From a narrative perspective, Nikolai/Sturmhond functions as a sort of foil to the Darkling, as he plays an instrumental role in undermining his authority and unexpectedly helping our protagonists amid danger. As a privateer, Nikolai puts on a deliberately cocky demeanor and is able to adjust his personality to per people’s expectations, which makes him both intriguing and dangerous. According to co-showrunner Daegan Fryklind, this duality allows the character to root itself authentically in the Grishaverse:
“That was a really beautiful dance that Patrick did, shifting between those two characters because they are quite different. Sturmhond is charismatic and owns the room. Nikolai is somebody who had the role of responsibility thrust upon him at a certain point. He does a shift in accent between the two characters.”
Moreover, when it comes to Alina, Nikolai has his heart in the right place, making the prospect of their romance all the more interesting. Loyalty is rare in a world spliced in two by the Shadow Fold, but Nikolai is loyal to his crew and wishes to do right by opposing the Darkling’s malicious stronghold. Although Alina and Nikolai’s dynamic in the books hinges on contrarian impulses, as love is too strong a word to describe what they share, the show is likely to further explore their genuine attachment while they decide to fight alongside one another to thwart the Darkling.
But, what about the Darkling, whom Alina had trusted a few moons ago? Per co-showrunner Eric Heisserer, the Darkling created “new monsters called Nichevo’ya” in the Fold, which we see a glimpse of in the finale. Describing the Nichevo’ya as “essentially unstoppable,” Heisserer explains that these monsters make the Darkling “incredibly formidable,” but that such creations also come at a dear price.