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S01.E01: A Searing Burst of Light

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Unwilling to be separated from Mal, Alina hatches a plan to join him on a perilous expedition through the Fold. Kaz chases a lead on a lucrative job.

 

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This was a convoluted first episode. I can hardly keep track of what's what. But the sun girl explosion looked good. 

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I have no idea what anyone is talking about half the time, but I'll give it a go.

The Soviet Russian type wardrobe. It just really drew me in.

I was sort of meh on the giant bat attack in The Fold, like I sat there watching the same way I'd watch a scene where people eat ice cream. My shock meter is running low, I think. 

The actress playing Milana was terrible. Like, really? You're being kidnapped by a slew of gangsters and you're whinging about wanting to get back to whoring?

It gets points for killing off a character in cold blood, it was the only thing that actually did something to my heartstrings.

 

 

 

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Not sure how I'm going to pace myself - that was sooo good! Obviously they had to cram in tons of world-building (the curse of every pilot) but I think they handled that pretty well. No long prologue shenanigans, most of it was delivered through sparingly used flashbacks and dialogue. Of course book knowledge helps. I think they did a good job establishing both settings: Ravka and Ketterdam. Tying both plots together by poor Alexei was pretty ingenious.

They sold Mal and Alina pretty well. Of course Alina's little stunt with the maps cost at least two of her team members their lives. I wonder if we'll get some follow-up guilt. I also loved Mal and Zoya's meeting. But what I really looked forward to was Ketterdam. I got so giddy when Kaz went to his room because I knew Inej would turn up out of nowhere. We also got a glimpse of Jasper's skill.

As I said not bad for a pilot that had to do some really heavy-lifting when it comes to world-building.

 

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I come into this show knowing nothing about it's origin source. And man did I find most of this episode confusing. Which if I'm honest is usually how I feel when watching the pilot episode of a fantasy or sci-fi show. 

Am I not meant to understand what The Fold actually is? And why do people want to cross it, if it is so dangerous? They talked about it pretty much being a death sentence but then a character comes out as says he has passed through it 3 times. The Wall in Game of Thrones I understood, The Fold not so much. Even though I enjoyed the tenseness of travelling through. And I got the impression that the country on one side of The Fold was more need to cross than the other side, so why do people on the other side also want to cross? And why am I putting so much thought into a dust cloud?

I got a bit tired while watching - my fault not the show's - so may have missed it but why does Dressen want to cross it? Just to get Alina?

At one stage I was going to complain that the timeline wasn't matching up as Alina's story occurred during the day and Kez's (I think is his name based on Wiki) was happening at night but then it all came together with the reveal of Alexei (who I was sad to see is no longer with us for this story). And is Kez's story from a separate book to Alina's?? Did I read that right on the net?

I will definitely give it another episode, it wasn't terrible, it was just confusing with trying to explain the world but just made it more muddlesome. Although I get the feeling I'll be watching this like I did A Discovery of Witches. Constantly checking on the internet was occurred and finding explanations for stuff the show doesn't tell.

My only complaint is that I am getting really tired of the trope of the main character discovering they have an unknown gift that they initially were told they didn't have and that they will be the saviour of the world now that the gift has revealed itself. But hey, I guess fantasy has to fantasy I guess.

Edited by Bill1978
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7 hours ago, Bill1978 said:

Am I not meant to understand what The Fold actually is? And why do people want to cross it, if it is so dangerous?

The Fold isn't really explained in the books until much later, so your confusion is intentional. People want to cross it because it has cut their country in two and because West Ravka is located on the shores of the True Sea (i.e. the normal ocean in this world - the Fold being the Unsea). That means Ravka's main trade routes. Trade is especially important with the island nation of Kerch, Ketterdam being its capital. The territory to the north of Ravka is Fjerda and they have a massive problem with Grisha. They consider them witches/abominations and like to hunt Grisha. The territory to the south is Shu Han and they are also not fans of Grisha to put it mildly. Alina has Shu ancestry hence the racist treatment by some of her fellow soldiers. 

Clue to the geography:

Ravka/Russia

Fierda/Scandinavia

Han Shu/China-Mongolia

Ketterdam/Amsterdam-New York

7 hours ago, Bill1978 said:

And is Kez's story from a separate book to Alina's?? Did I read that right on the net?

