If you’re a fan of genre television, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an episode directed by Mairzee Almas. The Canadian director has worked in the Marvel world (Jessica Jones, Iron Fist), the Arrowverse (Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, Supergirl) as well as Outlander, The 100, 12 Monkeys, and iZombie, just to name a few.
One of her recent projects is Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, for which she directed the fifth and sixth episodes, “The Heart is an Arrow” and “Show Me Who You Are.” SYFY WIRE had the chance to talk with Almas about her experience shooting Shadow and Bone, including how she decided to create some pivotal scenes and whether there is an Easter egg in the show for fans of the books.
**Warning! Spoilers below for Netflix’s first season of Shadow and Bone!**
Almas’ episodes are memorable. They include exciting and important moments like the Crows’ attempted kidnapping of Alina (Jessie Mei Li) at the Little Palace as well as the aftermath of that attempt when everyone flees The Darkling’s wrath. There are several pivotal scenes during those two hours of television, including the one where Inej (Amita Suman) kills someone for the first time in order to save Kaz’s (Freddy Carter) life. The death is sudden and unexpected, as Almas doesn’t show us Inej or the knife in the back of the Inferni’s head until he drops dead.
That point of view — where we at first only saw the Inferni looming over Kaz — was intentional. “In choosing the shots, I was creating an opportunity for the audience to be with Kaz and not with Inej at that moment,” Almas explains. “The audience will be with Kaz and be as surprised by her response as he was, and then [when the camera moves to focus on Inej in the balcony] we see her reaction to what she had done and recognize the weight of it.”
Another major turning point in the same episode is when Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker) reveals to Alina that General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) is actually the centuries-old Black Heretic, the creator of the Shadow Fold. “Alina is looking at this crazy lady and thinking 'You have been in the sun too long,'” Almas says.
The audience in this scene is also likely questioning whether Baghra is telling Alina the truth, and Almas wanted viewers to feel shocked by the allegations. “It was important for the audience to understand that this force — The Darkling — who he is, you have not seen yet,” the director continues. “You as an audience do not know how dangerous and dark and desperate this creature is. The person we know as an audience member is this charming, beautiful, generous man played by Ben Barnes… and we have to ask the audience to see through Baghra’s eyes and ask the audience to be with Alina.”
Once we know Barnes’ character is more than a little evil, the danger picks up for Alina and the crew who tried to kidnap her In the sixth episode, Alina, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper (Kit Young) flee the Little Palace and are trying to find their own way in a quiet town when The Darkling and his Grisha track them down. The group scatters and each faces their own Grisha. It’s Kaz, however, who has an ominous face-off with The Darkling. (This, as an aside, is also an exciting encounter for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s books since the two never meet in the show’s source material.)
Having Kaz — a second-tier criminal from Kerch — believably survive an encounter with The Darkling — one of the most powerful beings in the world — was something Almas and the rest of the creative team put some thought into. “It was both a matter of maintaining both of those characters’ integrity and allowing both of these characters to be true to who they really are,” she says.
To thread that needle, Almas explains that The Darkling doesn’t think much of Kaz, and consequently tries to simply kill him with The Cut. “In underestimating Kaz, he allowed him to get away,” she explains. “But the thing about Kirigan is he would only do that once.”
Any good genre show also has an Easter egg or two, and Almas was able to confirm the existence of at least one in the sixth episode: The book David (Luke Pasqualino) throws at Jesper when the sharpshooter throws him out of the carriage is indeed the source material for the show: A copy of Leigh Bardugo’s book, Shadow and Bone (written in Ravkan, of course) — just as many fans have suspected. “When Kit holds it up and says, ‘He hit me with a book!’ That’s exactly what it was,” Almas reveals. “It was a little Easter egg, and Kit sold it beautifully.”
The first season of Shadow and Bone is currently streaming on Netflix.