In its very first episode, Netflix’s Shadow and Bone introduces us to one of its gnarliest creatures: the Volcra. The show, which is based on Leigh Bardugo’s book series of the same name, depicts the treacherous monsters as gargoyle-like beings in the Shadow Fold that feed on human flesh. Alina (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal (Archie Renaux) first encounter these winged, toothy creatures as they cross through the Fold. Just as a Volcra snatches up Alina, she lets out a bright light as a sort-of fight-or-flight response, unintentionally discovering her powers as a Sun Summoner. While the Volcra are terrifying creatures, they haven’t always been like this — here’s what you need to know about their dark history.
Towards the end of episode five, we learn about the origins of the Volcra that plague the Fold. Frantically, Alina’s stern teacher Baghra tells her that General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), who is actually her son, is the notorious Darkling who created the Fold. Episode seven breaks his history down even further when we see a flashback with Kirigan and Baghra. Kirigan wants to free the Grisha and make an army using an unwieldy kind of magic called “merzost.” He doesn’t think twice about what this unstable magic would do to people — it ends up turning men, women, and children into the twisted and evil Volcra monsters. Despite this terrifying turn of events, the Darkling has no plans to destroy the Fold. In fact, he wants to expand it even further and use it as a weapon to free the Grisha.
The Volcra aren’t totally undefeatable. Alina’s light fends them off, and Jes is able to shoot them away. However, the Darkling seems to be able to control them somehow. Even as a Volcra snatches him away in episode eight, he survives. In the last scene of the first season, the Darkling leaves the Fold, commanding shadow monsters to follow him. Given that they’re able to handle the light, these might be the Nichevo’ya, creatures similar to the Volcra in Bardugo’s later novels — we’ll just have to wait and find out. That said, there’s a good chance that we’ll still see more Volcra in future seasons of Shadow and Bone — the Fold (and Ben Barnes) is far from gone.