‘Shadowhunters’ Review: The Pilot Shows Potential, But Lacks Heart

Heading into watching the Pilot episode of Shadowhunters, there is one thing that mattered to me. While I get it – there is an expectation that I am going to come down on this show because of my love of the books – that’s not it. I can’t sit here in good conscious and tell you that this review will be stellar – it won’t. But it won’t be bad either.

SHADOWHUNTERS - “The Mortal Cup” - One young woman realizes how dark the city can really be when she learns the truth about her past in the series premiere of "Shadowhunters" on Tuesday, January 12th at 9:00 - 10:00 PM ET/PT. ABC Family is becoming Freeform in January 2016. Based on the bestselling young adult fantasy book series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, "Shadowhunters" follows Clary Fray, who finds out on her birthday that she is not who she thinks she is but rather comes from a long line of Shadowhunters - human-angel hybrids who hunt down demons. Now thrown into the world of demon hunting after her mother is kidnapped, Clary must rely on the mysterious Jace and his fellow Shadowhunters Isabelle and Alec to navigate this new dark world. With her best friend Simon in tow, Clary must now live among faeries, warlocks, vampires and werewolves to find answers that could help her find her mother. Nothing is as it seems, including her close family friend Luke who knows more than he is letting on, as well as the enigmatic warlock Magnus Bane who could hold the key to unlocking Clary's past. (ABC Family/John Medland) EMERAUDE TOUBIA

I know that some will say – well she liked the movie. I did. I do. And as I watched Shadowhunters for the first time, I then went and watched the movie, before heading back to the watch the pilot again.

Both share a common factor – they are not loyal to the books. I don’t care that there are changes – I know that is going to happen with anything. Changes happen. I have worked in the entertainment industry for years and I understand the change from book to movie.

I understand the word adaptation and the phrase “based off of.” But what baffles me and what is normally why an adaptation fails is that they don’t stay true to the heart of the story. During the time when the show was being written and the subsequent leak of information that followed – I have always been worried about the straying away from the heart of the story.

But I digress.

I am fully aware of the fact that it’s a pilot – and that there is the possibility of growth. I want to tell you that I see potential in this show. I do.

Over the past few months we have listened time and time again to the cast of the show reiterate that there will be changes. In an interview with Hypable, Kat McNamara said, “We’re not doing Cassie’s interpretation of the books,” McNamara says. “We’re not doing the film’s interpretation of the books. We’re taking our own path, for each character and story, and making it our own new incarnation of it.” I will say that certain important aspects of the book are in there, with new things added along the way. But I will also tell you that some of those things seem inserted for no apparent reason.

But what I do want to say is that some of the changes go against what happens in later parts of the story, and leaves us with the same question. How can they possibly fix this?

We’re going to see the important things. Clary’s birthday, Jocelyn’s sleep, the relationship unfold between Clary and Simon. The show seems rushed to tell the mythology – most likely in an effort to explain the complexity to the viewers who are not fans of the book – but it does contain mythology. We will experience Shadowhunters and Downworlders – but we will also see changes to those characters that go against the mythology that has been created. Maybe in the future episodes, we will understand why the framework for change has been laid in the pilot.

SHADOWHUNTERS - “We do understand from the beginning that things are added, but you also understand what is taken away is the witty dialogue from the books. It is replaced with some dialogue that is hard to watch. The dialogue of the books is one reason that I loved them, but what it is quickly apparent is that the lines delivered in the show tend to fall flat leaving you wanting to pull out the book in order to remember how the scene was supposed to go.

But overall – the pilot suffered from one big mistake. It was rushed. The world building did not need to happen in one episode. The viewer suffers from dialogue that is rushed in order to introduce you to a world that takes awhile to build.

But again – this is a pilot and if there is one thing I know is that they are always far from perfect. You are presented with just under 40 minutes of dialogue, fight scenes, and set up of relationships in any pilot. It is designed to draw you in, tickle you for wanting more. And yes, Shadowhunters does that – it leaves you with hope that there will improve.

