Baghra, a pivotal character of “Shadow And Bone,” had said something very memorable one time, that “suffering was cheap as clay and twice as common.” We don’t disagree with her, but we wish she had given herself and her feelings their due importance instead of turning away from them. Centuries of history would have been different.
Baghra had a tough childhood. Her father was the bonesmith, Morozova himself, who was considered the most famous Fabrikator of all time. He was the one who created the three most powerful amplifiers for Grisha magic: the Stag, the Sea Whip, and the Firebird. This was the first known use of Merzost, the forbidden magic. Grisha were born with the power to manipulate elements that already existed. But the creation of something from nothing was an abomination, as it was never meant to exist, and no good could come out of it. Each use of Merzost demanded a price from its user, and Morozova had given three of his finger bones for his creations. But while the Stag and the Sea Whip might have been enough for Morozova’s experiment, Baghra had a direct hand in the Firebird’s birth.
In “Shadow And Bone” Season 2, Baghra told Alina and Mal that she had never been loved as a child. It is strange that her father, who dabbled in the dark side of Grisha power, shunned a daughter who could summon the shadows. Baghra’s mother was no better and did not favor her. It is not unlikely that she might not have had friends either. Baghra grew up a lonely child. She realized soon enough that the thing that kept her away from the others was also the thing that made them fear her. In a world where she wasn’t afforded any love, other people’s fear was her only protection. But that did not stop her pursuit of love. She must have been hurt when her sister got all of it from her parents, when she was denied the same thing for reasons out of her control. Baghra’s doll was given to her sister, and when she broke its neck, Baghra was angry enough to want to punish her. The sister had not just broken the doll; she had been reckless with something Baghra prized. In a fit of childish anger, she ended up killing her sister with the knife. Baghra never defends her actions, even hundreds of years later. She just accepts that she did something and has lived with the consequences. Morozova made Baghra watch while he made the coffin for her sister. Morozova could have loved Baghra or at least paid some attention to her and taught her to control her power. Had he done any of those things, a child would not have lashed out at her sister the way Baghra did. But grief does not see its own fault. Baghra was turned away from her house as a child and left to fend for herself.
Morozova’s third creation, the last amplifier, was none other than his resurrected daughter. He and his daughter were drowned for witchcraft by the villagers, but we can assume that the daughter survived since her bloodline continued and she gave birth to Malyen Oretsev. The details of that are not given.
Meanwhile, Baghra had started her own solitary life, away from everyone. She must have understood that she would never be loved, and probably in some corner of her heart, she did not consider herself deserving of it after what she had done. Baghra admits that she just wanted a child, so she had Aleksander. She did not love his father, but she did get the child she wanted. Maybe she wanted him because she was tired of being lonely, or maybe because she wanted someone to finally love her. Either way, as much as she loved her son, she could only teach him what she knew. Baghra did not know love, but she had come to understand power, and that is what she taught her son. However, we don’t think she intended for him to lead a life like hers. Baghra must have wanted Aleksander to find his own way in the world and his own love, all the while protecting himself with her lessons. But that is where she went wrong. Aleksander was ambitious, and the constant threat to Grisha must have made him think that the only way to protect himself and others like him was by reversing the hierarchy.
While it is hard to completely dismiss Aleksander’s motivations, he might still have had our support if he did not take it too far. In his pursuit of the protection of Grisha, he did not flinch at the destruction of humans. Baghra says that she did not care for Ravka, but she did care to stop her son from going beyond redemption, which is why she insists on helping Alina. Her own past must have made her question countless times whether there was forgiveness and redemption for her, though she never let anyone know that such a thing was on her mind. We think she never forgave herself for what she did to her sister, which is why she fights so hard for her son’s chance at redemption. She pays the price for it, a more severe one in the books than in “Shadow And Bone.”
We think we understand what she means when she says that she loves her son, but it is not enough. She probably believes that had she loved him differently, by not letting her own jaded past come in the way of her parenting, he would not be the power-hungry monster he is turning into today. She still loved him, but they were at a point when her love was powerless. She had not only killed her sister but had also created a person who was responsible for the deaths of many. Behind her brash, steely exterior, Baghra could never escape this fact. And in sacrificing herself to protect Alina and her friends, she found a tiny bit of redemption for herself. Baghra dies towards the end of Season 2 of “Shadow and Bone” and watching her in her final moments, it breaks our heart to know that centuries of grief could have been avoided only if a little girl had been given the love she deserved.