In its sophomore season Shadowhunters has already proven to be a better product than its first season with new ownership and a new character focus that has made it feel the most relatable it has in the entire series.
Shadowhunters is at its best when it’s focusing on the characters within the story rather than the action happening around them. It’s really easy to get lost in the action of it all and miss out on the character moments that make stories worth giving a damn about.
So in “Dust and Shadows” there was that continued focus on the characters’ emotional reactions to the situations around them. There weren’t any quick fixes. There were the characters guiding the story in the way they should be.
But for the first time in a long time, I found myself upset with some of the plot choices the new showrunners have introduced. The whole storyline surrounding this warlock Iris who tricks women into being warlock baby surrogates (along with the fact that the demon essentially rapes them) was one that rubbed me the wrong way completely. I didn’t mind so much Clary bargaining for her mother’s life. But I did mind the story that was within.
Isabelle is my favorite character in The Mortal Instruments. She’s a badass in every sense of the word while also managing to be incredibly vulnerable at times. She loves and cares with a passion and believes in what she stands for. So on Shadowhunters I really want those story arcs that do her justice. This drug addiction storyline isn’t what I had in mind. Not only has it been done before with Jem from The Infernal Devices, it makes me feel like the writers weren’t sure what to do with Isabelle. There were so many good storylines they could’ve tackled from the book (like with her father), but sadly no.
Despite taking a step back in some regards with “Dust and Shadows,” I still find myself wanting to be hopeful moving forward. I am, after all, getting the character focus I wanted. But if it comes at the price of the story, does it really mean anything at all?
Let’s dive into “Dust and Shadows”:
The five stages of grief represent everything that we’ve come to know when it comes to losing someone we love. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. They’re five stages that are as painful as they can ultimately be freeing. When you lose someone it’s healthy to undergo at least a few stages of this grief. For Clary, she hovered mostly around the bargaining stage in “Dust and Shadows” as she tried to find a way – any way – to bring her mother back to life. Even though it was completely reckless and she warned not to. When you’re living in grief it’s hard to call reason a good friend.
Of course Clary didn’t begin at the bargaining stage. She began the episode feeling that denial and that anger at the situation. And it took a discussion with Jace to lead her to bargaining. It was the first real deep conversation that I can remember in a long time – if ever – between the two of them as they both voiced their opinion on Jocelyn’s death.
Of course it hit Clary harder because she had spent 18 years with her mother, loving her through the good and the bad. But for Jace, he had only just recently found out that he was not Jace Wayland but Jonathan Christopher and learned that he had a mother (and obviously a father) that he never knew. And while Jocelyn’s instincts were to kill him (based on the experiments Valentine performed on him), Jace’s deepest desire when it came to the whole situation was that he had gotten more time to know her. That perhaps the more he got to know her and the more she got to know him that he’d learn that he was more than an experiment gone wrong.
It was that little bit – that hope for more time – that made her realize that she also needed more time. After talking with Simon about how she watched him die and the pain that it brought her (which also made my Climon feels spark), she talked about how she had gotten him back and how happy she had been, how blessed. And then it dawned on her: If she got Simon back, why couldn’t she get her mom back?
Now, of course you and I know that there’s a huge difference in the circumstances of the situation. Simon was bit by a vampire and died, which led him to become a part of the undead. But Jocelyn was just murdered. There was nothing mystical about it. But Clary still couldn’t drop it. This brought us to the bargaining stage.
Of course Clary’s desperation leads her down a dark, dangerous path. She sought a warlock for some help in bringing her mother back from the dead. It was an ill-advised plan from the start, but when grief has a hold of you there’s nothing you can do. So Clary – desperate for any way to get her mother back – agreed to a blood oath with a warlock she didn’t know, which almost had deadly consequences.
But after those first four stages of grief, Clary came to acceptance at her mother’s funeral with Jace by her side. The reality of the situation has set in, and the pain comes pouring out of her. That’s the thing with bottling your emotions up. When you do, eventually they come flooding out like a wave.
Even though Alec was possessed by a demon (still don’t know how that happened) when he killed Jocelyn, he’s carrying around an immense amount of guilt, which is no surprise. Even though he understands that it was the demon inside of him that did it, there’s a part of Alec that feels like he instigated the killing.
Alec saw – and was the victim – of when Isabelle attacked him when the demon possessed her. He saw how this demon had seemingly found the deepest rooted emotional issues within and brought them to the surface. We saw Isabelle calling Alec out for being the perfect brother, and we saw that there was some honesty in what the demon was doing. Sure, it was causing trouble, but it also didn’t make up lies to spew. It caused more damage with the truth.
So with Alec knowing that there was some kind of truth to when the demon possessed its victims, he can’t help but blame himself for killing Jocelyn. There’s a reason he wanted her dead. Perhaps it stemmed from her attempting to kill Jace. Perhaps it stemmed even further back when Jace was a baby. But whatever it was, Alec believes, there must have been a part of him that wanted to hurt Jocelyn.
So following the tragic event, Alec locks himself away from the rest of the Institute as he wallows in his emotions on the rooftop of the Institute. He feels like he can’t go back inside; he can’t confront Clary after what he did. Part of him because he realizes that he – or his body at least – killed Clary’s mother. And maybe part of him because he feels like it was his innate emotions that led to it.
But you can’t run away from your emotions. Well, you can. But eventually they’re going to catch up with you. The strong thing to do is address them as quickly as possible to avoid even more pain. After most of the hour that Alec spent wallowing, he finally heeded Jace and Magnus’ advice to talk to Clary about the situation. Obviously she was upset and heartbroken. But Alec’s immense guilt actually ended up working in her favor. Ultimately it’s Clary’s desperation and Alec’s guilt that bring them together to attempt and bring Jocelyn back to life.
