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Reviews

S2 E01: Brighter and Better

Shadowhunters has come a long way. What started out as a second attempt at adapting popular YA book series The Mortal Instruments became a name of its own. The show’s popularity was dutifully rewarded. Now, the show has two half-seasons per year, adding up to 20 episodes in total. The budgeted increased and a new crew was hired.

Smallville’s executive producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer saw potential the hidden potential of season 1. They are joined by also executive producer and director Matt Hastings, from The Originals. Together with a new team of writers and better props, they intend to make Shadowhunters reach that potential. If the story keeps up to the first episode of season 2, I’m certain their mission will be accomplished.

This Guilty Blood

Just a few hours after the end of season 1, the Institute is pulling all resources on finding Jace. Alec can’t feel him through their mended Parabatai bond and missing a part of his soul is making Alec hysterical. The only thing he knows is that, if Alec can’t feel Jace and Magnus can’t track him through magic, that means he’s on water. Unfortunately, that is not enough to locate Jace.

Things were already distressing enough but then the Clave strikes again. They relief Lydia of the temporary position of Head of the Institute, naming Victor Aldertree instead. He seems decent enough as he puts the Institute in lockdown. Aldertree wants to interrogate everyone who was on a mission when Jace vanished.

That means he summons Clary to a recorded and official talk with him, after she just had a personal one with Jocelyn. Clary confronted her mother on lying to her, but Jocelyn is adamant. All she wanted was to protect Clary, from the Shadow World and for the things Clary doesn’t understand. When Clary asks why Jocelyn never told her about Jace, her mother’s reaction is odd. She doesn’t seem happy to know her son is alive after all. If anything, the news brings only one thing to Jocelyn’s face: resolve.

Oh, shit.

And, like her mother, Clary is resolved on finding Jace. In her interview, Clary tells Aldertree that Jace saved her and her friends by going with Valentine. Aldertree keeps asking if Jace could’ve killed Valentine at any point. Clary can’t really answer that. She points out that Jace warned them to run before Valentine showed up.

Aldertree deems his investigation process finished with that. He concludes Jace was working with Valentine all along. The lockdown is lifted from the Institute, aside from Clary and Jocelyn. They are to stay in due to their connection to Valentine and Jace. Aldertree also bans Alec and Izzy from investigating, as they are too close to Jace. The other Shadowhunters have a new mission: find Jace dead or alive.

Moreover, Downworlder presence in the Institute has to be allowed by Aldertree himself. That means Luke and Simon have to go. To save Simon from burning in the rising sun, Luke allows Simon to crash at the Jade’s Wolf. However, as soon as Luke is off to work, Gretel strikes. You might remember her as the wolf that almost tore Simon apart back in season 1. She seems to be back at it as she shoves Simon to the storage house. Simon can stay but not with the wolves.

As Simon needs a roof over his head, Alec and Clary can’t just sit idle inside the Institute. Alec leaves to talk to Magnus. He intends to ask Magnus again to subdue the pain as Alec uses his Parabatai rune to track Jace. Magnus had refused the first time, afraid it might kill him. That set-off an already on edge Alec and he lashed out on Magnus. Annoyed at this behavior, Magnus left.

But as he was on his way, Maryse intercepts him. She is all for Aldertree’s command and she urges Alec to let Jace go. Maryse even compares Jace to a cancer, saying she is horrified to have raised Valentine’s son. And here I thought Maryse couldn’t sink any lower. Alec, however, is not having it. He walks away, telling her that he won’t give up on Jace just because he’s a hard choice.

Meanwhile, Clary is able to escape the Institute. Together with Simon, she tries tracking Jace on her own. It is nice to see both Clary and Simon still having trouble with their newly-gained powers. Clary might be a quick study, but she severe lacks lessons. That shows when Jocelyn arrives and tricks her into giving up both her stele and phone. Jocelyn locks Simon and Clary in the storage house and runs after Jace.

Who is having the worst time at Valentine’s ship. Season 2 delivers a much more menacing villain in Valentine. Not only he has a collection of captured Downworlders he has been experimenting with and using to accomplish his goals. Valentine is not above using his own family as well. He manipulates Jace both mentally and physically, playing on his emotions. When he is done breaking Jace in more than one way, Valentine is sure to be caring as well. He even cooks Jace spaghetti.

During this “bonding” time, Valentine reveals why Jace is such a superior Shadowhunter. When Jace was still in Jocelyn’s womb, Valentine injected him with pure demon blood. That supposedly made Jace the perfect weapon. If only he can let go of his morals, that is.

Family trip!

To ensure that will happen, Valentine takes Jace on a field trip. They stop at a vampire den, where the leader, Maria, is letting her subjects feed on humans. As soon as Jace steps on land, though, all alarms are set. Alec feels him again. He and Izzy try to inform Aldertree of that, but the Institute was already tracking Jace. Guards restrain both Alec and Izzy are restrained, keeping them from going after their brother.

Clary and Simon, freed from the storage house, are also able to track down Jace. They follow Jocelyn, who was going after her son. Only, she has a crossbow. The three of them watch as Jace kills Maria on Valentine’s urges. However, Jocelyn won’t just watching. She fires an arrow at Jace.

Valentine, always ready to tie his victim’s further to him, saves his son. Jace takes both of them through the portal back to the boat. The episode ends with Jocelyn looking like she’ll take another shot as soon as she can.

Personal Notes

  • First of all, I am digging the new seraph blades. Those glowing sticks did a disservice to the story, making a show that is taking to take itself serious feel way too campy. Blades that shone work in a book media, where the visuals are all in the reader’s mind. Successfully translating that to TV takes a little more effort than less impressive lightsabers. The idea of having metal blades with glowing runes is a brilliant adaptation. Same goes for Izzy’s whip turning into a spear. That was nice.
  • In fact, all the effects highly improved. We get new portals and better magical visuals, as well as less obvious CGI. It makes the sleepless nights voting for Shadowhunters in awards polls worthwhile.
  • Second, the fighting choreography is on point. Shadowhunters is full of action. The fighting has to be a high point and now it is. Their movements are precise and brutal, and the show is relying much less on shaky cams and visual effects. Bravo.
  • Third, we actually see blood! If this isn’t a consequence of the more mature tone we were promised, I don’t know what is. Shadowhunters balances out showing more violence without being too gruesome. This makes the sense of danger feel real at the same time that it keeps the show teen-friendly.
  • One small bad thing, though. The new intro might be sexier than the old one, but it feels kind of campy.
  • Magnus and Alec take a step forward when some hard truths are acknowledged. The wedding kiss wasn’t a milestone of their relationship; it was Alec’s. Just because they shocked the Shadowhunter society by locking lips, it doesn’t make them paragons of dating. I love that Shadowhunters is giving its LGBQ+ couple a real storyline where they’ll make mistakes, apologize, and grow together. Magnus remark, asking Alec not to push him away when things got crazy, was especially important.
  • Simon was so close to confessing his feelings for Clary! One word more and he’d done it. Better luck next time!

Images courtesy of Freeform.

 

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