I want to love Shadowhunters, I really do. After episodes four and five showed considerable improvement, I had hope that the show might eventually come into its own and improve. I’m still holding on to that hope, because the show is still showing potential, but I just couldn’t get into this episode. It felt rushed, badly paced and just plain confusing, while the story itself wasn’t compelling enough to keep me entertained.
I know that the show is going to make changes. I’ve made my peace with that. I’m ready to enjoy the story that the writers have come up with. But when I’m not enjoying elements of the show, it’s especially frustrating to compare them to the books and think about how much better Shadowhunters would be if it would just stick to the source material. I’m not mad that they’re changing things. I’m mad that the changes are making the show worse.
Luke and Clary
We open with the group taking Luke to Magnus’ lair because, as they explained last episode, an Alpha’s bite is poisonous and can only be healed by a warlock, which certainly makes me wonder how many werewolves are in dire need of warlock help on a monthly basis, considering how often they must fight among themselves, and how often they must accidentally get bitten by alphas.
Luke has a dream about Jocelyn, who tells him to explain everything to Clary in order to unlock her memories, and he wakes up for long enough to tell Magnus to do just that. Magnus begins to heal Luke, but also asks Jace to procure the ingredients for a potion, because apparently it’s the potion that heals the bite, not the warlock’s magic? Or maybe both? Like many things in the show, it wasn’t explained very well.
Clary’s reunion with Luke was a bit underwhelming. I would have liked more heart-to-heart and less explaining the history of the Circle with the purpose of unlocking her memories, and I’m worried the show won’t explore their relationship thoroughly enough. Also, as much as I like Isaiah Mustafa, I’m not really feeling his chemistry with Kat Mcnamara at this point, and I really hope that improves down the line. I’m sure it will, though, as so far all the relationships on the show have gotten better.
We’re introduced to Robert Lightwood very early on, as he brings Max to the Institute and has a very respectful conversation with Isabelle about her connection to the Seelies and what that means for their family. While I really like him so far, he’s definitely going to take some getting used to. His relationship with Isabelle is great and he actually looks like he’s going to be an important character, which is completely different from the way he was presented in the books.
Max also makes his first appearance, and while he’s totally adorable, I’m sure I’m not the only one bothered by the huge age gap between him and his siblings. The show has aged up Isabelle and Alec (I’m guessing they’re about nineteen or twenty?) but Max can’t possibly be older than ten. It’s very distracting, and takes away from the awesomeness of his relationships with the other Lightwoods. He had a cute scene with Isabelle, who clearly adores him, and his constant complaining about not being included in missions definitely gave me some book feels. But again, I can’t help but notice how much younger he seems in the show, and how much older his siblings seem.
Simon and Jace
On their way to find the mysterious potion ingredients, Simon and Jace argue about Alec and Clary. Jace teases Simon about Clary, Simon (rightfully) accuses Jace of treating Alec badly, and Jace shuts him down. He yells at Simon, who pushes Jace up against a wall with his newfound vampire strength. Jace insists that he loves Alec because they’re parabatai, despite the fact that he is actually treating Alec like crap at the moment. Once again, the show is sending conflicting messages about the two of them, telling us how much they mean to each other then showing them disagreeing.
Simon also gets a creepy vision of his own dead body toward the end, as if we needed any more foreshadowing that he’s going to become a vampire.
Simon and Jace were both pushed to the background in this episode, and every scene they had felt a little bit rushed and out of place. This is supposed to be about Valentine, Jocelyn and Luke, with a side of Lightwood family drama. We don’t need weird Simon and Jace interactions that don’t do anything for the plot.
I’ve said before that I don’t like what the show is doing to Valentine. I hate that he’s being portrayed as some one-dimensional villain hell bent on destroying the world and that they seem to have erased all of his humanity. However, going into episode 6, I had hope that the show might turn it around, that I was just jumping to conclusions based on a few scenes and that once they really dove into his history, he would be outed as the terrifying villain he is.
What makes Valentine a compelling villain isn’t his crazy ideals or his creepy experiments. No, it’s the fact that he is undeniably, painfully human. He doesn’t know he’s the villain of this story. In his mind, he’s the hero, and he’s not the only person who thinks so. Throughout the first three Mortal Instruments books, Cassandra Clare stressed the fact that Valentine is loved, and always has been. He has a wife, a parabatai and a son, and none of them want to believe that he is evil. They all want to belive that he is the man they once knew, the man they thought he could become, the man that, deep down, they still love. Valentine may be a psychopath and a murderer, but it’s his capacity to love that sets him apart from other villains. That’s what makes him scary. And that’s what the show has taken away from him.
