‘Shadowhunters’ 2×01 Review: ‘This Guilty Blood’
How fitting is it that Shadowhunters season 2 premieres just two days into the new year, which is a time for change and optimism. Much like those New Year’s resolutions that we find ourselves trying to stick to, 2017 poses so many new possibilities. Much like the Shadowhunters season 2 premiere.
In “This Guilty Blood,” Shadowhunters picks up right after the events of the season finale, where Jace left Clary and co. to go with Valentine. Partly to save their lives, but also partly because he probably felt like it was what he deserved. Yes, we’re about to delve into that part of Jace as he begins to subject himself to darkness because he believes he was born in it.
The season premiere sets the stage for what we can expect in season two, which is going to be dominated by the Shadowhunters’ pursuit of Jace — each for their own reason. Whether it’s those like Clary and Alec that seek his safe return or Aldertree and Jocelyn that would rather see him dead, this season premiere teased that Jace will continue to have a profound effect on every major character on this show.
Let’s dive into “This Guilty Blood”:
New Season, New Head of the New York Institute
Perhaps one of the more immediate effects of Jace’s going off with Valentine is the new leadership that the New York Institute falls into. Victor Aldertree, a character who is somewhat an original character given we only heard of his name briefly in City of Glass, has been delivered on behalf of the Clave to basically set the New York Institute straight. Basically, that means bye-bye Downworlders and hello capturing Jace Morgenstern.
Aldertree’s introduction is far from a welcome one. Especially by Lydia Branwell, who was the head of the New York Institute for all of five minutes it seems like. How quickly she was replaced. But Aldertree doesn’t particularly help himself with his brash demeanor and silent prejudice against Downworlders.
It’s clear that Aldertree is here for one purpose: to help aid in the capture of Valentine’s son, Jace, and bring an end to Valentine. At any cost. And unfortunately that cost could be Jace’s life.
While Aldertree might come off as harsh, he’s not someone who is particularly scary. Or incredibly bright. I mean, Clary easily manages to sneak past him (with a little help from Isabelle as Clary becomes her enemy in order to escape Institute lockdown.)
While Aldertree’s arc seems to be simple, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s an extra layer that will evolve. Is there more to his purpose than just capturing Valentine? Does he meet a similar fate to his book counterpart (similar, as in, death.)? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Jace’s Disappearance Affects Some More Than Others
An aspect of Shadowhunters that I’m eager and anxious to see evolve is the focus on the characters in the midst of emotional storylines. Shadowhunters‘ freshman season was all about the action and all about the sex appeal of this dark world. But the thing that made The Mortal Instruments so beloved by fans were the characters. And for those that came only for the show, clearly you saw something — however how small — in these characters that made you care. As viewers that’s why we tune in. Because we care so damn much about these characters.
With that said, I really appreciate how the characters’ reactions to Jace’s disappearance weren’t briefly addressed. Hell, they’re far from over after the season premiere. In fact, Jace’s disappearance has a profound effect on most of the core characters. Whether that’s in a good way or a bad way, his going off with Valentine still has an effect that will seemingly carry over into future episodes.
Of course Jace’s disappearance affected some more than others. Perhaps none more so than Alec, his (for all intents and purposes) adoptive brother and Parabatai Alec. Alec takes it hard. So hard in fact that the tension carries over into his relationship with Magnus sparking perhaps the couple’s first real fight as a couple. But we also saw Alec step up to Maryse when she all but turned away from Jace because he was revealed to be Valentine’s son. No mind that you raised the boy for half of his life. And Alec let Maryse know where he stood on that front. Jace might not be blood, but he’s family. He’s his brother. He’s his Parabatai. He’s a part of him. So no doubt Jace’s disappearance affected Alec the most. And it’s clear that it’ll continue to have an effect on him throughout the season.
So much of this second season looks to surround Jace joining up with Valentine both from a story standpoint and an emotional standpoint. We see how the Clave is determined on reigning him in (and presumably with him, Valentine). We see how those that care about Jace want his safe return. And we see some people who would prefer Jace be dead. But all of those storylines lend themselves to emotional opportunities for these characters, which is something that I so desperately want from this show.
Since Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer signed on, I’ve been eager for a more character focused story. I’ve been eager to see these characters get to thrive in the conflict they’re thrown in instead of almost instantaneously removed from it. While I’ve only seen the first two episodes (don’t worry, no spoilers for No. 2!), from what I’ve seen I want to believe that this show could be headed there. But then again I haven’t seen the entire season. I’m only going off what I’ve seen and my belief in the possibility for this show. We’ll see how far that carries us.
