‘Glee’ Recap: 4×01 ‘The New Rachel’

1:30 pm EDT, September 14, 2012

It’s time, people. Filling us with equal parts excitement and trepidation, Glee premiered its fourth season last night, dividing focus, as promised, between Lima, Ohio and New York City. We’ve got a full recap for you below.

We drop straight in – no “here’s what you missed” – to Rachel’s first dance class at NYADA, where she’s being taught by the stern and ballsy Cassandra July (Kate Hudson.) Cassandra tells the class straight up that approximately two of them will actually make it in the entertainment business and that if they don’t all have body dysmorphia developing they’re not trying hard enough. Rachel – who’s about two feet shorter than ever other dancer in the class – rolls her eyes, unimpressed as Cassandra tells another girl that she needs to lose weight. When Rachel is singled out and criticised by the dance instructor, our little star tries to stay positive and takes what Cassandra dishes out to her, but is left with an overwhelming belief of Cassandra’s words to her – “You suck.”

Meanwhile, back in Lima, Jacob Ben-Israel films a video filling us in on the McKinley scoop – since winning Nationals, New Directions are a hot commodity. Artie’s been sitting with the Cheerios – “Well, I’m usually seen sitting,” (this joke the first of many that show quite a return to the absurdist, ‘should I laugh at this’ dark humour that made season one stand out to so many viewers) Sam’s signing autographs and doing impressions for a gaggle of fangirls, and Tina – after breaking up with Mike Chang because the distance was too hard – is confident, bitchy, and has a freshman as a personal assistant. “Wow! C U Next Tina!” Jacob exclaims, as Tina throws an unsatisfactory, non-organic banana at her terrified freshman’s feet. He approaches Blaine, Brittany, Artie and Tina admiring their Nationals trophy, and when he asks which one of them is going to be the new lead – the new Rachel, they all confidently reply “I am.”

Rachel finishes watching the McKinley vlog from her New York dorm as her room-mate has sex behind a curtain. Her inner monologue is upbeat and positive, but more introspective – the assumptive, arrogant girl has gone for now, and this Rachel is gentle, sweet, and a little lost, making the best of things as she misses Finn, Kurt and her dads. We learn that she hasn’t heard from Finn in two months, as she assumes he is giving her space. We see her going to take a 3am shower – she’d grown tired of people judging her extensive moisturizing routines – and in the co-ed bathrooms she meets Brody Weston (Dean Geyer), who seems to be a very nice, sensible naked young man with similar skincare habits. Brody, a junior in the musical theater course, discusses Cassandra’s teaching style and mentions without inflation, his time in a (failed) Broadway show. He gives Rachel a blunt and kind confidence boost and the way they talk to each other is brilliant – Rachel is truly without affectation and she’s so much more likable this way. Oh, and by the way – skincare and Broadway don’t maketh the sexuality. Brody’s straight.

Rachel recounts the interaction in a phone call to Kurt, and – despite the fact she’s been calling Kurt every three hours – makes out that she’s happy and doing brilliantly in all other aspects, including the dance class. Kurt himself is entering McKinley as he talks to Rachel, visiting Sue and her new baby daughter, Robin. He also meets Kitty (Becca Tobin), Sue’s new little Cheerio assistant, who is a nasty piece of work, but who somewhat truthfully points out the patheticness of Kurt’s situation – stuck in Ohio, about to start at Allen County Community College, lurking the halls of his old high school. Sue agrees with the sentiment, though with nowhere near the amount of venom she would have in the old days – I don’t think she has it in her to be mean to Kurt any more, however it seems that his life choices are kind of letting everyone who believes in him down.

At the first Glee rehearsal of the school year, Mr Schuester is sporting a very short and slick new haircut. This, combined with the fact he doesn’t say anything idiotic or offensive, make him instantly more tolerable. He assures his remaining members that, as Glee is the most popular club currently, they will soon build up the group again and that he believes in the talent of the current group and the new recruits to come. We see a quick flashback of Schuester posting an audition sheet and being caught in a mob of young students rushing to sign up. He then introduces the club to their newest member – Wade ‘Unique’ Adams, who – after the unsubtle hint at the end of last season – has transferred because he wanted to be somewhere where difference was celebrated. It’s actually quite sweet – Wade when he’s Wade has a really endearing insecurity – but New Directions, particularly Blaine and Tina, don’t look too impressed. They explain to Mr Schuester the dilemma over one of them becoming the New Rachel and he rightfully shuts the entire idea of competing amongst themselves down. You guys, it has been so long since I’ve been on Mr Schue’s side in an argument, but seriously. Blaine reluctantly allows Wade to sit next to him, and Wade goes into full Unique mode, saying confidently behind Schuester’s back that she would take the New Rachel role herself. The contenders – Blaine, Tina, Brittany and Unique – agree to duke it out, “Thunderdome style.” The group meets in the auditorium after school where they agree to a sing-off which Artie – despite him being one of the few stating he thought he was the new Rachel, in Jacob’s video – will judge. The number is to be “the song of the summer:” ‘Call Me Maybe.’