Shadowhunters has presented us with a man corrupted by traumatizing experiences and experiments on himself. They have taken everything that makes him interesting, and thrown it out the window, pretending that the man suddenly became evil as soon as he started experimenting, as if it’s possible for someone to change so drastically at the drop of a hat. They made it seem black and white: he was good, then he was evil. They have attempted to turn him into the epitome of evil, when the genre is already overrun with those types of characters. They’ve decided to make Jocelyn and Luke completely, one hundred percent good, and eliminate the part of their story where they support Valentine in his plan to purify the race. The books made it clear that there is no good and evil. Sometimes good people make bad decisions. Sometimes we don’t recognize evil when it’s staring us in the face. Sometimes we’re susceptible to charm and good looks, and we get so caught up in the thrill of being liked by someone we admire that we forget to think critically about their actions. Jocelyn and Luke did not go against Valentine until it was almost too late, and it’s hard to blame them for it. They didn’t heroically recognize the changes in their loved one and turn against him. They didn’t speak out against his treatment of downworlders. They didn’t do the right thing. They stood by him, because they loved him, until he gave them no choice.
Valentine didn’t purposely hurt his parabatai just for the hell of it, and he couldn’t bring himself to kill Luke himself when he turned into a werewolf, because he still loved him. Valentine never suspected Jocelyn of infidelity or treachery, because he knew that she was still in love with him. Jocelyn did not suspect Valentine of wrongdoing until it was staring her in the face in the form of a her deformed, modified baby. Valentine was not that evil. Jocelyn and Luke were not that good. They were human, and Shadowhunters has simplified their story to the point where all meaning is lost. Clary’s family is good. Valentine is bad. That’s all there is to the story.
Maryse steps into her kids’ lives
We saw a gentler side to Maryse this week, as she was almost caught crying when Alec came to talk to her. While she still seems too uptight and professional, this episode made it clear that she cares about her children and wants them to be happy. She’s upset that she has to punish her kids for disobeying the rules and force her son into an arranged marriage.
After a nice conversation with Alec, she approaches Isabelle. She basically tells her daughter that no shadowhunter would ever marry her because she sleeps around with downworlders, which is so unbelievably wrong and incongruous with her character. Book Isabelle is sexy and attractive to everyone, and any man would be lucky to date her. The fact that she has dated downworlders before only adds to her intrigue.
Then, Isabelle tells Alec the terrible news: the Clave wants an advantageous marriage for him, because apparently shadowhunters are like royalty and marry for status or business rather than for love, despite everything we know about shadowhunters saying that they love more passionately than any other living being.
As for Isabelle, she needs to become more serious. She’ll become an ambassador of sorts for the Seelies, who are considering changing sides (because apparently they were allies of the shadowhunters before). At the very end of the episode, she stands in front of a mirror in the same dress her mother had been wearing earlier, her hair tied up in the same ponytail. Gone are the revealing oufits she’s been wearing all series. This is a new Isabelle, and a more serious one.
What I don’t understand is why the Clave even cares about Alec and Isabelle. Even in the books, where shadowhunters were a dying breed, they didn’t pay attention to the antics of a few kids a the New York Institute. Now, the show wants us to believe that the Clave can keep track of every single shadowhunter all over the world despite there being way more of them than there were in the books? How do they know all of this? Is it those fancy computers? Did one of the shadowhunters at the Institute alert them to the problem, despite none of them ever saying a word throughout the entire show? And if they can do that, how come the Clave hasn’t approached Clary about her memories and her connection to Valentine? Wouldn’t that be more important to them than the fact that a bunch of shadowhunters attacked a vampire lair to save their friend?
Clary shows Luke the J.C. box and he explains to her that she has a brother: Jonathan Christopher. That storyline is definitely being introduced too early on, and is sure to make the plot even more confusing as the show progresses.
Another thing that’s being introduced too early? Clary’s special abilities. As soon as Clary learns about her brother, it unlocks her ability to turn objects into drawings. Luke tells her that that ability is genetic, something only she and her mother can do, instead of a rune a lot of shadowhunters know. I still can’t tell if this is supposed to be her angelic powers of some weird Fairchild thing we never heard about, but either way, I’m not a fan.
When Magnus begins the process of healing Luke, he says that he needs a virgin shadowhunter for the procedure, which is just gross and weird on so many levels. Jace calls Alec for help, despite the fact that Clary, a virgin shadowhunter, is literally standing right beside him. But it’s okay because they didn’t actually need Alec! Magnus just wanted Alec to be there and came up with a terrible excuse.
After much deliberation, Alec arrives at Magnus’ lair and lends him his strength, in a scene that was clearly supposed to call back to that one Malec scene at the end of City of Ashes, when they’re sitting in the car. Once Luke has healed and the others have left, they discuss their relationship. Magnus talks about how he hasn’t let himself love in centuries but is just now opening up his heart, and they end with a toast: “to us”. While I will never complain about adorable Malec scenes, this one definitely felt like it happened too early on in their relationship. They’ve just met. They haven’t even been on a date yet. I know they’re a fan favorite, but let us savor the relationship for a bit before the serious conversations start.
Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays at 9pm on Freeform.