I never thought I’d say this, but watching the midseason premiere of Shadowhunters, I actually envied all the show fans who hadn’t read the books. As an episode of a TV Show, By the Light of Dawn was epic. It had shocking plot twists, great character moments, amazing fight scenes and enough unanswered questions to keep people guessing going into the two-month hiatus.
As a book fan, though, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I appreciated the episode on its own and was sufficiently interested in the changes to the story, which made for a very fun viewing experience. However, on the other hand, that part of City of Ashes was so amazing that I couldn’t help but constantly wonder why Shadowhunters had decided to change certain scenes. Was that entire ending not made for television? Why have things happen that way when they were way more intense in the book? Why bring the fight to the Institute? Why make everything go so much faster? Why bring the shapeshifting rune into it?
Some changes worked, and I definitely think the show did a much better job with this part of the story than I expected it to, but there were a lot of decisions that didn’t really make much sense to me. Ideally, this would have been an epic two-hour episode set on the boat with lots of suspense and emotional moments, but we can’t have everything. At least I was pleasantly surprised.
APPARENTLY VALENTINE USES FACETIME?
I still don’t like this version of Valentine. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of the sword being a genocide machine, and confused as to why no Shadowhunters have ever used it before, because there was a time when they thought eliminating downworlders was part of their purpose on this earth, and there are plenty of them who still think that way.
This episode had Valentine use the classic villain plan of kidnapping an important character and holding them hostage while sending videos to the people he’s trying to reach. It’s still very off-putting to see so much technology being used by Shadowhunters, and this was definitely one of the plots that kind of made me envy the non book fans watching. While it advanced the story and was probably quite intense for anyone who didn’t know what was going to happen, I was mostly disappointed that Shadowhunters had gone the cliché route and taken the easy way out of what was supposed to be a really badass finale.
I’m also still not a fan of all these extra powers we’ve given the sword, and all the steps we apparently need to go through in order to activate it. While it helped advance the plot, it seemed a bit cheap and lazy, and because all these huge reveals happened so quickly, a lot of them felt very unforeshadowed, most notably the discovery of Jace’s true identity. One of my favourite things about Cassie’s books is how they inspire so much speculation, by dropping lots of hints and creating many possible solutions, and that’s something that has sadly been lacking in Shadowhunters.
THIS PRECIOUS, WONDERFUL, SELF-SACRIFICING LITTLE ANGEL
Snarky Jace may have been absent from this episode, but Angsty Jace was on full display, and it was glorious. His self-hatred and tendency for self-sacrifice is an extremely important part of Jace’s character, and I thought Shadowhunters and Dom Sherwood did an excellent job of portraying that.
I’m not sure, however, that now was the best time for him to find out that he wasn’t really Valentine’s son. I wish we’d gotten more clues, more buildup to it, and of course more self-hatred on Jace’s part. He’s in a dark place in City of Ashes and City of Glass. He thinks he’s a monster, that his demon blood is the reason he’s in love with his sister. There were a few moments when I saw that in this version of Jace, but I think that overall show could have done a lot more with it.
I understand why they wanted to move away from the incest stuff as quickly as possible, but Clace’s “we really like each other but we know it’s gross so we’re going to pretend we don’t and try to figure out how to be siblings” storyline was a cool dynamic that I’m disappointed got skimmed over in 2A.
I’m torn between excitement that the daylighter plotline is being introduced now, and disappointment that we didn’t get the scene on the boat where the sun comes up and everyone expects Simon to die but he doesn’t. I feel like that would have much such a powerful scene, and a really dramatic way to reveal that he had powers. Having Simon find out on his own and tell Clary afterward felt a little anticlimactic and out of nowhere.
That said, this was definitely the time to turn him into a Daylighter, and I cannot wait to see what the writers do with that story. It’s sounds like 2B will have a very City of Glass vibe, with Sebastian coming in and the squad supposedly headed to Idris, which would make for an excellent opportunity to really explore what it means for Simon to be a Vampire, and where is place is in the Shadow World when he doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
- Madzie being able to just casually walk into the Institute. That’s some S.T.A.R. Labs level security.
- Anyone know why Madzie has such amazing powers in the first place?
- How did Valentine unlock Simon’s phone? Was there no password? Did he get Simon to tell him the password? I want to know.
- I still don’t understand why Valentine needs lightning to power the sword.
- Dot expecting everyone to trust her after all the times she’s betrayed them.
- Is Dot a good guy now? She’s switched sides so many times I’ve lost track.
- Izzy still being totally okay with what has clearly become a very serious addiction. Not saying this isn’t a worthy plot, only that it doesn’t work with Isabelle’s character.
- The institute is apparently secured by technology now? What happened to the magical wards?
- The fact that there were literally no hints that Clary was actually Jace in a shapeshifting rune. See? This is what I’m talking about when I complain about that rune!
- Where were the other shadowhunters at the institute during this whole episode?
- How are there downworlders in the Institute? Maybe the Clave should’ve used magic instead of technology to secure the Institute if it’s so easy to break into? Just a thought.
- Why was Simon not affected by the Mortal Sword? Is it a daylighter thing? That’s not how it works!
- The fact that Valentine once thought killing Luke would bring him joy. Um no. They’re still parabatai. Valentine wants to kill Luke out of misguided loyalty and a sense of duty, not joy.
- What was that rune Clary put on the sword and what did it even do to the sword?
- Why didn’t Jace wonder even for a minute who he is if not Valentine’s son?
OTHER THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I really like that Shadowhunters had Raphael come out as asexual. There isn’t enough Ace representation in the media, and I’m sure this will have a positive effect on the lives of many.
- I still don’t trust Aldertree. Nope.
- Magnus was SO cute with Madzie.
- Just look at how worried Alec was about Magnus! So cute!
- BOOK LINE ALERT. “I could’ve killed you” “I would’ve let you.”
- That Malec reunion scene was everything.
- I am not looking forward to the love triangle that will inevitably make its return in 2B. I thought we’d moved past that.
- I just really hope Climon breaks up because they realize this relationship isn’t going to work out, not because of Jace.
- Now that Jace knows he’s not Valentine’s son, the question is: who is he, and why does he have Angel blood? I can’t wait to see how that plays out in the next 10 episodes.
- I’m so excited and nervous to see what Shadowhunters does with Sebastian.
- That was totally him with the sword at the end, right? No doubt about it.
Shadowhunters returns Monday, June 5th at 8pm on Freeform.