In episode three, we are starting to get in the swing of things, and the story is starting to be set up for an ultimate showdown at the end of the season. It starts with Alina waking up suddenly from an ethereal dream with a white stag with intricate antlers that meet in the middle and transform into an unknown symbol. I’m sure we’ll learn more about that in later episodes, as she doesn’t have any other visions of that symbol in this one. This sudden wake up, though, prompts several attendants to come into her room to try and clean her up, including that of Genya Safin, who seems to have sweet eyes for Alina, at least, in my opinion as a queer woman. These attendants get to removing her clothes and readying a bath, when one of them mentions that they should make Alina’s eyes “less Shu.” Genya quickly dismisses that and the attendants, and only tends to her scars, except for the one on her hand, as it is a reminder of home. Alina and Genya seem to have an instant connection, bonding over conversation as Genya dresses her to meet the King.
In West Ravka, Kaz, Inej, Jesper, and the Collector attempt to find a Heartwrender named Nina. However, they get to her room too late, as she gets attacked and taken by Druskella, a group who hate Grishas. Now, they need to find a new way to cross through the Fold. Jesper is tasked to get twenty pounds of oil, while Kez goes to retrieve a goat. Jesper fails on his task pretty quickly, tempted into gambling away the money that Kez had given him.
Genya brings Alina through to the entrance of the Little Palace, where Kirigan is waiting to walk her over to the Grand Palace. As Kirigan explains, they need the King’s blessing to have her start training and honing her skills of summoning the light. Upon introducing herself to the King and Queen, the Queen makes some shallow, racist statement (which becomes more common in this episode as it goes on). They then call on Alina to showcase her power. General Kirigan calls the shadow and whispers in Alina’s ear to call the sun. He grabs her wrist, and she is able to call it and illuminate the room. This display of power excites the King, and he quickly approves her training so she can remove the Fold and he can unite East and West Ravka as one. As Alina leaves the presentation room, she gets congratulated by other Grisha, except for the one that we had seen back at the camp, Zoya. In passing, she calls Alina a half-breed, and leaves.
It definitely seems like there is a big divide between the values and beliefs of those in East and West Ravka. Kaz stumbles upon a “true Ravka” protest, which seems a bit similar in its language to an alt-right rally. What is interesting, however, is that the man who spoke on stage walks off to then speak to the Collector. Kaz continues to walk and finds Inej at a wall that remembers all those who went into the Fold and didn’t come out. She has a desire to find her parents, and she thinks they might have gone through—but Kaz makes sure to mention that her parents probably would have traveled around it, since that is what her people did. They leave to the outskirts of the fold, where the Collector is waiting with a machine on tracks that will get them across. Jesper gets there just in time, running away from people who he stole coal from since he had lost the money gambling. The coal he stole, though, is not enough and could stop them from getting all the way through the fold. Luckily they get away from the men who had been running after Jesper, and enter the Fold.
Back in East Ravka, you get a bit of a sense that Alina is stuck there in the Little Palace, as the guards won’t let her go outside. She is then brought right into training, and is asked if she knows how to fight. It brings us into a sweet and short flashback of Mal teaching Alina how to properly punch, which just makes you fall in love with the both of them more. Alina is then set up to fight Zoya, the same woman before who had made that racist comment. Zoya is incredibly skilled and bests Alina a few times. Yet Alina keeps asking to go again. Her competitor decides to throw an insult about sleeping with Mal (when they didn’t) and Alina punches her right in the face, hurting her ego. Zoya reacts by summoning wind to propel Alina back, knocking her out. Upon waking up, Alina sees the stag again, sans symbol, and finds out Zoya has been reprimanded for what she did.
Alina returns to her room, her confidence bruised, and begins writing a letter to Mal. She then journeys over to the library, and is sneaked up upon by the King’s spiritual advisor, who is, in all honestly, very creepy. He sees she’s interested in the lore of the stag, and shows her a book about the Bonesmith, one of the first Grisha. He built creatures like the stag who would amplify his powers. However, other Grisha grew envious and would kill the creatures so they could take that power themselves. The advisor then brings Alina to Baghra, who will aid her in harnessing and controlling her power. We get some foreshadowing here, when the spiritual advisor says to Alina, “You have suffered…I think you will suffer more.” Well, that is concerning to hear when we still have five episodes left! She then enters a dark cave to find Baghra, who is unamused at the fact that Alina is unable to summon light without Kirigan’s touch. She dismisses Alina and tells her to come back only when she believes that she is the one that others believe her to be. Therefore, she leaves the dark cave and goes to dinner with other Grisha. She is treated in a very special manner, having her own taste tester, as the King doesn’t want her harmed or dead. This doesn’t bode well with other Grisha, who shame her about not doing the proper work and training, and that she doesn’t belong here.
Over in the Fold, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper (the greatest trio, honestly) find out from the Collector that there’s a part of the train tracks that don’t connect, and as long as they don’t shift their weight and put in enough coal to fuel the engine, they can make it onto the other track. That proves possible as they get attacked by volcra, which slows down the train, and freaks Jasper out. He’s handed the goat to calm himself, and after he collects his wits, he shows off his sharp shooting skills by shooting all the volcra attacking them, and they just barely make it through the border of the Fold into East Ravka.
The episode ends with Alina having a bit of an existential crisis. She is replaying memories of her and Mal, thinking about the world’s problems and how she is the one who is supposed to help fix it. She doesn’t want to be a stranger to herself or to Mal by embracing herself being a Grisha and sun summoner, something they hadn’t cared about or were favorable towards. But, Alina is sure she will get through it with Mal, as she believes him to be her true north. That sounds like soulmate kind of talk to me. Time will tell to see if that is accurate, and these two life-long best friends take that step. I hope they do.