Sunday, May 28, 2023

Part I of Shadowhunters’ Season Finale Struggles to Be Relevant

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The first episode of the two-part season finale arrives and it is very much a setup for the final forty-three minutes. That would be fine, considering there is still another episode to come. Unfortunately, “Hail and Farewell” picks up right after the best episode of the entire series. It is impossible not to compare the two and end up disappointed with the former.

That said, episode 2×19 is not completely deprived of great moments. The action of the episode is far superior to what we are used to. We finally see actual shadowhunting (good hunting, guys), and there are more downworlders featured in this episode than in all the entirety of the show combined. Not to mention, the premise is great.

It is a pity, then, that being an adaptation from a lesser source material hinders the show from executing its vision. Ultimately, that makes an episode such as this one feel more like a filler than a development of the story.

Hail and Farewell

The fact remains that Shadowhunters is an adaptation of less than perfect books. Therefore, it suffers on two fronts. The first one is that most of its fans already know the story. The show has to keep adding things to make it interesting and, for the most part, it has managed it well. But, like everything in life, it does not have a 100% success rate. Sometimes, there is no escaping the book plot and there is where the show struggles the most.

The second problem is that, all in all, the books are not good. The main story is not about the fantastical world author Cassandra Clare has created, or about the conflict between the dominant race and the oppressed ones. It is about the love between Clary and Jace. There is nothing wrong with that, but it makes for a rather limited story. The world building is sloppy and allows for inconsistencies that throw the viewer off.

All of this is present in this Hail and Farewell. In an episode that is basically a man-hunt for Valentine and Jonathan, the story struggles to stay consistent. Thankfully, though, there are parts when it succeeds, like in the chilling use of the Forsakens. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

With Jonathan’s identity revealed, Valentine and he have to flee from their hiding place. But they leave Sebastian Verlac’s corpse behind for Izzy, Jace, and Clary to find. It is a cool shot, as the corpse has been possessed by a demon, but otherwise it adds very little to the plot. The Shadowhunters return to the Institute and decide to inform Inquisitor Imogen of their discoveries. Alec, Jace, and Clary tell her that Valentine is in the possession of the Mortal Cup and the Soul Sword, but they neither he nor Jonathan know that the Mortal Mirror is actually Lake Lyn. Imogen seems stunned by the news and promises to pass along their request to put guards around the sacred water.

With the villains still thinking that the Institute has the Mortal Mirror, Alec calls for an emergency Cabinet Meeting. His intention is to join forces in order to hunt down Valentine.

Unfortunately, recent events have made the Downworld re-evaluate its allegiance to the Clave. Headed by the Seelie Queen, a new movement of distrusting the Shadowhunters as a whole has gained strength. The Clave has been incapable of stopping Valentine before and now that he is on the verge of destroying the Downworld, the Seelie Queen has called for a rupture of the status quo. And she has rallied Magnus to her side.

In the preparation to the Cabinet Meeting, Magnus tells Luke and Raphael of his motives. He doesn’t deny to be hurting after breaking up with Alec, but Magnus also offers some insight on his reasoning for siding with the Queen. Ultimately, it comes from the need for protection. If Valentine succeeds in raising Raziel, every downworlder in Earth Dimension is within the angel’s reach. The Queen has opened up her realm to any downworlder that takes her side. But there is a catch; she will henceforward speak on behalf of all downworlders.

The need for protection ultimately wins and all three leaders join her side, to various degrees of conformity. Luke is the one that remains mostly against her, even if he lets the Queen proclaim that the Downworlder will not work with the Shadowhunters to find Valentine and Jonathan. Each side is to hunt them down on their own.

Magnus then receives many warlocks at his home, including Catarina Loss. It is a delight to finally meet her. Catarina expresses the feelings of many downworlders who do not mind to work outside of Clave orders. It is interesting to notice, however, that as Magnus explains that he means to raise wards around NY to keep “two very bad shadowhunters” inside, he does not say who those are. I wonder if Catarina would be as cool with working without the Clave’s support if she knew they are trapping Valentine and his demon son there with them.

Either go big or go home. Magnus and Catarina have no time for half-measures

Regardless, the wards work and just in time. In one of the weakest moments of the episode, we learn that Valentine has a mole in the Clave. That wouldn’t be a problem in itself, and it makes a lot of sense for Valentine to have someone on the inside, but is the finale the moment to reveal that? The timing makes it feel too much like a villainous deus ex machina for my taste.

Foreshadowed or not, the mole is there and whoever they are, they inform Valentine that the Mortal Mirror is Lake Lyn. There goes any advantage the heroes have. Valentine rallies the Circle Members, but Luke’s pack attacks them. Unfortunately, Jonathan uses his demon-speed to save both his father and himself.

