Friday, March 31, 2023

Secrets Are Revealed in Shadowhunters

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This week, Shadowhunters focused on its villains. While Valentine and Jonathan are loose in New York, the shadow of the Clave hovers over downworlders and shadowhunters alike. The heroes struggle to keep up, as they have differences to settle among themselves as well.

Episode 2×17 is the moment to set those differences aside and find their ground as the unstoppable team Clary claims they are. After the electrifying trailer released during Comic Con, the show enters Season 2’s closing stage. From now on, the character’s decisions will define the fate of the Shadow World.

A Dark Reflection

Much was said about the change of direction Shadowhunters would take for its second season. The biggest change, in my opinion, has been on the driving force of the show storytelling. As producers Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer emphasized, Season 2 is focusing on a Character-Driven story, opposed to the Plot-Driven Season 1.

Now we can clearly see this come to pass. Everything that has happened this episode is based on what the characters feel. From Jonathan’s earning for his sister’s acceptance, to Izzy’s fears of letting Max onto the field, and to Magnus’ choice when he is hurting. They hold the plot in their hands, instead of being at its mercy.

On the subject of reaching for control, “A Dark Reflection” can be singled out from other episodes for its focus on the villains. We follow Valentine and Jonathan’s journey, which continues to be dark at best. Neither completely trust the other and at every point, we can see true fear in the way Valentine regards his son.

That fear, however, is not enough to stop him from manipulating Jonathan. Valentine instructs Jonathan to steal the objects of the J.C.’s box that Jocelyn kept, so to stop Clary from being able to track her brother. It is a timely action, as Clary wakes up from a nightmare in Lake Lyn and wonders about how to find her long lost brother. Despite Jace’s opposition, Clary is determined to recover Jonathan to the side of the angels.

Something that, more and more, seems very unlikely. Jonathan is impervious to Cleophas’ warnings about Valentine’s true self, as father and son torture her into fixing the Soul Sword. When the Iron Sister is incapable of overcoming the Deactivation Rune, Valentine goes for a change of plans. If he can’t use the sword to wipe out the downworlders, he will reunite the three Mortal Instruments and raise the Angel Raziel. As the angel grants a wish to whoever raises him, Valentine will use that wish to end the Downworld.

The only Mortal Instrument he lacks is the Mortal Mirror. To find it, Jonathan visits a warlock called Elliot Noure, a friend of Jocelyn’s. We find out he is the guardian of the Mortal Mirror, of which only Elliot knows the location. He carries a sigil in his arm that serves as a map to where Jocelyn hid the sacred object.

However, not even Valentine and Jonathan’s forces combined are able to break Elliot. He kills himself before he reveals the Mirror’s location, and passes on the protective sigil to Dot. That makes Dot seek out Clary’s help at the Institute. Alec grants Dot protection as she tries to find the Mirror while Clary and Jace investigate Elliot’s death.

It is in Elliot’s shop that Jonathan, glamoured as Sebastian, finds them. Clary recognizes her brother’s presence at the crime scene by the dead flowers in the shop and that sets off a discussion over Jonathan’s involvement. Jace blames him for Elliot’s death, while Clary thinks Jonathan is a victim of Valentine. Once again, Will Tudor makes the most of his scenes, showing just how affected Jonathan is to hear his sister defend him. His urge for Clary’s love makes him question Valentine, but the leader of the Circle warns Jonathan that Clary would never care for if she knew who he really was.

Back at the Institute, Dot and Clary are able to find the Mirrors’ location. They go with Jace to retrieve it, but Jonathan intercepts them before they can get back safely to the Institute. Without the glamour, Jonathan attacks Jace and Dot. Upon seeing his true form, though, Clary is not repulsed as Valentine said she would be. Instead of rejecting him on spot, Clary tries to reason with her brother. She offers him a choice; take the Mortal Mirror and leave them alone, or go with them, so they can help him.

Tough call, Clary

It is a powerful moment for Clary and one that flashes out her goodness. Despite being arguably the lead character of the show, Clary has not been the most well-written, not by a long shot. Even so, one part of her characterization is consistent: mundane-raised, Clary doesn’t see the social barriers of the Shadow World. Time and again, her judgment is toward who the person is, and not what.

Unfortunately, we don’t see her move play out. Dot blasts Jonathan away and opens a portal. Against Clary’s protests, Jace pushes them both through it, leaving Dot behind but successfully frustrating Jonathan’s attempt at taking the Mortal Mirror.

Meanwhile, Alec is dealing with a villain of his own. Aware that the Clave has been lying about having the Soul Sword, Alec has to decide with whom he is sharing that information. He does not hesitate to tell his sister, or Jace and Clary when they report their frustrated attempt at locating Jonathan at their first try.

However, Alec does not tell Magnus. When his boyfriend comes for dinner, freshly after a Downworlder Meeting at the Seelie Court, Alec keeps his mouth shut. It is especially hard for him to do it, since Magnus goes on and on about how much Luke and he vouched for Alec’s transparency policy to the Seelie Queen.