Jocelyn’s Return Sparks Some Tension
While I’m still not feeling good about Jocelyn’s return so early in the series (everything feels rushed now), her return definitely sparked some tension between her and Clary. Obviously Jocelyn is coming back into this world after several months of being in a coma unaware of what’s been happening. Specifically with Clary. Clary isn’t the naive little girl that she last saw. Clary has experienced this Shadow World in a way that Jocelyn hasn’t in recent memory.
Obviously there’s a fierce protectiveness with Jocelyn when it comes to Clary. She’s a mom. It’s in her DNA. And that would be all fine and dandy if not for the other matter that sneaks up on us, which is her reaction to learning that her son Jonathan (aka Jace) is alive and now run off with Valentine. It’s something that impacts her significantly (as us book fans know). And no doubt given that history and what she knows of Jonathan she’d feel the need to take care of things.
But holy crap I didn’t foresee Jocelyn trying to kill Jace like immediately. And don’t mistake poor, sacrificial Valentine (that’s sarcasm) as he steps in front of Jace and takes the arrow for Jace. Cry me a river.
If you thought there was tension between Jocelyn and Clary before just wait until next episode when we’re likely to see Clary and Jocelyn lock heads when it comes to Jace. Here is Clary, who cares so deeply for Jace, feels like she knows him so well — knows that he’s not what Valentine thinks he is. Someone who’s willing to go to bat for him. Then you have Jocelyn, his mother, who has her own experiences and feels an immediate urgency to rid the world of the evil she knows to be her son. I’m really curious to see how this affects Clary and Jocelyn’s relationship in the coming episodes. This is the perfect example of letting the characters drive the story in an emotional way. Let it play out, please.
Jace and Valentine’s Relationship
Given the current state of things one of the more prevalent character dynamics we’re going to see this season is the relationship between Jace and Valentine. It’s been a relationship I’ve been anticipating since the days of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, when we fell short of seeing the payoff in City of Ashes. And I’m liking the dynamic that I’m seeing so far.
That’s not to say I’m a fan of some of the tactics (the shapeshifting, the torture, the instalove, the dialogue), but Dominic Sherwood and Alan Van Sprang have a really nice rapport together. They’re fantastic actors that kind of feed off of each other in certain scenes. I’m really looking forward to these two going back and forth with other this season.
So let’s refresh: While Jace went willingly with Valentine in the season finale, there’s no mistaking the fact that Jace was taken against his will. It was go with Valentine or everyone you love dies. So obviously, be your self-sacrificial self (and get what you think you deserve) and go with Valentine. But it was clear immediately from the opening scene where Jace’s allegiance lies. He has no loyalty towards Valentine. And Valentine knows it. But that doesn’t stop Valentine from trying to torture it out of him before trying to persuade him that he’s in the right and the Clave’s in the wrong.
While this isn’t like the books, I’m curious to see given how much time Jace and Valentine look to be spending together this season what that does to their relationship. Are we going to see Jace’s vulnerability when it comes to wanting to just be his father’s son? Are we going to see Jace convinced that he really was born in darkness? Basically I’m expecting a lot of brainwashing attempts on Valentine’s part — given that’s what this whole thing is anyway.
The Start of Something New for Clary & Simon
There was a definitive moment that stuck out to me in the season premiere. It was a simple enough scene between Clary and Simon that consisted of the two life-long friends reminiscing about a past that literally seems like another lifetime. And yet it was so significant because it allowed us a small glimpse at the organic and easy chemistry between Katherine McNamara and Alberto Rosende. It shed some focus on what matters in this show: the characters and their relationships with each other.
But given that it’s a season premiere this also served to set up what’s to come this season. The seed was planted for the anticipated romance between Clary and Simon, which fans of The Mortal Instruments happens right around this time in the series. Simon’s non-platonic love for Clary is nothing new. But the small moment where Simon nearly confessed his longtime love for his best friend (don’t you hate it when love confessions are cut short when a door falls over) opened the door for what we can expect this season. While Clary didn’t openly acknowledge that she knew where Simon was going with his speech, there was a slight — very brief — moment of almost realization there. Clary has to know — or at least suspect — that Simon’s feelings run deeper.
My only regret — disappointment, rather — is that we didn’t get that defining moment where Simon confessed his love for Clary in a jealous rage after walking in on Clary and Jace kissing. It was something that the film actually did very well. It’s still one of my favorite scenes from the movie. Clary, who has remained naive when it comes to Simon’s feelings, finally heard Simon come right out and say the words. Then it hit her. Then she could finally start thinking about it. She could start thinking about Simon’s feelings, about her feelings, about if she should act on those feelings. Then we know what happened (in the books at least. We never got to see it on the big screen.)
