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Shadowhunters Takes a Stand and It Makes for Its Best Episode Yet

Let me start this review by saying that, in my honest opinion, this is the best episode Shadowhunters has presented us so far. It has the strongest narrative and the best distribution of screen time between the main seven characters and the supporting cast up to date. The episode is all about racial discrimination, and it does not shy away from talking about real world issues like police brutality, anti semitism, and corruption. This is the kind of quality content I want from my teen fantasy show.

Those of Demon Blood

We start with the Inquisitor’s promise of showing Jace what it means to be a Herondale. She makes him Head of the Institute, despite Jace himself appointing Alec as the best suited for the position. There is not much time for discussion, however, when shadowhunters are being killed by downworlders and having their runes taken away. The first victim was attacked by a werewolf, which prompts the Inquisitor into calling Luke in for questioning.

This sure looks like it’s going to be okay.

Meanwhile, Max Lightwood makes a comeback now that he has graduated Shadowhunter School. Izzy is the one in charge of training him, and they have a delightful little talk. Lightwood siblings scenes are always a highlight of the show. The exchanges between Izzy and Max are no exception. Unfortunately for Max, though, Izzy tells him to stay at the Institute as she investigates the murders.

Upon being flat out accused, Luke suggests a DNA test to prove his innocence. He is unsurprisingly cleared of all charges. The shadowhunters then decide to go to their downworlder friends and ask them for DNA samples with the intent of clearing them too. This decision sets up three different dynamics: Alec and Magnus; Clary and Simon; and later on, Izzy and Raphael.

Alec and Magnus: Alec goes to Magnus’ loft to find Magnus wearing his most daring look yet. He claims the extravagance comes from boredom and is especially affectionate towards Alec. That raises red flags after last episode’s events. Magnus assures Alec he is fine and thus starts a masterfully acted scene where Alec asks for Magnus’ hair. If it is uncomfortable for Alec to ask, it is even more so for the viewer to see how rightfully angry Magnus gets, claiming he wasn’t aware there was anything he had to be cleared of. Magnus asks Alec why he was back to following orders instead of his gut, to which Alec responds that all he is asking is for a strand of hair and not something dramatic. Magnus ultimately complies, but then tells Alec to get out of the apartment. Both of them are visibly upset.

Clary and Simon: Clary explains to Simon that the DNA sample was Luke’s idea, as Simon seems reluctant. The vampire then tells Clary about his grandmother Helen, who was the sole survivor of his family after the nazis invaded Polony. Simon draws a comparison between what Clary is asking and what was inflicted on the Jews, claiming this is why he refuses to comply. Clary, who had no idea, apologizes and seems to reconsider the entire situation. When she is on her way back to the Institute, Clary is attacked by whoever is killing the shadowhunters but Simon saves her.

At this point, the Clave is pulling out the big guns. Inquisitor Herondale informs Jace he is to put a tracking device on all downworlders, saying that, just like shadowhunter can be tracked by their runes, so should the downworlder’s whereabouts be known at all times. The scene is played in the classic angel and devil on Jace’s shoulders, with Alec being immediately and vocally against the order and highlighting how wrong it is. He follows Magnus’ advice to trust his gut and draws the line there. The Inquisitor, however, wins when Jace decides to go with her plan. He is visibly torn between what he thinks is right and pleasing his newfound family. As Maia explains in a later scene, that is making him lose his way.

Jace then goes back to the Hunter’s Moon and tells Maia about the GPS implants. She is not amused, especially when Jace reproduces the Inquisitor’s justification. The confrontation quickly escalates to a fight, in which Maia ends up with a chip at the back of her neck. Luke stops the fights, telling Jace that his actions will only start a war between the shadowhunters and the downworlders.

Both Simon and Maia end up arrested, the first for refusing to leave while Clary recovered from being attacked and the second for for of killing a shadowhunter, as she was found walking near the place of death. Clary confronts Jace on his passiveness and she is not having his lame excuse of “there are no easy choices”. She also does not stands for Maia’s arrest, and we are graced with yet another iconic line from Maia: “I’ve been stopped by cops for no other reason than being black, but I thought the shadowhunters were more evolved than that.”

It is only after the Inquisitor is gone that Jace starts to listen to reason. He and Clary release Maia and Simon, and Jace uses his Herondale privileges to give his position to Alec. As the official Head of the Institute, Alec’s first order is to cease the chipping of downworlders immediately.