Unfortunately for Alec, though, Magnus learns the truth from another source. In a failed attempt of escaping captivity, Cleophas was able to inform her brother that Valentine holds the Soul Sword. Luke then tells Magnus, whose first reaction is to run and tell Alec. When Luke stops him and suggests that Alec may already know, Magnus is doubtful. “[Alec] would never keep something this important from me,” he says, but goes to check either way.

This confrontation scene is a prime example of a mature drama between a couple. Magnus confronts Alec, who admits his knowledge and says he didn’t tell Magnus because he didn’t want to put Magnus in a position of having to lie to downworlders. It is a political reason, that has nothing to do with their personal relationship. Magnus, however, sees it differently. As someone who values honesty as much as he does, as proven by the people Magnus associates the most with, Alec’s deception cuts deep and personal. He equates the omission to something the Clave would do, which is true, and then leaves the Institute after saying Alec is a liar just like the rest of his family, which is a low blow.

Back at Luke’s company, a visibly altered Magnus can’t even begin to process why Alec kept the secret from him. Driven by anger and hurt, Magnus convinces himself that the Seelie Queen is right when she says that downworlders cannot trust the Clave, and consequently, any shadowhunter. He sets up a meeting at the Seelie Court with every intention to tell her about the missing sword.

The resolution of this arc will come next week. Thankfully, Luke is with Magnus, not only as the voice of reason, but as a leader himself. It is not by chance that Magnus turns to the Seelies as an ally after being lied to by the man he loves. Seelies cannot lie, so he perceives them as the best option in his moment of vulnerability. Hopefully Luke will be able to talk sense into him and stop Magnus from making a choice he’ll regret.

Once again, there is only 1 (one) single reasonable character and his name is Luke Garroway

While not directly dealing with antagonist forces, both Simon and Izzy had struggles of their own to overcome this week. After the adorable Yom Kippur dinner, Simon decides to ask Maia out on a proper date. To his disappointment, she rejects him. Simon then resigns to just being friends with her, until Izzy does her second favorite thing in the world, behind only slaying demons: meddling in her friend’s love life.

Izzy takes upon herself to talk to Maia. That is a long-awaited interaction and it does not disappoint. Albeit initially reserved, Maia opens up a little when Izzy talks about giving love a chance. We learn that Maia has made a mistake before and lost control, though she is pretty vague about the details. All that Maia lets out is that it was different from a heartbreak. Whatever happened, it has since stopped her from trying again. Izzy sympathizes and tells her that it is better to lose control than it is to feel nothing at all.

The pep-talk works and Maia talks to Simon, telling him she is willing to try as long as they go slow. Simon immediately agrees, as he himself isn’t ready for jumping into another relationship. Alisha and Alberto’s chemistry is shining through the screen and this lighthearted scene contrasts well with the rest of the episode.

But Izzy isn’t the only one doing the helping out. Simon spent the day having his ass kicked by a twelve-year-old shadowhunter, as Izzy trains baby brother Max. Only, Max is not a baby anymore and the Clave wants to give him his first mission. While Alec couldn’t be prouder, Izzy couldn’t be more worried. She does her best to prepare Max, even going a little overboard with it, but everyone else can see what an amazing shadowhunter the youngest Lightwood already is.

Ultimately, Izzy has to let go of her concerns and allow Max to spread his wings. Better than anyone, she knows just how qualified Max is, even in such a young age. Her continuous tracking lessons won’t make him any better; not if he can’t test his abilities in the field.

In fact, Max proves just how great he is at the very last scene of the episode. Using a forgotten strand of hair in J.C.’s box, he is able to track Jonathan as the villain is going through Alec’s office in search of the Mortal Mirror. Unfortunately, Max is still a kid. He makes the mistake of directly confronting Jonathan and the scene fades to black after a close at Jonathan’s raging expression.

It seems Izzy’s worries were not entirely unjustifiable. One can only hope that Max will survive this encounter to tell everyone else.

Personal Notes:

  • When Jonathan loses control, his eyes become black. That is a common occurrence when portraying evil creatures, but not any less cool for it. Especially combined with the sound effect.
  • Luke’s chuckle when he realizes Simon is going to ask Maia out is everything.
  • One of the things I wanted to see the most was Alec interacting with other downworlders besides Magnus. As Head of the Institute, we get him talking to Dot. It is an interesting scene, as they seem to be awkwardly polite to one another. I wonder if Alec, just like us, knows about Dot and Magnus’ past.
  • Talking about interactions, we got a tease of the magic that is Magnus and Luke. I cannot wait to see more of them, especially with the Seelie Queen involved.
  • I now want every character to learn about Jaia, one by one. And I want their individual reactions. I hope Alec is the next one in the list and he can gossip about it with Magnus. Once they are not in the middle of a fight, that is.
  • Incest Trigger Warning: It was one thing to watch Jonathan asking Clary out when they first met, it is an entirely different and disgusting thing to watch him kiss her. The invite could’ve been a pre-text to get to know her better, not a show of romantic interest on his own baby sister. That kiss is just fucked up. I wish the show had kept this real incest out.

Images courtesy of Freefrom.






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