Shadowhunters finally returns after troubled nine months for the cast, crew, and fans. The first episode of Season 3b was long due and it certainly delivered. Not to say it was worth the wait; not when this episode was supposed to have aired in August of last year. But, still, every minute of the episode feels like a gift to the Shadowfam.
The episode is beautifully shot, full of heartwrenching performances and compelling promises of what is to come. Every character deals with something they lost: a friend, a lover, a daughter, magic, or even their agency. And that sense of loss mirrors real life. While the character grief on the screen, the fans grief in front of it. Much like Clary or Magnus’ magic, our show was taken from us.
But, much like Luke in this episode, the Shadowhunters Fandom is not ready to let go. And we shouldn’t. There are eleven weeks to come to celebrate the show, the actors, the crew, and our love for the show. Whatever happens next is still to be seen, but, for now, we only have reasons to rejoice. Shadowhunters is back and it is fiercer than ever. So shall we.
Written by Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer and directed by Matt Hastings, this episode deals with the aftermath of the last season. Everyone was affected and they have different ways to endure the harsh consequences of Lilith’s plans. Some turn to violence and self-destructive coping mechanisms. Others choose to distract themselves from the pain.
First and foremost in the former group is Jace. Reliving his memories as the Owl is just as much torture as Jace suffered while possessed and Jace can only find violent ways to channel that pain away. He seeks punishment for crimes he didn’t commit and no amount of sibling love from Izzy will stop Jace from hurting inside. That is not how he works: Jace is a man of action, not of words.
It is only when Alec takes away Jace’s excuse to self-harm and reminds Jace that his actions have consequences that Jace finds a center again. Alec’s harsh but loving words ground Jace, which mentally prepares him to talk to Luke. It is a heartbreaking scene to see Luke desperately finding a way for Clary to still be alive – even if he is right. Isaiah Mustafa has just a few minutes of screen time and he gives it his all. Luke’s frantic desperation is palpable and one can’t help but feel for him. Hopefully, there will be something in the documents Luke gave Jace that will drive them to team up and search for Clary together.
But Jace isn’t the only one seeking self-destruction. Simon is too, though is less violent ways. Simon blames himself for Clary’s death. Or, rather, he blames the Mark of Cain. Simon goes as far as trying to cut it off his forehead, but the Mark protects itself. If he can’t cut the Mark away, Simon decides to cut himself off from the world.
Thankfully, Maia is back and ready to fight for her boyfriend’s well-being. After choosing to leave so Simon could safely have Jordan’s help, Maia enlists Izzy for Team Simon, makes him eat, and pushes Simon to make peace with Raphael. Maia was not there to help Simon through his tough times, but she is the one picking up the pieces now.
Too bad the show is so hellbent in pretending that’s too little, too late. Having Simon and Izzy guilt-trip Maia for taking a couple of days away is a tasteless move. Especially when the gaslighting succeeds and Maia apologizes for taking care of her own mental health. Is Maia going to be narratively punished with a break up in the next episode? For a show that has dealt so well with mental illness in the past, Shadowhunters has sure chosen a slippery slope to go down this time.
In any case, Izzy might have gotten an even worse deal herself. She lost her sister and best friend, but her grief was only brought up to support Jace’s. But not all is lost. Izzy is onto the Clave’s breach of the Accords. And, if that Valentine-like method of torture proves anything, Izzy is right to worry. Luckily, Alec seemed to believe his sister’s instincts when Consul Penhallow shut down the idea that the Clave doesn’t engage in torture. Add that to Alec’s new political leverage over the Consul and we get ourselves a compelling political plot. Something that was sorely lacking in the last season.
Alec, in fact, has an interesting role in this episode already. He is the one dealing with Clary’s death in the most Shadowhunter way: by honoring her memory. That means being supportive of the people grieving but also moving on in a way that cherishes who Clary was. It is a different perspective, one that Alec – as someone who wasn’t close to Clary – can have.
But Alec is close to Magnus, who deals with a different kind of loss. Yes, Magnus misses his Biscuit, but he has also lost his magic. Much like he always does, Magnus tries to brush away the magnitude of this lost by easing into his new magic-free life. Applying makeup by hand might be annoying, but it is only when an innocent is brought into the account that Magnus has to confront what being magicless truly means to him.
And Magnus does not like it. Watching Madzie blissfully perform a spell is tough for Magnus, but what brings him down is his supposed helplessness in the face of a powerful Warlock like Iris Rouse. Only, just as Alec beautifully stated by the end of the episode, Magnus was never helpless. He might not have his magic, but Magnus is a powerhouse on his own right. He has his mind, his fighting skills, and his bravery. To quote a wise man, Magnus is quite magical – but on his own. Relying on others doesn’t change that.
Meanwhile, what nobody suspects – well, except for Luke – is that Clary is alive. She is also stuck in Siberia with her psychopath of a brother. Luke Baines’ debut as Jonathan Morgenstern is chilling in all the right ways. He is a broken child, desperate to prove his worth to his beloved little sister. Jonathan means what he says, proved by his anguish when finding Clary passed out on the snow.
But can he be good? Jonathan has been raised by a demon – and I’m not even talking about Lilith yet. Whilst Jace had the Lightwoods to set him straight, all Jonathan knew was Valentine’s twisted teachings and then the abuse of Lilith’s “love”. Jonathan has a lot to prove and a trip to Paris, while always lovely, might not be enough. Especially when all Clary can think of is a way to escape his claws.
That might be harder than Clary expected, though. It seems not only their life-forces are connected, but Clary and Jonathan’s bodies are also linked. Everyone might have lost her – for now -, but Clary has lost something far bigger: her autonomy. As long as that “family brand” stands, Clary no longer belongs only to herself.
Now, that’s a terrifying prospect.
- I am embarrassingly excited with the three-day gap between seasons 3a and 3b. A time-jump! Small as it is, I am so glad the season didn’t pick up just hours after the events from the last episode. Whoever sanctioned this, you have my love forever.
- I don’t buy the moving apartment plot-device. I don’t. Lilith barely managed to change the apartment’s location last season when Simon and Luke found her disciples. Am I supposed to believe she was able to do that again while exploding? And then kept the spell going from Edom? Convenient plot-device, not believable at all.
- Question: If Magnus’ protection wards are down at his place, does it mean they are down around the Institute too?