I’ve just finished episode three of ‘Shadowhunters’ on Netflix, and following my premiere review ten days ago, I’ve decided to discuss a couple of my thoughts after seeing the most recent two instalments. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet, considering that I stick to most of what I said in my initial review (which was very thorough!) but I do have a few more things to say in addition.
CAUTION! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR ALL THREE CURRENTLY AIRED EPISODES. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED, PLEASE DON’T READ!
Firstly, my major criticism of the pilot episode was the acting of Kat McNamara and Dom Sherwood as Clary and Jace respectively. While Dom has improved marginally (and generally has vastly improved lines) it is worth noting that neither of them are the strongest. The pair do have more chemistry than I initially gave them credit for (which is helpful given the fast pace of Clary and Jace’s relationship) although I do uphold that Clary and Alberto Rosende’s Simon have more chemistry than Clary and Jace do across the three episodes. Talking of Clary and Jace, both characters are very irritating and self-righteous, but given that I never warmed to either of them in the books (hating Clary’s attitude in the first couple of book and Jace throughout) I accept that that is something that will always be the case where ‘The Mortal Instruments’ is concerned, and as I do not like either character, maybe that accounts for my lack of care in the way they are portrayed in the show; I know many Clary fans are more vocal than I have been on the characterisation of the show and on McNamara’s performance, but I cannot bring myself to care all that much.
The strength in both cast and character, as is – in my opinion – the case in the book series as well, lies with the supporting roles. As someone who never gets on with Cassandra Clare’s protagonists (don’t even mention ‘The Infernal Devices’ and the ghastly Tessa Gray and Will Herondale…) the appeal of her series for me was never in the Clary and Jace roles, but in the less central characters of Alec, Magnus, Luke and later Izzy and Simon, so my main area of concern before the series aired was in these characters rather than Clary and Jace. As I have previously stated, Alberto Rosende is perfectly suited to the role of Simon, but the stand-out star of the most recent two episodes for me was Matthew Daddario as Alec. His portrayal is spot-on, and he illustrates the many dimensions of Alec’s character very well – as someone who adores the character and feels like the film made him very one-dimensional in its attempt to show Clary and Jace as perfect and disregard that sensible Alec has very good reason to be annoyed, this is all very welcome, and Daddario certainly does a good job. I’m happy to see Alec’s anger at the way Jace treats him rising to the surface so early, and the lines in episode three referring to Alec being in Jace’s shadow were effective. Emeraude Toubia is improving in the role of Isabelle: not that she was poor initially, I just feel that we can see her becoming visibly more comfortable in the character. I am intrigued to see the development of Izzy’s ‘thing’ with Meliorn; while the second book (correct me if I am wrong – it has been a while since I read the start of the series) references her dalliance with the Seelie, I feel that showing more of her connection to him will help in further establishing her character. No Luke, Magnus or Valentine in episode three, but from what we saw of them in the first two episodes, I am excited to see more. I am keen to see the progression of Valentine as a character, as I feel that they are developing his character more in the show than Clare did in the first book, making him far more engaging. Episode four is apparently when we will get our proper introduction to Magnus, so needless to say I am excited for that! On the topic of warlocks, I am hoping (but not expecting) that Dot has another one of her miraculous recoveries, given that I was beginning to like her character!
The newest additions of Raphael, Camille and Meliorn are a bit of a mixed bag. Raphael has been characterised reasonably well, up until when he helped the Shadowhunters in episode three – that really required a bit more clarity. Prior to that, though, his attitude and a strong piece of scriptwork were very suited to the character, and he was actually rather amusing. David Castro’s portrayal is by no means perfect, but given that we have established that the acting in this show can be hit-and-miss, Castro is by no means a weak link. Although visually being nothing like the Camille we saw in the books, Kaitlyn Leeb put in a good performance as the vampire cult leader. As was the case with Maureen, I am glad they have decided to bring in Camille early, as her sudden appearance in ‘City of Fallen Angels’ was evidently down to Cassandra Clare’s decision to expand the series beyond the original three-book plan, and it is actually suitable to bring her into the equation from the start. I do feel that Camille as a character was a little off, though. I’d liked to have seen a bit more of the old-fashioned Parisian Camille we recognise from the books; TV show Camille just is not the same character from the book series. Saying that, where minor characters are concerned I’d prefer a well acted and developed character that is not the same as the book alternative than the book character poorly characterised and acted. As for Meliorn, I think that Jade Hassoune did a nice job. I like the little we have seen of the character – there is good scope for him moving forwards. Hodge has always been an interesting character to me; despite book Hodge being roughly the same age as Jocelyn, Valentine and Luke, I’ve always thought that the way he was characterised was a lot more in line with the film portrayal – older, wiser and scholarly. For that reason, I’m not particularly digging this incarnation. I like the circle runes causing pain when Hodge speaks of Valentine (even if it does expose the actor’s lack of ability to pretend he is in pain) but otherwise I think that his characterisation so far goes little further than him looking ‘good’ (apparently) with his top off. His little scene with Alec in episode three gives the opportunity for his character to be developed further, which I hope to see, but otherwise this is one instance where the character just does not work for me yet.
