TV Review – Shadowhunters (Mid Season)

Shadowhunters Review Christina Bevan
SHADOWHUNTERS - ABC Family's "Shadowhunters" stars Isaiah Mustafa as Luke Garroway, Matthew Daddario as Alec Lightwood, Emeraude Toubia as Isabella Lightwood, Katherine McNamara as Clary Fray, Dominic Sherwood as Jace Wayland, Alberto Rosende as Simon Lewis and Harry Shum Jr. as Magnus Bane. (ABC Family/Bob D'Amico)

Shadowhunters has now aired more than half its episodes for this season and it seems to be going down well. That is if you trust the ratings on review sites such as IMDB (6.6/10) and Rotten Tomatoes (62% audience perception).

When I first reviewed the pilot of Shadowhunters, I was lenient and optimistic. I’m on the fence now more than ever. This show is far from perfect, it gets some things fantastically right and others horrendously wrong.

If you’ve read the books, you’ll struggle to separate the narrative from the one you presumably know and love. If Shadowhunters is your only exposure to Clary Fray, you may view it with more favourable eyes.

There are things to like and there are things to hate about Shadowhunters. It’s true that the show has gotten better as it’s progressed but whether it has progressed enough to save it remains to be seen. Damn Netflix for not publishing ratings. This one is very much an unknown entity leading into the new TV season.

Here’s our top five things Shadowhunters does incredibly well:

  1. Magnus Bane – Harry Shum Jr. brings a wonderful persona to Magnus. He’s flamboyant and sarcastic and bored all at once. Magnus Bane has saved the show from a downward spiral of cheese week after week.
  2. Izzy – Emeraude Toubia’s Izzy has clearly been built from the books. She’s saucy and confident. Despite the responsibility weighing her entire family down, she’s loving life. We could all afford to learn a lesson or two from Izzy Lightwood.
  3. Jace’s sarcasm –Dominic Sherwood’s Jace has nothing on Jamie Campbell Bower’s Jace but he gives it a good go and has us spluttering on occasion throughout the show.
  4. Alec’s fight with his feelings – Matthew Daddario’s Alec has grown considerably in the little time we’ve seen him on screen. Somehow he’s redeemed a once unlikeable character. We can’t help but admire his unwavering loyalty to his friends and family. I’m just glad that he doesn’t follow Jace blindly like some of us are known to do for love. He clearly has a choice; he just makes a conscious decision not to take it. And complains when it backfires. Sarcasm will be the lifeblood that saves this show!
  5. Screen-Shot-2015-10-08-at-10.31.57-PMSimon freaking out – Is it just me or is Simon easier to digest as a vampire? He’s too busy freaking out to pine over Clary anymore and it’s refreshing, we were due a break. Simon as a vampire is stronger and he’s grown, willingly or not, Simon has progressed as a character and willingly faces his demons head on with a truthful intent. He doesn’t pretend that he’s got it all figured out when he’s screaming internally like some of the cast are known to do. No, Simon screams his head off, rants at Rafael, snaps at Clary and exchanges sarcastic comments with Jace. He’s feeling something and we’re sharing in that turmoil.

And five things they do terribly:

  1. Storylines – Season one of Shadowhunters has mixed storylines from at least two books and it’s messy. Messy enough that the writers themselves have dropped a thread. Nine episodes in and we still don’t know the significance of the mundane blood being fenced. Why would circle members want mundane blood? And why would a demon be peddling it?
  2. shadowhunters-series-premiere1Clary Fray – Katherine McNamara isn’t a newbie, she has acting experience. Extensive acting experience – or so we’re led to believe. McNamara’s Clary is just cheesy and stuck in a rut. She isn’t a role model and she isn’t strong. If the writers decided that they need to revert to the books for this particular aspect, then they made a huge mistake. No one cares about a sniffling girl who constantly runs towards danger with a lacklustre determination. Every other character on this show has grown and developed – they don’t make the world cringe with their uber-cheesy lines anymore. If only McNamara would take a page out of their book.
  3. Valentine – The man isn’t charismatic enough to pull off Valentine. He’s also not active enough. And placing him in Russia greatly reduces the threat he possesses in real time. A much-needed sense of urgency has been stolen from Shadowhunters because of that tiny decision.
  4. The budgetShadowhunters mostly gets by unscathed on its minuscule budget – the demons are mostly believable, portals and displays of magic are interestingly done. And then you get to the finer details, like the toy swords, Meliorn’s tent in Central Park and the dozen or more randomers staring at screens and doing absolutely nothing in the Institute. If they ran out of budget and had to skimp on believable weapons and decent belowground fairy haunts, they could have considered returning the Institute to its original form – a crumbling old church with no one but Hodge, the Lightwoods and Jace holding up the defences.
  5. Characters for no reason – There are at least three characters in Shadowhunters who have absolutely no functional significance. Maureen is one of them: if she has a purpose, the time to reveal it has well and truly passed. The entire police department is also unnecessary and baffling. Yes, it’s a way to filter in that downworlders are being drained but then it all but disappears three episodes in and we hardly see the police station once Luke becomes Alpha. What purpose was it meant to play because that’s another strand the writers dropped the ball on?

Catch Shadowhunters on Netflix every Wednesday.