Shadowhunters returns after a week of Matthew Daddario interviews popping up every two hours. The episode is the most polarizing yet: those who liked it really did and those who didn’t are tearing it apart. There is much to say on both sides of the spectrum. The episode answers a lot of questions, but it leaves many more open. A few of those, certainly unintended.
“Thy Soul Instructed” finds its strengths in the personal interaction of the characters. Great dialogue and new dynamics are a special highlight. The episode also presents an important discussion. Is the victim (Simon or Heidi) at fault for hurting back the abusers (the werewolves or Raphael) in a disproportional way?
Yet, the episode has some lows as well. From completely ignoring the world building (did Heidi give her blood to the already dead mundane to turn him?) to playing loose with it (what laws of the Accords did Raphael break exactly?), there is a lot to be questioned. Through no fault of its own, the episode also drags on a contrived storyline of Jace and Clary lying to their friends after four weeks in a row.
In other words: there is good and there is bad. Just like everything else in the Shadow World.
Thy Soul Instructed
Maybe the biggest problem with the episode is that the script felt like it was written backward. There was a clear endgame in sight, so the characters acted accordingly. Characterization and worldbuilding be damned.
The audience needs to know more about Lilith, so she monologued to her slave. The mental illness possibility needs to be introduced, so Alec simply moved on from his previous Rune-disappearing suspicions to a completely new hypothesis. Izzy has to move on from Raphael, so she banished him even though that means the Clave is interfering in Downworlder business. Kyle’s introduction needs to have some mystery, so Luke went behind Simon’s back and delivered him to yet another powerful player.
That ends up raising some eyebrows. These characters’ actions leave the audience confused about their motivations or even compliance with the overall universe. The more casual viewer can shrug it off and just enjoy the show. But those more attached to the universe can find the changes brusque and hard to ignore.
Yet, “Thy Soul Instructed” has a lot of amazing, visually pleasing moments to make up for the contrived developments. Jace and Alec featured in one of the most intense storylines of the episode. In his quest to help Jace, Alec tries a new approach to Jace’s weird behavior. He brings up that Jace’s mother, Céline, had a history of mental illness.
It’s a hypothesis that makes sense in the light of what they know. Alec doesn’t know Jace was brought back from the dead and Jace doesn’t know Lilith is controlling him when he sleeps. Everything they went through combined with the missing time and the hallucinations sound like some sort of psychosis. Luke’s description of Céline’s behavior corroborates to that conclusion too.
The highlight here is the realistic and careful way the subject was handled. Jace’s initial reaction is to wrongly equate mental illness to craziness. He is offended Alec would even suggest that and he twists Alec’s words. When Jace talks to Luke, however, he is open to considering the possibility with a more open mind. It is very important that Luke finishes that conversation by reminding Jace that Céline was more than her mental health state. That was a part of her, yes, but it didn’t make her any less than the wonderful women she was.
Shadowhunters has often dealt with sensitive subjects and this is no exception. At the end of the episode, Jace believes Alec might be right after all. It was a heartbreaking scene. Especially as it leaves both Alec (earlier in the episode) and Clary, the two people that love Jace the most in the world, completely incapable of helping him.
Thankfully, the audience knows what is really going on. Alec and Clary can, in fact, help Jace. What they need to do is defeat Lilith. Clary, especially, has already done it. Jace’s love for her broke Lilith’s influence over him. It is fitting that true love can overpower Lilith’s corrupt version. That revelation also made for a very sweet moment amidst Lilith’s menacing presence.
Although, Lilith has never seemed so dangerous as when she casually knocked on Magnus’ door and was invited in. That the Mother of all Demons can just interact with the heroes unrecognized and ask them for help is terrifying. That and how reasonably Lilith sounds as she plots murder and demonic resurrection make for horrific repercussions.
Another great theme to the episode was illustrated in both Simon and Heidi. How far can the victim go when defending themselves? As Maia pointed out, the Mark on Simon’s forehead only hurts those who tried to hurt him. Yet, Luke kicked Simon out instead of forbidding the werewolves from going after Simon. That was only because of the violent outcome for those who did, though. Had Simon fought off the wolves in a regular sense, would Luke feel the need to protect his pack at the expense of his surrogate son? What makes a certain amount of retribution acceptable and another too much?
Whatever the answer is, Luke’s decision led to Simon meeting Kyle. Chai Hansen’s performance as the music-lover Australian dork is endearing. Simon and Kyle hit it off right away after Kyle almost accidentally ran over Simon. Which, interestingly, didn’t trigger the Mark to push Kyle a couple of feet through the air. Does that mean that Maia is right and the Mark is activated by the intention of hurting?
Regardless, Kyle has the most perfect apartment for Simon and him to share. Big plus: Kyle has no problems with Simon’s peculiarities about his privacy. Everything worked out so smoothly, it’s hard to believe the coincidence it’s true. And it isn’t, as Kyle has superhealing powers, works for a place named “Praetor”, and was hired by Luke to help Simon out. Let’s see where that goes. At least, for now, Simon has a roof over his head, which was more than he could say before. There are no Downworlder Airbnbs so Simon will take what he can.
The other victim fighting back is Heidi. Although, unlike Simon, she is an active player in the pain of those who abused her. Heidi has no qualms with Raphael bringing her back as a vampire. In fact, that is everything she’s ever wanted. What she won’t and shouldn’t abide is the torture and captivity he put her through.
However, to what extent is Heidi’s plan fair retribution or just plain revenge? Is chaining Raphael to the rooftop and letting him burn in the sun fair? Heidi has killed and turned an innocent mundane, the same thing that has happened to her. Should she pay for it or is that on Raphael as well?
Izzy seems to think Raphael is to blame for it all. It is the only explanation for her having any grounds to banish him. Whatever Raphael did to another vampire should’ve been dealt with within the clan, preferably with him being locked up in a coffin.
But it wasn’t. In any case, the scene has gorgeous performances from both Emeraude Toubia and David Castro. In fact, Castro has been amazing all season. It will be a shame if he is permanently out of the show, even though Raphael deserves to pay for what he did. Could his redemption come in the form of a handful of Heidi’s grave dirt to locate her and put an end to her creepy giggles?
In the end, “Thy Soul Instructed” is a flawed but ultimately enjoyable episode. It asks important questions and treats well sensitive topics. As the fourth episode of the season, though, it has to deal with some unfortunate choices in the pacing of certain plotlines and it shows. When will our heroes realize they are fighting something much bigger than ever before?
- All the shadowhunting in the episode was great! Alec and Izzy working together in the Institute and then Clary and Izzy on the streets were delightful to watch.
- The Institute is so easy to break in. I’m worried for the new Head of the Security, though he seems to know his job sucks.
- How weird is Kyle? He went from friendly roommate to terse agent in seconds. And what a specific single rule to make.
- Magnus’ red jacket. That is all.
- The lovely moment between Alec and Magnus was a sweet highlight to an otherwise heavy episode. So many things are happening and taking that time to breath is exactly what both Alec and the audience needed.
- Can Charlie go away? Block him, Izzy. If not for your sake, for mine.