A moment really has to be taken here to address the insanity of this situation, and Blaine Anderson being involved in it. Yes, New Directions has been an incredibly competitive internal environment in the past. Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes and Santana particularly all had many moments of screwing each other over in order to get the spotlight. Artie and Brittany have both shown immense assumption and arrogance in the past as well. Tina has always silently seethed in her back row seat over Rachel taking the spotlight, and we had an entire episode, ‘Props,’ devoted to this. This is, on a whole, a group of people who, despite being underdogs, all think incredibly highly of themselves and have often viewed the Glee club as a place for themselves to get ahead individually. This acceptance of their newfound popularity isn’t shocking. This competitiveness isn’t shocking. These people have always loved themselves and now they’re just satisfied that others are loving them by shallow objective standards too. However – though he may be strong performer and a strong leader – it is a direct, written character trait of Blaine that he is NOT competitive, that he is very joyful about performing and very driven about doing a good job, but that he doesn’t have much ego as a diva. You saw it when he was accused of being ‘Blaine and the Pips.’ You saw it when Finn accused him of ‘ball-hogging.’ You saw it when he was planning on auditioning for West Side Story. And this is still a new school for him, he’s somewhat alone, and he’s so polite and so repressed, that what looks reasonable for all the others looks like complete backpedaling or disregard of canon character writing when it comes to him. Look, when the actual actor who plays the role mentions the inconsistency with not-very-well-hidden disdain in not one but two interviews – you know something’s a bit weird. Thankfully, this doesn’t appear to be something that will be ongoing, but if there was anything wrong with this episode – which was, on a whole, much better than Glee’s been in a while – it was this glaring Blaine issue.


The number was fun, but absolutely terrible for judging individual talent. Barely any lines were sung individually – there was mostly just harmonizing and the four of them physically pushing each other out of the way. Blaine asks Artie for his decision, which is not given. We then see Brittany and Blaine having coffee at the Lima Bean, where Kurt is their server. There appear to be no hard feelings between the McKinley pair as they discuss Santana – by the way, Heather Morris was intensely watchable in the number, in this scene, and later in the episode: we have high hopes for her as a main player this season – but they are less enthused when Kurt expresses his excitement for the Glee club auditions. He asks if it is pathetic that he’s more thrilled than them: Blaine kindly says ‘no,’ Brittany truthfully says ‘yes.’ Kurt is then called back to work by the demeaning Kitty, who wants a less-cold iced latte. It will be very interesting to see if that character ever gets any redemption – she’s no Quinn or Santana, that’s for sure. She’s worse.

Back in New York City, Cassandra is approached by her TA – her former TA, as the boy has just landed his first Broadway role in the flying monkey chorus of Wicked. Cassandra seems genuinely happy and proud of her ex-student, and recounts her first role – a dancing spoon, presumably Beauty and The Beast, at 17. As the boy leaves, though, Cassandra becomes thoughtful, dark and disheartened and adds some alcohol to the smoothie she’d been constructing while blasting some heavy music.

During lunch, Tina – her hair becoming more and more Rachel-like – demands Artie’s answer about the competition. He requests that she let him be, as his ‘genius needs its dream time.’ The group are then approached by a new face, Marley (Melissa Benoist), a young, awkward girl hoping to audition for the club. Marley is adorable and wears flat sneakers and flat caps with loose skirts and moves like a baby giraffe. I love her. Tina facetiously dismisses her, but Marley still seems hopeful. Wade joins the table, and Sam immediately warns him about wearing make-up at school, and he and Artie delve into a Game of Thrones metaphor in regards to the weak status of their popularity – they’re the Starks, the truly popular kids are Lannisters, and winter is coming. Wade – knocked instantly down from Unique levels of confidence to his sad, young state, goes to remove the makeup as the table is joined by Kitty and some jocks. The newcomers immediately start mocking the new lunch lady, who is overweight. They laugh at their own hilarity but all of Glee look very uncomfortable with the situation. Brittany says “maybe she has a medical condition… or swallowed someone with a medical condition.” She’s serious, but of course the jocks take this as her contributing to the joke, and she is at her sweetest and most likeable when she looks upset and confused by the jocks’ burst of laughter. One of the boys encourages Artie to join in, and unfortunately he does. Marley, at the next table, looks over sadly at this, and we immediately discover that the lunch lady is Marley’s mother as the pair meet after school in the kitchens. Marley’s mom is sewing a J. Crew label to a Goodwill cardigan in an attempt to give her daughter chances to fit in, and makes several other allowances such as suggesting that she meets Marley a couple of blocks away to drive home. This is somewhat heartbreaking as it all seems to be the mom’s idea – it isn’t Marley being like ‘don’t be seen with me,’ her mom is trying to protect her and offer her success and lack of stigma, and Marley doesn’t seem to be too comfortable with it.

