‘Shadowhunters’ 3×01 Review: ‘On Infernal Ground’
By Beata, Guest Contributor
Oh, how I’ve missed you, Shadowhunters.
What other show is so ridiculous, and so mindlessly entertaining, that it can have me laughing for a solid hour even when nothing makes sense and I don’t understand anything that’s happening?
The list is pretty short.
I did have to watch On Infernal Ground three times before I could manage to write a coherent review, which bodes well for the rest of the season. Will I even attempt to understand what’s going on in this show, or will I eventually resort to watching each episode once and then writing a few thousand words about how utterly confused I am?
It’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s just that there’s a lot going on in each episode and, well, when you’re trying to write a coherent review it can be a little confusing.
Most shows have a very clear A plot, and a clear B plot, and C plot. There’s one overarching story, one main theme. Shadowhunters, on the other hand, likes to go for at least three main plots and several more side plots, all of which happen in a few minutes across several episodes. It’s a ton of fun, but it also makes it hard to keep track of things. I’m still trying to remember all the stuff that happened last season.
Anyways, enough complaining (for now). Let’s dive into a slightly underwhelming, very confusing, but also very interesting season premiere. Look at that – we’re trying to be nice.
We are fully into City of Fallen Angels territory right now, and that means we are dealing with the repercussions of everything that happened at the end of last season. The Big Bad has been defeated, the main couple has gotten together, and all our character have gotten what they wanted. All our problems have been solved, right?
As history has shown us, revolutions never end with the defeat of one person. There is never an easy fix to all the world’s problems. Everything is not suddenly perfect just because the main battle has been won. There is still lots of work left to do.
For one, Sebastian is back. Kind of. We’ll get to that later. Also, as we saw in this episode, our heroes did a lot of things in the season finale that they can’t get away with that easily. Namely, Clary probably shouldn’t have resurrected Jace, and she definitely shouldn’t have kept it a secret from literally everyone, because she does not know what she’s gotten herself into.
I love that about this storyline.
I also love how it shows how little trust our main cast has in the Clave. I’m not sure why the Shadowhunters made it a crime to compel a wish from the Angel when their entire race emerged from someone doing just that, when, honestly, the wish itself should be punished more than the mere act of compelling a wish. But still, that’s a minor gripe with a storyline that I am, for the most part, incredibly excited to see play out.
This story, as with any story in the YA genre, is about young people breaking rules, disregarding authority, and just doing their own thing. And yeah, they mess up a lot in the process. They’ve let their heads get way too big. They think they know more than they do. They think they can handle the repercussions of, well, bringing someone back from the dead. They can’t. And that’s what makes this story so much fun.
Lilith, Sebastian, and Demon Possession
The season 3 premiere gave us our first real look at Lilith, the big bad for this season. Kind of. So far, it’s not entirely clear what her motives are if you haven’t read the books, and I’m hoping she hurries up and executes her evil plan so that we can get to the villain I actually care about.
One thing I noticed about this episode was the recurring theme of demon possession. First, we had that random nurse getting literally possessed by some demon for an unknown reason that I really don’t care about, and then we had Jace, not exactly being possessed by Sebastian, but definitely being manipulated by him in his dreams. It was definitely foreshadowing things to come, and I’m hyped.
But speaking of those dreams: I don’t quite understand why Shadowhunters decided to have Sebastian appear in Jace’s nightmares, and I definitely don’t understand why they had Clary get killed by accident instead of having Jace kill her directly. I always thought Jace’s nightmares were so scary to him because they didn’t just suggest that Clary would die: they suggested that he would kill her of his own free will. That some part of him wanted to kill her. For someone who constantly grapples with the idea that he might be evil deep down, it was an absolutely terrifying thought.
Going this route instead takes away a layer of complexity that I thought would have been interesting to explore. It’s too bad that we won’t get that after all.
Joining the ranks of the Shadowhunters
At the very beginning of this episode, we saw Clary officially finish her training and join the ranks of the Shadowhunters, in a ceremony that involved her getting an Angelic power rune and taking an oath of loyalty to the angel.
I guess it makes sense that Clary would still have to go through the standard training and initiation process, which Shadowhunters has explained a bit with Max. She needs to learn how to be a Shadowhunter, then she can officially get the Angelic Power rune and officially become one of them. I guess the show has decided that instead of having a ceremony for the very first rune, Shadowhunters would do a ceremony for the Angelic Power rune, which kind of makes sense.
What confuses me is what it is that qualifies Clary to join the ranks of the Shadowhunters right now. The dialogue in that scene leads us to believe that she’s completed some kind of intense training program, akin to what we saw Max go through in season 2, but aside from a few fight scenes and a reference to her studying runes last season, we haven’t exactly seen her do much training. She definitely hasn’t done as training much as we’ve been led to believe a Shadowhunter needs to do.