The plot is moving very fast, but I’m keeping up, and I don’t think there is any particular need to slow it down. It is continuing to deviate away from the source material, but I am enjoying where it is taking us. We have had many small touches reminiscent of the books, like the vampire’s flying motorbikes, the weapons in the graveyard (church in the book), Izzy’s bad cooking and the Seelies not being able to lie, as well as some lines setting up what is to come, like Meliorn’s reference to Shadowhunters in Idris treating Seelie like inferiors. We have also already seen a proper set-up to Jace and Alec’s parabatai relationship, as well as beginning to develop crucial relationships (romantic and familial) between the Lightwood siblings, Izzy and Simon, Jace and Alec, and Simon and Clary (poor Simon, being firmly friend-zoned!) As I previously mentioned, Jace and Clary’s relationship is moving too quickly, but I suppose that is what a lot of people want to see, and it is the central romance after all (I also have my suspicions as to why – it makes the twist from the end of ‘City of Bones’ more painful if they are already closer than they are in the book). I had no issue with the early reveal of Clary’s parentage, even if it was a little anti-climactic, given that it was already obvious from Valentine’s earlier reaction to Jocelyn having a daughter; this, coupled with the blatant part with Simon in his van at the end of episode two and the obvious scene with Simon looking at Clary’s jugular at the end of episode three, prove that subtlety is not this show’s strong point! Nor do I have a problem with Simon not turning into a rat and the idea that the vampires are after the Mortal Cup, as it actually makes more sense than the book’s series of events – while amusing, Simon’s escapades as a rat never made much sense to me. I am also sure we will have some kind of party scene with Magnus later on, so Simon not being taken from the party is no big deal. There have been some cringey scenes, such as Clary’s attempt to ‘see’ the vampires in the club, followed by her flirtation with the motorbike-owning vampire, however I was expecting those, so I can appreciate them in their full cringeyness. What I would say is that in episode three, we see a lot of steamy scenes, and they don’t always work that well. I could just about tolerate Izzy and Meliorn’s tryst, as it was in character and aided the plot, but Simon and Camille’s making out on the sofa was very bizarre. I get that it does work conveniently for the plot, but it just felt unnecessary from a viewing perspective.
The script, whilst still containing many cringey lines and scenes, is slightly better in episodes two and three; in comical moments it is rather strong, it is in serious moments that it needs work. There were some lines (see: Isabelle’s “it won’t be good for any of us” and Alec’s “I am not in your shadow” from episodes two and three respectively) that really worked well for me, as well as most of the script for Simon, Raphael and Alec. In fact, the script for certain characters seems to be so much better than for others: Clary, Jace and Isabelle have had some considerably worse lines than Alec or Simon seem to face. There were some recognisable book lines to boot (“Shadowhunters: looking better in black than the widows of our enemies.”) Overall, it still needs an improvement. The sets continue to be adequate – I have no qualms with the City of Bones, and the Hotel DuMort works well with this new version of Camille – yet there is little about the production to wow me. There have been some good music choices, as well as some bad ones, and most good production features have a negative one to follow, but to be honest, that doesn’t much impact my enjoyment of the series. One thing I do like a lot is the opening credits – very nice, albeit a rather small feature!
In conclusion, I continue to be entertained by the series, and it is progressing along the same vein as the pilot did, albeit finding its feet a little. I doubt the cheesy script and questionable acting from McNamara is going anywhere, so it is best to embrace it – it isn’t all that hard to get over if you try!
‘Shadowhunters’ airs every Tuesday in the U.S on Freeform (ABC Family) at 9/8c, and is up on Netflix U.K. on Wednesday morning.