We’ve been told for months now that Shadowhunters is slowing down to dig a little deeper at what really fuels the story – the relationships – and the season 2 premiere is a big kick in that direction. Whether it’s Jace and Valentine, Clary and Jocelyn, or Alec and Magnus, “This Guilty Blood” saw people connecting or learning from each other all over the place and it made for some exciting character development.
Valentine spends the majority of this episode physically and psychologically abusing Jace to twist him to his will, and he does so by dismantling every single one of Jace’s safe spaces. By revealing his demon blood experiments on Jace while in utero, Valentine effectively cuts him off from every support system he has. Newly informed, Jace is likely to believe that the Clave will lock him up as an enemy, an abomination. The Lightwoods, the only family he’s ever known, could turn their backs on him to protect their family honor. Valentine also makes a point of justifying Jace’s romantic feelings for Clary as a side effect of the demon blood in his veins, which is a sure-fire way of ensuring he can no longer trust his own feelings. His gut and his heart are telling him exactly what he needs to hear right now, and by scrambling those feelings, Valentine is essentially crippling the natural instincts he possesses. With all of his bridges burnt, it puts him exactly where Valentine wants him – with nowhere to go and no choice but to fall in line. That kind of emotional whopping is going to have some serious ripple effects.
A New Sheriff In Town
The Clave is being typically useless. They know Valentine has created an army, which rightfully has them declaring a state of emergency. But instead of answering the real threat, they’ve shipped Lydia 2.0 – a guy by the name of Victor Aldertree – to the New York Institute to get it back on the beaten, obedient path. The newly appointed head in charge gives the old ‘no man left behind’ spiel while investigating Jace’s disappearance at a leisurely pace, but that ends in complete disaster when Victor twists what little information Clary gives him. Jace gets assumed a traitor and sanctioned orders to retrieve him dead or alive are put in place. Oh, the danger of putting words into people’s mouths.
It’s implied that Maryse is the reason for the change in authority, and while one could be optimistic and hope that she’s playing double agent in order to keep her children away from the fallout, it’s almost certainly a strategy to earn back favor with the Clave by dumping the Institute’s recent failings on Lydia’s leadership. Deep down I want to believe that Maryse isn’t the enemy, but her cold disregard of her children and what is morally right isn’t helping her case. And with her quick severing of her familial connection to Jace, she’ll cause damage that will not only destroy him when he finds his way back but will reaffirm all that Valentine has told him.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
The Fairchild women are painfully alike – they’re feisty, driven, stubborn and both thoroughly believe they know everything. Jocelyn thinks Clary is no better than a newborn foal, stumbling around on wobbly feet in a brand new world. Clary thinks her mother has been comatose during all of the important things and believes she knows more about what’s going on. Both women would be absolutely right, except for the fact that being reunited doesn’t automatically resolve 18 years of family secrets. Aside from their mother-daughter tensions, both women are set to come to blows over Jace. Clary wants to help Jace and provide him the family he’s so sorely missed, but Jocelyn remembers her son very differently to the man Clary has known over the last couple of weeks, and her decision to put Jace down instead of helping save him will have the Fairchild women butting heads and may push them further apart. Man, talk about drama.
Alec staring his mother down and telling her that he’s not afraid of doing the right thing, no matter how difficult, is fitting of where he’s come from and what lies ahead. He hasn’t shied away from hard choices in the past, whether it be mission-based decision making or forfeiting the safety of what he knew for the future he could have, and in choosing to be true to who he is, he has set himself a new course that is sure to have its bumps. Alec is nothing if not loyal, but he is at a significant turning point in his life where the line between nature and nurture will begin to become a little clearer, and that will affect the way he navigates life from here on out.
His wariness of the Clave is growing as every decision they make directly and negatively affects the people he loves. Just as Isabelle was held essentially for ransom last season, Jace is now being made a scapegoat for Valentine’s crimes, and it won’t be something he can overlook. Paired with the fact that he’s now dating one of the Clave’s biggest anti-fans, it’s going to be a big catalyst for personal change. His entire life has been all about discipline, obedience and being the perfect soldier, and with everyone else expecting him to maintain the ideal while they do as they please, it will force him to take a step back and see things with new eyes. It’s going to be exciting to see how he grows the further he gets from the nest.
The Heart, It Stumbles
A big part of Alec’s personal growth this season will involve the way he interacts with Magnus. He has no experience in navigating a romantic relationship and paired with his inability to think rationally right now; it trips him more than once this episode alone. Aggressively snatching himself away from Magnus’ touch clearly leaves some hurt in its wake, though Alec is smart enough to understand how it could have been misconstrued. He apologizes soon after, but then promptly sticks his foot in his mouth when he views Magnus’ refusal to help as an obstacle keeping him from rescuing his Parabatai. In his current emotionally skewed brain, his coming out at the wedding was for Magnus, and using that reasoning to hit back at him only makes Magnus dig his heels in. The High Warlock of Brooklyn knows his worth and walks out of the Institute hurt, angry and unwilling to be Alec’s man-angst punching bag, and it says a lot about Alec’s state of mind when all he gets from the exchange is that Jace is still missing and Magnus won’t help. It’s not until Magnus walks out on him that he realizes he’s messed up.
Magnus makes Alec’s second apology more difficult with some well deserved cold-shouldering, but it creates a platform for understanding and honest communication between them. Ultimately it is Alec’s touch that cuts through the tension, and it beautifully reflects where he rudely shrugged Magnus off previously – except now it soothes and mends. Once Alec understands exactly what he’s apologizing for, Magnus’ forgiveness is instantaneous. It’s either a sign that our High Warlock is a sucker for emotionally stunted Shadowhunters giving him physical affection, or the man is as wise and patient as always and was only waiting for Alec to learn where he went wrong.
