When it comes to fiction, I have a particular fondness for plots with fantasy and supernatural elements. I first read the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare in middle school, and I immediately fell in love with the Shadow World. The Shadowhunter Chronicles is one of my favorite series out there, so naturally I was very eager to see the major motion picture The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones when it came to theaters in August of 2013.
However, the movie was a major disappointment for me. Important aspects of Shadowhunter history were unnecessarily changed into things that made no sense, beloved characters were not portrayed as deserved, and some actors simply did not fit their characters. Despite the unsatisfactory the movie left me, I was still looking forward to seeing certain plot points and characters from the sequels brought to life.
Instead of a sequel to the film, fans of Cassandra Clare’s works were later rewarded with news that the books would be revamped into a TV series. Although the movie had lowered my expectations, I found myself much more happy that this series would get another chance with being brought to life, especially since the show would be starting with a clean slate instead of starting with where the movie had left off. Before I start my review, be warned that this will be a long post, as I will be going over all of my opinions and feelings regarding each episode of Shadowhunters. So with that, let’s get started with my review over the five current episodes thus far.
Episode 1: The Mortal Cup – Okay, so the pilots of shows that are based on fantasy elements almost always have rocky starts. Shadowhunters is no exception. The episode starts with Jace, Alec, and Isabelle on a demon hunt, which ultimately leads up to the Shadowhunters following the demon into Pandemonium, where Jace runs into Clary for the first time. The opening scene was a nice way of grabbing the audience’s attention, so I actually liked the way they started the show, even if the way Jace bumped into Clary was rather awkward.
The rest of the episode is edited in a very choppy way, and the pacing of the episode seemed way too quick, but it’s understandable that the writers wanted to introduce all the major characters and get everything set up for the rest of the season. Even so, everything happened so fast that it felt like I didn’t even have time to breathe or relax. A lot of information was dumped on us in the first episode, and it didn’t help that the scenes just kept sprinting through until the end.
Something else that was vexatious was that strange purple necklace that Jocelyn gave to Clary, which we later discover is a portal shard. Although it’s not a huge nuisance or change from the books, it was still odd to see it added into the show. I also feel as though Valentine shouldn’t have come into the show until he was supposed to, like towards the very end of City of Bones. The villain would be much scarier if he wasn’t introduced right away. Villains are more intriguing and frightening when they are built up by the other characters, and then when they finally make their dramatic entrances at the right time in the show. Even so, seeing what Valentine was up to was still cool and interesting.
Overall the episode was pretty decent. Simon’s lines and scenes were by far the best parts of the pilot, and the chemistry between Clary and Simon was very well done and believable. The parts that made me cringe were Valentine’s henchmen (Seriously? Wearing sunglasses at night? And what was with stealing all of those random cups? Don’t they know what the Mortal Cup is supposed to look like?) and Jace. Jace’s lines were very cheesy and sounded strange coming from his mouth. Come on Jace, you can do sarcasm better than that! But aside from that, the episode did alright. The actors have to have time to ease into their roles and the writers have to find the appropriate flow for the script. Now, moving on to episode two.
Episode 2: The Descent Into Hell Is Easy – This episode was a slight improvement from the first episode, but again, the pacing was too fast. We had already gone halfway through the book by the end of this episode. Things need to slow down and be explored with more depth. Each of the books in the series are pretty good-sized, not to mention that there are six total, the last being over 700 pages. There is plenty of material to work with, and if it is spaced out and paced correctly, the book material for the show could last for a good number of seasons.
Let’s talk about Hodge. Hodge is so much different than he was in the movie and what I imagined him to be in the books! Instead of an older, wise-looking tutor, he’s….an attractive weapons trainer. Not that it’s a bad change. It’s definitely one of the more unique changes made to the show. After meeting Hodge, we are later introduced to the Silent City, a.k.a. the City of Bones, and the Silent Brothers.
While there was nothing wrong with the way the Silent Brothers and the search inside Clary’s mind were portrayed, it was immensely irritating to see Clary clinging to Jace’s hand the entire time they are were in the Silent City. Seriously, they had just met and they were already holding hands? This budding romance between the two is going a bit too quickly for my liking, and there isn’t any chemistry to make it feel less awkward. At least we got the “Descent into Hell is easy” and “Looking better in black than the widows of our enemies” quotes, though.
My favorite part of this episode was probably Alec’s lack of chill. As I’ve already stated in my character portrayal review for the show, Alec is now one of my favorites. I love how he’s being depicted as the older brother figure who is trying to follow the Clave rules and maintain formation, and when Clary comes into the picture, he is forced to kiss those rules goodbye as he is dragged after the rest of the crew on the quest to find Clary’s memories. His grumpy complaints along with Simon’s usual humor were great. The revelation that Clary’s father is Valentine was a bit rushed (as well as Simon’s kidnapping at the end), but nevertheless, the episode was a bit improved from the first one, which is good.