Was she allowed to graduate because of her heroic actions in the Season 2 finale? In that case, is that a rule with every Shadowhunter? Because it seems kind of dangerous to tell kids that they can’t go into battle, but if they do somehow manage to save the world they might be granted all the privileges of an adult.
Still, that explanation does make sense, except that Imogen’s words implied that Clary had completed her training, and it simply doesn’t make sense that saving the world would exempt her from gaining fighting skills and knowledge that every Shadowhunter needs if they’re going to go out into the field.
So which one is it, Shadowhunters? Did Clary conveniently happen to finish a training program that presumably takes years to complete right at the end of last season? Or did her heroics eliminate that need?
Also, what new privileges does this grant her? I don’t remember her status as a Shadowhunter-in-training ever hindering her in the past. While Max was constantly supervised and prevented from putting himself in danger, supposedly because he hadn’t yet finished his training, Clary was mostly regarded as a fully capable Shadowhunter. Shouldn’t the Clave have been more strict about her going out on missions? Or was it just an age thing? I want answers.
Ollie (finally) finds out about the shadow world!
An important part of any urban fantasy story is deciding who gets to know about the fantasy world, and who needs to be left in the dark. Equally important is deciding when people should know about it.
Regular people are weird. We want to know about magic. We think it’s cool. We want to be included in this world. Once we suspect that something weird is happening, we will go out of our way to figure out exactly what it is, just as Ollie does in this episode. And yet, it is incredibly dangerous for us to know too much. As soon as we enter this new, unfamiliar world, we become a target, and our lives are put at risk.
The challenge for the characters who are already involved in that fantasy world is to figure out at what point the dangers of not knowing about magic outweigh the risk of becoming a target.
And though Luke doesn’t want to believe it, Ollie has already reached that point. She is already in way too deep. As we learn in this episode, Ollie has been searching for proof that werewolves exist for a long time now, and soon that search is going to send her into very dangerous territory without the tools she needs. Luke should have told her about the shadow world a long time ago.
I’ve never been a fan of Ollie’s, at all, but this is definitely the most I’ve ever cared about her. The revelation that she was bitten by a werewolf, but didn’t become a werewolf, adds so much depth to her character and helps us understand why she’s so interested in the shadow world. I’m still not particularly excited about her having a prominent role in this show, but I’ll tolerate her now that she’s become a slightly interesting character.
Simon and the Seelie Court
Stop me if you’re heard this one before: I am confused about a storyline in Shadowhunters.
Simon’s adventures in Seelie weren’t exactly given much airtime in this episode, but they did manage to completely befuddle me. Is this storyline taking the direction I think it is? Because if so, what the fuck?
We saw Simon play some music for the Seelies, which was great. But then the Queen announced that if Simon was going to leave, he would need to be… branded?
That was weird enough, but this particular brand that the Queen gave him was a bit reminiscent of another mark Simon gets in the Mortal Instruments series.
Please tell me I’m not the only person who thought of this.
If this mark is really the mark of Cain, I’m of two minds about this development. On the one hand, that mark is a very important part of Simon’s storyline in books four and five and I’m thrilled that Shadowhunters is going that route with his character because it really opens up a lot of possibilities for him. On the other hand, is this the only way they could think of giving him the mark?
Why is it suddenly a Seelie thing and not a Shadowhunter thing? Why on earth does it work exclusively on daylighters? And why did the Seelie Queen give it to him?
When Simon first gets the Mark in the books, it’s as a means of protection. A last-ditch effort to save his life. And that’s what it does. It protects him. At a great cost, yes, and with massive repercussions, but it does the job. It makes sense for Clary to give it to him. Why would the Seelie Queen do this?
I’m not even sure that I’m mad about this storyline. I’m genuinely curious to see what the writers do with it. But I would like answers. And soon. Because I am extremely confused.
Things That Do Not Make Sense, A List
Damn, I’m out of practice. I set the bar so high last season. I’m disappointed in myself. But also proud of Shadowhunters.
- Why is Clary’s Angelic Power rune red and not black?
- Clary reassuring Jace that his parents weren’t bad people, just people who put their trust in Valentine. Where was this moral complexity last season and why does it only apply to some people?
- Jace actually thinking that Alec would report him and Clary to the Clave.
- Where exactly did Ollie learn about werewolves? It doesn’t exactly seem like information that anyone would put up on the internet.
- Lilith feeling the need to tell her entire life’s story to a random nurse at the hospital.
- Clary tracing over her rune instead of waving her stele over it. Make up your mind about how these runes work already.
- The High Warlock isn’t allowed to take clients? How does that make sense? HOW? And how did we not know about this until now?
