Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 2 of Shadow and Bone.
The finale of Season 2 of Shadow and Bone settled some overarching stories and laid the groundwork for some new ones. Even with Alina (Jessie Mei Li) destroying the Fold for good and the Darkling (Ben Barnes) defeated, not all is well in the Grishaverse. Nikolai (Patrick Gibson) is struggling with some Darkling infection, Matthias (Calahan Skogman) is still in prison, Mal (Archie Renaux) and Inej (Amita Suman) have left their respective lives behind for a stab at privateering, and, most significantly, there’s a deadly new threat on the horizon that could throw the world into even more dire straits than it faced under the Darkling. That new threat is Jurda parem, a synthetic drug that can give Grisha an insane amount of power.
What Is Jurda Parem?
We only hear about jurda parem (spelled like this because it’s the scientific classification) in the final moments of Season 2, as Kaz describes the terms of their heist and Nikolai’s coronation is simultaneously attacked by a Grisha using the drug to make short work of his attendees. Jurda parem is a variant of the plant jurda synthesized by Bo Yul-Bayur. He actually created it by accident as he was attempting to make something that would conceal Grisha powers; however, the result here was the opposite. Based on the harmless jurda plant, a flower native to Novyi Zem, jurda parem is an extremely volatile powder that is lethal when consumed by non-Grisha. When a Grisha takes it, however, it has some hallucinatory effects that seem to bend reality, allowing Grisha to unleash untold and deadly power beyond their normal scope. Their powers not only multiply in scale but use of jurda parem seems to shatter something fundamental about the rules of the Small Science Grisha magic is based on, sometimes permanently changing the powers of the user.
The Toll of Jurda Parem
This use of incredible power comes at a toll. It’s called a drug, and it acts like one, a highly addictive one at that. One use is enough to get Grisha hooked, and they will be in constant, painful desire for another fix until they have one. The great amount of power it allows them to wield also takes a massive toll. The bodies of users deteriorate quickly, becoming sickly even if they continue to take the drug. Not only that but even one use can dramatically alter a Grisha’s power (though it seems the show is making some adjustments to what those alterations actually are). We see in the finale the Fjerdan infiltrator is sickly yet still able to crush the hearts of nearly every person in attendance. It’s usually impossible for a Grisha Heartrender to even affect two people at once so to simultaneously kill dozens of people takes an immense amount of power, courtesy of the jurda parem. But that’s not even close to what we’ll come to see it’s capable of. If this was in the hands of an entire unit or an entire military of Grisha, it would make them nearly unstoppable. Yet even with the awe-inspiring power it provides and constant access to the drug, the negative impacts of consuming it are clear as day.
Is There A Cure?
No. The drug is so new, so volatile, and so untested that it’s barely even something that can be replicated yet, let alone have an antidote for. The Fabrikator who discovered it created it by accident and its immense power makes it a hot commodity. Addiction is instant, withdrawal is excruciating, and the impact on the body is immediate. Once one consumes jurda parem they are forever changed. Any cure or way for those who have taken the drug to detox and recovery is still a long way off. And as we’ll find, it’s basically a death sentence to all that take it.
Could This Mean the Crows Will Take the Lead?
Jurda parem first appears in the Six of Crows duology with the Crows taking up a massive job to infiltrate the Ice Court in Fjerda where they’ve imprisoned the son of the researcher who invented the drug, now the only person alive who knows its secrets. The Crows are tasked to retrieve the research and bring it back to the Kerch where the knowledge will supposedly be in safe hands. With Alina’s main storyline complete with the destruction of the Fold, her place as the unequivocal lead of the show is no longer so necessary and with the next central plot lifted directly from the Crows’ story and with the Crows themselves on the case, it seems they’ll be pivoting into position for the A-plot in Season 3. If this is the case this could finally be the Crows’ chance to fly.
Jurda parem has the potential to ruin lives and escalate the already existing conflicts of this world in massive ways. The Crows may be in it for the money, but they’ll be responsible for stopping a deadly weapon from reaching the hands of the masses. And with this show combining all the stories of this universe, it’s likely Alina will have a hand in stopping the spread of jurda parem as well (on top of being a Saint in a recently reunified country).
Merzost was dangerous enough but could only be wielded by extremely powerful Grisha. Jurda parem is the opposite. It has the potential to make even the weakest Grisha deadly weapon. And in a world where every country is vying for power, each with different perspectives on what roles Grisha should fill, it becomes a struggle not only against individual threats but the chance for mutual assured destruction. Should jurda parem reach the world at large beyond a few stray individual doses, the fallout could be catastrophic. Certainly, if the writers were looking for a way to up the stakes after the Darkling fell out of power they’ve found a worthy new threat in the form of jurda parem.
Whether jurda parem becomes the conflict for a Season 3 of Shadow and Bone, a spin-off for Six of Crows, or remains a mystery known only to those who’ve read the books will be a mystery for another day. For now, the Grishaverse has found a formidable new threat in the form of an accidental scientific discovery and the teenage Grisha who’s the only one to know its secrets. Jurda parem will show us Grisha like we’ve never seen before, if we get to see it.