NYADA dance class again, where Cassandra is casually insulting Rachel. Rachel does her best to genuinely answer Cassandra’s questions, but eventually demands to know why Cassandra is picking on her. When they’re in each other’s faces and Cassandra tiredly and loosely insists that she’s not – she’s just motivating Rachel – Rachel steps back. When Cassandra asks what is wrong, Rachel, somewhat shocked, says that Cassandra has alcohol on her breath. The whole class stops and hears this, and Cassandra gives Rachel a withering look, explaining that it’s Listerine. (pro tip, Rachel: it’s not Listerine.) Cassandra takes the opportunity to address the whole class, stating that though she’s no ingenue any more, that she can still dance better than anyone there, and proceeds to impress the class with a high energy song and dance number – a mash-up of Gaga’s ‘Americano’ and J.Lo’s ‘Dance Again.’ Rachel looks confronted, especially when, as the teacher finishes the number, she announces that Rachel is not only on Cassandra’s list – she IS her list – and walks out.

Auditions for New Directions begin in the auditorium, with the whole club in attendance and Kurt eagerly videotaping the proceedings. We begin with Brett – of ‘you smell homeless, Brett, homeless’ fame, though apparently due to the new 9pm timeslot we’re allowed to call him Stoner Brett now – does some terrible rapping, and a girl called D’wanda dances around to some dubstep. “Are there words to this song?” Blaine asks the group quietly. Everyone’s losing hope a bit when a young man who’s signed up only as Jake – no last name – takes the stage. Jake (Jacob Artist) looks like a cross between Taylor Lautner and Matt Who Never Spoke From Season 1, and he sings a beautiful piano ballad – ‘Never Say Never’ by The Fray. Sugar comments on how sexy he is, and Sam is annoyed at her claim – so it looks like Sam/Sugar may be in the works – but Unique backs up Sugar’s assessment. Schuester stops Jake about a verse and a chorus in – he’s obviously seen enough to make a positive decision – but Jake takes being cut off badly. He thinks he’s being insulted, and knocks over a music stand. Kurt calls him out, but Schuester more patiently asks him to simply pick up the equipment. Jake scoffs, does a little bow, and walks out.

In a beautiful set called the Round Room – a venue with perfect acoustics – Carmen Tibideaux (Whoopi Goldberg) is teaching her first vocal workshop of the year. She invites the freshmen to sing here – once today, and once if they’re invited to the winter showcase. The first student begins Ave Maria, but in the Round Room her vocal flaws are exposed and Carmen immediately cuts her from the course, asking her to reapply next semester. Rachel looks taken aback and Brody – the older students are there to see what they call the ‘freshman reaping,’ – advises her that it happens, sometimes. It’s then Rachel’s turn to sing in the Round Room.

She begins to sing ‘New York State Of Mind,’ written by Billy Joel and popularized, as she mentions, by Barbra Streisand. Marley begins to sing the same song in parallel for her Glee audition, and it’s interesting because everything about the girls is so different, stylistically and vocally. It’s like Rachel is singing Barbra’s version and Marley is singing Billy’s. Both audiences are impressed with their respective girls – Brody stands up to applaud Rachel awkwardly, but sits as Carmen stares at him judgmentally. She deems the performance ‘nice,’ and has no complaints with Rachel’s quality. At McKinley, Schuester is absolutely thrilled with Marley and the rest of the club are so threatened by her talent that they’re silent and dismissive.

The weekend passes, and on Monday Schuester posts the audition results. Marley’s in, and her joy is just so pure. She and Jake clock each other hovering around the list, and seem to take interest in one another. Jake checks the list after Marley departs. He’s not in, and he crumples the list in his fist. Apparently no one else – out of the pages and pages of sign-ups – gets in. In the choir room, Kurt is obsessively organising sheet music because he has no purpose in life and Tina is trying to bribe Artie into naming her the new Rachel. Wade comes in in full drag as Unique and Joe lightly reminds him that they’d agreed he would only wear drag onstage. Kurt interrupts them all, reminding them that this club used to be about diversity – fair enough – and then laughably, asks “since when was it all about who’s the biggest star?” Thankfully, Tina retorts to this: “since day one – you and Rachel fought over solos for three years” before I can pick my jaw up off of the floor and start yelling at the television, because holy hypocrisy, Batman. The group once again demands that Artie announce his New Rachel choice, and it’s Blaine. (A very odd choice based off of the ‘Call Me Maybe’ performance, where Blaine mostly performed tenor harmonies to Unique’s full melody, but Artie mentioned an online poll, perhaps lampshading the enormous sector of fandom living a Darren Criss Appreciation Life. Darren Criss: “I don’t particularly remember doing a great job in that number.”) This choice-making is even more questionable considering that Artie’s second choice was Brittany – since when has the vocal hierarchy in that club gone 1) Rachel, 2) Blaine, 3) Brittany? Anyway, that’s Artie’s pick as Schuester comes in with Marley, and Blaine – the de facto leader – welcomes her kindly on behalf of everyone. The socially awkward Marley recounts the experience to her mom as she helps out in the kitchen, sharing her disbeliving happiness. However, Marley is troubled about the students making fun of her mother, and doesn’t want to lie about their relationship. Mrs Rose encourages her to continue not acknowledging it, reminding her daughter that at their last school, Marley had had no friends due to the situation.

