I’ve made it no secret that I’ve been overtly critical of Shadowhunters dating back to last season. And rightfully so. But this second season has provided me more reasons to live in a glass half full mentality as opposed to a glass half empty one. And “Day of Wrath” is one of the reasons why.
Given the emotional complexity and honesty of “Day of Wrath,” this episode was hands down my favorite episode of the series. More than that, it actually gave me some real hope about the direction of this show.
When it comes to adapting The Mortal Instruments, it hasn’t been about it being a word-for-word verbatim of the books so much as it’s been about encompassing the essence of the series. That is, after all, what has captured millions of readers. Sure, the plot is fantastic. But the books — all of Cassandra Clare’s books — have thrived on the characters that inhabit this world. They’re who bring us into this world. They’re who make this world feel as real as a fictional world can. That’s all I’ve wanted to see on this show.
And for the first time in this series, Shadowhunters was able to capture that emotional depth that the books have thrived in. For the first time, I felt like I was watching these books come to life piece by piece even though the plot didn’t entirely match.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it was far from perfect. Some of the fragments of season one’s past still linger, but there has been a steady upward trend as the weeks have progressed. This sophomore season literally feels like an entirely different show. A show where the focus rests with the characters and let’s them dictate the show instead of the mindless action and inconsistent plot. This second season has shown such growth that it’s become something to look forward to on Mondays.
Let’s dive into “Day of Wrath”:
Jocelyn’s Unexpected Death
Well, Shadowhunters certainly wasn’t kidding when they teased that this episode would be a game changer. And boy if we didn’t see this one coming. While I was never a fan of waking Jocelyn so early on in this series (she isn’t revived until City of Glass, after A LOT of events have transpired), it was like a knife to the gut when she was killed. More than that, it was Alec that did it.
Now, obviously without context it sounds ridiculous. But with a demon inhabiting the Institute — and possessing every Shadowhunter it came into contact with and aiming to wreak havoc — something bad was bound to happen. Only I thought it was going to be Lydia instead of Jocelyn.
Perhaps Jocelyn’s death was the show realizing that they had revived Jocelyn too early in the story, given that she didn’t really serve a purpose. This season she’s been mostly a paperweight wandering the Institute or getting into disagreements with her daughter or trying to kill her son. But let’s not kid ourselves, there was never really a purpose for Jocelyn this season. She shouldn’t have been revived until much later down the line.
So perhaps the show realized its mistake and decided to take care of it. Only I’d have expected they put her back into a coma instead of killing her. But perhaps they’d realized they’d already played that card. Plus, this instance provided an emotional arc for multiple characters involved. As much as it pains me to watch Jocelyn die, I’m choosing to look forward at the implications her death will have in multiple parties involved.
Obviously the immediate question (besides: WHYYY?!) is how Jocelyn’s death is going to affect Clary. She’d just gotten her mother back, and to be honest, she didn’t appreciate it as much as you’d think. That was due to the Frays clashing heads with each other about who was in the right. But Jocelyn was still Clary’s mother. And Clary still had to watch her mother die — at the hands of her
boyfriend brother’s Parabatai. That’s the very definition of brutal.
But the second immediate question is also: How is Jocelyn’s death going to affect Alec? He’s the one that killed her — albeit when he was possessed by a demon. And this demon that inhabited the Shadowhunters seemed to feed off of something deep down inside of them. We saw it with Isabelle when she went after Alec for being “the perfect son.” So perhaps this is something more than just the demon killed Jocelyn? Perhaps this is something that’s going to cause Alec to think about the why of it all, especially after he saw what Isabelle did and said when she was possessed.
Clary & Jace’s Complicated Circumstance
When you talk about favorite couples in The Mortal Instruments, most fans will tell you Malec. Or Sizzy. But for me, my favorite couple has always been Clary and Jace. There was just something about the two and how they seemed to challenge each other in every way possible while also tackling shocking revelations and insurmountable odds. They’ve always been my OTP in The Mortal Instruments. So it was difficult last season to watch how much Shadowhunters missed out on these two characters getting to know each other. It wasn’t there in the writing. It felt hollow. But this was the episode where I finally felt like I was watching Clary and Jace — my Clary and Jace. And it was wonderful.