As we reach the last third of the episode, the last of the three shadowhunter-downworlder dynamic previously mentioned takes place:

Izzy and Raphael: Izzy meets with Raphael outside of the Hotel DuMort and assures him neither her nor Simon would ever hurt Rosa. Raphael has no time for apologies (which is the very first he ever got in the show, not that anyone is counting) and cuts to the chase: his clan is not following the Clave’s discriminatory policies. Izzy immediately agrees and asks for his help to find the murderer. Raphael says it is not a vampire and tells Izzy about a time before the Accords when shadowhunters would hunt down downworlders and keep their body parts as trophies after killing them. He also tells Izzy there was a Seelie Knight that wanted to do the same to shadowhunters a few decades ago: Meliorn.

They join forces and go after Meliorn, only to find out Max has been following them. Izzy tells Max to hide. When Raphael and she find another body and Meliorn, they are ready to attack. Meliorn tells them he is not the killer and Izzy believes him (“Seelies can’t lie and I believe you”). The three go back for Max, but he is gone, taken by the killer.

We find Max being dragged through the killer’s lair and find out it was Kaelie behind the murders, a retribution for losing her brother on the night of Valentine’s massacre. It is a somewhat underwhelming revelation because, you know, in the immortal words of Jake Peralta (Brooklyn Nine-Nine): “Cool motive, still murder.” Raphael and Meliorn fight Kaelie and Izzy kills her, but there is some indication that there is more to this story than meets the eye when the Lightwood trio discusses Kaelie’s methods.

Aside from the main plotline, we got to see individual character arcs developing. After Alec’s visit, Magnus calls Dot and they discuss the new shadowhunter policy and warlock love over some drinks. We find out that not only have Magnus and Dot known each other for quite some time, they were together for a while at some point. (More importantly, we find out Magnus is just like everyone else and had a crush on Freddie Mercury).

It has been some time since we last saw Magnus with a friend of his own, and it is great to be privy to his personal life outside of the shadowhunter extravaganza. The warlocks also perform a lively and literally magical dancing number (choreographed by Harry Shum Jr.) that ends up with Dot making a move and Magnus refusing her. He says he is in love with Alec and that he “has always been a one soul at a time kind of guy”.

One minute of silence for the cheating biphobic stereotype murdered by this scene. You won’t be missed.

Simon is still struggling with being a Daylighter, and he finds himself in an even more complicated situation: vampires from Raphael’s clan want to follow him. Apparently, it has been prophesied that a great leader would show up and they think Simon is the guy. He refuses them, preferring to focus on his somewhat normal life as a music major in a relationship. At the end of the episode, Simon performs a sweet number with the support of Clary to a full house and the scene sets a hopeful tone to an otherwise heavy episode.

Lastly, Jace and Maia, who had a rocky start and have since been developing a snarky kind of friendship, share a few charming scenes throughout the episode. With the exception of the scene where Jace comes into her bar to chip every downworlder present, that is. Aside from that little number, we see their increasing chemistry spiral up when they presumably hook up at the very last scene of the episode, after Jace takes the chip off of Maia’s neck. It means nothing, according to Maia, but that is the second WOC in charge of her own sexuality on my screen in under forty minutes. That means the world to me.

Personal Notes

  • Luke and Simon’s talk was awkward to witness and not in a fun way. There is a little hint there about Simon possibly losing control of his bloodlust while being intimate with Clary, so I hope that pays off. I usually love their interactions but something about this one didn’t quite sell it for me.
  • I may not like the Inquisitor, but her scene talking about the Herondales was very touching. It is nice to get to know more about Jace’s real parents and see him learning about his heritage in a positive light for a change.
  • Alec pointing out that the Clave wouldn’t give him the position of Head was the perfect way to showcase how the Clave’s bigotry doesn’t affect downworlders in a vacuum. Alec is in a mlm relationship with a downworlder, which makes him twice as ‘undeserving’. It is not only a matter of homophobia, racism also plays into the mix.
  • Clary: “So the Herondales are what? Like the Kennedys of the Shadow World?” Alec: “They are an old shadowhunter family, like the Lightwoods.” Izzy: “But we are the Kennedys.” Izzy, please never change.
  • “I’m not alone, I’m here with you. The High Warlock of Brooklyn.”

Images Courtesy of Freeform

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Writer and YA aficionada, Camila is a Screenwriting Student at UCLA.

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