At the center of many of those elements was General Kirigan, who is played by Ben Barnes. This is still surreal to me because usually, the actor that fans hope for is never the one who gets the role, but in this case, it seems that Grishaverse fans manifested their will!
It’s not a surprising choice because Ben Barnes is perfect for the role. Not only in terms of looks but also because he’s no stranger to the fantasy genre or to playing complicated characters. His character takes us on quite a journey throughout the first season, but where does he end up?
Shadow and Bone’s ending explained
Caution: This article will include spoilers for all of Season 1 of Shadow and Bone as well as the books in the Grishaverse trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.
When we first meet General Kirigan in Shadow and Bone we see him as the attractive leader of the Second Army. He is charming and charismatic and boy does Ben Barnes play those traits to perfection. As Alina begins to fall for him, so does the audience. But there is more to him than meets the eye.
He is revealed to be The Darkling, a powerful shadow summoner who has lived for centuries. And unfortunately, he doesn’t intend to use all of his powers for good. Well, not for the greater good at least. He intends to use Alina’s power to weaponize The Fold and force the world to bow down to him.
This will be great for the Grisha whom he chooses to protect, but not so great for everyone else. Including Alina, whose power he wants to control. By the end, Alina puts a stop to her budding romance with The Darkling and is forced to face him as an enemy.
The result is a battle on board a skiff where The Darkling is shot at and stabbed and eventually he ends up overboard in a fight with Mal. While Mal may not be able to overpower The Darkling on his own, he realizes that he doesn’t need to. He gets some help from the volcra, the terrifying creatures that live inside The Fold.
The irony of the situation is that the volcras are creatures of The Darkling’s own making. So it would seem his own past actions have come back to bite him. Or have they?
The heroes presume The Darkling is dead, killed at the hands of his own creatures. But a character like that is hard to kill. And in TV the rule is if there’s no body then they’re likely not dead. So of course we see a lone figure emerge from The Fold and command what appear to be shadow creatures to “follow”.
In what will not be a surprise to anyone who has read the books, The Darkling did in fact survive The Fold. And now he has new allies, his nichevo’ya. So what exactly are nichevo’ya?
Nichevo’ya are essentially shadow creatures. They are also The Darkling’s creation but unlike the volcra they do his bidding and are not afraid of the light. Book fans will know that nichevo’ya have a big role to play in the last two books of the Grisha trilogy and therefore in any future seasons of the show.
They make The Darkling an even more formidable enemy than he was before, and yet even with everything that he’s done and everything he’s likely about to do in future seasons, I can’t help but be relieved that he’s survived. After all, a show is only as good as its villain and Ben Barnes makes a great villain.
If we’re being honest, there is a huge portion of the Shadow and Bone audience who was already in love with Ben Barnes and are even more in love with him now. You can’t show me Ben Barnes being charming and charismatic and expect me not to root for him. Just let him rule the world!
That’s what makes The Darkling so compelling. He’s attractive, charming, and charismatic so you want to root for him despite knowing that what he’s doing is wrong. Especially because his goal of wanting to protect his people, the Grisha, from persecution is an understandable and almost noble goal.
Over time the way he chose to achieve his goal became perverted and now it’s more about seeking power than protection, but the root of the goal started as something good. And you know what, I’m not ashamed to admit that I just want more Ben Barnes on my screen. So we can all be grateful that he did survive to cause more havoc in any potential future seasons of Shadow and Bone.
Also, I know it would be a big deviation from the books but if the show writers wanted to provide him with some sort of redemption I wouldn’t be upset. But since that is very unlikely, we’ll all just have to sit back and enjoy his villainous antics.
Are you glad General Kirigan survived? Are you enjoying Ben Barnes playing The Darkling? Let us know!
Shadow and Bone is now streaming on Netflix.