Kurt sits with Blaine in the outdoor courtyard, discussing Blaine’s appointment as the new Rachel. He offers his boyfriend some advice about making everyone feel included, which Blaine takes in stride, and then comes the crux of the conversation – Blaine’s advice to Kurt, which is that Kurt can’t be here – at the school, in Lima – any more. Blaine can’t stand to see Kurt holding himself back, and performs Imagine Dragons’ ‘It’s Time’ complete with jump rope routines and a sort of cup-drumming percussion bit. It’s quite cute, but far and away the best bit is at the start, when Kurt realises that Blaine had set the whole thing up, and he kind of puts his face in his hands as Blaine screws up his face and points to the hidden band, silently saying “yeah, this is happening again, sorry.” It’s all very nice, and bizarrely light, rational and calm – Kurt and Blaine both have a lot of acceptance of this situation, as opposed to the last time they hugged goodbye in the same courtyard, during ‘Somewhere Only We Know.’

Another lunch – presumably the next day, I can never work out how many days a Glee episode goes for, but Blaine is wearing a new shirt and trying to convince Brittany that she needs to sing in the club even if she’s not the lead. “I had a song in my heart, Blaine Warbler, and you killed it.” This back-and-forth goes on awhile until new lunchmate Kitty gets bored and starts discussing homecoming floats. Aside from including the nastiest, most casual bit of intense racism from a character on this show, the jokes turn to the new lunch lady again, this time with Sugar joining in. Marley snaps and calls out their behaviour, and when Kitty asks why Marley cares, she admits that the lunch lady is her mother. The whole club looks taken aback and guilty – the ones who hadn’t been involved, including Sam, look outright angry at the others as Marley leaves the group.

Rachel sits the beautiful, instantly recognizable Washington Square Park as she looks at photos of Finn on her phone. Brody finds her there and asks some questions about Finn and her old life, before congratulating her on her success in the Round Room performance. Rachel begins to open up about how she hadn’t felt anything was going right except at the moment she was singing that song, and Brody advises her about what it’s like to feel uncomfortable while going through change – that it’s why she came to NYC, to become this new Rachel – look at that, duality in the episode title! He tells her not to fight it, and to make new memories to go with the old. The new friends take a picture together in the park and Brody walks Rachel to Cassandra’s class. Despite Cassandra’s disdain that the class is not yet at Black Swan levels of psychosis – they’ve had a whole week, after all – Rachel seems to do better in the class today. Cassandra has her repeat some movements and comments on the improvement, and Rachel summons some courage and tells her teacher that she will keep improving until she’s the best Cassandra has ever seen. Cassandra seems to like Rachel’s attitude, but twists the compliment around to say that Rachel’s spirit will make it all the more fun when Cassandra makes Rachel’s life hell.

Kurt, meanwhile, is being dropped at the airport by his father. He’s sold his car, so he has enough money to set up in a motel in New York until he finds a job and living situation. Look, it’s a Kurt and Burt scene – you probably know roughly what to expect. But Burt makes a particularly brilliant point – that Kurt will do better in NYC than in Lima because all the crap that happened to Kurt in Lima is likely to be much worse than anything that could happen to him in New York. In New York, differences are embraced and people like Kurt feel at home. So Kurt, apparently only taking one hand-satchel in luggage, enters the airport to board his flight while his father starts to cry.

Back at school, Sam approaches Marley to apologise on behalf of the New Directions, commiserating with her about having things at home being rough, and as they start to connect, the whole club comes up and joins in the apology for their behaviour. They convince her to stay in the club and sing lead vocals on a number they’re working on, and Marley expresses that she’s still uncomfortable about sitting with Kitty and her jock friends. Kitty conveniently overhears this and says that won’t be a problem – they’d lowered themselves enough to sit with the Glee club – doling out some of the worst and most offensive insults this show has ever seen, about individual members – but that the invitation was not extended to “pre-op Precious, based on the novel Barf by Sapphire” (Unique) and to Marley herself. Blaine states on behalf of everyone that they are not in Kitty’s crew, and the jocks welcome Marley and Unique to the Glee club ranks with a slushie to the face each.

Schuester calls Just Jake into his office to discuss his audition. Jake breaks into a rant about how he’d spent three nights perfecting his work on the song and how Schuester didn’t even let him finish. Schue explains that when performing infront of people, the audience may react certain ways – was Jake going to throw things at those people? Jake says he has a right to be angry – that Schuester doesn’t know his life – and Schue reveals that he knew Jake’s brother – his surname, Schue reads from Jake’s file, is Puckerman. Jake reveals that they’re half brothers (doesn’t take a genius – Jake is mixed race and Noah is not) and that Puck doesn’t know of Jake’s existance. Jake now assumes that since Schue knows the connection, he’s deemed Jake good enough for the club, which angers him further. Schuester explains that no, he’d wanted Jake in ND as soon as he got out a couple of lines of the song – that’s why he stopped him. Schuester does go on to say how much Glee helped Noah and how it could help Jake if he made an effort to lose the attitude. Jake genuinely touched and vulnerable when Will tells him how good his performance was, but shows stubbornness and says he won’t lose the chip on his shoulder to sing for Will. He leaves the office.