Episode 3: Dead Man’s Party – There were many things about this episode that I enjoyed and found faults in. It was the bridge between the “okay” episodes (1 and 2) and the “much improved” episodes (4 and 5). Alright, so this installment was about the Shadowhunter squad going to save Simon from the vampires, whom we get the pleasure of meeting early on. The vampires have kidnapped Simon because they want the Mortal Cup. At first, the Shadowhunters are not very concerned with saving Simon, until Clary argues that Simon has suffered enough. The Shadowhunters eventually agree to sneak out and break into the vampires’ hangout, the Hotel Dumort, to save Simon. What is confusing and keeps being brought up is the Downworlders are also after the Mortal Cup.
It’s easy to understand why Valentine wants the Cup, but why do the Downworlders want it too? Based on the knowledge in the books, “if Downworlders drink from the cup, they will vomit up its contents and possibly die of paroxysms, due to their demonic aspects warring against the angel blood they ingested. If forced to continue drinking from the Cup, the contents will eventually burn the life from them entirely”. That does not sound very pleasant. It is not explained very clearly why the Downworlders are after it, but if I had to guess, perhaps they want to use it as a bargaining chip for Valentine. “In exchange for the Cup, you promise not to slaughter my species. We good?”
Speaking of Downworlders, let’s discuss the two new characters we got to meet: Camille and Raphael. I’ve been very eager to see how Raphael would be brought to the screen, and honestly, I wasn’t disappointed. David Castro certainly looked the part, and did very well displaying Raphael’s sly and arrogant personality, and his personal dislike for Camille. Kaitlyn Leeb played the leader of the New York vampire clan, and although Camille does not play an important role thus early in the show, she was greatly brought to the screen as well.
One aspect that I did not particularly care for, however, was the fact that it was alluded that Camille will be the one to sire Simon when he ultimately turns into a vampire. Originally in the book series, it is Raphael who sires Simon, not Camille. Perhaps one reason why I did not like this change is because of how I enjoyed the banter between Raphael and Simon in the books. Or maybe it’s because I shuddered at the way Camille was taking advantage of poor Simon, whom she used the Encanto on. Either way, I want Camille to keep her claws away from Simon.
On another note, there has been great controversy, once again, surrounding Isabelle. Especially in this episode, where we see Izzy using her body to gain information from Meliorn, who by the way, is a lot less grumpy than he is in the books. While watching this scene play out, I didn’t once think that Isabelle was selling herself. From the way I see it, Izzy was enjoying herself, so I’m pretty sure she was simply having a good time with Meliorn along with a bonus of getting some information out of him. Killing two birds with one stone, right?
Finally, it’s time to discuss the Jace and Clary moments. First we have the scene in the graveyard, where Jace does the cliché and teaches Clary how to use a seraph blade while getting very, very close to her. I actually cringed at the cheesiness of this scene. Moving on, next they go to a biker bar and steal a vampire’s motorcycle. While I didn’t really enjoy Brad the vampire seducing Clary with the Encanto, surprisingly, I found the motorcycle scene between Jace and Clary sort of cute. The only moment I’ve enjoyed between them so far.
The episode concludes with some edgy tension between Jace and Alec, and a cute BFF moment between Simon and Clary, along with some foreshadowing that Simon will become a vampire later on in the series. As I’ve said before, Simon’s vampire arc is approaching much too quickly. But nevertheless, let’s move on to the fourth episode.
Episode 4: Raising Hell – For me, this is when the show starts to improve a lot. Maybe it’s because our Shadowhunter gang finally gets to meet the fabulous High Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus Bane. But before we discuss how great Magnus was, let’s start at the beginning. The episode starts with Clary tossing and turning in her bed, which clearly signals that she is having a nightmare. After a bit of chit-chat with Simon and a pouty-faced Jace lurking unseen in the doorway, Clary learns that a mysterious figure named Magnus Bane could possibly hold some answers as to where her missing memories are. While Clary goes to Jace with this information, Simon starts to hallucinate and decides that he’s had enough of this supernatural madness.
When confronted by Clary, Simon pleads for her to come with him. After being denied, Simon leaves the Institute very upset. Poor Simon, he can never catch a break, can he? Afterwards, Clary, Jace, Alec, Isabelle, and Hodge start researching Magnus and devising a plan as to how they can meet with him and talk. They plan to lure him out with Isabelle’s ruby necklace, which once belonged to none other than Camille Belcourt, Magnus’s old lover. I was very pleased with how Izzy’s necklace was introduced, even if it was randomly pulled out from a hidden safe in the floor. The writers did a good job with explaining the necklace’s history and powers. See what happens when you follow the books?
