A good villain is one who can convince you that he is right, and General Aleksander Kirigan had a lot of practice with that. In some ways, we see his point. Why should the Grisha be persecuted for what they are, without any fault of their own, simply because the humans were too scared of what they could do? In fact, according to legend, it was a human, the first Lantsov King, who was responsible for bringing the first Grisha into existence. Then, centuries later, the Lantsov line is scared of the power wielded by what they helped create and try to destroy it. It is almost Frankensteinian. Kirigan was not wrong in wanting to protect the Grisha by creating a safe space for them in “Shadow and Bone,” Season 1 and Season 2. He had lived his entire life in hiding, moving from one place to another, never staying anywhere for more than a few months. He did that to hide his powers from humans and Grisha alike. How long was it before he questioned why he needed to do that—why he needed to run from humans when they were the ones who should be scared of him? Nevertheless, he kept his anger in check and played by the rules, but he found that it was not enough to convince the King and other people of his better intentions. Hence, he took the step of creating the Shadow Fold to protect himself and all of Grisha, with the intention of eventually becoming the ruler of the world, as he believed that he should be.
The books and the series offer very different versions of the Darkling’s backstory. In the books, his corruption happens over time. Much like his grandfather, he was trying to experiment how to enhance Grisha power, and that is when he ended up creating the Fold. In the series, Season 1 of “Shadow and Bone,” it was when his partner was killed, even after Kirigan surrendered himself to the King’s men. He had come to understand that the Grisha would never stop being hunted, and he was done hiding. Creating the Shadow Fold was not just an act of protection but also of vengeance. Once he took the step, there was no going back for him. He wanted everything that he could have, and the Shadow Fold was his biggest weapon. Yet he couldn’t use it as he wanted because, when he created the Fold, he had unintentionally also created the Volcra. These creatures were initially the residents of the land now covered in darkness. It was the Merzost that Kirigan had used that turned them into these creatures. They owed him no loyalty, and his shadow powers were ineffective against them. His own creation was of no use to him, and that is why he needed a Sun Summoner so that he could fight off the Volcra and expand the Fold to suit himself.
Kirigan was no doubt a master manipulator, and as Genya says, what he did to her should have been his biggest shame instead of him feeling as if he was entitled to her services. In the books, we see that Kirigan gives Genya a choice, or an illusion of one. When Genya loses favor with the queen and is repeatedly sought out by the King, Kirigan is who she goes to for help. He tells her that he can send her away right then if she chooses, but he also tells her that if she continues to suffer, he will make sure that her retribution will be more than worth it. As absurd as it sounds to us, he knew that it would be enough to manipulate Genya, who would believe that this would finally allow her to be a part of something, a true Grisha who could wear the kefta.
In the books, the kefta Genya wears is like no other: a blue one with red embroidery. No one else is allowed to mix those colors. Kirigan has moved many chess pieces over the centuries, biding his time and waiting for the opportune moment to declare war and claim control over Ravka and the world, but what he did to Genya was certainly his most irredeemable act, one he couldn’t excuse away at any cost. That is what established him as the evil person he was. He could justify the creation of the Shadow Fold, the creation of the Volcra, and even the Nichevo’ya, but he couldn’t justify how he had exploited Genya, and that is the act that makes it clear that he was an evil man.
But we suppose that love doesn’t discriminate between good and evil and comes to everyone equally. Kirigan was undoubtedly manipulating Alina, but he never realized that he had fallen in love with her as well. Until his last breath in Season 2 of “Shadow and Bone,” he kept telling Alina how they belonged together. In fact, when Nichevo’ya tried to attack Alina moments before she killed Kirigan, he was trying to protect her, knowing that she wouldn’t do the same for him. When she killed him, he wasn’t angry; in fact, he almost seemed glad that he had died by her hand. Centuries of his life did not flash before his eyes, but the moment he kissed her did. She was his light, his peace in a lifetime of war, and as much as he mourned the defeat of his ambitions, he was glad he had met her.
It is a fair theory that Kirigan would be resurrected in Season 3 of “Shadow and Bone.” The Nichevo’ya, which are made from his essence, still live in Nikolai, and Kirigan will undoubtedly find a way back through them or someone else. He might even make use of the Jurda Parem to amplify his or his host’s powers. Kirigan will try to find a way to control Ravka again, but there is no doubt that when he wakes up, the first thing he will do is want to see Alina. She hates him, but he doesn’t mind that. Who knows, he might still continue trying to convince her that they belong together in life and in death.