- “You don’t choose the blades. The blades choose you.” THIS IS THE SECOND TIME THIS SHOW HAS FULLY RIPPED OFF A HARRY POTTER QUOTE WTF. But yes, tell me about how the books are plagiarized.
- The fact that the CGI for the werewolves has changed drastically with every season. Not complaining exactly, but Luke definitely looked more like a bear than a wolf there.
- Shadowhunters using the stupid rune from the failed movie AGAIN. Once again, nobody liked that scene the first time!
- Time working the same way in Seelie as it does in the mortal world.
- Whatever Raphael was doing with the tranquilizer at the end of the episode. I’ve watched it three times and I still have no idea what was going on there.
Odds and Ends:
Otherwise known as the section where I talk about very important things that I feel like I should have given a full section, but couldn’t because they happened so quickly there wasn’t that much to talk about.
- I like that the show is exploring Jace’s complex feelings about his parents.
- “Do you have to keep yourself chained up during a full moon?” I love that Luke has enough experience being a werewolf to know exactly what kind of things to say to piss her off.
- I love Alberto’s singing voice and I really hope he sings more this season.
- So the dance music over fight scenes is still a thing huh
- Honestly, it’s a lot of fun and it makes the scenes more enjoyable, but it’s incredibly distracting.
- “I can read you like an open book in all capital letters.” Personally, I find books harder to read when they’re in all caps, but okay.
- I absolutely love that Isabelle is the weapons master at the Institute. That is SO perfect for her.
- Izzy is such a nerd about weapons. I really hope we get to see that side of her.
- Generally, Izzy was awesome in this episode. She’s not the Izzy I loved so much in the books, but she’s honestly become one of my favourite TV characters.
- “I guess those blades aren’t your signature weapon after all”
- I need to talk about this line because it was my favourite line in this entire episode. This is spot on. This is exactly what I was saying in the season finale.
- Clary is not a typical Shadowhunter. Her strength is not in her fighting skills. Her strength is in her runes, always. That’s what makes her unique.
- I really, really hope Shadowhunters remembers that.
- Sometimes the Shadowhunters writers get Malec right, and sometimes they don’t. But in this episode, they definitely got things right.
- Alec was so great in this episode. I love him.
- Is Aline going to appear soon? Please tell me she’s going to appear soon.
- I’m wary about Clace given the way the couple was portrayed in season 1, but so far their relationship hasn’t been too cringe-worthy.
Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays at 8pm EST on Freeform.
Clary’s angelic run doesn’t stay red. You didn’t pay attention. It’s red the first time because she literally just got it and it was burned into her skin. Later on, when she’s with Jace, the rune is black.
I loved the premiere it’s exactly what I was hoping for. I think shows have it harder than movies because even though you have more time figure out the world and characters, you are still very limited. And you’re not only pleasing the book fans but also the non-book fans who got into the show. Can’t wait for more.
I love these reviews. They always make me laugh. You somehow manage to capture my exact thoughts every time.
Finally, Lilith has arrived and it’s great to see her as the main focus villain again. I agree with the section on the Seelie Court. But maybe I can help with some of the Things That Don’t Make Sense section. For one, Clary’s Angelic rune did turn black later on ( the red rune in the opening ceremony was maybe a make up error? ) . As per Lilith’s “need” to tell the nurse her life story…. I felt she was manipulation him. Taking advantage of his kind demeanor so that he would walk her out to ultimately become her prey.
All I got and hope this helps,
Thanks very much for your in-depth review if 3:1. I haven’t watched it yet; it’s not available until tonight, but I wanted to get a heads up about what shenanigans would be in store for me. I find your reviews to be spot-on every time and I love that you give voice to every aspect I love as well as every confusing and often agrivating scene they include as well. My husband and I both read the books, but I am the bigger fan by far. We both are disappointed in how they are portraying the story on tv, but keep hoping they will get it right – true to the books – at least some of the time. My husband is just barely hanging in there, but for me there is enough of Cassie’s vision in each episode and the fantastic actors chosen to play her beloved characters that I for one am still very excited to watch every episode. Thanks again for your wonderful review and terrific website.
Thanks for this review Beata. I hope you continue to do them. Having the Seelie Queen give Simon the Mark of Cain is seriously bizarre. I’ve only watched one of the early episodes and saw the plot was going pear shaped from the start. The performers are the saving grace. I did find a clip on Facebook where Alec, Izzy, and Magnus seem to release a demon from Edom and then take it out (barely). Alec’s arrows aren’t sufficient so Magnus had to do sparkly hands. It was good CGI, but I guess I’ll keep buying the books (print and audio). Life is too confusing anyway to deal with all the plot contortions.
i think it is the mark of Cain I have a picture that i will comment later.