Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Shadowhunters Chooses To Be Good Instead of Lawful

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Season 2B has consistently been the strongest season of Shadowhunters so far. The plotlines and themes have been leveled up, and it is paying off in the big picture. That is why a lukewarm episode like 2×15 does not hinder the overall arc of the season. That said, the set up for the last five episodes of Season 2 could have used a little more sparkle.

And by sparkle, I mean Magnus Bane.

A Problem of Memory

This episode has a very interesting theme running through its two main plotlines. In a society rigidly controlled by the all-powerful Clave, what is lawful is not always what is right. This theme has been present on the show before. Some would say Clary’s character personifies that sentiment. However, this is the first time we see two leaders actively choosing to do the right thing instead of the lawful thing. That makes the message powerful, tying it up with the social critiques the show has been advocating lately.

The first of those leaders is Alec. As the Head of the Institute, Alec is expected to report Luke’s attempted killing Valentine to the Clave. Still, he knows that doing so is a shot in the foot of his progressive agenda. The Clave would waste no time in persecuting Luke and making an example out of him. That, in turn, would only put another strain on the relationships between shadowhunters and downworlders.

Aside from his coming out story, Alec always shines the most when his arc requires him to choose between being lawful and being good. This time it isn’t different. Although insecure in his decision, Alec ultimately decides to do the right thing. He omits Luke’s crime from the Clave and pushes for transferring Valentine from the Institute instead. The transfer, naturally, ends up in Valentine escaping custody. Since this is a TV show, that should surprise no one.

The other leader who has to take things into his own hands is Luke himself. When his partner Ollie tells him a girl was found dead and with Simon’s fingerprints all over her, Luke is forced to act. Along with Clary, he searches for Simon all the while knowing that, if they catch him, he is supposed to turn him over to the Clave. That means execution, as Simon is suspected of draining a mundane to death.

And Simon thought his hangover was his biggest problem…

Luke, however, does nothing of the sort. For starters, he never involves the shadowhunters in the matter. Once Simon himself clears up his name, finding and killing the real murderer in the process, Luke is quick to erase all evidence that could lead to his protégé. With Raphael’s help, he erases any mentions of Simon from Ollie’s memory. That effectively puts an end to the whole thing.

It is no coincidence that there two leaders are shown taking the somewhat rebellious path here. Both Alec and Luke come from a shadowhunter background and now have to deal with the Clave’s bias toward downworlders. To each of their capacities, what we had this episode was the proof that change is starting. And this time, from the top to the bottom instead of the other way around.

While the Head of the Institute and the Alpha were making political decisions, the High Warlock of Brooklyn was fighting a much more personal battle. Since “You Are Not Your Own”, Magnus has been shown to be quietly suffering. His choice of more extravagant clothing, his building insecurity, and his laser focus on everything and anyone that isn’t him are just a few of the signs that something is wrong.

And just like the audience, Alec didn’t miss those signs. Especially after waking up to an empty bed four mornings in a row. He carefully confronts his boyfriend, asking him if what is wrong a few times. Magnus, however, keeps putting on a brave face and saying he is fine. It is a crafty performance from Harry Shum Jr. and one that complements beautifully the horrific flashback of young Magnus finding his mother dead in her own bed.

It takes a little more prompting from Alec—and a reminder that Magnus himself had asked Alec not to push him away when things got crazy—for Magnus to finally open up. He reveals to Alec the rest of the flashback. After his mother killed herself for giving birth to Magnus, Magnus’ stepfather blamed the suicide on him. As his stepfather yelled at him, Magnus lashed out and used his magic on him, killing him by setting him on fire.

Magnus admits, ashamed and scared, he was hesitant to tell that story to Alec. To reveal “this ugly side” of his. Alec has none of that, however. He assures Magnus that there is nothing ugly about him and they hug, in the first physical contact that felt genuine since Magnus was back in his own body.

The entire sequence is chilling and made even more so for the promise of more. Magnus’ storyline is far from over and it is clear that he is not done healing. He has taken a big step in opening up to Alec, though. In the words of Matthew Daddario, “the Malec relationship is on a constant upward trend.” This is true because both Alec and Magnus help each other to grow as individuals as well as a unit.

Malec continues to be the healthiest relationship on the show.

However, the same cannot be said about another couple. After the kiss between Clary and Jace in the Seelie Court, Simon is understandably distraught. It is enough to send him drinking plasma in the unsavory company of the vampire Quinn. As mentioned before, that boy’s night out ends in a dead body and Simon running from mundane police. But not quite as fast as he is running from Clary.

Despite Izzy’s advice, Clary keeps going after Simon. She wants to explain things and get back to normal. To Clary, what happened in the Seelie Court should be left in the past. Simon disagrees. He sees the kiss as the revelation that Clary never loved him. Or, at least, that she never loved him as much as he loved her.

It is no secret that the pairing is not a fan favorite. Personally, I think Climon has improved as a couple. At the very least, their scenes have been endurable in the last couple of weeks. For a second there, I could see them ending up together and it being interesting. Clary and Simon have always had a great dynamic and as they spend less time ostensively making out and more time talking, that dynamic shone through.

Even if a large part of the fandom is happy to watch the couple crash and burn, I dare anyone not to be touched by Alberto Rosende’s performance during this three-part breakup. He has consistently been the best actor on the show and the fact that he sells this farewell in the slightest only proves it. Kat McNamara is not bad either. For once, Clary has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

In the middle of all those heartbreaks, it is not surprising that nobody has been onto “Sebastian”. Will Tudor is a blessed addition to the cast, and he does an amazing job at keeping “Sebastian” just charming enough to be a step above your regular psychopath. It also helps that this episode shed some light onto the villain’s real identity. We learned that “Sebastian” is Valentine’s son, Jonathan Christopher, and that he is not afraid of killing whoever interferes with his plans.

Hopefully, with the arrival of the real Sebastian’s cousin, Aline Penhallow, the heroes will start to suspect him. While they don’t, however, “Sebastian” keeps doing what he does best: kidnaping, manipulating, murdering, and, most recently, smuggling dangerous mass murders away from prison.

Personal Notes:

  • Thankfully the reveal of Sebastian’s crispy self will put an end to the show’s clumsy attempts at painting him as so terribly evil. There are only so many self-harming scenes that the audience can endure. After that, watching Sebastian’s murder face becomes comical.
  • Still on the topic of Sebastian, having both the real and the fake Sebastians being played by Will Tudor was an ingenious twist. It was only topped by the fact that the real Sebastian is completely burned, confirming that he was the boy from Valentine’s vision in “Mea Maxima Culpa”. I can’t wait to learn the story behind that now that father and son are reunited.
  • Ollie’s storyline felt very underwhelming this episode. Her growing involvement with the Shadow World was quickly resolved. Raphael simply encanto-ed her to forget all her knowledge of Simon. That felt like a cheap solution. I wonder if this is the closest Ollie will get to find out that all the legends are true.
  • Watching Izzy taking charge and commanding the team is a delight. Her Yin Fen addiction storyline is over, and the result is a happier, much more human Izzy. Her badass, untouchable persona has made way for a vulnerable and yet stronger character altogether. I am always happy to watch The Strong Female Character™ become a Strong Female Character in her own right.

Images courtesy of Freeform.


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