Ben Barnes Reveals Why General Kirigan Is So Tormented By Alina In Season 2 Of Shadow And Bone

At the center of the first two seasons of Shadow and Bone is the complex relationship between Alina Starkov and General Kirigan (also known as The Darkling in the books). They start out with a generally positive relationship as the shadow summoner teaches the sun summoner how to harness her power. However, things go south when Alina learns that her mentor and short-lived love interest created the Shadow Fold. Now, in Season 2 of Shadow and Bone, Alina has become more confident in her power and is determined to destroy The Folds. However, she’s being tormented by Kirigan, but, he’s also tormented by her, and Ben Barnes explained why that's the case.

One of the most important things to remember about Season 1 of Shadow and Bone is how betrayed Alina felt when she learned Kirigan’s true colors. After learning that he was the mastermind behind the biggest problem Ravka has ever faced, she was livid, and she became determined to defeat him. However, as Ben Barnes explained to CinmeaBlend, Kirigan is just as tormented by this relationship, because he sees something in her that he sees in himself. The actor elaborated, saying:

It's sort of a cliche to say he recognizes something of himself in her, but he sort of found himself with this unique power, and come across someone that has that and represents that from the beginning. But I also think he's a man who's very passionate about his agenda, but he's also deeply curious. And if he's asking a question of Alina, like ‘what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals?’ He's also asking that of himself. Is he willing to give up that thing which is most important to him? It is, in the end, the thing that's most important to him, Alina? Is there some deep lost kind of hope and love inside of him that is seeping through these cracks that in the end will be more important than what he's trying to achieve? And these sorts of Machiavellian toxic awful, poisonous ways that he's going about doing it.

Barnes explained to Deadline that his character really does have feelings for Alina, and when he loses her, his army, and his palace everything “brews into this storm.” Not only is he tormented, but he’s also angry about losing everything he had, and as the actor behind him said, The Darkling has “gone off” which is why he's a full-on villain in Season 2. 

Throughout the season General Kirigan’s issues and anger are personified through the Shadow Demons that emerge out of him. The prove to be dangerous for anyone caught in their path, however, they're also dangerous for The Darkling. Barnes told us about how those shadows impact The Darkling, and how it helps the audience understand everything this villain is going through, he said: 

We see the Shadow Demons literally poisoning him from the inside out. And so he's wrestling with a lot of things, and I think the only thing that allows him to sort of breathe is the feeling that there might be someone in the world that would understand him, and I think that's why I was trying to represent it physically, when they were making their connections in Season 2, it was important to me to try and bring in some of that mindful kind of breathing moment to like, sew it into something that I understand in the context of finding peace in the world.

So, it turns out, the sliver of humanity that The Darkling seems to have is based on his care for Alina. He’s lived for a very long time, and he’s never been able to confide in anyone or have anyone understand what it meant to have the power he had. However, it’s clear that Alina does not have feelings for him anymore, and she’s going to use her newfound power to destroy him, which bothers Kirigan throughout the entire season. 

It’s fascinating to hear that Barnes used mindful breathing to help ground his character and physically show the audience that The Darkling is also struggling this season. These physical performances to help show his character's struggle are similar to how Jessie Mei Li evolved her performance to show Alina’s new power. Throughout all of Season 2, it was clear that the two characters were constantly at odds with each other, and even though they weren’t ever physically in the same room, you could feel the mutual tension and torment between the two characters. 

To see everything Ben Barnes is talking about in action, you can check out Season 2 of Shadow and Bone with a Netflix subscription. Also, be sure to check out our 2023 TV schedule to see what other fantastic fantasy shows are coming up while we wait to see if we finally get a Six of Crows spin-off and what happens to Alina and co. next. 

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso