I’m not sure what I expected from the Shadowhunters season two premiere. A small improvement over season one, I guess? I know what I was hoping for. I wanted good character scenes, better cinematography, more consistent world building and more humour.
And I got that. I thought this episode was worlds better than anything I’ve seen from Shadowhunters so far. The special effects were good. The fight scenes were absolutely fantastic. Perhaps most encouraging is the way the show managed to integrate book elements with its own original story to create an episode that was familiar to book fans without feeling like a pale imitation of the Mortal Instruments series. Overall, I’m really optimistic about the direction this show is taking.
That said, I also wanted passable dialogue, which I did not get. I wasn’t even hoping for something good, just… DCTV level? Or Once Upon A Time level? Still bad but, you know, passable. Watchable. Something that doesn’t make me roll my eyes every few seconds.
Shadowhunters is on a new level of bad writing. I know because I’ve spent the last year writing plays for school and reading books about how to write for theatre. And, you know, because I’m a human being with ears who knows that people don’t talk like that. It’s clunky, awkward, cliché and unnatural. I’m not saying I could write a better script, but I could definitely go over this one with a red pen and make it sound like an actual TV show instead of a middle school writing project.
I know it’s not a new problem, but it’s so disheartening to see the same level of writing in an episode that otherwise showed so much promise.
FATHER OF THE YEAR
I never thought I’d say this, but I think Jace and Valentine’s scenes were my favourite of the episode. The dialogue was good. The acting was much better than what we saw in season 1, especially from Dom. And there’s a lot to unpack there.
Book Jace has two sides to his personality: the raging narcissist and the bottomless well of manpain. I would love it if Shadowhunters could show me both sides of this fascinating character, but if that’s not going to happen I’m happy that they’re at least getting one of them right.
Because for all the airs he puts on about his appearance, Jace has an incredibly low opinion of himself. He wants so badly to be a hero, but he is tortured by the idea that he might actually be a villain. That’s why he needs Clary to remind him that he is not defined by his blood or by the way he was raised.
In this episode, I saw Valentine take advantage of that self-hatred, attempting to convince Jace that he’s a bad guy because of the demon blood in his veins. And the best part? I think it’s working. Deep down, Jace still loves his dad, and if Valentine brings out that dark side, we could have a really interesting storyline on our hands.
A LOT TO GET USED TO
Of course, perhaps the most anticipated storyline this season was the one involving Malec, and Shadowhunters jumped right into it in episode one. After their dramatic kiss in episode 12, there was kind of a sense of what now?
Because, yeah, that happened very quickly. They never really got the chance to date and talk about their relationship before or after Alec’s massive decision. And to the show’s credit, they addressed that. It looks like we are going to get a nice, respectful slowburn for a couple that has made such a big difference in the lives of so many people.
Right now, Alec is way more focused on retrieving his parabatai than figuring out his relationship with Magnus, which makes sense. I love that the show is finally diving into the importance of the parabatai bond, because in the books it’s by far the most important relationship in the Shadow World.
He and Magnus are also having a few communication issues. We can assume that Alec is still facing some discrimination after publicly coming out, as he implies that Magnus owes him for everything he did for their relationship. Magnus, for his part, is under the impression that Alec came out for himself, and therefore isn’t ready to start dating yet.
To quote City of Heavenly Fire, it looks like they need to DTR.
What is there left to say about Simon Lewis? He is the greatest.
The werewolves are right: Simon is a terrible vampire. The worst, really. I mean, the guy thought it was a good idea to hang out with werewolves, which, no. I loved him trying to incanto the werewolves, and oh my goodness was it adorable when he fell asleep in that canoe. Alberto Rosende is a treasure.
While it seems completely ridiculous that Simon, a vampire, has been hanging out at a werewolf den, which is literally the most unsafe place he could possibly hang out, it shows that he really doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere. He doesn’t feel like a vampire. It’s not like he can go back home and pretend everything is fine. He definitely can’t go the institute. The poor guy can’t even go outside in the sunlight. So where does that leave him?
Though I love that Shadowhunters is diving into this storyline, I wish it would also explore the personal and physical difficulties of the vampire transformation. In City of Ashes, it’s made very clear why Simon hates being a vampire. His entire life is turned upside down, he can’t go outside during the day and has to pretend to be sick all the time to hide his condition from his mom. He can’t eat or drink anything besides blood. That really sucks. I would have liked to have a nice little montage of Simon struggling with his new life and generally failing at being a vampire.
Also, I have trouble understanding why Simon is so opposed to crashing at the hotel Dumort when the show version of the Dumort is actually quite nice. Simon and Raphael have started to develop a nice friendship and so Simon suddenly acting like he did in the books by being completely opposed to vampires doesn’t really make sense in the context of the show.
I’m getting a bit of a City of Fallen Angels vibe from his storyline right now, and I feel like the show would be better off saving that for later.
Speaking of things I love about Shadowhunters, Clary and Simon’s friendship continues to be the best. Their conversation in the supply room was probably my favourite scene of the episode, even though the dialogue was pretty cheesy.
It’s also very clear that Simon wants to tell Clary how he feels, but doesn’t really know how. I really, really hope the confession happens in the same way it did in the books because that was hilarious and I’m still upset we didn’t get the greenhouse scene in season 1.
However, a lot of that will depend on how long it takes Clary and Jace to figure out the truth about their relationship. With Jocelyn awake, and Shadowhunters already casting Sebastian, I doubt it’ll take very long for them to figure out something is amiss. And with all due respect to Simon, he really only has a shot at a relationship with Clary as long as she thinks she can’t be with Jace.
I’d really like for Clary and Simon to explore this relationship, because I think it’s important for them to realize that it’s not going to work, but I guess we’ll see what happens.
SO WHAT’D I MISS?
I’m still not sold on the decision to wake Jocelyn up so soon. Not only does she know too much, but there’s so much else going on that her complicated relationship with Clary has to be sort of brushed under the rug.
I’ve never been particularly impressed with her portrayal in Shadowhunters, and this episode left me even more confused about the direction the show is taking with her character.
Now that Jocelyn is awake, I can’t tell how she feels about everything that’s going on. Hasn’t Jocelyn always been against the Clave? And Shadowhunters in general? Why is she suddenly acting like an experienced Shadowhunter? Why is she hanging out at the institute? Why is she even willing to get involved in this?
Also, what about her relationship with her daughter? If I was Clary, I’d be furious that my mom had not only hidden this incredible world from me, but done it knowing that I’d be thrown into it at eighteen without any preparation whatsoever. Not to mention that Jocelyn was married to the villain of this story and never even told Clary that she had a brother. There’s a lot of stuff going on here, and I don’t buy the idea that these two are totally fine after one cringe worthy conversation.
Jocelyn and Clary can have a good relationship while acknowledging that they still have major issues that they need to work through together. Overcoming hardship and adversity is what makes fictional relationships compelling. Right now, I really can’t judge how Jocelyn and Clary feel about each other, and I don’t think their relationship is getting the attention it deserves.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
Yes, I’m shamelessly stealing Lizzie’s idea from her Once Upon A Time reviews. We have started a competition to see which show is the most nonsensical and Shadowhunters will win.
- Valentine acting and talking EXACTLY like Clary on the boat. When you play with polyjuice potion, you have to make it clear that someone is in disguise. You have to leave hints for us, otherwise it’s just confusing.
- The shapeshifter rune still being a thing. This rune is going to cause so many problems. Anyone could and should be using it at any time. It’s even worse than polyjuice potion because at least that stuff is hard to make. Anyone can draw a rune and the Shadowhunters don’t seem to have any way of preventing themselves from being fooled by it.
- How does the shapeshifter rune even work? How do you decide who you turn into? Is it part of the rune? Do you just have to think about the person you’re turning into?
- Clary and Jocelyn acting like this is the first time they’ve seen each other in months. What’s with the dramatic hugging? The “I never thought I’d see you again!” Didn’t they already do this in the season one finale? Or between seasons? People don’t greet each other like that on a regular basis.
- Clary forgiving Jocelyn so easily. I still can’t get over this.
- What even is the timeline here? How long has it been since 1×13? Days? Hours? Minutes? Does anyone know? Will we ever find out? I’m kind of confused.
- Aldertree thinking he can find Jace by talking to the people who know him. I’m sorry, does he not know that Jace was kidnapped? It’s not like he could just hide out wherever he wanted. Valentine chose the location, not Jace.
- Valentine being super nice to Jace minutes after literally torturing him. Way to win him over.
