Today is the 40th birthday of the fabulously talented England-based actor Ben Barnes. Over his career, Barnes has brought many colorful characters to life on the big screen and small. His most recent, and some would argue most popular, project is Netflix’s Shadow and Bone. The show is based on a mixture of two book series, Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, both written by the talented Leigh Bardugo. This show and book series takes fans into the Grishaverse, where many powerful and interesting characters live. Barnes brings to life the mysterious General Kirigan, a powerful shadow summoner looking for his equal in power in the form of a sun summoner. If the two were to combine their powers, the force would be able to vanquish the fold, a huge barrier made of pure darkness inhabited by terrible monsters that divides their country in half. On this journey, there are many twists, turns, romantic moments, and heartbreaking betrayals.
With an acting career that has spanned over 13 years, Barnes has many movie franchises, television shows, and truly beloved characters in his repertoire. In celebration of Barnes’ 40th birthday, join me as I count down my top five favorite moments of General Kirigan, also known as the Darkling, shadow summoner extraordinaire. Since I will be detailing some of the major plot moments of Shadow and Bone this is your spoiler warning!
5. Meeting Kirigan
In the first episode of Shadow and Bone, we caught a glimpse of the mysterious General Kirigan, but that did little in preparing us to come face to face with the shadow summoner himself. In episode two after we see Alina’s discovery of her sun summoning powers, she is quickly taken to Kirigan’s tent to be officially tested as a Grisha. From the first sight of the tall, dark, and handsome General, you want to know everything about this character. He exudes power as he approaches Alina with his obsidian eyes while slipping a clawed ring onto his thumb to pierce her arm and show her abilities to everyone. The smirk on his calm face is a stark contrast to the expressions of those around him including Alina herself. This first scene sets up viewers to be quickly drawn in by this morally gray character that Barnes plays so well.
4. Saving Alina
There are a few things in life that will never get old, and Ben Barnes riding in on horseback to save someone is one of those things. After Alina’s powers are shown, she is attacked on the journey to the safety of the Little Palace. Many of the guards are killed or seriously injured trying to defend the sun summoner when she is grabbed by the ankle and dragged into a clearing with a man holding a knife over her ready to end her life. Soon the whole atmosphere is changed as Kirigan rides up on his horse with his shadows sweeping over the land behind him. Viewers watch in awe as Kirigan dismounts and shows his abilities as shadow summoner for the first time on screen. The would-be murderer is sliced down by Kirigan’s shadow blades to reveal a very shaken up but thankful Alina. With an offering of his hand and the request to ride with him to safety, Kirigan had me thinking, “yeah I’d get on that horse with him.”
Who knew that one simple word could hold so much power? After watching the Darkling’s plan get torn apart by Alina, Mal, and the Crows, we got to witness a fight involving all of these characters at one point taking their shot at the Darkling. This intense battle ends with a one-on-one between Mal and the Darkling off of the ship in the middle of the Fold, with Alina too weak to hold back the darkness and the monsters that live there. Thinking he has won he drops his guard only to be attacked by his own creations, the volcra. As the season comes to an end with the heroes thinking their foe has been vanquished, we are carried back to the Fold for a turn of events. Emerging from the fold covered in a black blood type substance and deep scratches covering his face and body is the Darkling himself. With a turn toward the camera he whispers, “Follow.” This word brings a whole new level of monster into the world following their dark leader into the potential of season 2.
2. The Darklina Kiss
Okay, we need to talk about THAT kiss, and viewers of the series know what I’m talking about. After building up the tension between Alina and General Kirigan for several episodes, everything came to a head in episode five. After watching Alina come into her power and decide it’s time to move on from her childhood love Mal, we see her take the initiative earlier in the episode by being the one to kiss Kirigan. Their flirtations get taken to the next level after the demonstration for the king when they go to Kirigan’s chambers, with a kiss that had enough heat to make anyone’s heart skip a beat they confirm their feelings for each other. My favorite moment has to be after the couple bids their goodbyes. Kirigan comes rushing back for one more surprise kiss. This was added by Barnes to show that not everything Kirigan did was a manipulation; some of his feelings were true. This gives Darklina shippers a little hope to hold on to into the next season.
1. Fine, Make Me Your Villain
This was the moment viewers knew without a shadow of a doubt, pun intended, that things had changed forever. It was with this infamous line that Barnes sent shivers down our spines as we watched General Kirigan fully accept his place as the Darkling. With all of his manipulation and schemes out in the open, there’s nothing left for him to hide behind. Darkling decides to lay it all out for Alina, or so we think, before they begin their journey into the Fold and asks her to be by his side as he executes his century old plan. Alina cannot see past all the lies and tells him no; he chose this road when he manipulated her. The knowledge that she will never trust him stings, so with anger in his voice and tears in his eyes he speaks the line, “Fine, make me your villain.” With this line, viewers go into the end of the final episode knowing where everyone stands and ready for a showdown.
The Netflix series Shadow and Bone has many amazing characters and truly deserves to be checked out, whether it’s your first viewing or a rewatch. Barnes brings a tremendous amount of depth and emotion to the Darkling. With every scene he steals you find your eyes drawn to him in a room full of characters. His ability to make you have sympathy for the “bad guy” at times is unsettling, when viewers find themselves thinking his reasoning makes sense.
If you’d like a further look into Barnes’s work check out this spotlight article! You will be able to catch the Darkling’s next move on Shadow and Bone that has been renewed for a second season. To stay up to date, make sure to follow Nerds and Beyond.