Shadow and Bone Fans, What on Earth Do You See in This Douchebag?

Ben Barnes as General Kirigan in Netflix’s adaptation of Shadow and Bone.
Ben Barnes as General Kirigan in Netflix’s adaptation of Shadow and Bone.
Photo: Netflix

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse series of novels made a big splash in the YA realm and beyond, so it’s no surprise Netflix chose to adapt Shadow and Bone into a series. The question I still have—as a watcher, not a reader—is... what does anyone see in General Kirigan?


Besides the fact that he’s played by the conventionally attractive Ben Barnes, of course. While I’ve not read the books (so do please try and keep book spoilers out of the comments for the sake of more than just me—though the entire first season of the Netflix series is fair game!), I watched season one over the course of a few days. I didn’t fall head over heels for it but it was enjoyable and I am looking forward to seeing more of this curious world. But none of my coworkers have watched or finished and frankly, I need to talk this out.

I have been seeing so many fans express their love for the characters online (as fans are wont to do). Now, I see obvious doe eyes for almost everyone in this cast—let’s be honest, this is how Hollywood casts—from Archie Renaux’s Mal, Kit Young’s Jesper, and the rest of the Crows to cheeky Fedyor (Julian Kostov) and Calahan Skogman’s rather strapping Matthias. (As a card-carrying bisexual I can personally attest to getting lost in Nina’s [Danielle Galligan] eyes, but I’ve not seen as much love for the women in the cast online yet, oddly.) But I truly do not understand the General Kirigan... I’m sorry, Aleksander... love I’m seeing. He is, quite frankly, a piece of shit.

Oh sure, like many villains he was possibly “good” one day long in the past and loved pure and truly. Yada, yada great intentions. Here? Well, considering the first season is only eight episodes and it’s almost guaranteed Netflix already has more in the bag, you find out he’s a vile abuser fairly quickly! I’ve watched a lot of TV in my time and it’s not often I’m truly surprised, but this one went quite fast from your typical YA love triangle to “Oh my god someone kill that monster immediately” for me. I jokingly asked on Twitter over the weekend when I was going to get to the “boning” part of Shadow and Bone assuming this would be a “kissing story,” little did I know the boning would be literal. What the actual fuck?

Am I missing something? Has there been another monster inside him since he created the Fold and the “true Alexander” is still decent somehow (blah)? Does he get some grand redemption arc down the road and book fans are just reading into the current adaptation the future story to be told? Even if so, redeeming him would be akin to trying to redeem Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones after all the repulsive shit he pulled (fuck no). No one should be romanticizing this manipulating abuser and yet...

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Just finished the series and I came looking to see if there was an article about it yet, so... Good timing! (Otherwise I may never have seen it; why, oh why did these sites do away with keyword tags? Now I can’t find anything!)

Straight dude, so not swayed by Ben Barnes’ masculine wiles (is that a thing?), but from where I sat, he seemed off from the beginning. At first I thought maybe he was just drinking too deeply from his own koolaid, but as the “romance” started up, I couldn’t help thinking that he was way too old for Alina, in a creepy way (though given Hollywood and romances in general, maybe I’m naive and that’s to be expected (though, of course, we do find out that he was way, way, WAY too old for her by the end too)).

And no love for Inej, who is the bestest badass of the cast?