- The rune that lets you show other people your memories. Since when is that a thing? Why is this necessary? I’m uncomfortable with all these changes to the Shadow World.
- People still throwing around the term “de-runing” as if it’s totally no big deal. Being stripped of your marks is a potentially life threatening process that most Shadowhunters would rather die that undergo. It is reserved for the worst of the worst. Not for anyone who “challenges the head of the institute.”
- The Jade Wolf being an actual restaurant. Are the chefs werewolves? Does it have regular hours? Does it serve mundanes too? Is it supposed to be like Taki’s? How do the werewolves keep up with it?
- A warlock who is apparently “infamous for killing mundanes” being allowed to wander around Valentine’s ship. And being dumb enough to walk right past Valentine.
- Clary being able to beat Isabelle after one training session. But hey, she was able to kill a greater demon after Jace helped her wave a Seraph blade around for 30 seconds, so why not?
- Maryse actually wanting to kill her adoptive son. I know her TV version is a total hardass, but come on. She should have a little sympathy for Jace as a former Circle member.
- Maryse generally being on the side of the Clave. She was in the fucking Circle. You don’t just turn around and suck up to the Clave that quickly!
- Clary not picking up on Simon’s very obvious confession of love. I know he wasn’t exactly subtle in the books either, but what did she think he was going to say after “I was secretly and totally in-”?
- Alec suddenly not needing to track Jace because he can sense him through the parabatai bond. Wait… what? Can he tell exactly where Jace is just because they’re parabatai? That’s some Dark Artifices shit there.
- How does the Clave see Jace’s location on their computer? Do they have some sort of tracker on him? What’s the link between their magical tracking methods and their fancy computer screens?
- The portal staying open behind Valentine throughout the entire fight. How long does it stay open for? Will it only take him back to his previous location, or wherever he wants to go? Why does it close when he leaves? Do portals randomly open up behind you every time you use one? It seems like a pretty convenient escape route to me.
- Jace not being allowed to kill a vampire who murdered mundanes. I’m pretty sure we’ve already established that the Clave doesn’t give a shit about downworlders and will take any excuse to kill them. Why would they care?
TOP 3 WORST LINES OF THE EPISODE
This was surprisingly hard to put together, because the true awfulness of the script lies in the dialogue, the way no conversation seems in the slightest bit natural. But of course, there were a number of one-liners that stood out on their own.
- VALENTINE: You took to the seraph blade the way a baby takes to a bottle.
- JOCELYN: My sweet girl!
- MARIA: Oh, look at you. You got your stick all ready to go and now you can’t use it.
OTHER THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I like the new look of the seraph blades. They’re much cooler than the lightsabers from last season.
- Also, it’s a tiny detail but everyone looks SO much better with black runes. It makes such a difference aesthetically.
- That Teen Wolf intro is amazing.
- I LOVE that the show seems to be focusing on its characters this season.
- However, they mostly seem to be focusing on their men. Let’s hope they give Izzy and Clary good storylines too.
- Magnus’ line “The Clave being unhelpful? Who’s shocked? Show of hands?” Applies to literally every Shadowhunter book in existence.
- I’m really unimpressed with the writing for Magnus so far. He’s just… too much. He kind of seems high all the time. In the books, he’s usually described as kind of cat-like. Very suave and nonchalant despite his ridiculous outfits.
- THE GREENHOUSE EXISTS. I REPEAT, THE GREENHOUSE EXISTS. Not for what it did in the books, but it exists.
- Victor Aldertree is gorgeous and I think the actor is pretty good, but I’m a little unimpressed with his character. He doesn’t really stand out among all the Clave representatives we’ve met. And he’s been done before. Anyone remember Lydia?
- THERE WAS A SPAGHETTI REFERENCE. I only wish they’d told the story of the bath in spaghetti.
- Dom’s delivery of the line “Father of the year” was spot on. I loved it.
- Also, the sad puppy dog face when he said “Michael Wayland used to make me spaghetti” was just too cute.
- “You’d think there’d be some kind of handbook for the Shadow World. Like Shadowhunting For Dummies.” It’s called the Codex, Simon.
- Actually, why has nobody shown these guys the Codex yet? Does it exist in this world? I feel like we need a Codex.
Shadowhunters airs Mondays at 8pm on Freeform.