Welcome to another installment of the “Women of” series at 365 Star Wars (the one series that’s not always about Star Wars). This series takes a look at where female characters are (and sometimes where they aren’t) in films and TV series. These articles are mostly chronological but are not full plot recaps (especially for productions that don’t have many female characters). But they do include spoilers so consider yourself warned. Check out previous installments here.
Episode 1–”A Searing Burst of Light”
The first character we hear from and see in Shadow and Bone is fittingly the heroine of this story, Alina Starkov.
Alina: “I live in East Ravka, but I’ve never been welcome here because I look like my mother, and she looked like the enemy.”
Alina is a cartographer and we see several other female cartographers in these opening shots. We also see a brief shot of Petya (below right) who appears to be in a leadership position. While we’re still figuring out who is who at the beginning of this episode it’s made pretty clear from the get-go that in this world men and women are both playing important roles in the First Army (the Ravka army made up of non-Grisha).
Fairly early on we see a flashback of young Alina who grew up in an orphanage.
Ana Kuya encourages young Alina to keep a pencil in her hand to avoid becoming a soldier in a scene that also explains the dangers of the Shadow Fold (which I’ll just call the Fold from now on).
Back to the present day. When Alina arrives at the Fold a fellow cartographer, Raisa, mentions the idea of the Sun Summoner who will someday destroy it.
Alina’s childhood friend Mal is also at the camp near the Fold. In the scene showing Mal fighting, you can clearly see men and woman watching the fight in the background. This might not seem important but it’s more common than not for scenes like this to be men-only in the background. (trust me, when you start looking for this you can’t not see it). So kudos to the creatives responsible for being so consistent here.
There are actually women of all ages in the camp where Alina and Mal are stationed. We also get our first few looks at Grisha and their powers. In the screenshot below they are doing some training exercises. (Yes, that’s Zoya on the left in the screenshot below. Much more about her soon.)
Our first look at Ketterdam begins with a shot of women laughing from a balcony followed by a few quicks shots of a bar maid, a few female customers at the club, and several women bustling about the city.
Soon after we get our first look at Inej. (Inej!!!) Inej has heard about a job paying a million kruge and shares this bit of intel with Kaz Brekker. A few things pop out from this scene. Inej is very good at moving around without people knowing she’s there, we learn that Kaz is paying off Inej’s indenture contract, and that Kaz thinks very highly of Inej. (and really, how could you not think highly of her, because she’s the best)
Back at the camp we properly meet Zoya who catches Mal stealing food for Alina. Zoya is a Squaller (wind manipulator) and a huge flirt.
Back in Ketterdam Kaz starts his search for a safe way to cross the Fold. One of the people he asks is this Kerch Madame.
As a sandskiff readies to cross the Fold we meet a Grisha Inferni named Natacha. Raisa (the woman on the left below we saw earlier with Alina), Alina, and Zoya are all now aboard this skiff. Zoya’s Squallor winds are needed to cross as they are travelling over land rather than water.
(I feel like Natacha knows at this very moment that no one on this skiff is going to listen to her and they are probably all doomed.)
After a scared soldier lights an oil lamp (hello! what are you doing?) Raisa and Natacha are sadly two of the first people to die at the hands of the volcra that live within the Fold. About to be taken by the volcra herself, Alina summons the sun (a big shock to everyone, including Alina!) which destroys the nearby volcra.
Back with Kaz, Jesper (don’t worry I’ll sneak Kaz and Jesper into screenshots soon), and Inej we meet Milana, a Heartrender Kaz brings to Dresson (the man with the job for a million kruge). Milana is the first Heartrender we meet and the first Grisha who isn’t a part of the Second Army. She works for (or more likely is an indentured worker) for a club called The Orchid and is very concerned about getting back to her employer’s club on time. While Grisha in the Second Army appeared to be living much better than members of the First Army, we now get our first hint that not all Grisha are in complete control of their lives.
Milana uses her skills as a Heartrender to calm a man who witnessed Alina’s burst of light on the sandskiff. After naming Alina Strkov as the Sun Summoner Dresson kills the man and offer Kaz and his crew the million kruge if they can find safe passage across the Fold by sunrise.
Read The Women of Shadow and Bone–Episode 2 here!