Is General Aleksander Kirigan Dead? Did Ben Barnes Leave Shadow and Bone?

Image Credit: Dávid Lukács/Netflix

Portrayed by Ben Barnes, General Aleksander Kirigan or The Darkling is an important character in the Netflix fantasy series ‘Shadow and Bone.’ He is the primary antagonist, at least in the first two seasons of the show. Centuries ago, Kirigan was known as the Dark Heretic and was responsible for creating the Shadow Fold, a massive swath of darkness that has split the Kingdom of Ravka into two parts. In the present time, his destiny becomes entangled with Sun Summoner Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a young Grisha able to Manipulate and summon light. If the events of season 2 have made you wonder whether Kirigan is dead and Barnes left the show, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Kirigan’s Fate: Vanquished or Lingering?

As the second season begins, Kirigan is very much alive, but the world believes him to be dead. The people rightfully believe that he is the reason why the Fold has started growing for the first time since its creation. He was attacked while he was in the Fold by the volcra, but now, he has his own shadow creatures, known as the Nichevo’ya, which he uses to gradually establish control over Ravka.

In his absence, Ravka began persecuting and killing the Grisha. When Kirigan returns, he starts killing the First Army soldiers, causing havoc. As they were once connected through the amplifier made out of the Stag’s antlers, Kirigan and Alina find that the link still remains and that they can interact with each other despite the distance between them. Kirigan is not an ordinary antagonist. His actions are often equally driven by love for the Grisha and hate for everyone else. In season 2, he becomes especially resentful toward his mother as he believes she has betrayed him.

Image Credit: Dávid Lukács/Netflix

The climactic battle of the season takes place in and around a fortress in Zvedya. After one of the Grisha senses Alina’s amplifiers, Kirigan decides to bring his fight there. He enters the Fold, and with the Nichevo’ya protecting him, he expands the cluster of darkness, ultimately leading to a confrontation between him and Alina. By now, Alina has become adept in using the Cut, a rare Grisha ability that can be used to bisect a target. Kirigan attacks her with a Cut made of darkness, while Alina responds with a Cut made of light. Although Alina manages to overpower Kirigan and seriously injure him, Mal is injured by Kirigan’s attack.

Realizing that he is dying, Mal convinces Alina to use his amplifier abilities to undo the Fold, and she reluctantly acquiesces. After removing the Fold and freeing the land underneath, Alina seemingly kills Kirigan with the legendary sword Neshyenyer. As Kirigan dies, he tells Alina to ensure nothing is left of him. Alina subsequently organizes a cremation, but as Kirigan’s body is burned, she doesn’t notice that a few tiny pieces of his body are blown away by the wind.

Did Ben Barnes Leave Shadow and Bone?

As this is fantasy, death isn’t as absolute as it is in the real world. The Netflix series is based on the ‘Grishaverse’ created by Israeli-American author Leigh Bardugo. In the books,  Kirigan’s body is swapped by Elizaveta, or Sankta Lizabeta of the Roses, before it can be burned. Elizaveta then convinces Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta) to do a ritual that will secretly bring Kirigan back. Zoya figures out the truth and destroys Kirigan’s body, forcing him to possess Yuri Vedenen, one of Kirigan’s most devout followers. So, it seems that a different actor might play the Darkling in the prospective season 3. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Barnes will not appear in the next season, though his involvement will probably be a bit more limited.

Reflecting on where his character is in season 2, Barnes told TVLine, “Whilst he is the evil, toxic, nasty presence that is seething all over Season 2, he also feels betrayed and abandoned and rejected and alone — unloved at this point, even by his own mom. He’s justifying the way that he is being, even if it’s not possible for anybody else to. In the first season, he has all these different weapons in terms of his army, his charm, his skills in manipulation. In the second season, all that is out the window, and he’s just more full-on rage.”

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