The second season of Shadowhunters, the series “based” off of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series premiered Monday night on Freeform after a much loved first season. I use the term “based” loosely and surprisingly happily (as I’m usually quite the book snob) as the show made vast improvements on the books that had many gaping flaws in the writing, the characters, and overall plot. Not to mention, the controversy surrounding Clare’s work and plagiarism that surrounds it.
I just want to get it out there that I did read them.… or at least, I read the first two or three in full and found myself more motivated to keep going for the one or two side characters rather than the protagonist or any of the central story lines, which is the last thing you want in a story. I literally ended up skimming the last few to find out the fates of my favorites, and a bit disappointed in myself for even bothering. Clare’s work has a lot of issues, more than I can begin to break down, but there is an underlying interesting world of characters and creations that, when examined and structured properly, can be incredibly compelling.
I always had hopes that adaptation, especially in a visual medium, could elevate the story and its characters and the casting and first season only further proved this. In a world where Hollywood’s default is white, seeing some of the leads cast as people of color excited me greatly, indicating that this show wasn’t interested in confining itself to the straight white narrative dominating television and novels.
I began to watch it when it aired and found myself coming back each and every week. While it’s not a work of art, and it’s certainly got enough cheesiness and bad dialogue to spare, it’s also got something special. As someone who usually finds themselves defending a book from its Hollywood adaptation, this show is so incredible because it’s representative of everything an adaptation can do to improve positively on its source material and be successful.
The second season starts off with that same feeling. A second season can make or break a show but Shadowhunters continues to use the stronger elements from the material it is adapting while improving upon and changing the weaker aspects. “This Guilty Blood” was a fun revisit to characters and a cast that we loved while expanding the story, including a bit of a technical and tonal upheaval, and the usual ABC Fam-Freeform cheesiness we all know and lovingly cringe about.
“This Guilty Blood” starts right off with the action where we left off. Valentine’s supposed army, or at least some of them, lie dead on the ground as Jace steps over them – but a voice calls to him. It’s Clary who “portal-ed” onto the ship. She’s trying to convince Jace to go with her but in walks Valentine. The two engage in a fight and the grittiness of this season definitely shows in the camera work that is much less refined, especially for fight scenes, and feels like more handheld than all of last season combined. Of course this season is accompanied by the dreaded cheesy ABC Fam-Freeform instinctive need to put a soundtrack on everything. It’s definitely cringe but you get over it as he stabs his supposed papa, Valentine. As they run they run into ANOTHER VALENTINE…Jace stabs him too and it turns out those are just Circle members glamoured to look like him. Only furthering what he asks of his people, how little he cares for other lives, and what he’s willing to do to his son. It turns out Clary isn’t Clary, she’s actually Valentine testing Jace’s loyalty. *FATHER OF THE YEAR AWARD #1*
We also have a new intro this season that is super weird and quite cringe..I have to admit I don’t like it as much as I enjoy seeing more of the cast’s faces.
With the new upheaval also comes a ton more transitional shots of New York City that are definitely not necessary and feel a bit out of place but I’m glad they have a bigger budget and higher production value now because oh my god those Seraph blades look so much better and no longer resemble light up sticks!
Lydia, Alec, Magnus and Isabelle are at the institute trying to fight this internally and the Clave, as Magnus points out, are as unhelpful as they usually are. Alec can’t sense Jace through their beautiful bromance Parabatai bond and Magnus attempts to reassure him that they will find him but Alec is resistant—as he is the whole episode. He clearly doesn’t do well under pressure or when it comes to Jace; understandable to a certain level but he definitely recedes back into older Alec in this situation as he starts giving orders and snapping on the people he cares about most; especially Magnus. He’s pushing everyone away and I began to get worried that we were delving into the book territory of their relationship that I absolutely hated with the constant fighting, lack of communication and unhealthy relationship overall.
