Today is National Coming Out Day! What better way to celebrate than gushing about the development of one of television’s best LGBT+ relationships? It unfolds on Freeform, of all places (they also gave me a lesbian Muslim on The Bold Type). I’m talking about Malec, the relationship between Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane on Shadowhunters, the network’s adaptation of the Mortal Instruments book series.
(Major spoilers about their relationship from this point forward.)
Alec (Matthew Daddario), the eldest of the Lightwood children and now Acting Head of the Institute, is our closeted hero. He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders and wants to keep his family (even his crappy parents) and world safe from demon attacks.
Then there’s Magnus (Harry Shum Jr.), the powerful High Warlock of Brooklyn. Magnus has been alive for centuries. He protects his people, the Downworlders, too. Unfortunately, his mother killed herself when she realized he was part demon and his father even tried to drown him. Magnus and Alec are very much a case of opposites attract. Where Alec would rather sit in the corner and not talk to anyone at a party, Magnus is the party.
This is why I and so many viewers love their relationship so much. Again, the backdrop of Shadowhunters vs. Downworlders (folk who are part demon) and Magnus’s history with Alec’s (racist) parents, it’s surprising they’d fall in love and succeed. But they do and it’s pretty damn beautiful.
This is a relationship where at the beginning Alec couldn’t even verbalize his feelings for Magnus and almost marries a woman for political reasons! Then Magnus shows up at the wedding and Alec plants a huge kiss on him, outing himself in the process! Drama happens, but Alec tells Magnus that relationships take effort! When Magnus is overcome with emotion after their first intimate night and worries about Alec’s reaction to his eyes, Alec says they’re beautiful and so is Magnus! Yeah, every sentence about their relationship makes me want to exclaim all over the place.
Other defining moments include them not getting into it over their experience levels in relationships where Magnus has had many and Alec has had none. This is especially wonderful considering Alec is very, very gay and Magnus is definitely bisexual. The writers could have easily had Alec be biphobic. Instead, their issues are about the politics in their lives, figuring out how to balance the personal and professional, and Alec not being a goober.
That last one is kind of a joke. The last half of season 2 (which ended in August) follows all sorts of shenanigans due to bad guys and interpersonal drama. Some of that leads to Magnus walking away from Alec because Alec lied to Magnus after an intense conversation revealing Magnus’ parental history. Magnus decides that Alec holds him back from protecting his own people and the relationship stumbles. One lesson is that you shouldn’t lie to your partner! Don’t be a goober.
The other lesson, one the Malec relationship really understands, is that RELATIONSHIPS TAKE EFFORT! If I could just tattoo that on the foreheads of people who don’t get it, I would. When Alec and Magnus eventually get back together after saving the world, Magnus echoes the sentiment that Alec previously stated. Are all their problems solved? Of course not. However, viewers can go into season 3 knowing Malec are stronger than ever and ready to keep kicking ass.
The show also semi-successfully tackles other topics, such as found family dynamics (among the villains as well as our heroes) and the aforementioned Shadowhunters vs. Downworlders oppression metaphor. If you need a new ship—and don’t mind a plucky heroine who keeps messing shit up–the show definitely delivers, and with Malec back together, Season Three is going to be tons of fun!