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Reviews

S2 E16: Family Time

If last week’s episode felt somewhat lesser, this one feels incomplete. Without Luke and Magnus, we miss a big part of the downworlder issues, and that renders the episode a little too heavy-handed regarding the shadowhunters.  

That said, Director Paul Wesley did a powerful job with his actors and storytelling and the episode is beautiful in every take. The storylines revolve around family but they never fall under the cheesy or boring lines. For an episode with a lot of indoor talking scenes, these are highly entertaining 40-something minutes.

Day of Atonement

As the title of the episode suggests, we get a taste of Simon’s family traditions. It is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, when everyone is supposed to come clean as to start a new cycle. It is sweet to watch Simon interact with his family without disaster striking immediately afterward for a change. Just as sweet as finally meeting Bubby Helen.

Maia’s presence at the dinner is essential to the harmony of the scene. Between Simon’s guilt over the last couple of events and Elaine’s increasing worry about her son, Maia handles the delicate situation with mastery. It is her speech about her own family that prompts Elaine to declared her unconditional love to her children. This is just what Simon needed to hear after the series of unfortunate events his life has become since that fateful night at Pandemonium. Simon’s love for his family has driven so many of his decisions and to see him being loved back is worth all his troubles.

Plus, we got to know a little more about Maia, like the fact that she is a Marine Biology major.

The show needs a few light moments and conversations such as these. The high pace is good for action scenes but it grows tiresome if it the only thing the show has to offer. Scenes that take their time to explore character’s background and motives are what capture the audience. This is what makes us care.

Meanwhile, the Institute is on high alert after Valentine’s escape. They get word of the Clave sending an envoy to the Institute to assess the situation. As in the past, this has never been a good sign Izzy and Jace are more than ready to take the blame, but if anyone will suffer the consequences, it will be Alec. There is fear of him losing his position as the head of the institute. Thankfully, though, the envoy turns out to be Robert Lightwood and he has managed to convince the Clave to keep Alec in the position, as he is the best-equipped person to hunt down Valentine in New York.

Robert’s reception by Alec and Izzy is cold at best, but yet still respectful. Alec will not let his father compare his affair with Magnus and Alec’s relationship just as he will not have half-assed excuses to justify it, and yet his anger towards his father is all on the behalf of Max, who has intercepted Robert’s correspondence with Imogen.

So… Do you think dad is shagging Jace’s grandma?

That makes Izzy wonder if the Inquisitor is their father’s mistress, but it turns out that is not the case. The mysterious exchanges between Robert and she were a professional matter, regarding the truth about the Soul Sword. As Robert later reveals to Alec, that the Clave lied. They do not have the Mortal Instruments as they’d claimed. However, Robert asks Alec not to tell any downworlders, Magnus included, as it could lead to a (justified) revolt.

There is a third family reunion though this one is much more dangerous than the previous two. Jonathan finally reveals his past and why he looks the way he does. As Jace is bound to find out in the next episodes, Valentine was raising both Jonathan and him in secrecy. However – and differently from the books in what has got to be one of the best departures done so far -, Valentine banished his son Jonathan to Edom after the boy killed Albert Timberworth, an innocent shadowhunter kid. Jonathan was too out of control even for Valentine.

It is easy to buy that reasoning, as Valentine seems to be afraid of his son at times. This is very different from when he had to face a Prince of Hell. For the first time, we see Valentine waver as anger and derangement pour out of Jonathan when he tells how his skin burned by demons. It is interesting to notice that his demon blood gives him extra powers, but that wearing Sebastian’s skin lessen them. Still, Jonathan prefers to wear Sebastian’s face rather than to look like a “demonic beast with burned flesh.”

When Jonathan finally tells Valentine he has saved him only so he could send his father to hell as payback, Valentine uses the truth compelling Soul Sword to convince Jonathan that he has cared for him all along. There is something fascinating in the way Valentine twists his words so they are true and, yet, he is lying. Even under the influence of the sword, Valentine never treats his son as a human being, but rather as a weapon.

The decision of sending his son to Hell might even haunt Valentine, but he never expresses regret. Instead, Valentine tells Jonathan the same words he has told Jace: “You have always been my greatest achievement.”

Where Jace rejected that affirmation, Jonathan welcomes it. Once again, Valentine is able to turn the tables around. For how long, it is impossible to tell though. Jonathan might want his father’s love but if Valentine’s fear is anything to go by, there is little stopping the son from turning against his father once and for all.

It seems Clary is avoiding Jace after the past events. However together they figure that Valentine maybe hiding out at Idris after Jace requested that they go on a mission together. Not the most respectful of a girl’s wishes for space. They both know they can’t go to Idris but Ithuriel strikes again. He gives Clary a Portal Rune.

Interestingly, the show keeps limiting Clary’s incredible abilities. Her Sunlight Rune is bound to her emotions. Now, the Portal Rune not only leaves glass shards behind, it doesn’t take her exactly where she wants to go. It is still abnormal that she is able to do this, as Jace points out, but the show is doing a good job at restricting Clary. It wouldn’t be fun if she could do it all on her own, would it?

Wildcard time!

However, the show also forgets to tame Clary’s irresponsible behavior. In fact, hers and Jace’s. They keep making rash decisions that would reflect badly on others. In this case, their supposed friend Alec, the Head of the Institute. After Valentine’s escape, the last thing Alec needs is two of his subordinates going rogue. Jace knows Alec is under close watch and yet, he does nothing. Clary knows Izzy was almost de-runed because of her behavior. Yet, there is no improvement on their teamwork. The fact that they get away with it every time doesn’t reflect well on the show either.

With the help of Izzy, who follows them after Alec and she finds the portal shards, Clary and Jace are able to locate the cabin where Jonathan and Valentine were hiding. Unfortunately, they are long gone. But Jace finds something else there; the journals Valentine kept while he raised the boys. It is then that Clary realizes that Ithuriel was hinting at the fact that Jonathan is still alive.

Personal Notes:

  • “For a downworlder, depression can be seriously dangerous.” This kind of hint is what I miss from Simon’s arc. Much like Clary represents a window into the Shadowhunter way of life, Simon is the perfect vehicle to play into the Downworld. The show is stronger whenever it does so. Now that Simon is back on his feet, I hope it furthers even more Simon’s relationship with his people.
  • The way the Clave handles the position of Head of the Institute is astonishingly bad. A single mistake is enough grounds to replace a Head, which means a change in leadership and political decisions. For a system that is all about order and hierarchy, this kind of institutionalized instability only undermines the Head’s authority. Everyone can safely assume whoever is in charge won’t last much more than a week.
  • The show sometimes uses imagery in beautiful ways. One example is having Jace use the Herondale family ring while reading Valentine’s journals. Subtle and effective.
  • I tried not to, but I missed Magnus and Luke in the episode. Especially Luke, who would’ve fitted perfectly in Simon’s storyline alongside Maia.

Images courtesy of Freeform.
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