He eventually says sorry, or begins to, explaining that if Jace dies, so does apart of him, but the two fight again, as Alec wants Magnus to use the rune to track Jace but Magnus insists it’s too dangerous. Alec fights back with a low blow, referring to his coming out and pushing him, “Why can’t you do this one thing, after everything I’ve done for you?” I would say what we’re all thinking…but don’t worry Magnus eventually does!
We actually get a nice reining scene with Clary and her mom where they actually talk instead of getting heated and immediately arguing. Clary is more than straightforward with her award winning line.
Jocelyn: I was scared
Clary: Because you married a psychopath?
Nice Clary; let her down easy! The music of my nightmares comes back to haunt me as we need another soundtrack over this moment that deserves some quiet reflection. They really need to chill with the music.
Clary shows Jocelyn the JC box she saved and lets her know that he’s alive…she’s quite confused as she says she saw them both burn but Luke comes in to confirm what Clary is saying. Jocelyn tries to process the crazy amount of shit that happened while she was asleep, like the fact that Simon is a vampire and it makes her actions at the end of the episode, however frustrating, a little more understandable.
There’s a new guy in town; the new head of the NY Institute, Victor Aldertree, and our crew is not happy as he’s replacing Lydia who despite always doing her job, is doing her job for the right reasons; the clave is corrupt and anyone else they appoint comes with the worry that they too will be acting out of other interests. Marys says they have decided on this replacement because they have deemed Lydia “wholly ineffectual” which sounds like words directly from Marys’ mouth in reaction to Lydia not forcing Alec into marrying her… The parents on this show are shining balls of sunshine.
Victor starts off with a good message, “We have to find Jace Wayland. He’s a Shadowhunter and we don’t leave our people behind,” but slowly that spirals into a hunt for Jace as he puts the Institute on lockdown. He interviews everyone in the institute, looking for information regarding Jace. He comes to talk to Clary who accidentally gives him some fighting proof by letting slip that Jace tried to warn them that Valentine was coming, thus Victor uses this information to further his idea that Jace is in league with Valentine.
Despite Isabelle’s assurance to Clary that Jace will be okay, we’re not too sure, as Valentine is literally torturing his son for his indiscretion and questionably loyalty—although he’d probably do it anyway—he literally has him strung up as his men beat him. Valentine finally says enough, praising Jace for his fight, and walks away as Jace looks like he is starting to have a bit of a mental breakdown. *FATHER OF THE YEAR AWARD #2*
Back to father and son bonding time aboard the boat, Valentine, master chef, is preparing some pasta for them. Apparently it’s Jace’s favorite. What a good parenting technique: a little bit of torture and then serve them their favorite dish, they’ll definitely love you for it.
Jace is trying to come to grips with the fact that his whole life was a lie and that the man he thought was his father,Michael Wayland, was actually this raging psychopath. Jace tries to kill him once again, this time for real, but Valentine is faster and tries to explain that everything he did was to protect Jace and make him stronger.
Get ready for some adopted family feels as Jace replies “No, the Lightwoods made me strong. They took me in, they trained me. If anyone’s my parents, they are.”
Valentine replies “I may have been hard on you but…” UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR “It’s because I loved you son…”
Then the Valentine we know, the leader we’ve heard of starts to come out: the manipulative ass that can get to you. He had amassed followers for a reason. We see why. He finds Jace’s breaking point; family and his hesitations, and uses it. He tells Jace that Jocelyn left him to die in Idris because of what he was, what Valentine made him.
Apparently he experimented on his fucking baby while Jocelyn was sleeping as she was pregnant with him, injecting him with pure demon blood. *FATHER OF THE YEAR AWARD #3*
Maybe don’t experiment on your babies and then tell them about it when they’re older and already questioning your parenting. This injection of demon blood makes Jace his perfect weapon, the perfect “marriage between good and evil”, angel and demon.
Valentine embraces his inner Voldemort and tells Jace how all Downworlders will eventually give way to their inner violence, their blood stained. He put this evil blood in Jace to use him to fight fire with fire and stamp out anyone with a drop of demon blood in them from this world, including Downworlders like Simon, Luke and Magnus.
