With ‘A Door Into the Dark’ making room for the next part of the story, this week’s Shadowhunters plays out like a decent chapter from start to finish. ‘Parabatai Lost’ gives us a look at the sacrifices one makes when their heart is on the line, whether you’re a sibling, friend, lover or Parabatai.
Alec’s second attempt to track Jace through their bond has landed him in deep water. The tracking process itself means his very soul has gone in search of its partner, but without a clear direction, it’s now lost somewhere on the spirit road between himself and Jace. Unable to find his way back, Alec begins to slip into the labyrinth of his own head, and it’s through a series of defining memories that we see how he sacrificed his feelings to give Jace what he needed – a Parabatai – even as each memory threatens to drag him under.
Magnus desperately employs every spell and potion he knows to tether Alec as long as possible, but he can only do so much. Man in charge Victor Aldertree makes it clear that the presence of Alec’s ‘warlock friend’ is allowed purely on the condition that he can help – and that if he can’t, there’s no reason for him to hang around. The dismissal and criticism of his presence in the Institute reads as yet another dismissal of his presence in Alec’s life in general, and poor, proud Magnus takes the hits to his character with tight-lipped restraint so that he can remain at Alec’s side. However, there’s only so much the High Warlock of Brooklyn can stand before he can’t any longer.
Isabelle aids him where she can but sits on the sidelines a helpless spectator, an outsider to a bond she will never experience. There’s an unmistakable sadness and acceptance in the way she observes Alec’s gradual deterioration, even as she understands the lengths Parabatai will go for each other and knows she’s powerless to stop it. It’s here, perhaps, where we see the beginnings of Isabelle’s road ahead, where sometimes doing the right thing means aligning with the enemy, and it makes her one of the most tragic characters of the episode.
Back at the Institute after her stint on Valentine’s ship, Clary finds herself under Victor’s interrogation again. The hunt for Jace is made ever more crucial with the new knowledge that Valentine’s ship has been discovered abandoned on the East River, but she doesn’t trust the Clave or Victor to do what they’re promising. With each passing episode, Clary gets a little sharper, a little smarter about the new world she navigates. A desperate phone call from Simon also tells us that she’s learning from past mistakes, and it’s touching to see her finally drop her own needs to help others with theirs.
Now free from Valentine’s clutches, Jace finds himself dodging the Clave, the NYPD, and the New York werewolf pack when the washing up of Gretel’s dead body means he’s falsely identified as her murderer. Seeking refuge at the Hunter’s Moon bar, Jace gets cornered in another situation where everyone is against him, and the ensuing fight feels a little like death by firing squad. There’s something about the harrowing odds of a group using violence against the one that makes me feel a little sick inside, but I’m enjoying the uncomfortable places this show is now pushing me. The Shadow World isn’t a utopia of odd and magical creatures. It’s a dark, brutal, painful place full of things that want to sink their teeth into you, and the way Shadowhunters is bringing in that clawing edge this season is exciting.
Jace’s predicament throws Luke and his badge into action as he attempts to track him down before Gretel’s sassy but bratty werewolf friend Maia gets the vengeance she’s seeking. As Shadowhunter-turned-Downworlder, Luke finally finds himself stuck between the laws of two worlds as he tries to answer the demands of his pack while also trying to keep Jace safe. It’s a struggle that is unique to Luke Garroway, who is the only existing character on the show to be in such a position, and seeing how he rides the line and sways from it is going to be a meaty, golden story opportunity for Isaiah Mustafa.
On the other side of the drama, Simon attempts to reconnect with his mother, Elaine, and is not only distraught to find her missing in action but possibly reverting to old, worrying alcoholic tendencies. Taking time out of his ongoing mission to find Camille doesn’t go over well with Raphael, who makes it clear that disobedience will be met with dire consequences. Fans may get a kick out of Raphael posing as Simon’s ‘band manager,’ but gone are the days of their amusing back and forths. Simon now realizes the actual threat Raphael and his new world poses, and whatever amicable bone left between the two is slowly being crushed to dust.
It’s a high-strung episode full of tension, panic, and grief as every character sprints to their destinations, and the last four minutes slam you in the chest before they even start. You’ll quickly understand how it’s all going to go down with a heart-wrenching sense of anticipation; then you’ll willingly let it drag you through it anyway. And just when you think you have it figured out, the impossible happens in a way that feels deeply poignant instead of strictly for dramatic effect. Altogether, the final moments of ‘Parabatai Lost’ are designed to rip you to shreds in the best way, then in the worst way, before tossing you face first to the ground and kicking you in the ribs.
Dominic Sherwood is a standout, portraying an anxiety and drive we haven’t quite seen in Jace yet. His humor filters through in fitting pieces, and when he brings the pain, he commits to taking everyone down with him. Harry Shum Jr. also provides Magnus with some lovely new depths, infusing his every word and look with tangible centuries of knowledge, pain, and ridicule at the hands of those who deem him unworthy. There’s a brief but beautiful pause between Jace and Magnus as two men who share a common love, and Dominic and Harry play it with quiet heart.
For a guy who spends a large part of this episode unconscious, Matthew Daddario locks in a great performance as Alec that hits you when it counts. One scene I found notable for the way he moved his body in tandem with Magnus’ magic. It wasn’t anything huge, but I appreciated it purely for whoever thought that tiny detail should be there. As teen Alec, Alex Eling offers one of the strongest of the younger performances (second to Tomaso Sanelli’s childhood Jace). He had Matthew’s mannerisms and stance almost down to a tee, and he spoke through him from the same locked chest that is often observed in Matthew’s performances.
Emeraude Toubia plays Isabelle from the heart in a way that allows you to see her growing dread as the minutes tick by, and Romy Weltman’s role as her teen counterpart seems to have done a little homework in that regard. Katherine McNamara’s role as Clary takes a substantial backseat to the going-ons this episode, though she grounds Clary again with purpose and allows others to take the lead. Alberto Rosende always shines when Simon gets to be a little more serious, and he plays him like a kicked puppy who still has enough hope to get back up and smile. It’s terribly painful and endearing.
Alisha Wainwright and her fan-anticipated introduction as book-famous werewolf Maia Roberts nails her headstrong character in a way that will delight Maia fans, while Isaiah Mustafa’s Luke only seems to get stronger and more conflicted as the episodes pass. Nick Sagar’s Victor Aldertree is frustrating and uncomfortable to watch in a way that makes you want to make him your ally and punch him in the junk at the same time, and Raymond Ablack’s return as Raj is much the same in that he will make you giggle and call foul.
Writer Peter Binswanger, the guy responsible for last season’s ‘Major Arcana’ and the season finale ‘Morning Star,’ offers emotion to a story that goes right for the kill. It’s one of the most cohesive scripts ever seen on this show, and even if some of the performances fall short of nailing its nuances, it sets a new bar with its overwhelming sense of adrenaline and deep character depth.
Actor-turned-Director Gregory Smith (Everwood, Rookie Blue) plays in the Shadow World for the first time as a guest director, expertly framing the presence of the cast for maximum emotional impact. His style gets intimate where it needs to be, pulls no punches when the action hits, and while some of the younger actors could have done with a little more guidance, whatever he did to nudge our main cast is rewarded in every single one of their performances.
The end result is balanced and true, never stepping over the line of drama for drama’s sake. It’s still a way off from being a perfect show, but this episode is full of heart and all of the juicy facets that make our characters loved, which makes it another bold step in the right direction. Fans will be a mess in the best of ways.
Shadowhunters airs Mondays 8/7c on Freeform, and Tuesdays internationally on Netflix.