When it comes to the relationships in Shadowhunters, it’s been very hit-and-miss. For the most part, the friendships have been compelling, entertaining and believable, from the Lightwood siblings to Clary and Simon to the new and refreshing duo of Clary and Isabelle. The romance, on the other hand, has left something to be desired. While Malec has been fantastic for the most part and Sizzy has showed great promise, the main couple of Clary and Jace has been lacking in seemingly every department.
This isn’t a knock on the actors – Katherine McNamara has improved greatly in these last few episodes, and Dominic Sherwood has been doing a good job at portraying Jace’s vulnerability and inner darkness. Together, they’ve been okay at best, but it’s hard to judge the chemistry and performance of the actors when the script they’re working with is awkward and full of clichés. While Clary and Jace were one of the most interesting and swoon-worthy couples in the books, their TV counterparts have been underwhelming and downright painful to watch.
The iconic greenhouse scene has been replaced by an overdramatic kiss in front of the entire institute. Their constant flirting is gone in favour of frequent makeout sessions. Jace’s snarky, arrogant but endearing sense of humour has been replaced by some of the worst lines in the show. His annoyance at Clary’s reckless behaviour has morphed into an immediate willingness to follow her anywhere and throw away his other relationships for the sake of impressing her. The suspense surrounding their relationship has been completely thrown out the window. Their entire relationship has turned into a montage of teen fiction clichés, from Jace teaching Clary how to use a seraph blade to Clary walking in on Jace training without a shirt, to the frequent kisses that don’t seem founded in any emotional connection or attraction whatsoever.
When adapting books to screen, I’m sure it can be difficult to portray a couple that everyone knows is destined to be together, and I’ll admit that ‘Clace’ isn’t exactly the easiest couple to portray without descending into clichés, but when the couple was more believable in the movie than the show, they’re doing something wrong. Yes, Clary and Jace are quite possibly the two most dramatic people in The Mortal Instruments, and their relationship reflects that. They talk about being in love when they’re two fifteen years olds who have only known each other for a few weeks. They think about each other constantly. They make long, dramatic speeches. But it works. It works because they have incredible chemistry, and the attraction between them is obvious from the moment they first meet. It works because, as quickly as their relationship progresses, Cassandra Clare still manages to kill us with suspense by proving endless sexual tension while only writing one kiss per book until City of Fallen Angels.
And the weird thing is that since the siblings plotline has been revealed, their dynamic has been much more believable. As boyfriend and girlfriend, they were awkward, cliché and just plain unpleasant to watch, thanks their lack of chemistry and the unbelievably cheesy lines they were given. But ever since they learned they were brother and sister, they’ve felt like Clary and Jace. In episode 12, their dynamic was actually believable and interesting. They kind of work as siblings. Maybe, when the truth is revealed and they start to gravitate toward each other once again, the angst will feel real. Maybe I’ll come to ship them in season 2. Maybe the show will slow everything down and make sure to torture us with this plot line until we’re begging for them to get together. I have hope that that will happen eventually, and I’m excited to see where the show goes with this dynamic. But so far, their separation has been a welcome relief, and that’s not how I want to feel about one of my favourite couples of all time.