Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Shadowhunters Sets All the Pieces in Place

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After last week’s homage to the villains, Shadowhunters takes the final step to set up its great finale. With only two episodes left until the season is done, it is time for the heroes to shine. And they do, by the best way possible: protecting the innocent.

But it is not only the heroes of the story that excelled. All kudos should go to Director Amanda Michael Row for putting together the best-paced episode of the show. Shadowhunters often has a problem with visual storytelling, but not this time. As we approach the end of the season 2, the production team has risen to the occasion just as much as the characters.

And the results are showing in both cases.

Awake, Arise, or Be Forever Fallen

This week’s episode mainly follows two storylines: Jonathan’s attack at the Institute and Russel’s attack on Bat. Both put our heroes to the test. While Luke, Maia, and Simon have to deal with the repercussions of Bat Velasquez being forcibly turned by an ex-pack member, Clary, Jace, Izzy, and Alec find Max’s unconscious body and have to stop Jonathan from getting to the Mortal Mirror.

It’s interesting to note that this episode shows the best and the worst of both shadowhunters and downworlders. After leaving the already reduced New York Pack and taking with him even more wolves, Russel is back. He interrupts Maia and Simon’s date by attacking an unsuspicious mundane named Bat and scratching him. That is exactly what Luke was against doing and what cost him half of his pack.

Fortunately for Bat, however, Maia and Simon are quick to bring him to Luke. He leaves the boy for his most trusted allies to take care of while he goes deal with Russel himself. Luke finds Russel surrounded by rogue werewolves and demands that they stop turning mundanes. That is not how they do things in the New York Pack.

But Russel disagrees and challenges Luke for the role of Alpha. It is then that Luke gets a chance to prove his worth as the Pack Leader. Not only he defeats Russel fair and square, he refuses to kill him. To Luke, rules are there to bind them to their humanity. If he has to change them to achieve that very end, he will.

Meanwhile, Maia and Simon do their best to help Bat. The boy is scared and rightfully confused, but Shadowhunters gets it right by not focusing on a werewolf transformation more than it needs to. Instead, the focus is entirely on Maia and how she got her scars. With Alisha Wainwrightht becoming a series regular, it is only fair we (and Simon) learn what happened to her. It seems she was turned into a werewolf by a jealous and possessive ex-boyfriend, Jordan. The traumatic experience still haunts her every time she turns, making her remember what love has brought to her.

Hopefully, Simon— or any other cute newbies that Maia is in charge of— can help her realize love can bring much more good than bad.

As I’ve mention before, this is an episode to show the power of our heroes. True power comes from overcoming difficulties. That is something both Maia and Luke achieve by the end of the 2×18. We see Maia give her first steps towards happiness as she kisses Simon and takes charge of the pack. And we also see Luke fortifying his numbers by welcoming the rogue wolves, Russel included.

The New York Pack is looking almost as good as its Alpha

This scene is as glorious as it sounds, but it is also alarming as we discover the viewers are not the only one watching it. Detective Ollie and her girlfriend Samantha left a hidden camera back at the Jade’s Wolf after a seemingly innocent lunch date. As war rages upon, the Shadow World and the Normal World crashes together. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean Ollie will get herself in fatal trouble.

Or, if she does, let’s hope she will be as resilient as Max Lightwood. Every single person who has read the source material had counted the youngest Lightwood out after last week’s confrontation. But the show has proved us all wrong to be so rushed, and I applaud it for it.

Max not only survives Jonathan’s attack, he manages to alert the entire Institute that Jonathan is among them. When Izzy finds her younger brother unconscious and hurt, Jonathan’s count down starts ticking. It is only a matter of time until he is found in Sebastian’s skin, especially after Alec puts the Institute in lockdown.

As always, Will Tudor’s performance is astonishing. Jonathan manages to keep his cool as every one of our heroes unknowingly frustrates a part of his plan. It is an amazing sequence that both illustrates just how well the shadowhunter squad works together and how shrewd Jonathan has to be in order to beat them. Each step is equally frustrating and delicious to watch, as Alec, Izzy, Jace, and Clary stand in Jonathan’s way without even realizing it.

First, Alec doesn’t tell him where the Mortal Mirror is and rejects Jonathan’s suggestion of letting him patrol the building’s outside, effectively stopping him from running away. Trapped inside the Institute, Jonathan focuses his efforts in silencing Max forever, since he is the only one that can identify him as Sebastian Verlac. However, there comes Izzy, who refuses to leave her brother’s side and, consequently, give Jonathan the opportunity to finish the boy off.

When the Lightwood parents arrive and Jonathan learns the only way to wake Max up is a dangerous procedure, he changes his plans again. Running against the clock, Jonathan kills one of the guards that was protecting the Mortal Mirror, learning the Mortal Instrument’s location. However, Jace comes and fills in for the fallen guard. Now, the one person that is his match in a fight stands between Jonathan and the Mirror.

