Leading to the two-hours mid-season finale, Shadowhunters has the heroes facing their darkest hour. Not only are they not able to defeat their enemies, they still haven’t figured out Lilith’s entire plan.
The eighteenth episode is as by-the-book as they come. It hits all the Major Setback’s checkpoints: They form a plan, it almost works, and then it fails spectacularly. Jace is still in Lilith’s claws, Clary is waiting for her execution in an impenetrable fortress, and Maia is leaving. And that is not even counting the fact that Ollie and the other mundanes are still under possession.
It works in large thanks to the outstanding performances. Dom Sherwood, Emeraude Toubia, and Alisha Wainwright could bring even the toughest of us to tears. Their emotionally deep portrayal is enhanced by the subtle but powerful support of Matthew Daddario, Harry Shum Jr., and Alberto Rosende. Finally, Kat McNamara and Isaiah Mustafa raise the tension by exploring the powerlessness of their characters in the face of the challenges ahead. The main cast steps up its game and it shows.
A Heart of Darkness
Following the events of last week – which follows the events of the week before, how long is that night? -, the episode has a fast pace that demands attention. Everyone but Clary and Maia reunite at Magnus’s and they form a three-part plan. Magnus, Alec, and Izzy try to save Jace; Simon tracks down Lilith; Luke tries to get ahold of Clary.
The first part of the plan takes up the bulk of the episode. In line with the classic solution to possession storylines, Magnus can use the Parabatai bond to send both Alec and Izzy to Jace’s mind so they can bring him back. That is, after they manage to keep the Owl from taunting them and physically hurting Jace.
This is a much better approach to the Owl than the comical Jace-imitation from “A Window Into An Empty Room.” The Owl keeps trying to get under their skin, taunting and mocking everyone. He also proves that only a literal demon would suggest Magnus and Jace are competitors for Alec’s love.
Once inside of Jace’s mind, Izzy and Alec find out the second layer of the torture Lilith is inflicting on Jace. It is not enough that she is forcing him to witness himself do terrible things. Lilith keeps taking away the people Jace loves the most; his siblings burn away while Jace is forced to stab Clary to death again and again. Her vengeance has no limits.
It is interesting that Jace appears as his child-self when Alec and Izzy are involved. Their bond comes from their childhood and there is an innocence to it that is almost childlike. Jace was only treated as a kid once he moved in with the Lightwoods. He only allows himself to be vulnerable around them too, especially around big brother Alec.
Jace is completely broken when Alec and Izzy are able to snap him out of the loop of torture. He is, in many ways, a scared child looking to his brother and sister for help. A desperate, terrible help. Jace would rather die than keep going. The fear is palpable in his eyes when he begs his siblings to end his suffering. But Alec and Izzy don’t do it. They promise him they’ll keep him safe from Lilith and Jace accepts to come with them.
Unfortunately, that is when Lilith finds them. She easily overpowers Magnus, sparing his life only because she doesn’t want trouble with his father, Asmodeus. An interesting notion, considering Lilith and Asmodeus come from the same realm of Hell.
Lilith can celebrate at least one victory, though. She has her Owl back, and the Lightwoods and Magnus have never felt so powerless. After being unable to force the Seelie Queen to remove the Mark of Cain from Simon’s forehead, that counts for something.
Although, she took the right measures to stay clear of the only thing powerful enough to defeat her. Lilith moved all her disciples and Jonathan’s casket away from Simon. When he gets back to investigate the Church of Talto, the only thing Simon finds is the empty altar where the blood sacrifice was made. That and how terrible it can be to team up with his girlfriend’s abuser. Maia joins Simon in his search for the Queen of Edom, but Jordan wants to come with. That is only due to Maia’s insistence that Simon let him as she is hellbent on making Jordan stay and help someone out for once.
Only, that visceral need blows up in Maia’s face. Jordan keeps trying to prove he is a changed man. He does help them figure out that Lilith is trying to resurrect someone, but otherwise Jordan’s comments only drive Maia into a meltdown. She doesn’t want to hear how better of a person he is now. Maia finally snaps and that triggers an emotional-driven transformation. Thankfully, Simon intervenes and helps her calm down.
But it is not enough. Maia decides she needs to go away for a while and clear her mind. The last scene between Maia and Simon is heartbreaking. They part ways, not because their love for each other isn’t enough, but because it is sufficiently generous to allow the – hopefully – temporarily separation.
And love is the driving force behind Luke and Clary in this episode. Luke tries to get ahold of Clary by using old contact Élodie Verlac, aunt to Sebastian Verlac and sister-in-law to Consul Penhallow, but the Shadowhunter shuts him down. It is only with Maryse’s help that he finds out Clary is being trialed under the Soul Sword. At this point, Luke knows she won’t be able to lie her way out of trouble. Despite Maryse’s warnings, he decides to try his luck with the feral pack that lives near Idris in the Brocelind Forest.
Meanwhile, Clary is forced to tell the truth. Or rather, she is compelled as we learn the Soul Sword still has serves its primal purpose. Clary tells Consul Penhallow everything and, by the end of the interrogation, she doesn’t even need the sword anymore. Consul Penhallow is unsurprisingly horrified that Clary used the wish. As she explains, it was the one reassurance the Shadowhunters had in their war against demons.
Clary counter-argues that the wish was also a grave danger and she is glad it is gone. She is right, but her point is undercut by the fact that her motivation to use the wish was to bring her boyfriend back. Clary was not using the wish so that no other lunatic would. As understanding as her actions were, they were inherently selfish. Clary can undermine the Consul in front of her subordinates as much as the show wants, but she has no moral ground here.
There is a much better argument right before Consul Penhallow sentences her to death. Clary asks the Consul what she would do if it was Aline. Her question finds deaf ears as Consul Penhallow states she wouldn’t use the wish, but Clary is still the audience sympathizes with. The Shadowhunter culture shows another harsh facet. Love might be the noblest of emotions for mundanes, but for the Shadowhunters, that is self-sacrifice. There will be no mercy, no even for an act of love.
The episode ends at this ominous note. It leaves Magnus, Alec, and Izzy desolated; Simon and Maia apart after only finding out half of Lilith’s plan; and Luke in a dangerous path to rescue his surrogate daughter. The silver lining is that Lilith is still missing a key ingredient to resurrect Jonathan. She needs Valentine’s flesh and she doesn’t have it.
Let’s hope she doesn’t make Jace do something terrible to get it.
- Wait, so the former Seelie Monarc had a beef with Lilith so they bestowed Seelie beauty upon Eve to tempt Adam? And the current Seelie Queen talked about how pretty Lilith is now? That is some next level shade.
- Can someone please save Ollie?
- “Around here, if the Clave kicks you up the curve, you’re considered good people.” Luke, Maryse was deruned for being a former Circle member. Charming, but er… Kind of tone-deaf.
- As well delivered as the “three go in, three come out” line was, I’m not going to care for a poorly seeded emotional bait. This show can do better than this.
- Yes, we’re going to talk about the, “without him, I’m nothing.” The show has done very little to make the Parabatai anything more than a convenient plot device, it had a pair of well functioning broken Parabatai in Luke and Valentine, and Magnus personally knew Will Herondale, who lived a long and happy life after his Parabatai bond with Jem Carstairs was broken. That Magnus didn’t protest to Alec panicking and reducing himself to his Parabatai bond is not only a blatant disregard for the world building, it is absolutely out of character.
- That sequence inside of Jace’s head was chilling and eerie in the best of ways. Great use of the child-versions of the Lightwoods.