That Problematic Relationship in Shadow and Bone, as Explained By Ben Barnes

Why is he so obsessed with Alina Starkov?

( You know the trope: hot, misunderstood bad guys you really shouldn't be into but totally are—especially when it's a YA novel and they're obsessed with the central character. Shadow and Bone's The Darkling is exactly that and more. The fantasy series based on Leigh Bardugo's best-selling novels is currently everyone's favorite binge-watch trip on Netflix.

It doesn't matter whether you read the books or not, we know you are at the very least intrigued by that tension between the orphan-turned-chosen-one Alina Starkov (Jessie Mae Li) and General Kirigan a.k.a. The Darkling (Ben Barnes). From the get-go, it's clear this literal shadow-bringer has layers to him. In case you're wondering what's up with all that, trust us, the connection runs deep for The Darkling—and Ben Barnes has explained it himself.

shadow and bone
PHOTO BY Netflix / Shadow and Bone

"I think he has the world on his shoulders but saving the world is not a one-man job. Enter Alina Starkov, a mythic sun summoner and potential solution to all of Kirigan's problems," said Barnes in a Netflix interview about his character's connection to Alina. Alexa, play "Obsessed" by Mariah Carey while we open this Pandora's box.


Why Does The Darkling Need Alina Starkov in Shadow and Bone?

So first things first. The Darkling and Starkov live in Ravka, a Slavic-esque country split in half by The Fold, a "terrifying and ominous shadow" full of man-eating monsters. General Kirigan, meanwhile, is "the world's only shadow summoner which means he has the power to manipulate the darkness." He is also the leader of the Grisha Army, a.k.a. folks who are able to manipulate other cool things like the wind and fire but were once the bottom of the social caste because of it—until that is they became revered soldiers under Kirigan's lead.

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"Kirigan may be the leader of the Grisha but being one of a kind is isolating. After all this time his hope and patience have been tested and he has grown somewhat jaded. Some might even say, dangerous," explains Barnes. Worse off,  Kirigan "lives in the shadow of the Black Heretic." Read: a supposed ancestor responsible for creating The Fold in the first place. 

So, with his dark shadow powers, a literal position of power, and super-shady bloodline, it is "all too easy to make him your villain," said Barnes. But is he, really? 

shadow and bone
PHOTO BY Netflix / Shadow and Bone

This is where Alina Starkov and all she stands for comes in. She could destroy The Fold and prove the Grisha are good. "He has been waiting a long time. And as soon as he sees what she's capable of, he believes that the two of them are going to change the world."

As Barnes points out, The Darkling may be the most powerful Grisha there is but "there seems to be this loneliness about him, and there was so much sort of under the surface." Obsessed with this obsession? So are we.

Watch the whole video here:

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