So my question is: how is Shadowhunters going to handle Clary and Simon’s romance? We know it’s coming. While the show has often deviated from book events, there are significant events that they do include in the show (even if they spin it a little bit.) This is one of those significant events. This is when Clary gives it a shot with Simon because she just had to know. Was it meant to be? (We all know the answer.)
So I’m curious to see where Clary and Simon’s arc goes this season. Do we see a similar confession of love from Simon? Does Clary pick up on his feelings? Something else entirely? Just please let it be true to these characters.
Rants and Raves
CHARACTER FOCUS | Perhaps the main thing I’m looking for — praying for — this season is a shift in the focus on the characters. Last season lacked that severely. But this premiere did a lot to encourage me regarding that aspect. I caught glimpses of opportunities where the characters responded to conflict in their own unique way, allowing for some great emotional arcs, as well as setting up future storylines. Please don’t lose sight of the characters!
CINEMATOGRAPHY | This second season premiere literally felt like an entirely new world with the way that it was shot. The camera angles, the creative direction that went in to each scene was something that surely did not go unnoticed. Well done, Matt Hastings. We applaud you. Keep it up!
CLARY AND SIMON | Much like Clary and Simon’s relationship in The Mortal Instruments, the dynamic between Katherine McNamara and Alberto Rosende came so naturally and was had a very warm feeling to it. It was a much needed moment of happiness in the middle of a dark situation. The seed has definitely been planted for romance between Clary and Simon. And if we can expect more of this organic chemistry then we cannot wait to see where McNamara and Rosende take this.
OPENING CREDITS | Okay so I’m still obsessing over those new opening credits. Very Teen Wolf-ish. In the best possible way.
SIMON! | I’m sorry, but every freaking episode of this series Alberto Rosende has stolen the show as Simon. Simon is such a breath of fresh air in this dark world. But it’s so much more than the character. It’s Alberto Rosende’s performance and the way he delivers lines so effortlessly and exhibits natural chemistry with everyone. We continue to be blessed with Simon goodness.
MYTHOLOGY | As viewers we’re very perceptive to the world that a television show presents. Even if the show has been taken over by two new showrunners. With that said, the mythology that was set up in season one didn’t carry over in its entirety. Since when can non-blessed wood kill vampires? Last season it took a lot to take down a vamp. This season Jace made it look awfully easy. (And he didn’t even get them in the heart half the time!)
DIALOGUE | Unfortunately one of the show’s weaknesses that has carried over (at least a little bit) is the choppy dialogue. The kind of dialogue that distracts from what’s happening on screen because you’re wondering who let that line in the show. There’s definitely been some improvement in that area (no doubt thanks to the three new additions of Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, and Matt Hastings), but there’s also room for growth in the dialogue area.
SHAPESHIFTER RUNE | I’m sorry, but if there’s one thing that continues to bother me it’s this nonsensical rune that literally makes anything possible. Anyone could be anyone. But more than that it’s so easy for any Shadowhunter to use it. I just don’t see the use for it.
ALDERTREE | I just wanted to take this space to say that Aldertree is a total asshole. Done.
Shadowhunters airs Mondays at 8/7c on Freeform.
I agree on the shape shifting rune. If they plan to do anything with The Infernal Devices in the future, this rune defeats Tessa’s ability and the importance of it. I didn’t mind it at first in the freshman season, but now it’s getting a bit ridiculous. Other than that, I’m liking what I’m seeing so far.
I hate the show with every fiber of my being. I love Alec, Magnus and Simon (sometimes Luke and Isabelle). Clary and Jace bother the very depths of my soul. They have changed so many things about the characters that make up their core. I’m only watching the show because I freaking love Alberto and Matt so I will support them. The dialogue feels forced most of the time. Kat doesn’t fit Clary’s personality at all. She just can’t act. Dom is definitely better than last season but still disappointing. Em is sometimes awesome but other times cringe-worthy. Jocelyn sucks. She needs to go back to sleep. Valentine is a lot better this season. The first season they made Valentine’s character seem plain crazy when in reality he shares the same goals as the Clave. Valentine just can’t seem to tell between right and wrong. Now Alan seems more like the books. Alan is fabulous, there is no doubt about that, I think it’s just the way they wrote his character. The plot has been completely convuluted and they are just throwing things and changing things that make so sense. If someone could explain why they love the show that would be great because at this point I don’t see why anyone would like it.