Meanwhile, in the Institute, Alec is struggling to determine what to do. Luke has just informed them that everyone with Nephilim blood is trapped inside of New York and they have no way to locate their enemies. Thankfully, Ithuriel sends another rune to Clary, and she figures out a way to track Jonathan. There is a bond between the Morgenstern children’s blood and Clary and Jace’s angelic connection which allows them all to locate one another via golden runes and cheesy slow-motion.

See what I mean by world-building inconsistency? Where has this come from? Is there anything Clary cannot do? Is there a limit to her powers, or can she use them indiscriminately once Ithuriel sends her a new rune? Can others use her runes, or is this power limited to Clary alone? I hope the show takes the time to explain that in the upcoming season.

Anyway, Clary and Jace manage to locate Jonathan, and that prompts Valentine to make a dangerous decision: he leaves his son behind after the fakest pep talk in history. Valentine also promises that he will return to him once he’s done securing a way out of the city. Jonathan falls for that and promises in turn to keep the Institute at bay by doing what he does best: killing everyone.

The Shadowhunters then use one of Clary’s portals to go to the cemetery where Jonathan is hiding. They split up in pairs, with Izzy and Clary going one way while the Parabatai go the other one. That is when the best action scene of the show happens, as the pairs are attacked by hordes of Forsakens. Izzy, Clary, and Alec fight them off, but Jace is captured by Jonathan and dragged away.

Jonathan’s intent is to kill his “brother” and leave his dead body as a trophy for Valentine. However, Jace taunts him so much, Jonathan decides to fight him instead of just murdering Jace in cold blood. Although Jace starts the fight winning, Jonathan plays dirty. He spits on Jace’s face and uses the moment of distraction to stab him all the way through Jace’s lungs.

Before Jonathan can make the final blow, though, Izzy shows up. She confronts Jonathan on using her to gain everyone’s trust and then attacking her baby brother. It is because of Izzy distracting Jonathan that Jace manages to impale Jonathan.

And then they do the one thing one should never do in these supernatural shows. They throw Jonathan’s body into the water and let it drift away.

Pretty sure this is the last we’ll see of him, guys. Good hunting.

The one good thing that results from that fight, though, is that Clary finally lets herself admit just how important Jace is to her. She has lost too many people to count, and she just can’t fathom the idea of losing Jace too. They kiss, in a much better scene than that earlier glowing extravaganza. Any couple works best when it is an earnest emotion that brings them closer together, instead of some glorified angelic destiny pushing them into epic kiss after epic kiss.

Unfortunately, while Clary and Jace seem to finally have found each other, Simon and Maia are under much bigger peril. The Seelie Queen has an especial interest in Simon, as he is the first Daylighter she has ever encountered. However, Simon wants nothing to do with the Queen and her war, so he refuses her for the second time. The Queen is not pleased. As a response, she has Maia drugged and brought to the Seelie Realm.

To what end, we will only know next week. The Queen was not there to receive Maia because she was otherwise preoccupied meeting up with Valentine. It turns out, the Queen is Valentine’s avenue of escape. He offers her a deal, which initially amuses the Queen. She wants nothing more than to put his head on a spike. However, Valentine offers her something that quickly changes her mind.

But, just like Maia’s fate, we won’t know what that is until the final episode of the season. This might be the only relevant thing that has happened plot-wise, as we essentially end the episode more or less at the same point it started. Valentine is still on the verge of raising Raziel, and Downworlders and Shadowhunters are still at odds.

That, and the fact that Jace and Izzy killed Jonathan. But Shadowhunters would have to be someone’s first TV show for anyone to believe that was the last we see of him.

Personal Notes

  • The Parabatai bond, which most of us know will be very important next week, is a rather downside of the episode. So, Alec can feel a cut in Jace’s hand, but he’s fine with Jace being dragged by his neck and having his lungs stabbed? And what about last week, when Izzy was the one to notice how sad Alec was after the break-up? What are the rules? Plot convenience?
  • It is great to see each of the Downworlder Leaders have their own opinion. Magnus is betting on a “the ends justify the means” kind of thinking, while Luke is not buying it. Raphael, in turn, is mostly tagging along and dreading the day his father decided to be so dramatic.
  • “Send Maryse my best.” This ship is rising.
  • How cool was Catarina? And how great was Madzie? She seems so happy and healthy now. I choose to believe the speech struggle was deliberate and a way to show Madzie is starting to come out of her shell. With a mom like Catarina, who wouldn’t, right?

Images courtesy of Freeform.


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