Yes, Alina's story is told in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. The story of the Dregs (Kez & Co.) is from the follow up Duology Six of Crowes with events happening about two years after what had happened in S&B. Here is where the show is deviating and it will be interesting to see how that unfolds. 

7 hours ago, Bill1978 said:

I got a bit tired while watching - my fault not the show's - so may have missed it but why does Dressen want to cross it? Just to get Alina?

Yes, that seems to be his main motivation since getting Alina means being able to safely cross the Fold or rather control over everybody who wants to cross. In other words: greed.

Edited by MissLucas
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8 hours ago, MissLucas said:

The Fold isn't really explained in the books until much later, so your confusion is intentional. 

I didn’t want to quote your whole post, but thanks so much for the explanations, because I was totally lost. Now, I’d say I’m maybe half lost. 😂

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14 minutes ago, DanaMB said:

I didn’t want to quote your whole post, but thanks so much for the explanations, because I was totally lost. Now, I’d say I’m maybe half lost. 😂

I totally understand. This reminds me of me watching the Expanse not having read the books. I needed book readers help (and auntie Google but she's a spoiler), still felt lost half of the time but I kept watching. I hope you do the same ;)

I love the show but I do wish they had taken a leaf out of GoT book by at least adding a map to the opening credits.

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I think I got most of the information you gave from the show, if maybe not from the first episode, but for where everything actually is geographically. I know they mentioned it briefly in this episode with young Alina staring at a map, but that was over way too fast and before we actually knew anything about the world. So yeah, a GoT style map at the beginning of the episodes would have been pretty helpfull.

Thanks for clearing that up.

I'm not sure what the problem is with the Expanse, though. I haven't read any of the books and I don't think I missed anything. As far as I can tell I have a pretty good grasp on everything that's going on.

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I’ve read all the books. 
The British accents threw me.  I expected Russian, Finish, Chinese, Dutch among others. It wouldn’t be strange if it were a British company but it appears to be American. It just seems like an odd choice to me.

Edited by Cerulean
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A lot of british actors in the show. Probably be easier than to let them try a russian accent and them failing horrible at it.

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6 hours ago, Zonk said:

A lot of british actors in the show. Probably be easier than to let them try a russian accent and them failing horrible at it.

Spoiler

Like Matthias... although that actor is American, so he’d have to fake either way.

 

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So I came to this with no knowledge of the book series. I'm intrigued but like a lot of other posters...a bit lost. 

The acting so far is alright. No stand out performances but it's early yet. I'm ready for Ben Barnes, and it looks like we'll finally get him in the next episode. 

RIP dumb redshirt guy. There is always one moron who doesn't listen, and which means everyone becomes angry dragon-bat (?) food. Good going. 

It was obvious that Alina's half-baked plan to burn the maps would end up backfiring. Great job getting the other cartographers killed. Does this mean we get to sit through an emo angst fest for 2-3 episodes?  I think they established the bond between Alina and Mal well,  and the obligatory romance that neither will talk about even though they may as well have cartoon hearts over their eyes at all times. Just DO IT already, it saves people from making rash decisions that involves map burning and death by bat creatures. 

Again, I haven't read the books but how can Alina not know that she has powers? It's obviously the standard unwitting hero arc, but it seemed like the Grisha (I think that's correct?) are fairly elite. I'm curious how powers manifest in this world. 

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15 minutes ago, ZeeEnnui said:

So I came to this with no knowledge of the book series. I'm intrigued but like a lot of other posters...a bit lost. 

The acting so far is alright. No stand out performances but it's early yet. I'm ready for Ben Barnes, and it looks like we'll finally get him in the next episode. 

RIP dumb redshirt guy. There is always one moron who doesn't listen, and which means everyone becomes angry dragon-bat (?) food. Good going. 

It was obvious that Alina's half-baked plan to burn the maps would end up backfiring. Great job getting the other cartographers killed. Does this mean we get to sit through an emo angst fest for 2-3 episodes?  I think they established the bond between Alina and Mal well,  and the obligatory romance that neither will talk about even though they may as well have cartoon hearts over their eyes at all times. Just DO IT already, it saves people from making rash decisions that involves map burning and death by bat creatures. 

