Shadowhunters returns after its longest hiatus to date. These everlasting seven months were not uneventful and a lot has happened in the fandom. Good and bad, dramas and triumphs, the wait is over. A new season has started and the story continues.
With a bigger cast and seasoned crew, the third installment of the show kicks off with a solid premiere. The actors know their characters from inside out and their performances prove it. The scenes feel longer and, despite the well-known fast pacing of the episodes, nothing felt rushed. Shadowhunters is comfortable with itself, surer of what it is and what it wants to do.
That is proven by the maturity the premiere brought to the series. The show doesn’t sacrifice good lighting of the scenes to bring out the darker tones of the story. Instead, the evolution happens on the themes and writing. Just as its audience, Shadowhunters has grown up. Now, it is up to its characters to do the same if they plan on defeating the biggest threat of the Shadow World: Lilith, the Mother of Demons.
On Infernal Ground
Written and directed by the Executive Producers – Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, and Matt Hastings, respectively -, the first episode explores the maturity of our beloved heroes. The Shadow World has existed behind a veil of lies, where secrets seem to fuel every decision these characters make. From Mortal Instruments that can transform into mass weapons to keeping the entire Shadow World from the mundanes, it seems nothing in this show can happen out in the open.
No other institution embodies that as much as the Clave. After the revelation that former Consul, Malachi Dieudonné, was secretly serving Valentine, the Shadowhunter government needs to restructure itself. Headed by new Consul, Jia Penhallow, the Clave is eager to change the narrative and place itself under a better light. That means holding Clary’s Rune Ceremony in Idris and praising her heroism for the Shadow World to see. That also means offering a position as a delegate of the Council to Alec, the Head of the institute that ultimately defeated Valentine and Jonathan.
But those are hollow actions, meant to make the Clave look better than it is. Imogen praises Clary on preventing a wish to be granted when that was not what happened. The position offered to Alec looks like a step above in his career, but that would mean conforming to Alicante’s ban of Downworlders. The Clave insists on lies and deception to maintain control and it is up to the heroes to break with that circle.
Which most of them do. Chief among them is Luke, who has to decide whether or not to keep the Shadow World hidden from his mundane partner Ollie. She insists on getting an explanation, revealing that she was both attacked by a werewolf herself and knows that it could lead to her contracting a demonic disease. That doesn’t stop Luke from doing his very best to gaslight Ollie, though.
He does that out of concern for her safety and because the Shadow World has been kept away from the mundanes forever. Still, neither Ollie nor the narrative accepts his lies. After a confrontation with a demon that almost killed Ollie, Luke decides it is not worth to keep her in the darkness. He tells Ollie the truth – and in the most Shadowhunters-y way possible, “all the legends are true.”
By breaking with centuries of hiding, Luke is actually giving Ollie her fairest shot at survival. Mundanes are being attacked left and right, especially with Lilith and her pet-demon out and about in New York. It is only now that Ollie knows what is happening that she can prepare herself to fight off the consequences.
That is something Jace has yet to learn. He convinces Clary to keep his resurrection a secret, believing that will protect both Clary and whoever else knows about it. That includes Alec, his Parabatai and boss. It is an admirable sentiment but one that has been proven wrong time and again. Jace himself should know better by now. The last time he decided to handle things in secret, he accidentally ignited the Soul Sword and allowed Valentine to mass murder Downworlders.
It isn’t enough that Jace has Clary lying to Alec and Izzy, he is lying to Clary as well. The consequences of being brought back are already showing in the shape of illusions. Jonathan haunts Jace’s dreams, urging him to kill Clary at every opportunity. Jace’s refusal to tell anyone about it might just be what ultimately leads him to hurt those he cares about instead of protecting them.
Hopefully, Clary will stop the circle of lies and secrets. She has already almost broken under Alec’s and Izzy’s scrutiny. Before being interrupted, Clary was ready to tell Luke about what truly happened with the Angel Raziel. Disloyalty is not one of Clary’s flaws and she is struggling to lie to those she loves. All she needs is a push in the right direction to finding her own voice.
If the business with her weapons is anything to go by, that won’t be for long. As an official Shadowhunter, Clary got to choose her signature weapons under the excited watch of new Weapons Master, Izzy. Following her gut, Clary inadvertently chooses Valentine’s and Jocelyn’s weapons. However, when confronting the demon of the week, her parents’ kindjals are not Clary’s go-to weapons. That would be her stele and her runes, the symbol of what Clary identifies as her Shadowhunter mark.
The personal growth is just as important as breaking with the system. Magnus realises that the hard way. Upset that he was dismissed from the High Warlock position, Magnus tries to cover his feelings when talking to Alec about it. He also buries himself at work, taking up clients and, unknowingly, giving Raphael a potion for some shady business.
Thankfully, Catarina lets Alec know it is all a farce. Alec orchestrates a talk and he corners Magnus in his lie. Realizing frank communication is the best thing he can do, Magnus admits to both being distraught at the loss of his title and not wanting Alec to move to Alicante. He is rewarded by Alec’s unwavering decision to refuse the promotion. After all, all Alec ever wanted was to find someone like Magnus. He won’t let go of that for a position in a place Magnus isn’t allowed in.
Simon and Maia also have a happy ending when they communicate. Simon is able to leave the Seelie Realm after the Seelie Queen has him branded with a strange mark. Although, he doesn’t tell Maia that. Not that he can be blamed, though; the whole thing was rather random. Simon does admit to going back to the Seelie Court to keep Maia safe, which actually makes sense. Maia is touched by the gesture and forgives Simon for disappearing on her.
In an otherwise tight episode, this storyline felt random and out of place. The Seelie Queen keeps being written off as one plot contrivance after the other. She is more a willful child who Simon can sass around than a force to be reckoned with. The calm and menacing vibe that Lola Flanery puts in her portrayal often gets lost in the writing.
Thankfully, though, that doesn’t happen with Anna Hopkins’ Lilith. Her performance and the material she is given creates a perfect balance between tragic and mad. Lilith’s true introduction didn’t happen until her scene in the hospital when she watched the newborns with a broken expression. Poor Nurse Jim was handpicked for being kind, a trait that Lilith cherished in him.
Every great and complicated villain sees him or herself as a hero. By letting Lilith introduce herself as the victim of Adam, the show gave us her point of view. Lilith is no power-hungry lunatic. She is a broken thing and she will corrupt everyone around her until they break just as deeply as her.
- Izzy didn’t have much to do this episode aside from spelling out the plot. Emeraude’s delivery of some forced lines, such as “You are the hero of Alicante” and “End war? End world hunger?”, was as good as it could be. Still, there were smoother ways to give the audience perspective.
- That said, Izzy’s brief encounter with Doctor Charlie Cooper was fun, light, and charming. Is he the new boyfriend Todd has mentioned? I hope so.
- Talking about new characters, Magnus practically spit out the name of the new High Warlock of Brooklyn. Lorenzo Rey, played by Hamilton’s Javier Muñoz, is coming up next week. Judging by Magnus’ bitterly delivered introduction, the beef between these powerful beings will be delightful to watch.
- One last new addition – or maybe old new addition – is whoever Raphael seems to be experimenting on. Could that be Heidi, the girl Quinn killed last season and blamed on Simon? If so, why is Raphael using UV light on her? Is he trying to find a way to become a daylighter as well?