Warning: This contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone season 2 and the books.
A number of characters, both major and minor, were killed in Shadow and Bone season 2, but the death of the Darkling is the most shocking of all. Season 2 found Alina and her allies continuing their quest to gain more of Morozova’s Amplifiers in an attempt to take down the Shadow Fold. But while Alina and Mal gained new friends, so did the Darkling in the form of his nichevo’ya shadow monsters.
While the nichevo’ya took something out of the Darkling and he was in ill health throughout Shadow and Bone season 2, it all served to make him even more terrifying. As the Darkling himself said, “You will find I have far more practice with eternity.” Through only two seasons, the Darkling has seemed like the Fold itself: endless, relentless, and full of darkness that would take over Ravka. But Shadow and Bone season 2 made the surprising choice to kill off its main villain in the season finale.
Kirigan’s Death Explained & Why It’s So Shocking
Throughout Shadow and Bone season 2, various characters commented on the fact that the Darkling was slowly dying. Whatever merzost dark magic he’d used to survive the Shadow Fold and create the nichevo’ya had taken something from him. He tried to keep his illness hidden from all but his most trusted advisors, but the signs were still there: the coughing, the searing headaches, even coughing up a black viscous substance. Even in his weakened state, however, it was difficult to believe Shadow and Bone‘s ageless Darkling would really die. After all, he’d survived for thousands of years. It’s why it was so shocking that he finally met his end.
What wasn’t shocking, however, was that Alina had a hand in it. For the first time, he managed to make the Cut and her blade of light cut through Kirigan’s side and his darkness. Even so, he might have been able to survive it had Alina’s destruction of the Fold not weakened him further – remember, he is of the Fold and the Fold is he. He was finally finished off when Alina stabbed him in the heart with the magical Neshyenyer blade. It was the only thing that could kill the Darkling’s nichevo’ya, so it stands to reason it would be the only thing that could also kill the Darkling. Even so, it was a surprise to all when he finally drew his last breath – the Darkling always seemed eternal.
Does Kirigan Die In The Shadow & Bone Books?
Kirigan does indeed die at the end of the third book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Ruin and Rising. Rather than kill him with a magical blade, Alina merely stabs him with a blade made of Grisha steel, but he does nonetheless. However, the end is quite different in a few ways. For starters, Alina herself doesn’t destroy the Shadow Fold. Instead, with the third Shadow and Bone amplifier, she’s able to transfer her power into an army of her acolytes and they become their own Sun Summoners. Together, they use their combined power to destroy the Fold.
In the book, when Alina transfers her powers to the new Sun Summoners, she herself loses her powers. Kirigan is horrified, realizing at that moment that he is once again alone in the world. Alina then uses his distraction to get close to him, driving the dagger into his heart. As in the show, he asks Alina in his last moments to make sure nothing is left of his corpse. For one, he doesn’t want his bones to be used as amplifiers, but the Darkling is also aware enough of his own monstrosity to understand that his grave would be desecrated. In Shadow and Bone season 2, his last words are “My little Saint,” but in the books, his last words are somewhat more tragic: “Don’t let me be alone.”
Can Kirigan Return In Shadow & Bone Season 3?
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it), there is every chance the Darkling could return in Shadow and Bone season 3, if it happens. He does return in the books, though not immediately. His return happens at the end of the spinoff duology focused on Nikolai and Zoya, King of Scars. In the book, just as in the series, the Darkling will always survive in some way so long as Nikolai is still infected with Kirigan’s shadows and the merzost he created. In the same way that Voldemort could not be killed in the Harry Potter series until every last horcrux was destroyed, so, too, does the threat of the Darkling remain, even though he’s technically dead.
In the books, the Darkling officially returns when Nikolai endures an ancient ritual that is meant to separate him from the shadow monster inside of him. One must kill the other, but something goes awry and the Darkling’s shadow soul transfers into the body of the acolyte of a cult surrounding the Darkling that sprang up after his death. Shadow and Bone season 2 was vastly different from the books, so it’s hard to say whether the Darkling will return in the same way he does in the books. However, with Nikolai being infected with his shadow monster by the end of Shadow and Bone season 2, it’s entirely possible the Darkling is not completely gone just yet.
Who Becomes Shadow & Bone’s Villain Now?
Even if Kirigan does return in Shadow and Bone season 3, it’s unlikely that he’ll return in the first few episodes. That means another villain has to fill the void left by the Darkling, and it will probably take a few characters to cause as much chaos in his absence. There are certainly a few contenders for the job. Pekka Rollins is running Hellgate Prison just as ruthlessly as he ran the Barrel and he seems to enjoy torturing Matthias. He’ll no doubt use his connection with Matthias to hurt Shadow and Bone‘s Kaz and the Crows in some way.
Another potential – probable, in fact – villain is the Apparat. After skulking about in Shadow and Bone season 1, he was barely in Shadow and Bone season 2 save for one scene in the finale. Already, however, he’s setting himself up to be an adversary to Nikolai and it’s clear he doesn’t trust the young king. With the Apparat’s weaselly ways and his religious fervor, it will be of utmost importance that Nikolai keeps the secret of his shadow monster from the Apparat. With him looking for any reason to knock Nikolai off the throne, the new Grisha Triumvirate of Alina, Zoya, and Genya will have to move very carefully in Shadow and Bone season 3 – even without the Darkling.
More: What Happens To Matthias After Shadow & Bone Season 2