In the auditorium the nine members of New Directions 2012-2013 rehearse (actually rehearse, like with Will showing them movements and formations etc – oh my god, REVOLUNTIONARY) Adele’s Chasing Pavements, with Marley singing lead vocals. Jake watches from the back of the auditorium with some longing, but steels his resolve and leaves again. As the song continues, we cut to Rachel, back in Washington Square Park as she calls Kurt, crying. She reveals to him that her positivity had been a lie and that she isn’t coping. He tells her to turn around, and she sees him across the other side of the fountain from her, looking insecure himself. They run to each other and re-unite in tearful joy, the actual best OTP on this show. Welcome back, new and improved Glee!

New Directions Headcount: Tina, Artie, Brittany, Sam, Sugar, Blaine, Joe, Unique, Marley.

Absent Regulars: Finn, Santana, Puck, Quinn, Mercedes, Mike, Emma, Beiste

What did you think of last night’s Glee?


Hypable dives deep into Crooked Kingdom with Leigh Bardugo, discussing the art, heart, and future of her dynamic duology Six of Crows.

In addition to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, Bardugo is the author of the best-selling Grisha Trilogy, and is currently writing a young-adult Wonder Woman novel.

Crooked Kingdom, due out tomorrow, continues the tale of Kaz Brekker and his motley gang of young (and only occasionally reluctant) criminals. Set in the chilly streets of Ketterdam, Kaz’s crew finds themselves working against the clock in game where the stakes have risen from “seriously high” to “catastrophically personal.”

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Hypable dives deep into Crooked Kingdom with Leigh Bardugo, discussing the art, heart, and future of her dynamic duology Six of Crows.

In addition to Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, Bardugo is the author of the best-selling Grisha Trilogy, and is currently writing a young-adult Wonder Woman novel.

Crooked Kingdom, due out tomorrow, continues the tale of Kaz Brekker and his motley gang of young (and only occasionally reluctant) criminals. Set in the chilly streets of Ketterdam, Kaz’s crew finds themselves working against the clock in game where the stakes have risen from “seriously high” to “catastrophically personal.”

Cunningly magical and exactingly scientific, Bardugo’s work celebrates quirks of character, and champions diverse protagonists who challenge readers on every page — which is just about as often as they challenge themselves.

This interview is spoiler-free for Crooked Kingdom.

Interview with Leigh Bardugo

One of the major differences between Six of Crows and the Grisha Trilogy is the way you utilize perspective. How did you decide to structure the duology among multiple points of view?

I knew when I wanted to tell a heist story that I didn’t want to tell it first-person POV. It can be done, if I’m not mistaken, Ally Carter wrote her heist books in first person, but I had a clear idea of how I wanted to break the chapters, and how I wanted to release information. And I feel like that’s what heists and cons are really about.

Both Holly Black, and Ally Carter and I have all commiserated on the challenges of writing a heist, and I can’t remember which one of them said it, but it’s not just about conning the mark — it’s about conning the reader. And I felt like having these different, shifting perspectives would give me more opportunities to do that.

Obviously, that structure is very George R.R. Martin-esque. Did you take any inspiration from the point-of-view structure in A Song of Ice and Fire?

As far as I’m concerned, A Song of Ice and Fire is my touchstone for fantasy, particularly the first three books. And I think there are certain things I’ve definitely taken from [Martin], like the geography as destiny. But also, starting with redshirt who gets killed off is very much a Martin trick! [laughs] But it was also kind of a way to get people up to speed in terms of the powers that existed in the Grisha world and the potential for what [jurda parem] could do… to put everything on the playing field and move into the rest of the action.


Did you find much of a difference between writing Six of Crows and writing Crooked Kingdom? Very little time passes between the two books, but almost everybody is in radically different mindsets.

I think the biggest difference in Crooked Kingdom is, in the beginning of Six of Crows, Kaz is assembling the team. So you have some people who know each other, but you have some who don’t, and none of them trust each other — with the exclusion of Kaz and Inej, but even that is trust with conditions.

And then they go through hell together, which naturally changes the way that they interact with each other, and the way that they think about each other. And so that’s really where they are in Crooked Kingdom. Six of Crows has this escalating level of action and interaction between these characters, whereas Crooked Kingdom, we hit the ground running. I think that there’s a lot more progress in those relationships because of what they’ve been through.

Let’s talk about Kaz for a bit — the guy with, ostensibly, all the answers. Where is he emotionally in Crooked Kingdom? How did you decide to employ him in the book?

He comes in a little later, but he’s definitely not used sparingly. It’s interesting, because I’ve always thought of Inej as the heart of the books, and I was talking to a friend recently and she was like, “Crooked Kingdom is much more her book.” And I was like, “Really? I think of Six of Crows as being very much her book!” But whoever reads it, they see a different hero, or a different protagonist, that the arc belongs to them. But I think everybody has pretty steep hill to climb with this one, honestly.