I loved Clary and Jace’s relationship in City of Bones. But it was their relationship in City of Ashes that deepened my love for the couple. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of my favorite Mortal Instruments books. We got to see the effects of this shocking revelation play out knife, after knife, after knife to the heart. We got to experience their pain as Clary and Jace fought these feelings for each other despite knowing that they’re brother and sister. And it was Jace’s pain especially that really gave their dynamic something extra in Ashes.
We’re now four episodes in after that shocking revelation, and we’re finally starting to get to see the beginning of this internal struggle for Jace. This was a huge Clace episode, which brought out some of the best work between Katherine McNamara and Dominic Sherwood. I finally felt their chemistry the way it should be. Why? Because they got to thrive in the emotional stakes of their predicament. They finally had something with some real substance to play with.
Perhaps the main reason why it took so long to begin this process of the implications of the brother-sister reveal was that Jace has been stuck with Valentine on his boat of merry men. The focus was getting Jace out of Valentine’s clutches, not the complicated feelings between Jace and Clary. But this episode set up what’s sure to be a brutally emotional journey for the couple.
The opening scene of the episode found Clary going to visit Jace in the City of Bones. It was there that Jace made his complicated feelings clear without even saying it directly. There could never be an “us.” While he was saying it to Clary, it was like he was trying to convince himself. To force those “improper” thoughts out of his mind because he couldn’t turn them off. And he had time to think about things given his stay in the City of Bones.
Then you had moments where Jace dreamed of being intimate with Clary only to kill her (brutal dream!), and that defining moment where Aldertree flat out asked Jace (who was under the control of the Soul Sword) if he felt about Clary the way a brother should feel about his sister. To which Jace replied a sure, “No.” We didn’t need to hear it — we knew — but hearing Jace say that in front of a council and out loud to his own ears was something that held significance.
But it was the final scene of the episode that stole my heart and was my favorite of the episode. It caused feels that I couldn’t control. As Jace and Simon returned to the Institute, Jace watched as Simon ran to Clary and embraced her, comforting her in the way Jace wished he could comfort Clary. But he can’t. Not anymore. Not after the revelation of their being related. You could feel his pain as he watched the scene unfold as he stood there knowing that there was nothing he could do to change the circumstances. And it was heartbreaking. It was also only the beginning of Jace’s pain in this now-existing love triangle. The scene was so very much reminiscent of City of Bones when Jace watches Clary and Simon hug and feels that pang of hurt in his heart. While the circumstances might be different, the essence of that scene was not lost.
Jace Chooses His Side
I’m not going to lie, but I’ve been wondering how long we could expect Jace to be held prisoner by Valentine. It brought out some good scenes, but Jace has been long overdue for a return to the Institute and the emotional drama awaiting him. The only question was: How does he get there?
Jace was a wanted man by the Clave, as well as the Werewolves. He had no place to go. And when they finally locked him up in the City of Bones, you had to wonder how the hell he was going to get out of this one. Surely saving Aldertree’s live has now excused Jace from life imprisonment in the City of Bones. So there’s that.
If there’s one thing that has never been in question, it’s been Jace’s loyalty. Sure, he chose to remain beside Valentine, but he never let that circumstance dictate his moral beliefs. Hell, he was surely tested as Valentine tried to manipulate his son to be like him. But when the time came, Jace reacted the way we all knew he would. When given the chance to go after the Soul Sword and Valentine or save Aldertree’s life, Jace chose to save Aldertree. He’s a Shadowhunter. That’s what he does.
But we also got to see the sense of responsibility that Jace has taken in regards to the situation. He hasn’t shied away from his choice to stand beside Valentine. He was willing to take the consequences of his actions. It’s why when Valentine offered to break him free instead of serving a life sentence in the City of Bones that Jace chose to stay. Because he’s better than that. He’s better than Valentine.
The Camille Issue
Something that’s been really neat about Shadowhunters this season is how there have been two separate focuses in each episode. You have the Shadowhunter focus, and you have the Downworlder focus. It’s actually worked out quite nice this season. So as the Shadowhunters dealt with the Jace situation and the demon that inhabited the Institute, Magnus, Simon, and Raphael dealt with the Camille situation.
