With every new season of any show, comes the possibility for change. I’ve seen a lot of change coming to Shadowhunters and I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that we (Fangirlish) were welcoming it with open arms. The Mortal Instruments book series always deserved better than the first season of Shadowhunters.
And to be honest – that first seasons flaws started with some really shoddy leadership. When word came that Ed Decter had been fired and would be replaced, there was general relief. He was simply the wrong person to adapt this material and by the end of the first season, the network knew it. The second major flaw in the first season – bad dialogue and plotting. With Ed Decter and his team gone, we have a chance to see new writers take over and show what they can do. The third major flaw was the visuals. The first seasons VFX and production seemed like the quality of a student film, so I can’t say that we aren’t thankful for Matt Hastings, who steps in as Production Director this season.
A disclaimer: Shadowhunters has a small but vocal fan base who may well not agree with what we say here. That’s okay. We are not telling you how to feel about the show. I am telling you this sites feelings on the second seasons first episode, “This Guilty Blood.”
Matt Hastings. There are not enough words to describe the appreciation that this fandom should have for you. From the moment that the first scene opens – you can tell that the sets, the lighting, the VFX, the props of the first season are no more. The show’s cinematography has been improved and gone are the days of a bad student film. The show immediately feels edgier, as if it’s staking a claim that you are not going to screw with Shadowhunters. It has a darker feel – one that fits. It’s not this bubble gum bright light, big city anymore – it’s the gritty world that it needs to be.
Finally, we have real action. Fight scenes have been upped. However, some of the scenes are gratuitous. Let’s be real – there are some scenes that you know that they added in to try and capture a male demographic. I am not hating on that – I will be the first person to drool when the boys are shirtless. But when you are looking at a female character that is supposed to be one of the top forensic scientists in the world – give her more than a few lines in the premiere of the second season. Isabelle is smart, charismatic, but she’s in need of a better story line. And we’re still not getting that.
And we know why – the first episode still reeks of Decter’s lead and his inability to craft a cohesive story. Ed Decter left the series in a hurry at the last moment. The new show runners would have been left with three or four episodes he’d already written, and it’s likely they’d have to work somewhat within the framework of what he created. Given that, we really can’t judge the new show runners lead by this episode. As much as we would like to give a read on Todd or Darren, we can’t just yet.
Though dialogue has improved, drastically. There were more funny lines in this episode than in all of season one. But it’s just not there yet. Yes, we’re finally getting a lot more showing than telling. But it seems like mismatched moments trying to feed the fandom what they want. Yes – we’ll see the greenhouse, but not in the way so many fans long for. Unfortunately some mistakes made by Ed can’t be undone. If you want that greenhouse scene with Jace and Clary – watch the movie. Cause here – it’s just another set.
Finally we see some scenes to develop the Malec connection – but even then – it’s missing something. However, it’s finally starting to create some tension as Magnus and Alec argue over a dangerous situation Alec wants to out himself into. Magnus and Alec deserved more of a story line in the first season. They deserve to be able to have a relationship that plays out on screen – not less than 15 minutes of air time that we hear about things and don’t see it. Make no mistake – Malec was sidelined in the first season – because we weren’t shown their relationship. Instead the writers indulged in fanservice – giving the fandom a few key scenes that would keep them hanging on. We’re hoping that they somehow find a way to develop this relationship – and quite honestly that may be through breaking them up and rebuilding their relationship to bring them back together. SHOW US their relationship. Give us scenes with them TOGETHER.
Aldertree feels like a villain that is about to pounce. He feels predictable and an after thought of a character that was meant to place hold while Decter thought of a way to fix the clusterfuck he created the first season. Unfortunately, and this is lampshaded by the show itself, his character is a repeat of the Lydia plot line from season one — a stranger from the Clave shows up to take the Institute away from the Lightwoods because they’re incompetent. (Have they ever actually run it? For more than five minutes?) He seems as though he’s trying to be trying to play the “my dick is bigger than yours game” or you know, maybe he’s pissed he wasn’t a member of the Circle. Either way, it’s hard to get invested in a plot you’ve seen already.
Dominic Sherwood rises to the occasion and is growing into being the Jace that we all know. Fierce fighter, snarky lines, and loyal. Jace doesn’t seem like a second rate frat boy with a sword like previously. Dominic has taken the role on and has started to captivate scenes in the same way that Alberto does.
Alberto Rosende steals the show – as he did even in the first season. He’s funny, charismatic, and believable. You can’t help but want to see more of him. He plays Simons vulnerability and strength well.
Harry Shum as Magnus. There are moments where we see the strength and confidence that Magnus is supposed to have and then there are moments where you wonder if Magnus is drunk or high. But that’s not Harry’s fault – that is the way that Magnus is written. But regardless – Harry’s a great Magnus. He plays him with heart and does his best even with ridiculous lines.
Matt Daddario plays pissed off well. He’s angry. But what bothers us is that Alec is made to seem like he’s pining over Jace like a boyfriend that is lost. We’re not Jalec shippers, but if you are one – the tension there will get you going. It doesn’t feel like a Parabatai searching for his other half, it feels like a man looking for the love he’s lost. But if that is what they are going for – Matt pulls it off. Also – thank God that Alec becomes a little vulnerable. He needed to stop being wound so fucking tight all the time.
Alan Van Sprang makes you realize that the first season was done a disservice by the under use of Valentine and the travesty that was Chernobyl. Finally Valentine has motives that go beyond “blow things up because I’m evil.” We learned from Reign that there was no one that can play intense and a little unhinged like Alan – and he does it well.
Kat McNamara as Clary. We know that some have their issues with her and some really like her. We haven’t really passed judgement because the reality is she was given some pretty shitty dialogue the first season and she did the best she could with it.
Even as things are improving – there remains the issue that we had with the first season – the dialogue. Our issue with Shadowhunters has never been about the actors (and don’t you worry, they know what we have said about their characters) – it’s been with the subpar writing. Shadowhunters was always meant to be darker, to be complicated, and for the characters to portray confidence and fierceness.
We know that the showrunners have a lot of things that they can’t do, a lot of avenues now closed to them, because the first season is the clusterfuck that it was. But episode 1 is a definite improvement on the first season. We’ll see where it goes from here.
- Better fight scenes
- Semi better dialogue
- Better cinematography
- Finally learning more about the characters
- No more Chernobyl
- Finally using Valentine to some potential
- Dominic Sherwood’s portrayal of Jace
- Still some really crappy dialogue
- Don’t understand what pizza has to do with anything
- The plot line is still filled with gaping holes
- Gratuitous scenes that really serve no purpose
- Too many original to the show characters that serve no real purpose
- Some laughable scenes that aren’t supposed to be laughable.
Shadowhunters, Season 2, premieres on Freeform January 2nd.