Simon Goes Home
Ever since Simon became a vampire I’ve been waiting for the moment that Simon “comes out” to his mother. It’s such an emotionally powerful and gut-wrenching scene in the books, and with Alberto Rosende wowing me every single week I knew this was a moment that he would kill it.
In “Dust and Shadows,” Simon moves back home with some conditions for his mother: don’t question him staying out at late hours or about him sleeping all day as his band calls for it. And she agrees because all she wants is her son back home.
Given the events with Jocelyn, there was a heavy wave of emotion that hung in the air. The moment Clary told Simon to go home to his mother and hug her. Because he doesn’t know when he might lose her. And man, oh man, that’s not just losing her in death. That also includes losing her in life.
For the short time he was living at home and becoming a vampire last season, Simon had gotten so good at hiding all of the weird things going on with him. But the complete opposite happened in this episode when his sister Rebecca nearly set him on fire with opening the curtains and found his blood stash. When she and his mom confront him about it, he chalks it up to being about the band. Only at this point, even to them, they know it’s not.
Simon decides that this is the moment to confess that he’s a vampire to his mom. He sits her down and they have a conversation. After dancing around the issue, Simon just blurts it out and it hangs in the air as silence surrounds them. Then Simon’s mom does the unexpected – she embraces him. As we know from the books, there was a harsher reaction. So here we thought that issue was solved, which disappointed me.
But it turns out Simon’s mom just assumed he was going insane as she called a doctor to try and get Simon looked at. But she sees that he’s not lying when she walks in on him feeding on a small animal – blood, fangs, and all – and suddenly we have our storyline.
Isabelle Gets Hooked on…Yin Fen?
Following the demon attack on the Institute in last week’s episode, Isabelle suffered an injury to her shoulder that has been preventing her from being at full strength. Not that she can’t kick ass – as she proved when she sparred with Jace – cause she can. But she still isn’t 100 percent, which wouldn’t be that important unless, say, she needed to be for a little mission she wanted to lead.
Aldertree has decided to send some Shadowhunters the Iron Sisters’ way. And as we know from the books, Isabelle wanted to be one when she was younger. So this is like Isabelle’s big celebrity moment. This is her chance to meet the Iron Sisters and satisfy her childhood heart’s desire. So she requests to lead the mission to the Iron Sisters, which makes sense. Isabelle would be perfect for that. Only Aldertree denies her request due to her shoulder injury that makes her less than 100 percent. There are no ifs, ands, or buts with Aldertree (that’s what happens when you’re a dick), but the bastard so conveniently has a solution for Isabelle.
Aldertree tells Isabelle that he has a drug that’ll help draw out the demon venom that seems to be infecting her injury. The drug is none other than Yin Fen, which fans of The Infernal Devices will recognize as the drug that Jem was addicted to and needed to survive. Aldertree rubs some of the Yin Fen on her infected shoulder (shudder) and we see an instant reaction from Isabelle. And that’s when we know that this is going end very badly.
I’m not sure how I feel about this. Actually, I’m not a fan. There has to be a better storyline for Isabelle that doesn’t involve a drug addiction that I can already see going horribly wrong and in Aldertree’s favor.
Rants and Raves
The funeral scene. The emotion and the significance of the ceremony was certainly not lost on the audience. As Clary finally accepted that her mother was gone, as she stood next to her and uttered her name, she broke down. But she had Jace to lean on through it all. It was also nice to see the Shadowhunters wearing white (as per the books.)
“Go home and see your mother. Tell her you love her.” That was a reminder to all of us to hold our mothers – and our loved ones in general – a little closer as we’re reminded how quickly we could lose everything.
Alberto Rosende. He continues to deliver Shadowhunters‘ most powerful emotion moments in such an honest way that really resonates. He’s no doubt the best thing about this show, and it shows week after week.
Clary & Simon cuteness. I was never the biggest fan of the Clary and Simon romance in the books (because of my allegiance to the Clary/Jace ship), but I’ve always been a fan of their friendship. Basically I just want more scenes with them. Kat McNamara and Alberto Rosende have such a cute chemistry with each other that it adds substance to those scenes.
Deep conversations. Shadowhunters should understand that its strength are the character and the dynamics they’ve created. So use it. Let these characters talk through their issues instead of just doing something stupid without context. We saw some nice conversations between Jace and Clary and then Alec and Magnus which allowed these characters to react to their situations and build the foundation of their relationship that audiences can actually see.
Clary creating her own rune. Not only does it pay homage to the books, but it also was a nod to the City of Bones movie where Clary did the same thing in the same way.
Demon impregnation? Um say what? I was not okay with Clary nearly being raped by a demon – as well as all of the other girls that were. That’s messed up. Surely there were better options on how to execute Clary’s desperation turning into danger.
So we’re bringing the dead back to life now? Sure, there’s a danger that comes with it. But introducing the ability to resurrect the dead literally downplays the risk of this dangerous reality. If it’s possible to bring people back to life, where do you draw the line?
Isabelle is now hooked on Yin Fen? I’m sorry, I’m not a fan of Isabelle spiraling into a drug addiction as her storyline this season. First, it’s been done in another series. Second, surely Shadowhunters could do better by Isabelle with a more thought out arc.
Seriously can Aldertree just disappear or something? I’m starting to wonder what purpose Aldertree serves to the narrative other than to be an asshole and get Isabelle hooked on Yin Fen. Other than that he’s just a pesky fly that you just can’t seem to swat away.
Shadowhunters airs Mondays at 8/7c on Freeform.