We find ourselves following Mal as this episode opens, as him and his company are marching to their new assignment. Mal has been writing to Alina with no response to the three letters he has been sent. At this point, he feels so distant from her, and we are reminded of that as we briefly see a scar on his hand that is the same as Alina’s. Even with having matching scars, they haven’t been this out of sync in a while. However, as him and his company are resting in an abandoned building, there is a new assignment that comes in for anyone in the company to find the mystical stag—the same one Alina would dream about. This reenergizes Mal into reconnecting with his best friend, so he volunteers to go on the search for this creature, which others in his company think is a joke task from the King, except for his two friends who decide to join him in this adventure.
Over at the Little Palace, Genya comes into Alina’s room to get her dressed to go out riding with General Kirigan. Upon meeting him outside, still being very formal with him, he tells Alina to call him Aleksander. That little appearance of vulnerability seems to make Alina feel more comfortable with him.
In another part of East Ravka, we find Jesper, a bit drunk, mentioning how “that went well,” which hilariously cuts to him freaking out in the Fold, clinging to that goat with dear life. Kaz comes over and mentions how he has found a place that has drawings of the Little Palace, that they have to go steal, so then they can then break into the Little Palace. In a very sad moment, Jesper must leave the goat, who he has named Milo, with the barmaid, so he may go off and carry out this heist. I must say that Jesper is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters on this show!
We return to Kirigan (I don’t know if I’m ready to call him Aleksander yet) and Alina, who are at a partially destroyed fountain. They begin to talk about her time at the palace. She likes being able to have her own room and such but she still feels out of place. The only one who doesn’t make her feel like that here is Genya. Kirigan opens up and talks about he is the descendant of the most hated Grisha, and often feels like an outsider too. He’s been trying to right the wrongs of his predecessors, be the solution, and bring down the Fold, but other’s don’t see him as doing any of those things. He knows that others view her as the one to solve their problems, and he certainly feels slight envy at that. She retorts that she doesn’t want to let anyone down for not being able to do what
they think she can do. However, Kirigan believes that the two of them together, even with being both similar and opposite in many ways, can change the world. This activates her drive, and she goes to see Baghra, saying she’s ready to be who she needs to be. Baghra begins to train her, and hits her until she is able to summon the light herself.
At the Royal Archives, the heist begins. Kaz poses as a sculptor and puts a tracker on the man who leads him to the room with the blueprints. Inej, in the cover of darkness, then follows those tracks, and when Jesper turns the lights off, she enters the room through the ceiling and makes a copy of the blueprints. Just as she is about to climb back up the rope, though, someone comes in the room, and she gets stuck in there. But no fear, Jesper is hear! To the rescue again, using his sharp shooter skills, is able to shoot the lock of the door to open it and they are all able to escape with no one the wiser. However, when they’re back at the bar, and looking at those copied blue prints, there seems to be no way in whatsoever.
We then move out to sea, where Nina is. In the previous episode, she was captured by Druskella and brought here, where other Grisha were locked in chains. One of the Druskella, who previously was awfully hateful towards her, attempts at giving her food. We really see a difference of upbringings here, with this man believing that the Grisha want them all dead, while Nina believes that they want all Grisha dead which is why they kill them. It’s very much of a he said, she said situation, where both sides seem to have ignorance of each other’s people, and why they hate each other so in the first place. The captain of the boat, later on in the episode, during a bad storm, even tells his inferiors that they are to kill the captives if the storm sinks the ship.
Back at the bar, the Contractor has found a way into the Little Palace. One of the traveling groups is in need of someone to fill the place of a member, and they brilliantly have Inej become an acrobat. Jesper even joins, showing off his skill as a sharp shooter by shooting a card out of Inej’s mouth as she’s contorted and dangling from the aerial silk rope.
Returning to Alina’s training with Baghra, she can now summon the light by herself, but she is not strong enough to fully channel her power. To assist in that, Baghra gives her a laced drink that causes her to hallucinate from when she was at the orphanage and had to take the Grisha test. In this hallucination,
we learn that since Mal couldn’t take the test because of a hurt hand, she cuts her hand to mask the pain the test would bring, so if she were to be a Grisha, she wouldn’t be separated from her best friend. If she hadn’t done that, she would have known she was a Grisha from an early age and so many things could have been different. But she held herself back because of Mal, and Brigha wants her to not hold back for anyone, no matter what they mean to her. This experience keeps Alina from being able to fall asleep later that night, so she leaves her room to wander the palace, and finds Kirigan. He’s sulking and upset that their own are turning against them and that he can’t do anything about it. As he’s talking, and getting angrier, he unknowingly summons the shadow. Alina grabs his wrist and is able to expel it. That action strikes a chord in Kirigan, and you can see his apparent attraction for Alina. He tells her, “I’ve been waiting a long time for you,” leans in for a kiss, but Alina leaves before anything happens. Whether it’s true attraction that Kirigan is displaying, or just that of Alina’s ability to keep him level, is yet to be seen, but I have a feeling it is the latter. It seems, though, that Alina is beginning to develop attraction towards him, and it may cause some trouble later on in the show.
Transitioning to Mal and his two friends, they are trekking through a snowstorm as they continue to track the stag. Mal believes they are close to finding it, but the other two aren’t as sure. He has hope that this stag will reunite him with Alina, however, being in another world where she hasn’t heard responses to any letter she’s sent him, is beginning to distance herself from him. What neither of them know is that the Little Palace is probably keeping them from communicating. That manipulation of their friendship is working on Alina. She is realizing that she can’t wait around for him and has to start working on herself. While she is beginning to come into her own as an independent self, elsewhere in the chilling, snowy night, Mal hears a noise. He goes out to investigate, and him and his friends are suddenly attacked. Then, in my utter surprise, a machine gun is unveiled and Mal gets shot by several bullets. The gasp I let out!! As he falls to the ground, we flashback to the day he joined the army. He knows that Alina is a cartographer there, and has gotten herself in trouble and thrown into the brig, so he starts a fight to get himself thrown into the brig too. As we see these two reunite, Alina sees that Mal has a cut on his hand exactly like hers. They are now matching, and have a new connection that reminds them of each other. Back in the snowy woods, Mal somehow is still alive and musters up the energy to kill the rest of the attackers. In that moment, he sees the stag approaching him, and knows that Alina, his true north, is close. This entire sequence is absolutely heartbreaking, as simultaneously, Genya makes it as if Alina had never cut her hand, completely breaking that true north connection Alina and Mal have. As this episode ends, these two characters couldn’t be further from one another, and I am anxious about when they ultimately reunite. Until then, I will continue to be mending my broken Alina + Mal heart.