Again, I haven't read the books but how can Alina not know that she has powers? It's obviously the standard unwitting hero arc, but it seemed like the Grisha (I think that's correct?) are fairly elite. I'm curious how powers manifest in this world. 

It's not that Alina doesn't know she has powers.  She's in denial that she has them.  Acknowledging that she has powers means being separated from Mal her only semblance of home.  She would rather be a  grunt in the army if it keeps her near Mal.

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I came into this not being familiar with the books, and I am very interested and also pretty confused. They threw a lot of world building at us really fast, but I was pretty confused about where a lot of stuff was happening and why people were doing things, especially where Ketterdam is in relation to everything else that was happening, but I watched the Building The World featurette and read the very helpful post by @MissLucas so now I think I get the gist. Or at least I think I understand enough for now and will understand more later as more is revealed. I always appreciate when shows world build by showing and not telling, and I appreciated the lack of awkward "as you know" dialogue, but I would love some kind of map to get a better feel for where things are that I can look at more often.

So yes a lot going on, but this seems to have a lot of potential and I liked it quite a bit. I always like when fantasy worlds take cues from cultures and time periods other than a vaguely medieval European vibe, in this case they seem to be taking a lot of cues from Tsarist Russia mixed with the USSR, which gives the series a really unique aesthetic. The acting all seems solid, nothing too stand out but nothing bad, and the main girl is still doing the "reluctant chosen one orphan audience surrogate" thing for now, but I will wait to see how she grows and the actress seems pretty good. The world building is sparse for now but what we are getting is really cool and I am interested in exploring the world more. 

There always has to be one idiot who ruins it for everyone. One guy who wont listen to instructions and gets tons of people eaten by bat dragons. I do kind of wish they had waited to establish Alina as having these powers, and we instead focused on her hiding her powers as just a normal soldier for a bit, but we only have so many episodes and I can understand wanting to get the plot moving. The magic system they are setting up seems interesting, I wonder how powers normally come about? Are people born with them through family lines or do they just happen to random people? So how are Alina's chosen one powers going to work? 

Edited by tennisgurl
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I have to say, as somebody who came into this series without having read any of the books, or even having heard of them, I found myself really enjoying this episode. The world building is pretty impressive and I like the fact that this series focuses on a more Eastern/Northern European flavored world, as opposed to the standard England/western European version. Still not entirely sold on the main two characters but I plan on rewatching the series to see how they hold up. I thought the rest of the cast was pretty impressive. They had a lot of ground to cover with this episode and I think for the most part, they succeeded. I was certainly never bored with it and I thought the crossing of the fold scene was pretty damned impressive.

Edited by Philbert
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I will continue to have issues with the show as Alina caused the death of three people. That is not going to sit well for me, especially as she did it for a guy. 

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I literally have no idea what I just watched lol. I guess I could try to make sense of it but I’m too lazy for that. I’m just gonna keep watching and see if it becomes any clearer. If I’m being honest, I’m mostly in it for the ships anyway.

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On 5/1/2021 at 7:46 PM, memememe76 said:

I will continue to have issues with the show as Alina caused the death of three people. That is not going to sit well for me, especially as she did it for a guy. 

But she did it for "true Love"! Don't you know that trumps all?   She is pathetic.

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I thought the first episode was all right, I guess.  I'm definitely going to keep on watching.

Kaz and his team seem to be interesting.  I wish I could say the same Alina and her what's his name love interest.

I do love the Russian-style influence.  Also like that while the technology is primitive like so many fantasy series, it's late 19th century/early 20th century primitive.  

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I read the Crows books so I have somewhat of an idea of what's going on, or at least I know what Grisha are. I'm sure I'll figure out the rest in time. Good job on the casting of Kaz & company. 

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Point One: I have no idea what's going on.

Point Two: The actors playing Alina and Mal are so very terrible. We're talking British CW teen drama terrible.

Point Three: At least the criminals seem interesting. 

I've never read (or heard about) the books before. Are they YA novels about a Special, Magic Girl who saves the world/universe with her Specialness and Magic while pining for her One True (boring) Love? If so, I'm a tiny bit too old for that sort of thing. Like 40 years or so. Anyway, I'm bored so I'll stick with it awhile longer and maybe it will pick up, or at least start making sense. 

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4 hours ago, Lokiberry said:

Point One: I have no idea what's going on.