Still, Jonathan finds a way to get rid of Jace. He hacks into Alec’s phone and sends Jace a message that Max didn’t make through the delicate operation. When Jace goes to his family, Jonathan attacks and grabs the Mirror.

Now in possession of the last Mortal Instrument, Jonathan thinks he has a way out in Clary. By reading Valentine’s journals, she and Jace had figured out a way to identify Jonathan even through the glamor. His demon blood makes it extremely painful to touch electrons, which Clary extracts from Izzy’s electric whip. However, the plan has a big flaw unknown to Clary.  Jonathan has been shown time and again to be able to withstand pain silently.

Hanging onto that, Jonathan undergoes the test and predictably doesn’t emit a sound. However, Clary is not convinced. She calls for him right before he can walk through the door and grabs his wrist, just to see his ruined palm. His secret is out.

They fight and Clary manages to stab him three times, fulfilling her earlier promise of going for the kill should she ever see her brother again. She also takes back the Mirror and, most importantly, escapes the confrontation alive. Jonathan escapes just as Alec and Jace show up, but what matters is that they prevented him from taking the Mortal Mirror.

Or is it? Clary decides to deactivate the Mortal Instrument with the same rune she used on the Soul Sword, but the result is quite different. The Mirror disintegrates into dust as soon as the rune takes effect. Once Max is awoken and fine, the four shadowhunters meet in a room to discuss what has happened.

It is among sharing blame for trusting Sebastian that Alec, Izzy, Jace, and Clary make the discovery that sets the final piece into place. Discussing the disintegration of the Mirror makes Clary realize what her visions of Lake Lyn meant. The Mortal Mirror is not an object, but the reflection on the lake’s water. For the first time in the series, the heroes are one step ahead of the villains. They have the upper hand now. What they will do with that discovery, however, remains to be seen.

Started from the bottom and now we are here, working together and outsmarting the villains.

There is one storyline that might provide some insight, though. Just like all of his friends, Magnus Bane was also fighting a battle to protect. Only his battle didn’t involve a direct enemy, or at least, not yet. Magnus’ battle was on two fronts: his duty as a leader of the downworlders and his love for Alec.

Following his plan, Magnus went to the Seelie Queen and informed her of the Clave’s lie. The Queen then decides it is time for the downworlders to hunt down Valentine their way. However, that means breaking up with the Clave’s rules. Luke refuses, but Magnus is still shaken; he asks for time to consider the request.

Magnus then spends this time thinking about Alec. At this point, covering for the Clave was not the issue anymore. The Seelie Queen made it crystal clear: Magnus and the warlocks can either side with her, or be against her. The war will happen and it is up to Magnus to decide how best to protect his people.

Throughout the episode, Magnus shifts between past and present. Every memory makes it clear just how much he has come to love Alec and we finally understand why he drops everything whenever his boyfriend needs his help. That happens this episode as well, when Alec asks for Magnus help with Max. Even if he cannot do much, Magnus comes to help and stays to give Alec his support.

By the end of the episode, however, Magnus reaches a conclusion. He cannot leave as carefree as before, because now Alec has become important enough for Magnus to be afraid of losing him. He loves him. But his duty to the downworlders comes first.

In a heartbreaking scene, we see Alec apologize again for his mistake. We see Magnus tells Alec he loves him. And we also see Magnus break up with him, so he can finally decide to which side of the war he will lead his people.

It is not clear what decision Magnus will take. Whichever it is, however, one thing is clear. Shadowhunters’ greatest strength has never been subtle foreshadowing. When Alec says Magnus and he will always find their way to one another, he means it.

Personal Notes

  • First of all, I would like to thank Freefrom and the Shadowhunters’ Team for listening to the fans. The malec fandom has been extremely vocal about their complaints, especially after episode 2×07. To see a show not only hear their fans and make emends is heartwarming. It takes guts to own up to a mistake and correct it. Congratulations, Shadowhunters. And thank you.
  • I cannot stop saying just how amazingly executed this episode was. Each one of the three storylines was beautifully constructed. They made a great work in showing and not telling, as well as in letting the narrative breathe when it needed to. Amazing job.
  • Seeing the Lightwood family reunited was a bitter-sweet moment. Regardless of all their messy relationships, one can’t help but feel a part of that family.
  • Choosing not to kill Max was a brave move and I applaud the show for it. His death in the books never felt meaningful beyond the fact that it was a death of a child. That is always a tragedy, but, in entertainment, tragedies have to have a meaning in order to happen. Including it to prove that Jonathan is beyond evil is not enough of a justification. When a character is already shown as being the absolute worst, killing an innocent/a child doesn’t make a stand. It simply adds up to a pile of evil things the evil character has done.

Images courtesy of Freefrom.





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