Meanwhile, Magnus and his fellow warlocks were hiding out of Valentine’s sight. Magnus speaks to another warlock named Elios, in which fans of the books were blessed with a familiar quote, and the mention of a certain character from the Infernal Devices, the prequel series to the Mortal Instruments. Those certainly were nice little surprises.
Moving on, Clary, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle attend a party that was sadly not thrown by Magnus in honor of his cat’s birthday. But it’s a party nonetheless, and Magnus loves parties. At said party, Valentine’s henchmen attack Magnus, and although I really enjoyed watching Alec help Magnus, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed that Magnus didn’t defeat the minions himself. Magnus is a very powerful warlock, so a few of Valentine’s underlings shouldn’t have been very difficult for him to take out on his own. After the bad guys are defeated, we finally see Magnus and Alec meeting for the first time, which was absolutely endearing. The chemistry between the two is perfect. Magnus goes out of his way to flirt with Alec and Alec responds awkwardly and with looks of confusion, and it was so entertaining.
The demon-summoning scene was pretty dramatic. Since it was a memory demon that the group was summoning, I was hoping for some hints of Magnus’s father, but alas, we did not receive any. I enjoyed most of it, and my sympathy for Alec just keeps growing and growing with the internal conflicts that he keeps enduring, but I’m happy to see that Isabelle is such an encouraging and supportive sister. I also couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Maureen when she confessed to Simon that she would like to date him. Talk about a whirlwind of emotions. This episode was pretty good overall, and it made me pumped for the next one. Especially Magnus’s quote that came from the books: “I don’t know. Does he normally just lay like that?” That was priceless.
Episode 5: Moo Shu to Go – Honestly, this is my favorite episode so far. While the events that happened in the episode did not happen in the books, I was pleasantly surprised by what went down. Particularly the Clary, Alec, and Simon dynamic that went on. I didn’t know I needed that dynamic until it was unexpectedly thrown at us. I loved it! This is the sort of banter that is needed between Clary, Simon, and Jace, but instead, we got it with Alec. Not that I’m complaining, though. Regardless, I love this change. I thought it was hilarious how Simon started to show signs of turning into a vampire, and Clary was just like “Have you been doing parkour?” while Alec just shot puzzled glances at him. It was very pleasing to watch.
Something that wasn’t so pleasing to watch was the constant arguing between Jace and Alec, who have been arguing nonstop these past few episodes. I can understand why Alec keeps voicing his distrust of Clary to Jace, but is it really necessary for Jace to get all defensive of a girl he just met and to blow up at Alec? This is where Jace starts to annoy me. Sure, Jace is a jerk in the books. He’s a jerk to everyone, except he’s witty about it. And he’s not so much of a jerk towards Alec, his parabatai, like he is to everyone else. It’s completely switched in the show. Jace only seems to act like a jerk around Alec (with an exception of Simon) when it has to do with Clary. Seriously, Jace needs to chill. What happened to putting friends/family first? Hopefully their conflict will clear up soon. I would like to see their parabatai relationship develop and grow stronger throughout the season, because the way Jace constantly blames Alec is totally unfair and just irritating to watch.
Speaking of Jace, he and Isabelle went off to the Faerie Realm to question Meliorn about why the Seelies were not answering the Clave’s messages. While Meliorn flirts with Isabelle, Jace observes how butterflies mean the Seelies are in mourning, which I thought was a cool faerie tradition to add to the show. Back to Clary, Alec, and Simon, the trio break into Clary’s loft to find that Clary’s room has been destroyed by her mother in order to keep her from being tracked. It is here that the three discover Jocelyn’s box labeled with the initials J.C. hidden under the floorboard, and what is inside this mysterious box? A baby shoe, a rattle, and a lock of pale blonde hair. Let’s just say that the appearance of this little box made me very excited, as it leads to some awesome plot twists later on in this series.
In the last part of this episode, Clary and Simon were kidnapped by the New York werewolf pack, who was currently lead by Theo. The werewolf CGI was pretty decent, and I liked the way the whole alpha incident was handled, although I’m pretty sure Luke ending up severely injured was just an excuse to show off his abs, you know, because he’s the Old Spice guy. So now Luke is the alpha of the werewolf pack, which means the Shadowhunters will have an alliance that could come in handy in the future. Only problem is, Luke needs a healer, and a good one. So where does the gang head to? Magnus Bane’s loft. And that’s where the episode ended and it left me excited for the next Tuesday.
I’ll admit this review was pretty long, but I didn’t want to leave out any of my feelings and opinions of the episodes. For the rest of the season, I will most likely be posting each episode review separately to avoid such long posts such as this one. Until next time, be sure to catch Shadowhunters on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Freeform!