Shadow And Bone's Love Triangle Becomes A Love Quadrangle In Season 2

Things are getting more complicated (and hotter) in the Grishaverse with the Sun Summoner getting involved in a love quadrangle in season 2 of Netflix's "Shadow and Bone." The last time we saw Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) in the season finale, she managed to free herself from the influence of the brooding, manipulative General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), who tried harnessing her powers using Morozova's collar. This is the moment Alina chooses to truly step into her power and do what's necessary to snatch back her autonomy. Deciding that it is best to go into hiding, she and Mal (Archie Renaux) are seen walking into the unknown, with the knowledge that the Darkling's reign has finally come to an end. Little do they know that Kirigan is very much alive, and more intent than ever to track Alina down, no matter what the cost.

Season 2 of the show will be adapting a significant portion of "Siege and Storm" — Leigh Bardugo's second novel in the "Shadow and Bone" trilogy — which charters across the True Sea only to refocus on Ravka, where Alina is forced to return to. This sets the stage for a brand new love interest: Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson), the Prince of Ravka, who is first introduced in the book as Sturmhond, an influential privateer. Nikolai's presence is bound to further complicate Alina and Mal's dynamic, as they share a specific kind of unspoken love that is intensely felt but rarely articulated. If the show is to faithfully follow the events in the book, Alina and Mal will find themselves separated yet again, creating space for Nikolai to charm our Sun Summoner.

Per the March 2023 issue of SFX magazine, the dual identities of Sturmhond and Nikolai coalesce beautifully enough to intrigue Alina. Here's what lies ahead.

New love blossoms while the past returns to haunt

From a narrative perspective, Nikolai/Sturmhond functions as a sort of foil to the Darkling, as he plays an instrumental role in undermining his authority and unexpectedly helping our protagonists amid danger. As a privateer, Nikolai puts on a deliberately cocky demeanor and is able to adjust his personality to per people's expectations, which makes him both intriguing and dangerous. According to co-showrunner Daegan Fryklind, this duality allows the character to root itself authentically in the Grishaverse:

"That was a really beautiful dance that Patrick did, shifting between those two characters because they are quite different. Sturmhond is charismatic and owns the room. Nikolai is somebody who had the role of responsibility thrust upon him at a certain point. He does a shift in accent between the two characters."

Moreover, when it comes to Alina, Nikolai has his heart in the right place, making the prospect of their romance all the more interesting. Loyalty is rare in a world spliced in two by the Shadow Fold, but Nikolai is loyal to his crew and wishes to do right by opposing the Darkling's malicious stronghold. Although Alina and Nikolai's dynamic in the books hinges on contrarian impulses, as love is too strong a word to describe what they share, the show is likely to further explore their genuine attachment while they decide to fight alongside one another to thwart the Darkling.

But, what about the Darkling, whom Alina had trusted a few moons ago? Per co-showrunner Eric Heisserer, the Darkling created "new monsters called Nichevo'ya" in the Fold, which we see a glimpse of in the finale. Describing the Nichevo'ya as "essentially unstoppable," Heisserer explains that these monsters make the Darkling "incredibly formidable," but that such creations also come at a dear price. 

Old flames and best friends

Although Alina is no longer enamored by the Darkling's brooding allure, it is near impossible for her to evade his toxic presence. Now that he has created beasts with forbidden magic, Alina and co. "have to figure out how to deal with a toxic boss," who has once again indulged in something he shouldn't. As the Darkling is not above blatant manipulation, he might try and win her back through lies and emotional gaslighting — something along the lines of "Fine, make me your villain," which evokes complex emotions, given Kirigan is such a compelling antagonist. Unfortunately, Alina's rejection will further strengthen Kirigan's obsession with controlling her to further legitimize his thirst for power.

On the opposite end of the toxicity spectrum lies Mal, Alina's childhood friend and confidant, who assumes the role of protector after she learns the extent of her powers. Mal and Alina are undoubtedly ride or die, but that does not make their relationship simple; if anything, Alina's identity as a perceived Saint and Mal's core idea of who she is creates a conflict like no other. Heisserer explains their arc in season 2:

"The longer that it takes Alina to come back strong enough to destroy the Fold, potentially the more people from her home country are killed. She is driven by that fear, and by that nagging guilt, that there is nobody else...But she is paired with a man that loves her deeply and wants to make sure that self-care is part of that path, and that she doesn't burn out and kill herself before she gets there."

With Mal, Kirigan, and Nikolai involved in Alina's path to destroying the Fold, things could not be more interesting. Hopefully, Alina will find her way back to herself amid all the chaos.