Complimenting Alec on a job well done and playfully fixing his jacket collar has this robot of a Shadowhunter man blushing, softening, and then standing ten feet tall and bulletproof once again. He heeds the lesson, and his agreement to not let it happen again is a wonderful step in Alec’s character growth, both personally and in his relationship with Magnus. I know many fans want to see these two characters live and breathe on their own two legs, and they will, but it’s through their moments together where they’ll learn the most about themselves as individuals. The road will be a bumpy one, but it’s the beautiful kind of bumpy that makes it all worthwhile.
May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor
Simon’s having another bad day in a streak of bad days. He’s no longer welcome inside the Institute, he can’t go back to his mother and sister, and being a new enemy of Raphael’s vampire clan means he’s on his own with no place to call home. His only option right now is a supply shed outside of the Jade Wolf, where he is exiled forcefully by the pack and boy, it’s high school bullying all over again. One of Simon’s most admirable qualities is his optimism – nothing ever keeps him down for long – so to see this poor guy grinning and bearing his loneliness without complaint is quietly devastating.
One of Simon’s less admirable qualities is his unfortunate timing. Simon’s timing has never been his strong suit, and after some well-meaning advice from Luke, he decides to confess his feelings for Clary. Being locked up together in a supply shed sounds good in theory, but one can’t help thinking that had he managed to get the words out sans interruption, it would have been received poorly. Brother or not, Clary’s every focus right now is on Jace, and a romantic confession merely hours after he is disappearance seems not only in bad taste, but a recipe for disaster. I am no ‘Climon’ fan, but in watching Simon and Clary in their own little world, reminiscing about simpler times and the memories they’ve made together, it seems this particular relationship is being handled in a way that’s going to make it a little more palatable. Love triangles sound like angst gold but they actually suck, and the unrequited in-love-with-my-best-friend trope is tired, but I find myself invested. Simon’s sweet, unconditional love for Clary is lovely when he just accepts it for what it is without expectation, and the way Clary is so wholly oblivious to it and doesn’t attempt to lead him on or use him in any way is greatly appreciated. Despite fans wanting to burn this aspect of their relationship with fire, it’s called character development – and it’ll pass soon enough. As it is right now, I’m enjoying the way they interact, because when Simon and Clary sit down and connect as two best friends, beautiful things happen.
Dominic Sherwood and Alan Van Sprang get the nod this week. The bar – it has been raaaaised! Jace has always been a complex character, but Dom has created so many visceral facets to express who he is that Jace feels like a real, breathing, wounded animal of a person. He makes me ache for his misery so much that I know I will burst into tears when we finally see him smile again. As for Alan, center stage strongly agrees with him. There was a lot of talk about how afraid we should all be of Valentine last season, but the story never really lived up to the hype. With just one episode, Alan finally has the right material to show us what he’s made of, and it’s kind of terrifying. I like my villains to instill a healthy dose of fear in me, and Alan is doing that so well that when he retweeted my advanced review a few weeks back, I threw my phone across the room and didn’t pick it up for a good ten minutes. No joke.
- Jace wanting to kill Valentine, and succeeding. Twice. (Decoys but still.)
- Jace getting a firsthand lesson in how not to treat Downworlders. It should be mandatory learning.
- Valentine being allowed to be a villain. He’s a scary, twisted, egotistical excuse for a person and I love it.
- Luke having Simon’s back. This broship is sailing.
- Alec telling Maryse she’s a sellout right to her face.
- Isabelle outsmarting Victor. I’m sensing some Black-Widow-level espionage this season.
- The Sparks (both angry and happy) between Alec and Magnus. I’ve never been more grateful for these characters being largely skipped in the books than I am now because watching these two develop firsthand for the first time ever is amazing.
- Simon throwing himself at the supply shed door with his vampire speed was genuinely amusing. It was also super cool to see him get the hang of his ability and even enjoy it. Also, that whole ‘I’m a vampire, I’m running slow for you!’ line is going to save logic-based thinkers like me so much pain from now on.
- Maria the vampire: Girl was ten times scarier than Camille ever was. Scary monsters in a show about scary monster killers is what I’m here for. And invoking Clave order was sassy and thrilling to watch.
- Magnus refusing to be treated poorly and using his words to say so.
- Those last few minutes. So intense.
- Valentine manipulating Jace by appearing as Clary. So many things wrong with that. Eww.
- Jace being drugged and tortured into obedience. It’s no fun to watch no matter how you dress it. Seeing him dragged away unconscious reaffirmed how truly alone he is right now, and it was more than a little upsetting to watch.
- Alec being a jerk. Then outdoing himself and being an even bigger jerk. Boy, you are so lucky you were sorry.
- Victor Aldertree is gorgeous, and I love a british accent, but let’s be real. Guy’s a dick.
- The Clave guards and the way they look like Nazis tells you everything you need to know, basically.
- Maryse, the Clave pet. Trailing behind Victor like a dog on a leash is very unbecoming.
- Jocelyn trying to kill Jace. I get she’s spooked, but Jace’s poor face when he realized his own mother was trying to kill him was crushing. Bad form, Jocelyn!
Best Shadowhunters episode to date. Fabulous directing, a tight script, and loads of production gems. What a way to start the season! A+
Shadowhunters airs Mondays 8/7c on Freeform and Tuesdays on Netflix internationally.