Netflix's Shadow and Bone plunges viewers into a brand-new fantasy world full of magic and monsters. But one ominous entity hangs over the entire series, and you may have some lingering questions about how it works. So, what is the Fold and how was it created? Here's why Shadow and Bone is so focused on it:
Warning: Major spoilers for Shadow and Bone Season 1 follow. Adapted from a series of novels by author Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone takes place in a world split in two by a dangerous, unnatural darkness known as the Shadow Fold. Separating the Kingdom of Ravka, the Fold is filled with blind, winged monsters named volcra who feed on human flesh and make crossing the Fold a life-or-death task.
Shadow and Bone follows a young orphan named Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), who learns she's a Grisha (a manipulator with elements) with the rare power to summon light. Her newfound abilities could be the key to finally destroying the Fold, but how was it made in the first place?
As Alina explained in Episode 4, the Fold was supposedly created hundreds of years earlier, by a Shadow Summoner known as the Black Heretic. Although the Heretic was initially the king's advisor, he became power-hungry, so the king put a bounty on his head and any Grisha who stood by him. Knowing he was outnumbered, the Heretic attempted to create his own army using merzost — the forbidden and unnatural use of Grisha power to animate or create matter. He ended up creating the Fold instead and was seemingly killed in the process.
But as fans learned in Episode 5, that story isn't entirely true. The Heretic wasn't actually killed all those centuries ago, and he was actually Second Army commander General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) himself. At the time of the Fold's creation, Grisha were largely persecuted. This prejudice even led to the death of Kirigan's lover, Luda. So he rebelled against the king further, creating the Fold and turning his opponents (and many surrounding villagers) into volcra.
Over the years, Kirigan reinvented himself and used the war that resulted from the Fold's destruction to elevate Grisha status in society. Although he initially told Alina he wanted to destroy the Fold together with her, she discovered he actually meant to use her to wield the Fold as a weapon and help Ravka conquer other countries.
Alina and her friends escaped Kirigan's grasp at the end of Season 1, but in the final moments of the finale, he emerged from the Fold with several volcra trailing after him. Viewers will have to wait and see if Alina is able to destroy the Fold should Shadow and Bone be renewed for more seasons, but one thing is clear: The Fold is a threat like no other.
Shadow and Bone Season 1 is on Netflix now.