I’ve gotta give it up to the writers. I love how they acknowledged the history between Magnus and Camille. While Simon was quick to dispose of Camille, Magnus opened up about his past with Camille. As fans of the books are aware, they have a complicated and long relationship. But Camille is someone who is quite important to Magnus. He says she saved him. And while Camille in the present might not entirely be the Camille of the past, that’s not something Magnus can ignore. Even so, Magnus lures Camille to his place, traps her, and sends her away. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t hard. And, well, I guess that solves the Camille problem. Good for Simon.
The Love Triangle Has Begun
Say what you will about love triangles — that they’re cliche or have no substance — but when a love triangle is done right it’s everything. Cassandra Clare is no stranger to crafting unique and compelling love triangles, including the one that we’re beginning to see play out between Clary, Jace, and Simon. In City of Ashes, which appears to be the main focus of this second season, the love triangle between the three becomes a very real thing that has very real and shocking implications. But it also brings out the best in a story, which is giving its characters conflict and emotional turmoil to thrive in.
While we didn’t get to see the immediate signs of its inception until the final scene, that final scene was all I needed to get excited about the potential of this love triangle. This love triangle exists because Clary and Jace cannot be together. They both know that. They both understand that. And yet, there’s still a love triangle because they cannot help it. But it’s still a love triangle, which means that there’s a story here to be told. This is something that’s surely going to take some time to develop and play out.
There’s no doubt that Shadowhunters was headed in this direction. We knew it back at New York Comic Con when we spoke to Katherine McNamara and Alberto Rosende about the topic. We knew it as fans of the book. We knew from the season premiere, which set the groundwork. And if we didn’t know already, we knew after that final scene as Clary and Simon embraced while a clearly pained Jace looked on. Oh yeah, it’s about to get good.
Rants and Raves
THE BEST EPISODE THUS FAR | This episode was not perfect. But this was hands down the best episode of the series thus far. It felt like the story that millions of fans fell in love with. There was something different about the emotional intricacies that it brought to the table. There was a maturity to the episode that we hadn’t seen before. While it hurt to watch at times, it was still so, so good. And that’s the sign of progress.
MVPs ARE DOM SHERWOOD & KAT McNAMARA | Dom Sherwood and Kat McNamara really upped their performances in this episode, and a lot of that had to do with the progression of their characters’ relationship. Both seemed to really thrive in the emotional circumstances that their characters were presented with. That pain. That heart. Our hearts. It goes to show you what actors can do with some really good material. And Dom and Kat killed it.
CLACE FEELS | This was the Jace and Clary that I’ve been wanting since the start of this series. I wanted this natural chemistry that flourished in the emotion of the episode and not something that season one tried to force. For the first time I feel like I’m watching my Jace and Clary on this show. And I can’t wait for more.
INFERNAL DEVICES FEELS | When Camille mentioned Magnus struggling with losing ones he cares about and 1870s London, a let an audible gasp out of my mouth as I was flooded with Infernal Devices feels (WILL!). There will never be a time when I’m not overcome by Infernal Devices feels.
START OF THE LOVE TRIANGLE | It was ever so slight, but the intent was there. That final scene of the episode set up what we can expect moving forward with the anticipated love triangle between Clary, Jace, and Simon. It’s the perfect circumstance to let these characters open up emotionally and in a way they haven’t fully done yet.
HOW CAN A DEMON POSSESS A SHADOWHUNTER? | Doesn’t that kind of, I don’t know, render runes protecting against demonic possession irrelevant? How was it possible for a demon to enter the Institute with the protections? This felt more like a convenient plot device than anything.
JOCELYN’S DEATH | I’m just really upset that Jocelyn had to die because the show messed up reviving her so soon in the series. It was obvious that they felt there was nothing left to do with the character, so they’re going to use her death as an emotional trigger for Clary and others.
CLARY WATCHING HER MOTHER DIE | Like, it’s one thing for Clary to walk in and find her mother’s dead body. It’s another thing to make the girl watch it as it plays out. By the Angel, give the poor girl a break. Or an emotional vacation.
HODGE | I know this is something real nit picky, but I didn’t like that Hodge showed up earlier than the events of City of Glass. Only because it makes me wonder how they’d eventually handle the Simon situation. I know, I know. I still can’t help it.
Shadowhunters airs Mondays at 8/7c on Freeform.