Point Two: The actors playing Alina and Mal are so very terrible. We're talking British CW teen drama terrible.

Point Three: At least the criminals seem interesting. 

I've never read (or heard about) the books before. Are they YA novels about a Special, Magic Girl who saves the world/universe with her Specialness and Magic while pining for her One True (boring) Love? If so, I'm a tiny bit too old for that sort of thing. Like 40 years or so. Anyway, I'm bored so I'll stick with it awhile longer and maybe it will pick up, or at least start making sense. 

😄 I had a similar reaction to episode one, but decided to stick it out largely for a few actors I knew would be popping up later. The plot and world-building, at least, become a bit clearer as the show goes along...

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9 hours ago, Lokiberry said:

Point One: I have no idea what's going on.

Point Two: The actors playing Alina and Mal are so very terrible. We're talking British CW teen drama terrible.

Point Three: At least the criminals seem interesting. 

I've never read (or heard about) the books before. Are they YA novels about a Special, Magic Girl who saves the world/universe with her Specialness and Magic while pining for her One True (boring) Love? If so, I'm a tiny bit too old for that sort of thing. Like 40 years or so. Anyway, I'm bored so I'll stick with it awhile longer and maybe it will pick up, or at least start making sense. 

The show is based on 2 different series by the same author in a shared universe.  And yes, Alina is a Chosen One and her story is very tropey but only because of publisher demands back when the series was first launched.  As the Grisha-verse expands the tropes get dialed down.  The Crows story is more interesting because the source material is more varied.

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On 4/26/2021 at 3:51 PM, tennisgurl said:

So yes a lot going on, but this seems to have a lot of potential and I liked it quite a bit. I always like when fantasy worlds take cues from cultures and time periods other than a vaguely medieval European vibe, in this case they seem to be taking a lot of cues from Tsarist Russia mixed with the USSR, which gives the series a really unique aesthetic. The acting all seems solid, nothing too stand out but nothing bad, and the main girl is still doing the "reluctant chosen one orphan audience surrogate" thing for now, but I will wait to see how she grows and the actress seems pretty good. The world building is sparse for now but what we are getting is really cool and I am interested in exploring the world more.

Agreed. I love that it looks different from so many other fantasy series out there - the production design is really well-done. And man, do I like those color-coded Grisha uniforms! It's a completely-different show/aesthetic, but I'm reminded a little of the clipper uniforms on Into the Badlands - so cool-looking and a lovely visual shorthand to help you keep track of where people fit.

On 5/10/2021 at 9:55 AM, benteen said:

I do love the Russian-style influence.  Also like that while the technology is primitive like so many fantasy series, it's late 19th century/early 20th century primitive.  

I like that too. I appreciate that this is a world with a magical elite, a shadow barrier full of monsters, AND guns.

A very piloty pilot, and I'm sure there's plenty that I don't totally understand yet, but I'm definitely on the side of "ready and willing to be convinced." For all that Alina seems to be a standard-issue Special Savior Who Just Wants to Fit In, I'm finding her enjoyable enough, and her big blaze-of-light moment in the Fold was excellent. I also liked how they used her poor cartographer friend who jumped ship to give us the reveal about Alina's powers and tie the two sides of the plot together.

The reviews I read all highlighted the Crows as the particular ones to watch out for, and I certainly see why. From their introductions, all three are very distinct and I immediately want to know more about them. I like the whole vibe of their city too, which has an entirely different look/feel from where Alina and co. are.

I'm not sure what it is exactly, but the Grisha who was in charge of the ship going through the Fold really drew me in. I liked her character a lot in her few scenes, and I was so disappointed when she was killed. Grr to that stupid idiot who didn't follow directions and drew the shadow creatures to the ship!

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On 5/30/2021 at 4:21 AM, angora said:

I'm not sure what it is exactly, but the Grisha who was in charge of the ship going through the Fold really drew me in. I liked her character a lot in her few scenes, and I was so disappointed when she was killed. Grr to that stupid idiot who didn't follow directions and drew the shadow creatures to the ship!

I agree, I had become invested quickly in her too. In hindsight I realize her death was necessary, not just to create a situation where Alina's power would emerge, but also to show the very real limitations of the Grisha, for all that they can do magic. We see that while magic is certainly a helpful tool, it doesn't guarantee domination the way it does in so many fantasy universes.

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