created all those centuries ago. As such, the conflicts of the past don't fade away despite Nikolai and Alina being united in their desire for a better future. That's disappointing. It's circular conflict instead of trusting that the world would never abide by the noble ambitions the two leaders have. A cliffhanger is necessary. It suggests more story needs to be told. It's also pure chaos plain and simple.