Shadow And Bone’s Ben Barnes And Daisy Head Discuss How General Kirigan And Genya’s Relationship Differs From The Books In Season 2

Spoilers for Season 2 of Shadow and Bone ahead.

Most book-to-screen adaptations feature many changes of all sizes as a novel gets transformed into a movie or a series. Shadow and Bone features many moments directly from the books and stays very true to its characters. However, it’s also no stranger to major changes, as the show combines the plots and characters from the original Grishaverse trilogy and Six of Crows into one series. There are also more nuanced changes that allowed the actors to dive deeper into their characters' relationships, and that was very true for Daisy Head and Ben Barnes as they played out the complex relationship between Genya and General Kirigan in Season 2 of Shadow and Bone

Along with both characters developing their connections with Alina in Season 2, Genya and The Darkling’s relationship is central in the Netflix series. Since the books Seige and Storm and Ruin and Rising are told from Alina's first-person perspective there’s a lot we don’t get to see as a reader. However, in the show, there is no dominant perspective, and because of that Ben Barnes and Daisy Head got to explore and develop their characters' relationship. Head told CinemaBlend that while the characters’ dark relationship is depicted in the books, they were able to develop the tension between Genya and General Kirigan into something bigger for the show. Barnes agreed with her, and said:   

There's a tension between them, but actually we managed to develop something that was actually almost a purer kind of example of this kind of toxic relationship that you were just talking about why she's staying.

In the books, like in the show, the Grisha don’t know that General Kirigan is bad until it’s revealed that he created The Fold. When that happens it’s also revealed that Genya had been on The Darkling’s side, and she decided to stay with him after Alina finds out the truth, making her feel betrayed. In Siege and Storm, the Tailor continues to work for the General, but in Ruin and Rising, we learn that she was punished by him after sparing Alina, giving her scars across her face. 

Meanwhile, in the show, it’s very clear that Genya is quite conflicted about General Kirigan, and doesn’t really want to trust him, but he’s all she knows. Head elaborated on why her character decided to stay with Barnes’ villain, and how they were able to slightly change her motivations in the show, saying: 

Yeah, there's a familiarity and there's also like, kind of it's not really Stockholm Syndrome, but there's this, this slightly conflicted juxtaposition to their relationship and it's, you know, he's kind of the closest thing to family that she has until she meets Alina. And I think, yeah, I've mentioned before that she find safety in the familiarity of it, even though the familiarity of it obviously is very unsafe because of the nature of the relationship. But it was really fun with Ben to kind of find those moments where we can connect.

Barnes agreed with this point, and he spoke about how they were able to show that the characters’ relationship and motives are not black and white, they're quite grey, which really helps show the toxicity of their relationship, and why Genya stays. He said: 

And having a bit of freedom to kind of explore those themes, which I think are the nuances, the nuances of those themes, which I think are like contemporary within the framework of something much more broad, sweeping, because fantasy often has this kind of very broad, dark versus light, these sort of grand themes. But to really kind of, you know, chip away at things that feel very modern, you know, in terms of, toxicity of relationships, that you know, struggles.

It’s fascinating to hear how these actors developed their characters and the relationships they have. Genya and General Kirigan have one of the darker storylines in Season 2 of Shadow and Bone, and to hear how the actors were able to really develop that relationship and make it more nuanced and complex makes it all the more meaningful. 

To see how General Kirigan and Genya’s complex and tormented relationship differs from the books, you can stream both seasons of Shadow and Bone with a Netflix subscription. Then check out the 2023 TV schedule to see what other fantasy shows will be making their way to the small screen soon.  

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