Speaking of Alec and Magnus, their arguing comes to a head as Magnus heads out, delivering his award winning line of the episode “…besides at my house, there’s steak and vodka. I’d rather be there.” Alec asks him why he wont help and Magnus realizes Alec doesn’t understand the situation at all and has to explain it to him. It’s frustrating but satisfying because they are actually communicating and are saying what they are feeling, even when they are fighting. Magnus explains “You didn’t risk anything for me, you did it for you.” before he walks out in frustration. However an alarm goes off and Alec goes to deal with it first rather than going after him.
Aldertree set the alarm, putting out an alert that Jace is wanted dead or alive as a traitor to the Clave, kicking Luke and Simon out and putting the crew on lockdown, not allowing them to be involved in the “hunt” for Jace.They try to fight back but Aldertree threatens Isabelle with de-runing should challenge his authority.
Isabelle helps Clary find a way out with the training scene of sexual tension that we’ve all seen since they started teasing this season. She explains to Clary that in order to know your enemy, you have to become your enemy, giving Clary the idea to glamour herself as Aldertree to escape the Institute lock-down.
She goes to see Simon, but in walks Jocelyn who opens the door to where Simon has been sleeping in mid day as if there isn’t a vampire in the room that would be severely burned by the sun. She tells Clary that she’ll help her find Jace, asking her to give her the phone and stele to use. Clary does, all too trusting in parents, and Jocelyn runs out, locking the kids in, “for their safety.” Parents talk a lot about doing things for their kids safety this episode but end up usually making the matters much worse than if they actually trusted their children. It’s understandable though from Jocelyn’s perspective is she woke up to find that her psychopathic husband and experimental demonic child came back from the dead.
Then we get the scene that smashes any worry that Magnus and Alec would turn out like their book counterparts as Alec comes to apologize to Magnus, saying he’s sorry he took out all of his frustration on him and it’s really great to watch them actually work things out and communicate and be a healthy couple rather than the toxic mess that was their book counterparts. Magnus says the line that just smashes their book arguments that I hate to pieces insisting for the future that “[They’re] always gonna face challenges, so when things get crazy. Don’t push [him] away.”
Simon and Clary have some bonding time while they are stuck after simon tries to ram the door opened and we have a cute moment where we remember they are actually best friends and have been since childhood. However, as Simon listens to Luke and is about to “be bold” and tell Clary how he actually feels, the door saves us from the embarrassment and falls down from Simon’s ramming. They track Jocelyn who is on her way to Jace.
Magnus helps Alec use his rune but it soon becomes apparent that further magic isn’t necessary as Jace is back on land and easier to track. Alec brings his info to Aledertree but they already have the info so he orders Izzy and Alec to be held there until they get Jace. Lydia promises to do what she can to help but it’s clear they aren’t on a rescue mission.
Valentine takes his son on a nice bonding trip to a Vampire den that hurt innocent Mundanes *FATHER OF THE YEAR AWARD #4* and Jace goes in after hearing a scream, killing a few vamps and eventually staking Maria, the woman who formed the den in the first place, just as Clary arrives to see. Jocelyn, seeing what he is and what she had most feared, tries to take him down with a crossbow (the worst choice of weapon) and Valentine takes the arrow for him, showing Jace his loyalty and
Jocelyn only accidentally further confirming what Valentine had told Jace about her. Clary makes to stop her as Jace pulls Valentine with him back through the portal, the two having lost more than just the hunt, but possibly Jace’s allegiance forever.
“The Guilty Blood” definitely highlights the strength of its cast and what they have done with their characters as Sherwood and McNamara make storylines and characters that were wholly unlikeable and frustratingly so in the novels compelling, insightful, and so incredibly likable that you really root for them and feel the pull and tug of their situations and obstacles.
Thus the first episode wasn’t complete without the cheesiness, music overload, or moments that were sometimes too much or confounding. But overall it was a solid introduction episode back into the action with some really nice character moments and a reminder why this cast and the characters they have developed are so fun to watch.