Early in the book, Kaz thinks that, over the course of the three days Inej has been missing, he has murdered the old Kaz Brekker, and now he’s all business. I was really struck by that — I thought he was all business before!

Well, Kaz has some very clear ideas on how you are able to survive in the world. And there are certain tools that have served him very well. It’s not an easy idea — he really believes there are punishments for making yourself vulnerable. And the truth is, in this environment that is 100% true. And that fact does not change throughout the book. That is the reality of the world that they live in. But whether or not Kaz can actually keep his humanity at bay is a different story.

He does start off involved in some fairly brutal business at the beginning of the book. It’s interesting, because you don’t pull many punches in Six of Crows, but in Crooked Kingdom it feels like… well, the gloves are not off, but the gloves are off!

[laughs] That should have been the tagline! “The gloves are not off! Crooked Kingdom!” I’m ready for that movie trailer.

You know, it’s interesting. In some ways, I think that… I don’t think Crooked Kingdom is necessarily a darker book. There are a lot of dark things that happen in it, but it is also… because these characters know each other better, I think… I mean, maybe I’m wrong, you never know when you’ve written a book what people are going to take from it. But for me, there are actually quite a lot of moments of lightness and hijinks. I think I felt freer to let them have certain adventures that were… I don’t want to use the word “zany!” But there’s a pleasure in going a little bit over the top when it comes to heists and cons, and I really wanted to indulge that.

crooked kingdom leigh bardugo interview

And because it is only a duology, there was a lot that had to happen emotionally. And I really am not into being beaten over the head with grimdark. My personality is like, is I sense tension in the room or if something bad has happened, I inevitably make the wisecrack. And I think that that sense of humor imbues the books — or I hope it does.

So would you say that Jesper takes some of that from you?

Yeah, probably! Jesper actually [says] in Crooked Kingdom, that he always thought of himself as a lucky guy. He’d always thought of himself as a generally happy person. And one of the things he has to contend with in this book is digging a little deeper than that, and understanding where his own compulsions come from, and some of the choices that he’s made. And the idea of acknowledging that there’s something beneath this easygoing manner. But I love writing Jesper. A lot.

And which character would you say you find the easiest to write?

You know, it depends on the book. In Six of Crows, the easiest character to write was Matthias, because he’s so dogmatic. He has such strong opinions, and he also has this very mannered, old school fantasy way of thinking. He has this kind of Arthurian bent to him. So he was very easy to write, but I think in terms of the character that was the most fun to write, it was probably Jesper.

In Crooked Kingdom, it was Wylan, because he was the person I was discovering most about as I wrote him. And he’s also in some ways the most YA of all the characters, because he has, for a big chunk of his life, despite the things that were going on at home with his father, has led a fairly sheltered life compared to the rest of these characters.

Speaking of YA, how do you balance the youth of Kaz and co. with their at times very mature exploits? At times, I find myself thinking, “These kids are so young!”

I think of them as sort of like CW teenagers! But I also think, you know, adolescence is a very modern construct, and we tend to forget about that. But I always say, what would Arya Stark be like at 17?


Very stabby. And very cynical! I get why there’s a certain suspension of disbelief required for the characters ages, and in truth, when I go to a high school to speak, or I go to a signing and I meet actual 16 and 17-year-olds, I’m like, “Oh my God! You are but wee children! You are but walking, talking, fetuses! I can’t put you in these horrible circumstances!” [laughs]

But I also think that that’s one of the conventions of YA — and also, look, life is nasty, brutish, and short in the worlds that I create. So unless you are of a very privileged class, and even then, you are probably not going to have a whole lot of time to eke out an existence.

It’s interesting, because Nina undergoes a very adolescent-like experience in Crooked Kingdom, grappling with the ways she has changed. In Six of Crows, she’s like Lady Confidence, and now…

Yeah, Nina’s confidence is shaken in a very fundamental way because of her attachment to her power, and it’s something that she’s never had to question before. And there are other things about her that remain unshaken, and she knows who she is on a lot of levels.

You know, I don’t think there’s anything interesting about keeping a character in one place. And people always talk about, “Oh, who are you going to kill off?” The worst thing you can do is not kill somebody off. One of the lessons that I really took from reading George R.R. Martin is, you take the thing that the character thinks defines them, and then you take it away, and you see what happens. That’s the Jaime Lannister lesson. And that, to me, was the exciting thing to do with some of the characters in the book.

Speaking of taking things from characters, what kind of challenges is Kaz facing internally at the start of Crooked Kingdom?

I think this is the moment when Kaz is deciding who is going to be. Because his life has been all about revenge, and one of the questions that Inej poses to him is not really about his attachment to her. It’s about, what comes after that? Are you just going to become exactly like the man you’re looking to destroy? Because the methods Kaz pursues are not any less ruthless than Pekka Rollins’.

He prides himself on that, actually.

Yes. Although he and Rollins have different ideas about where the lines are drawn. I think this is the book where all of the demons come home to roost. It’s the revenge and redemption book, but it’s also, which demon is going to win, essentially.