But the first thing that one needs in order to do that is a love for the characters. And quite frankly this is where the heart is lost. Yes, the thing is that

SHADOWHUNTERS - “The Mortal Cup” - One young woman realizes how dark the city can really be when she learns the truth about her past in the series premiere of "Shadowhunters" on Tuesday, January 12th at 9:00 - 10:00 PM ET/PT. ABC Family is becoming Freeform in January 2016. Based on the bestselling young adult fantasy book series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, "Shadowhunters" follows Clary Fray, who finds out on her birthday that she is not who she thinks she is but rather comes from a long line of Shadowhunters - human-angel hybrids who hunt down demons. Now thrown into the world of demon hunting after her mother is kidnapped, Clary must rely on the mysterious Jace and his fellow Shadowhunters Isabelle and Alec to navigate this new dark world. With her best friend Simon in tow, Clary must now live among faeries, warlocks, vampires and werewolves to find answers that could help her find her mother. Nothing is as it seems, including her close family friend Luke who knows more than he is letting on, as well as the enigmatic warlock Magnus Bane who could hold the key to unlocking Clary's past. (ABC Family/John Medland) CENTER: HARRY SHUM JR.

what I find issue with is the stripping of strength of the female characters. In the books we know that we are watching Clary’s coming of age story. But in the show, we are seeing a Clary that is weak and whiny and an Izzy that is more respected for her body than her intellect. Yes, this may change a million times over in upcoming episodes. But what it does immediately is takes away from the women that readers of the book have grown to love. One can only hope that as it continues – we can only hope that Clary finds her strength and that Izzy is not consistently exploited for the body she has.

 



Nothing what I am saying is meant to be a slam against the casting, because I will tell you the same thing that I told McG – the casting of the characters is one thing that I think is great.

Simon steals every scene that he is in – he is a character in the show that you instantly fall in love with. His presence is a delight to every scene and leaves you wanting more. You become personally invested in him from the beginning. Jace was cast perfectly (though I will admit – I ache for him to have an accent) and so was Alec. My only two issues with Alec is that he seems more annoyed with his sister than loving of her and whoever did his hair needs to remove the use of a football helmet to shape it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 2.21.15 PMWhile I am not hooked yet, Shadowhunters shows an immense amount of potential and I will be sitting down to see the potential of this show hopefully come to fruition. I have come to accept some of the changes and embrace them. But what disappoints me is that some of the scenes that fans have loved and been led to believe are in the pilot, are not there. True – they may show up later, but chronologically it will never make sense.

If you aren’t familiar with the books – the changes that bugged me may not matter. However, if you are – you may be left with a want for what is missing. The pilot does what it’s supposed to in one sense – it makes you ask the who, what, when, where and why. It’s not supposed to be perfect, as a fan it was exciting to watch a cast of new people take on the characters that we all love and are invested in. There are moments that give you immense hope that we can expect the show to stay true to the heart of the characters.

See guys, I can accept the changes. I have prepared myself for them. I will admit that I wish they had gone darker – with a Teen Wolf sort of vibe – but I do know that may not be what everyone wants. It’s not the changes that are the problem per say, I’ll say it again – I understand those are going to happen and I am looking forward to seeing the changes and how the can expand the story. Ultimately the writing falls flat. But what I do hope is that the producers understand that the heart of the characters is what is important and the way they are written takes away from that, which ultimately does a disservice to the books.

Read MTV’s Review Here

Read TMI Source’s Here

 

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3 Comments

  1. But in the first book Clary was weak and whiny and Isabelle was the one that had many people wanting to date her, all of that changed when we started to know each character better. It didnt happen in one chapter of the books. It happened in many many chapters.
    I havent read a good review yet, all points to the same.
    It’s weak. Many applaud Emraude performance but hate Kat’s some say the male cast is good but lack something.
    Another thing is that you cant put on the huge speeches the book has, they sometimes dont work for tv.
    I do hope the show gets decent numbers at least o have a second season. I’m praying that teh deal with Netflix will at least secure another one.

  2. The thing is that the characters grow in the books and us people who read them have that image of them but being realistic Clary in the first book was whiny and weak and the story happened around her and with a reason she is just being thrown into this world with little to no warning HOW COULD YOU BE NOT WHINY? The thing that made me mad in the books was how long it took Cassandra to make her train. Isabelle is a very confident woman she dresses however she wants and she likes attention and gets attention and honestly I like that about her I like having a character that can do whatever she wants with her own being and treating this as if it is wrong is kinda rude. Alec on the other hand is the oposite he lacks confidence plus he is an older brother who is worried for his sister, I bet my sister wouldn’t like if I was like Izzy until they grew up and got that this is who I want to be it’s just brother-sister stuff. Also you can’t pretend that dialogue from the books will be there all the time and it often does not translate well, things that sound great on books sound cheese in films and on tv. Besides that it is a pilot writers are starting, actors are starting, etc everyone is taking their very first steps and what happens when you are learning to walk you stumbble, you fall, but with the time you get better at it and then it becomes natural

  3. How is it suppose to show a coming of age story when it’s just the pilot? Let’s wait for the other episodes. I’m pretty sure clary will start to grow.

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