Going into episode two of Shadowhunters, I was nervous. My initial excitement over the pilot surpassing my low expectations had worn off a bit, and I was worried about the issues I’d had with the show. But while I can’t say I’m sold on the Shadowhunters just yet, the second episode was a definite improvement over the first, with a much simpler plot, slightly better dialogue, and more focus on the characters. It continued to expand on the storylines introduced in episode one, and laid out the foundations for the relationships that will make or break the show. We got a touch of Sizzy, a bit more Clace, and plenty of Alec, though we’ll have to wait at least another episode for him to finally meet a certain freewheeling bisexual warlock.
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from episode two, The Descent Into Hell Is Easy.
Simon Learns About The Shadow World
Simon was the star of the first episode, and he continues to shine in this one. His reactions to everything involving the Shadow World are hilarious, as he is taken inside the Institute and introduced to the main cast of characters. Poor Simon is constantly teased by the shadowhunters, who think themselves superior to every mundane in existence, and he’s too afraid not to take them seriously. They tell him he’ll die just by stepping into the institute. They try to exclude him from the mission. Jace reminds him that he’s losing Clary. The poor mundie just can’t catch a break.
However, one thing I would have liked to see more of is Simon’s fascination with the Shadow World. At the moment, all we’re seeing is his concern for Clary, but the writers seem to have forgotten that Simon is also a huge nerd. In the books, when he finds out that there are demons and downworlders and shadowhunters in the world, he wants in because he thinks it’s awesome. For Simon, finding out about this world would be the best thing to ever happen to him if it didn’t also mean that he and his best friend were in mortal danger, and I really didn’t see any of that in this episode.
Another huge step into the Shadow World for Simon is his introduction to Isabelle. Their first interaction isn’t great - Simon blurting out “so hot” is unbearably cheesy and out of character - but some of their interactions later on seem genuine and loyal to the way things happened in the books. Simon is obviously fascinated by Izzy from the moment he lays eyes on her (I mean, have you seen the girl?), but what really drives the relationship is the fact that Isabelle is the only person who seems to have time for Simon. With Clary busy looking for her mom and flirting with Jace, and the other shadowhunters treating him like dirt, Simon feels left out. The fact that Isabelle talks to him like he’s on her level, actually bothers to look after him, and seems to genuinely care what happens to him is huge for Simon. His life is falling apart, he feels left out and he’s risking his life for someone who’s slowly falling in love with a guy who’s been nothing but rude to Simon, and here is this gorgeous warrior who’s actually into him. I love that the writers recognized the beauty of that relationship and decided to do it the same way in the show.
I’m sold on Luke. I don’t have much to say about him except that I liked him in every scene I saw him in. I think Isaiah Mustafa is an excellent actor and a great addition to this cast. I know he’s been in the background up until this point, but I’m excited to see him take on a bigger role in future episodes.
The real fun begins when the Shadowhunters decide to seek out Hodge for intel on the Circle. I can’t say I’m totally on board with the changes to his character. I mean, I like attractive Shadowhunters as much as the next person, but making him the weapons trainer instead of the calm, wise librarian we saw in the books is going a little bit too far. I guess the show’s version of the Institute is interesting and busy enough that Hodge has something to do with his life other than teach four children and walk around in the greenhouse, but this new guy is pretty much unrecognizable as the book character.
Anyhow, the characters ask Hodge a few questions about the Circle, and he gives them minimal information - Valentine is after the Mortal Cup, and Jocelyn was in the Circle. He also very conveniently fails to mention possibly the most important detail about Jocelyn: that she was Valentine’s wife. The only explanation I can think of for this is that he was withholding information for the sake of the plot so that we could have Clary discover that detail for herself later on, which is pretty lazy writing. I also don’t understand why nobody in the shadow world seems surprised to learn that Jocelyn is alive - as I recall, Valentine had faked his wife and child’s death as well as his own.
Who Actually Cares About Dot?
Do you want to know a secret, Shadowhunters writers? Mortal Instruments fans are going to watch your show, even if they already know what happens. And the fastest, easiest way for you to alienate your fanbase is by changing too much and focusing on your original characters rather than the ones we already know and love.
I don’t care about Dot. I wish the people behind the show would understand that we don’t want them to add anything. We just want to see our favourite characters. We want the show to be like the source material, because we love the books. It’s one thing for the show to make changes, but saying they’re doing it for the book fans shows that they are very out of touch with this fanbase. Maybe I would like Dot in moderation, but if she keeps stealing screen time from other more important characters, I will eventually come to hate her. A huge chunk of this episode is focused on the warlock, as Clary spends most of the episode looking for her, and Dot spent lots of time talking to Valentine (who is still the Voldemort-like psychopath we saw in the pilot), and that role could easily have been filled by someone else. Stop focusing on Dot, Shadowhunters. Give me my book characters, please.
I adore Matthew Daddario as Alec. We really didn’t get to see much of him in City of Bones, but he is absolutely killing it in Shadowhunters. He’s snarky, rude and condescending, even going so far as to call Simon an ‘it’ in one scene. This Alec is funnier than the one we saw in the books yet still true to the characters, and I love it.
Isabelle is great too. Her lines aren’t that good, and she's a lot more cheerful than book Izzy, but Emeraude Toubia is still doing an excellent job with the character. She’s confident, charming and fearless, everything we could have expected from her so early on in the series.
You’re Not That Funny
You know who’s funny? Simon. And Alec. You know who’s not funny? Jace. The wittiest, most amusing character in the books has hardly had any good lines. He's been making fun of Simon a lot, but he just comes off as an asshole. I don’t know how much blame is on the writers for not giving him any good lines, and how much is on Dominic Sherwood for being too serious in his portrayal of the character, but something isn’t working. He's got the looks, the arrogance and the charm, but the sense of humor is lacking. If this show is going to be successful, Jace has to make us laugh. Get on that, Shadowhunters.
City Of Bones
Jace takes Clary into the Silent City, where she sees the Silent Brothers, who dig into her mind and reveal only one thing: that her father is Valentine. I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering why she didn’t find out about Magnus Bane being the warlock that put the block on her mind, but I guess the show will find another way to introduce him.
The Clace chemistry isn’t quite there yet, and the hand holding in the Silent City happened way too quickly. There’s still time, and the chemistry is better in this episode than in the first, but I’m not seeing much of the magic from the books. We’d better hope they step it up before the relationship really kicks off.
Why Does Everyone Want The Cup?
I’m sure I’m not the only book fan wondering what exactly the show has done to the Mortal Cup. In the books, its sole purpose is creating new shadowhunters and summoning Raziel. But the show has given it new powers - specifically, the power to control demons. And that can’t be all, because it seems that even the downworlders want it. Last week, Luke hinted at the werewolves wanting the Cup, and the end of this episode had the vampires kidnapping Simon to blackmail the shadowhunters into handing it over. I can’t think of any reason why either of those clans would need the Mortal Cup, but I do think it’s kind of interesting to have everyone after it. As long as its powers make sense, this is one change I can get behind, and I admit I’m intrigued. I’d like to see what makes the Mortal Cup such a desirable object.