First of all, it is important to notice that Season 2B has consistently been the strongest season of Shadowhunters so far. The episodes seem more cohesive, the storylines are more polished out, and even the performances are better. The quality of the show has increased at an exponential rate.
That is why a lukewarm episode such as this week’s seem lesser than it really was. There were highlights in the episode and the plot keeps advancing. Sadly, there was something lacking in the pacing. The editing also didn’t help; it made the episode feel a little less compelling than its predecessors so far. That said, there is a lot to unpack. Story-wise, this was a very character-driven episode and that is always a good thing.
A Problem of Memory
In a society rigidly controlled by an all-powerful institution that thinks itself above the majority of its citizens, what is lawful is not always what is right. This theme is not a stranger to Shadowhunters and some would say Clary’s character personify that sentiment. However, “A Problem of Memory” brings two political leaders to deal with this dilemma in firsthand. That elevates the debate in every possible way.
Luke is forced to take action when his partner Ollie informs a girl has been found dead, drained of blood and with Simon’s fingerprints all over her. Together with Clary, he investigates. Luke knows he is supposed to deliver Simon to the Clave, should they find him. However, that is not what he intends to do.
Simon, acting out due to the events at the Seelie Court and his heartbreak goes to a vampire club to let loose. During which he feeds on the Mundane who is later found dead. He also approaches Raphael for help, who offers his help on the condition that Simon will reveal how he became a Daylighter. Guilt overcomes Simon and he lets the Mundane police take him into custody. Simon is able to clear his own name, after realizing that the murderer was Quinn, the same vampire who took him out to drink down his sorrows. Luke stands by and lets Simon fight for his honor, choosing to never involve a Shadowhunter other than Clary in the matter. In a heroic display, Simon defeats and kills Quinn.
The other leader forced to make a choice is Alec. After Luke’s attempt at Valentine’s life and the reveal of a mole in the Institute, Alec has to find a justification for a request to transfer the villain to Idris. The easiest and lawful way to do it would be to tell on Luke, something Alec had decided not to do.
Alec never shines brighter than when he confronts a moral dilemma. This time it isn’t different. Following his gut, Alec decides to omit Luke’s involvement and justify the transfer with other means. His request is granted and Alec puts Izzy in charge of it. Unfortunately, this gives Jonathan Morgenstern, who is impersonating a shadowhunter named Sebastian Verlac, the chance to steal his father away before Valentine makes it to Idris.
While the Head of the Institute and the Alpha were making political decisions, the High Warlock of Brooklyn was fighting a much more personal battle. Magnus’s PTSD has been shown time and again, in his sudden change of clothes and increasing drinking, to his insecurity and eagerness to please. Alec didn’t miss them. He is tired of waking up to an empty bed while Magnus pretends to be fine.
Alec confronts Magnus to no avail, Alec also takes Izzy’s advice on how to approach him. It’s always a joy to see more of the Lightwood interactions. Love such sibling moments. Alec approaches Magnus again. He asks Magnus to not push him away when things get crazy in an interesting callback. Hesitantly, Magnus finally tells Alec what has been bothering him, what memories his torture brought up to the surface. Alec already knew Magnus’ mother had taken her own life when she realized what her nine-year-old son’s cat eyes meant.
What we didn’t know is that, upon her suicide, Magnus’ step-father had blamed him and, in retaliation, Magnus had set him on fire. He is ashamed and disgusted by his actions, scared that Alec would get to know that “ugly side” of him. But Alec does not see anything ugly about him. He loves Magnus, and his unconditional support is there to help Magnus to accept and forgive himself.
Unfortunately, not all romantic relationships survive the last couple of episodes. After witnessing Clary’s clear desire for Jace, Simon puts an end to their romance. They are still friends and they will always be, but he needs time and space to heal from the heartbreak.
- Thankfully the reveal of Jonathan’s crispy-self puts an end to the show’s clumsy attempts at painting him as messed up. There are only so many self-harming scenes that the audience can endure to establish a character’s trait before it gets comical.
- Still on the topic of Jonathan: Having both the real and the fake Sebastians played by Will Tudor was an ingenious twist. Even more so is the fact that Jonathan’s skin is in crisps. That confirms him as the boy from Valentine’s vision on Mea Maxima Culpa. I can’t wait to learn the story behind that.
- Ollie’s storyline felt very underwhelming in this episode. Her growing involvement with the Shadow World was quickly resolved when Raphael encanto-ed her to forget all about her knowledge of Simon. That felt like a cheap solution. I wonder if this is the closest Ollie will get to find out that all the legends are true.
- Watching Izzy taking charge and commanding the team is a delight. Her Yin Fen addiction storyline is over and the result is a happier, much more human Izzy. Her badass, untouchable persona has made her into a vulnerable and yet stronger character altogether. I am always happy to watch The Strong Female Character™ become a Strong Female Character in her own right.