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The Strength of Vulnerability

Maia Roberts was the last of the eight main characters to arrive in the show. She was added only after fifteen episodes of Shadowhunters, when all the other characters were already established. Maia was originally there as a supporting character, someone to play off of Luke and Simon. Her introduction didn’t help to grace her to the public either; Maia was presented as revenge-seeking and hot-headed while hunting down Jace for a crime he didn’t commit.

It is beyond impressive, then, how quickly Maia became a fan favorite. Of course, that is the result of some incredible writing, a compelling character, and a superb performance. Maia’s first cameos were as intense as she is, and it was enough to grab the public’s attention. The talented Alisha Wainwright exudes confidence as her natural charisma makes every character interaction memorable.

All of Alisha’s efforts pay off when combined with such a fascinating character. Maia is a deeply complex character, served by interesting storylines. In her development as a leader and a fighter, Maia brings out a different side to the Downworld. She represents the average Downworlder. Not the leaders like Luke and Magnus, or the newbies like Simon and Bat. Maia has suffered the Clave’s injustice while trying to get on with her life.

For a character that came in late in the game, Maia is one of the most relatable. She works and studies, she fights and makes mistakes. Maia pushes the other characters to become better and grow as a person on the way. Her presence didn’t just better Luke’s or Simon’s story. It improved the entire show.

From Outside to the Centerstage

Maia’s start at the show was the best example of good character introductions the show has ever done. She was charming and thoughtful until she had to be ruthless. Although Maia was hunting down Jace, it was easy to understand her motives to do so. It is no small feat to have an introduction put a new character at the same level of relatability as a main character whom the audience has been accompanying all along.

From there, Shadowhunters took Maia’s character even further. With Luke gone and Simon desperate to find him, Maia’s presence was the glue that storyline needed. Alisha and Alberto Rosende’s stellar chemistry aside, those scenes gave Maia and the Downworlders the depth they needed. While Simon and she shared experiences, the audience learned more about the “average” Downworlder; not the leaders, the exceptional, or the new.

The Downworlders, in general, were only seen as foes, assets, or victims. Until Maia’s appearance, the main ones are too busy to show the audience what their lives are like. Simon was more a mundane than a vampire, Magnus’ storyline focused on his relationship with Alec, and Luke was too engrossed with the Fray women. Maia was the character that humanized the Downworlders, that breathed life into them. Much like Simon and Clary, she was just a regular person whose life got tangled in the mess and had to learn how to live with that.

But unlike Clary and Simon, Maia doesn’t have all the answers given to her. She had to learn how to control herself, how to engage with a normal life again. In her way, she made friends in the Downworld and found a pack with Luke’s help. Maia also works and is on the way to get a degree in Marine Biology. All she knows of the Shadow World came with time and she is still learning.

Her position as the Second in Command didn’t happen out of a grand fate or family dynasty. It was the result of Luke’s failures, the Pack’s shifting alliances, and Maia’s own assertiveness. Loyal but practical, Maia looked after the pack even when Luke couldn’t. She had the option to flee but decided to stay and help the others.

Even when she doesn’t know exactly how. Maia did help Simon by sharing her own experiences. She stopped Bat from hurting others during his first transformation. She made Luke sort out his priorities to his pack. But none of that was done flawlessly. Maia acted out of instinct, making mistakes along the way. And, all the while, the audience was on her side.

So much so, the fans didn’t even reprimand Maia’s violence-prone attitudes. Her flaws make her all the more endearing. It is almost hard to point out what exactly makes Maia so relatable. That is only revealed later on: her vulnerability. Maia doesn’t need to be a kickass fighter to loved. She is loved because, besides kicking ass, she is fully-fledged human.

Secrets of the Past

It is only after getting to know Maia’s present that the audience learns about her past. While she was helping Simon figure out his familial problems, Maia revealed a complicated relationship with her own parents. She lost a brother and then, feeling neglected, she ran away. Ever since Maia has been unable to reach out to her parents because of her guilt.

If the Shadowhunters complicate Maia’s life as a werewolf, her days as a mundane weren’t any simpler. Aside from her difficult family situation and the mundanes’ racism, Maia also got involved in an abusive relationship. Jordan Kyle made her feel beautiful for the first time and Maia was in love with him. However, when Jordan grew “weird and possessive,” she broke things up. Soon after, Maia would be attacked and seize to be a mundane forever. In her own words:

“I was on my way home from a date and it was raining, so I tilted my head back. Next thing I knew, I was face down in the mud. At first, I thought it was a rabid dog. It’s clawing and ripping at my skin. I was screaming, just begging him to get off of me. That’s when the wolf started to change and it was Jordan. He just backed up and run off and left me there alone. And I, I cannot but think that every time I turn, this is what love got me.” (2×18: Awake, Rise, or Be Forever Fallen)

What happened to Maia was nothing short than domestic abuse. Her previous connection to Jordan and reactions, as well as the long-lasting consequences do as well. Maia’s body autonomy was taken away from her and she was left with both physical and emotional traumas. Shadowhunters deals with allegories to real-life and, in this sense, Maia is a domestic abuse survivor. Differently from the other werewolves we know, like Luke and Bat, her transformation was trigger by her ex-boyfriend. That adds an emotional charge to the attack, making Maia unique among her known peers.

And although those traumatic moments still influence her, Maia has been able to move on with her life. She has found a new family for herself in Luke and the other wolves. As Maia learns what makes a leader, she is finding her place in the pack. Maia is even trying her hand in love again, sharing her deepest secret with Simon as they slowly build up a trusting and healthy relationship.

Hers is a powerful story and one that resonates with the audience. Maia is a black woman who is allowed to be imperfect and yet a hero in her own right. She is a domestic abuse survivor who is in the process of healing. She is a complex character.

Maia gets to be the easiest to relate character in the show.  It is not a coincidence that Alisha only released she was playing a werewolf after booking the role. Maia’s fight against adversities comes from her life as a mundane, as both the least loved child and a black woman. That was imported into her life as a supernatural being, but it didn’t change who Maia is. Her personality and approach to the world are Maia’s true strength. They draw the audience toward her. And that is why it is so exciting to see Maia getting her own storyline in the season to come.

Maia Roberts

Exciting and, to a certain extent, terrifying. That Maia’s storyline will go down differently from the books is a given. Shadowhunters tends to put its own twist in the process of adapting from its source material. However, domestic abuse is never an easy topic to portray, so some reservation is natural.

Thankfully, the writers are aware of the importance of this arc. With a good track record in writing abusive villains, there is no reason to believe Maia’s meeting with Jordan will be of any less quality. Especially after the announcement of the actor playing Jordan. Newcomer Chai Hansen has a plate full in his hands. But with solid performances in his repertoire and a colleague such as Alisha, the audience is in for a blast for sure.

In the end, though, Maia’s unfinished business with Jordan is but a part of her story. Hopefully, she will be able to come to terms with what happened and no longer link love to her wolf transformations. Once that happens, Maia will be able to open herself for love once and for all. Simon and Bat would be more than happy with that.

While that happens, Maia also has another path to go down. Valentine may be dead, but the Downworld is still not free of the Clave’s tight retrains. As a grooming leader, Maia has a lot to develop before she can become an alpha herself. Under Luke’s tutelage and getting more and more involved with Shadowhunters’ business, it’s a matter of time before Maia reaches her full potential.

Only one thing is for sure. Her faithful audience will be there to cheer for her all the way.


Images courtesy of Freeform.
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