Kaz reminds me in a lot of ways of Locke Lamora from Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series — but ironically, Locke is a lot better-hearted than Kaz.

I actually read Lies of Locke Lamora after I wrote Six of Crows, because I had heard a lot about it, people had been telling me to read it for years. And then I read it, because I was really afraid that it would be so much like Six of Crows that I would be like, “Oh no! What have I done!” But as it turns out, they’re not at all alike.

Locke is very much the mode of the like, kindhearted trickster, as opposed to Kaz, who is like, “I will cut out your kind heart and eat it!”

Do you think of him at all like the Darkling from the Grisha Trilogy? They both have a profoundly diabolical streak.

I think the Darkling is a much more noble character than Kaz. The Darkling may have lost the thread in terms of his humanity and the cost of human life, but he has, ostensibly, noble goals. He’s a patriot, he believes in protecting his people, he’s trying to build a future for the Grisha that isn’t one of persecution. There are a lot of ways to defend the Darkling that don’t work for Kaz, who is very much out for himself, and out for revenge. And revenge is not necessarily a noble goal. It’s something you sympathize with, but it’s not something that is bigger than him.

But I really, [laughs] I really enjoyed writing him. And sometimes he would take me by surprise! And I don’t say that lightly, because I think of myself as very much in control of my characters — they don’t tell me what to do. But I remember writing the scene on the ship with Oomen and thinking, well, what is Kaz going to do here? And it was sort of like Kaz took over, and was like, “I’m telling you what I’m going to do!”

I took a great deal of pleasure in writing the details of that scene, and it’s weird, because I always know when people get to that scene. I know what page it is, because they’re like, “Page 158! Ahhh!” And the weird thing for me is, I’m like, I think it’s kind of romantic! He’ll poke a guy’s eye out for you, baby, and then throw him in the drink!

It is very sweet, in a murderous way. Were there any similar moments where you thought Kaz went overboard? Or did you ever have to push him?

I pulled back, actually. In Crooked Kingdom there was a torture scene that I ended up taking out, because it was just too much. It’s not that it was implausible for the character, but there was already enough brutality happening. And I think sometimes we’re pulled toward these things because they have a certain amount of emotional resonance in them, and high stakes in them.

But I think we also, somehow the idea of being dark, or edgy, or gritty, has come to mean that you’re somehow more legitimate or the story is weightier. And I try to sometimes consciously push against that, because I want this world to feel real, I want it to feel like the peril is real, but we do write for young people. And I want my readers to be able to follow me there without feeling hopeless.

Looking at the bigger picture, how did it feel to craft this story as a duology?

Weird! [laughs] I’m honestly a real lover of structure. I believe very firmly in the resonances of narrative structure, and to me they kind of provide a safety net for writing. I can look at my own stories and say, okay, well, this was squishy here, or this moment needed to come sooner, or this wasn’t a strong enough twist. And to me, the natural structure for a story is three acts. And I think that’s still the story that got told, it just got told in two books. That second act did not belong to it’s own book. But it’s funny, I sort of thought of it — it just always felt like this shape.

And for the characters who survive, there could continue to be stories, but for this particular moment, this is the moment where we pause with them. And in some ways, it just felt like it always had this shape, is the best way I can put it.

I love the duology format — there’s a natural urgency to it, I think, and that serves the heist story particularly well.

It does, it does. And I’ve always sort of thought of these books as, when I set out to write them, I told my editor — I gave her a proposal, but I said, I’ve never written a book like this before. So I don’t know if it’s one book, or if it’s two books, or if it’s three books, and we’ll just have to play it by ear. And at the end of the first book, I was like, okay. I can tie up all of the plot-things easy, there’s a very natural way to do this. I was like, but the emotional things I wanted to do with these characters, they went deeper and darker than I expected them to, and there’s no way they can earn the endings that I think they deserve in one book.

It’s true, at the end of Six of Crows it feels like the characters think they’ve reached their endings, and they haven’t.

I think too, that’s what makes heists interesting. There’s the fun side of them, but the thing that really makes them exciting, particularly in books as opposed to film is what the challenges are that the characters have to overcome. People enter in, these are characters who appear highly competent at the beginning of Six of Crows, and then they face these challenges… that undermine that competence, and that’s what makes the heist exciting.

It’s not that like, OH! This is happening! And this is blowing up! Or this person got caught! It’s what they have to overcome personally within the story. And for Crooked Kingdom, that was kind of doubly true, because they have this whole new set of challenges that are coming out them, and they’ve just had their armor torn to bits, so they’re a lot more vulnerable to those challenges.

So moving forward, what are you working on now?

Well, I’m working on Wonder Woman right now, and I have a couple of other projects that I can’t talk about yet, but one is one that I have been wanting to write for a very long time. And some other things cooking!

What is it like writing Wonder Woman?

You know, it’s really very joyful! The strange thing about it is that I have just come off the heels of writing these very morally compromised characters, and Diana has her own challenges to contend with, but she is at her heart a very kind hero. And it’s one of the things I think people love so much about her, is that she has this deep empathy, and this deep kindness.

