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Shadow And Bone’s Darkling: How To Spot A Predator [Spoilers]

Darkling smolder

In Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, the Darkling (Ben Barnes) is the perfect predator. He has mastered every method of manipulation and Grisha combat. He’s served Ravka for decades and understands the subtleties of politics. He has youthful good looks despite being hundreds of years old, and carries wisdom and political experience that surpass nearly everyone. 

To sum up:

He’s handsome, powerful, and he’s smart.

He needs the Sun Summoner (Jessie Mei Li) in his control.

The Darkling is a master manipulator, and controls Alina’s heart like a seasoned pro.


He instantly isolates Alina from her support system. After they meet and she is revealed to be the Sun Summoner, she is rushed to the capital without contact with Mal or map maker friends.

At the Little Palace, Genya isolates Alina from long distance communication by burning her letters. Genya reported information back to the Darkling too. At the Capital, everyone sees Alina as the Sun Summoner, not herself, so she has nobody to trust without ulterior motives. 

Creating Dependency

Capitalizing on the international man-hunt for the Sun Summoner and the sinister politics of the capital, Darkling positions himself as Alina’s only trusted source of protection. He can easily kill Fjedian assassins and calmly navigates the King’s court. Plus, he is the only other light/shadow user able to teach Alina specific techniques. This keeps Alina relient on the Darkling for light summoning help. There’s only so much she can learn from Tidemakers or Inferni. Although Baghra is revealed to be a shadow summoner too, Alina is unaware until her escape.

Praying On Insecurities

The Darkling insists Alina’s power makes her too foreign to old friends; they can’t understand her now. No worries, the Darkling says, he is the only one who understands what it’s like to be a powerful near-immortal Grisha. He constantly reiterates, “I’m the only one who truly understands”. Then, Alina stops worrying she’ll outlive all her friends, but if she’ll have any at all.

Keeping Secrets

The Darkling appears to confide in her, so Alina shares her secrets too. After discussing Morozova’s Stag, Darkling says to Alina, ‘Please keep it to yourself. Most people think it’s just a children’s story, I’d hate to look like a fool’. Unfortunately, she is inclined to share her own insecurities and fears, revealing her vulnerabilities to the Darkling. She reveals her summoning struggles and her exhaustion only for him to use it to his advantage. 

Making Her Feel Special

Read Also: Henry Cavill Tosses Coin To A Witcher – Actor Shows Off Season 2 Wrap Gift.

I mean sure she’s the fabled Sun Summoner, worshiped as a living saint, and destined to save Ravka but she also has low self-esteem. As a result, when Darkling tells her things like, ‘You’re the first glimmer of hope I’ve had in a long time’ and ‘I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina. You and I are going to change the world’ she feels valued like never before. Consequently, Alina chases that approval like the lonely teenager she is.

Instilling Fear

Alina’s a fearful person, but the Darkling really pushes the point: if she doesn’t master light summoning her country will perish. The Unsea is destroying the Ravkan economy and defence but even the Darkling can’t defeat it. Only Alina, master of light, can stop it. He constantly pushes the idea that they can only save Ravka together, and she must follow his lead.


The Darkling gives her lavish gifts like keftas, dresses, shoes, and more. Although Alina grew up poor so everything seems luxurious. But, the Darkling makes an extra effort to ‘mark’ her by giving her finery in his signature black color. This signals a creepy ‘ownership’ that is repeatedly envied by other Grisha, and Alina gets the message she should be thankful to be his.

Overwhelming Behavior

To put it simply: the Darkling throws Alina’s world into chaos and positions himself as the only stable person in her life. He leverages his power and good looks to rush through a romantic/sexual relationship with her. As a result, his seduction to the dark side was nearly complete until Bahgra revealed his sinister plans. Consequently, Alina spends most of Shadow and Bone in a frantic effort of survival and discovery, and after her chaotic metamorphosis she finds herself trapped in the Darkling’s web.

It becomes clear in the Shadow and Bone finale that the Darkling only wanted Alina’s light summoning ability. Any of the Darkling’s romantic or sexual advances were a means to an end, and she is merely collateral damage. By depicting the steps real-life predators take, Shadow and Bone warns its audience about dangerous people in an enjoyable way. Isn’t the most despicable villain the one we’ve met before? Author Leigh Bardugo does a masterful job of writing a textbook predator: alluring to a fault. 

Fine, make me your villain.

Shadow and Bone drops April 23rd on Netflix.

Are you excited about Shadow and Bone? Did you notice how creepy the Darkling was the first time around? Let us know below!

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