She comes from a culture where that is valued, and where the suffering of others means something. And so it’s been really fun to write her! And I feel like I’m in a better mood! I’ll come out of my writing day, and I’m like, oh, I feel good! And then I’m like, maybe it’s because I wasn’t writing about murder and torture!

So it’s been great. I feel like there’s obviously a tremendous weight of expectations that are attached to the character and I want to do right by the character, but I’m really glad I’m doing it. I don’t think there’s any other character I would have wanted to put my other work aside for than Wonder Woman.

Did you like the trailer?


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is available tomorrow from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore.

What are your top theories for ‘Crooked Kingdom’?

Anyone who received a mole or rat Patronus in J.K. Rowling’s new quiz is getting a little reassurance from the Harry Potter author.

Last week Pottermore took the fandom by storm when they debuted the long-awaited Patronus quiz. It’s a next-level personality quiz — it’s beautiful and provides a real sense of magic. Overall, we love it!

There’s just one problem: Many people are getting Patronuses they don’t particularly like. After all this waiting, these poor fans got stuck with a creature that they’re allergic to (cats), are scared of (rats), or they simply don’t like (moles).

Read full article

Anyone who received a mole or rat Patronus in J.K. Rowling’s new quiz is getting a little reassurance from the Harry Potter author.

Last week Pottermore took the fandom by storm when they debuted the long-awaited Patronus quiz. It’s a next-level personality quiz — it’s beautiful and provides a real sense of magic. Overall, we love it!

There’s just one problem: Many people are getting Patronuses they don’t particularly like. After all this waiting, these poor fans got stuck with a creature that they’re allergic to (cats), are scared of (rats), or they simply don’t like (moles).

Over the weekend Rowling fielded a couple of complaints by offering the upside to getting a rat or mole Patronus.

Rat Patronus explanation:

Mole Patronus explanation:

All told, there are over 140 Patronuses. Can she get to work on writing reassuring comments on every single one of ’em?

In a press release announcing the Patronus quiz, Pottermore said that “further new information and features will be revealed about the spell and its outcomes” in the “months to come.” Hopefully that means we really are getting detailed explanations.

Related: Hypable’s staff reacts to their Patronus results and what they mean


At Copenhagen Comic-Con, Hypable caught up with Game of Thrones actress Kerry Ingram for a chat about Shireen’s horrific death scene, Netflix, and horseback riding.

It seemed like a full-circle moment when I got to sit down with Kerry Ingram and tell her just how much Shireen Baratheon’s death upset me. Even on a show like Game of Thrones, which makes an art out of assaulting its viewers’ senses, that particular scene felt like it crossed a line — and that was just my reaction, watching safely from behind a computer screen! How must the actress herself feel, having to actually act out her character’s death at such a young age?

This led to a wider musing about what Game of Thrones does to protect its child actors from the horrific things their characters experience. (Ingram is now 17, but was only barely in her mid-teens when that scene was filmed.) I also wondered if she ever went back and watched the scene. Turned out she watched it live with the rest of us — but, luckily, she was able to find the fun side of the situation: Outraged reactions like my own. The irony is sweet.

Read full article

At Copenhagen Comic-Con, Hypable caught up with Game of Thrones actress Kerry Ingram for a chat about Shireen’s horrific death scene, Netflix, and horseback riding.

It seemed like a full-circle moment when I got to sit down with Kerry Ingram and tell her just how much Shireen Baratheon’s death upset me. Even on a show like Game of Thrones, which makes an art out of assaulting its viewers’ senses, that particular scene felt like it crossed a line — and that was just my reaction, watching safely from behind a computer screen! How must the actress herself feel, having to actually act out her character’s death at such a young age?

This led to a wider musing about what Game of Thrones does to protect its child actors from the horrific things their characters experience. (Ingram is now 17, but was only barely in her mid-teens when that scene was filmed.) I also wondered if she ever went back and watched the scene. Turned out she watched it live with the rest of us — but, luckily, she was able to find the fun side of the situation: Outraged reactions like my own. The irony is sweet.

At Copenhagen Comic-Con 2016 I got to ask Kerry Ingram all this and more, while also diving into more fun topics like Shireen and Arya’s hypothetical take-over of Westeros, and Ingram’s new Netflix series, on which she plays ‘Becky with the good hair’ and gets to do lots of horseback riding. Watch the full interview below:

Ingram’s new Netflix series stars Jaylen Barron as Zoë, a 15-year-old American girl whose stay at Bright Field Stables in the U.K. leads her to form an unexpected friendship with a mysterious horse named Raven.

The Lime Pictures drama also stars Celine Buckens and Natalie Gumede. It was created by Anna McCleery and Vicki Lutas, and is tentatively expected to premiere on Netflix in 2017.

Follow Kerry Ingram on Twitter to keep up with her latest projects. Read more Game of Thrones news right here on Hypable.

This interview was done in collaboration with the Danish entertainment site Kulturbunkeren. Thanks to Copenhagen Comic-Con for making it possible!