There’s something slightly different coming up today! I had such strong feelings on the Shadowhunters TV show that I felt it deserved its own post, and as it is a book-to-series adaptation, it still constitutes a book blog post…right?
[This review contains spoilers for the Shadowhunters TV show and City of Bones and City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare]
As someone who has been a massive fan of Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series since I first picked up City of Bones in 2013, it is the complete truth to say that when I heard a TV adaption was on the cards (like the Mortal Cup…haha), I was ecstatic. Without going too much into detail about the 2013 film adaptation (which I thought was full of problems but okay), I knew that giving the books hours upon hours to play out rather than just what a feature length film could offer would help bring out all of the richness and diversity that makes Cassie’s incredible creation what it is.
And it is safe to say, I was not disappointed. Admittedly, the first few episodes of the show were by no means spectacular, with copious amounts of clichéd dialogue (usually given to Jace and Clary) and debatable special effects choices (demons exploding in golden sparks…), however I can honestly say it gets so much better. By episode four, I was absolutely hooked. What primarily drives the success of the show from this point is undoubtedly its cast. In particular, Harry Shum Jr’s portrayal of Magnus Bane, one of my favourite literary characters of all time, is absolutely superb. You only have to watch one interview with him to see how fully and how rigorously he dedicated himself to understanding every layer of this beautifully written, diverse, sarcastic, heartbreaking character.
One element in which I was increasingly impressed with was the development of the relationship between Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood. From the books, it is fair to say that I was rooting for this beautiful relationship from the start, and Shadowhunters absolutely did it justice. Ultimately, what appealed was how believable it is. The audience’s heart truly breaks as Alec struggles to accept who he is, while Magnus tries opening his heart again only to have it crushed by those few words that had most fans screaming: ‘I proposed to Lydia’. Granted, Alec’s marriage alliance plotline could not have deviated further from the books as firstly, Lydia is not actually in the books, however I felt it added yet another dimension to Alec’s character and truly paved the way for a beautiful moment of realisation and acceptance in episode twelve. I cannot wait to see how season two deals with the progression of their relationship. I am also hoping to see a return of Lydia in the second season, because you can never have too many strong female characters in a show!
Yet another element I adored in the show’s adaptation was the relationship between the characters of Clary (Katherine McNamara) and Isabelle (Emeraude Toubia). To feature two exceptionally strong female leads is one thing, but to feature two exceptionally strong female leads who have a close bond and fight for and empower each other is another. It works wonders to promote the message that women do not have to be in competition with each other, every one of us can be strong, which I thought was beautiful and so needed amongst what is a predominantly male cast. Admittedly, there was less of their relationship towards the end of the season, but I’m looking forward, again, to seeing their progression.
Dominic Sherwood’s portrayal of Jace Wayland is one that initially I was uncertain of. I’ll ashamedly admit it, I was one of those who initially insisted that Jamie Campbell Bower from the 2013 adaptation was the only possible Jace, but I soon realised the error of my ways. Having just finished a re-read of City of Bones I realised exactly how much Jace in the first book can be, for want of a better word, problematic. His constant remarks and often degrading comments really grated on me at times, and I was pleased to realise actually how much the show managed to capture Jace’s better attributes and tone down the ones that don’t always sit comfortably. In short, Sherwood’s Jace just comes across as slightly more mature, and slightly more believable. In saying that, some of his more genuinely humorous lines were interwoven into the script well, however it is in the more emotional scenes that Sherwood shines. Without a doubt, one of my favourite scenes of the show features in episode nine in which all of Jace and Alec’s anger reaches its climax, and an exceptionally choreographed and acted fight occurs. The emotion portrayed by both Sherwood and Matthew Daddario (Alec) is astounding. There have been many criticisms that the extent of strain put on their (Alec and Jace’s) bond would never have occurred in the books, but I personally took it to be a powerful symbol of exactly how dependent they are on each other and how much they care for one another.
Something that cannot be understated is the element of humour that the show retains, primarily through the character of Simon (Alberto Rosende). I found that he was the perfect embodiment of the awkward, nerdy Simon that many book fans adore, with a stand out moment being during the wedding scene of episode 12, in which Simon is entirely oblivious to Alec and Magnus’ confusion at his film references. I was honestly laughing so hard I had to pause and take a moment to recover. Lighter moments such as this help to break up the otherwise darker nature of the show, and Rosende is simply fantastic at bringing Simon to life. In saying this, Rosende manages to ace darker scenes as well; a perfect example being his crawl out of his grave and emergence as a vampire. This was a clear point of the show deviating completely from book one as this does not occur until midway through City of Ashes, however the amount of passion that he brought to the scene really made the audience feel for his character, and adding it in earlier helped add another dimension to Simon as a whole, which I did not have a problem with whatsoever. In addition, some level of humour was added by Isaiah Mustafa’s portrayal of Luke; one that I absolutely adore. In episode nine, his dialogue with Raphael (portrayed by David Castro whom I also adore for his role) was hilarious and again helped to brighten the dire mood that had been growing throughout the episode.
I feel like the season finale needs to be addressed on its own. Firstly, some of the choreography (notably Jace and Hodge’s fight) was fantastic, as was its closing shot of Valentine’s ship. Alec and Clary’s bond growing stronger as he held her back as she broke down upon Jace entering the portal was heart-wrenching and I was almost tearing up alongside her. The waking up of Jocelyn, I found, was slightly too early however it will be interesting to see how her awakening will contribute and affect events of the second season.
All in all, Shadowhunters is not perfect, particularly to the book fans. Although major plot points are accurate, there is so much that drives the bulk of the show that does not even exist in the books. In saying this, however, after the first few episodes I decided to take it as an almost entirely separate entity and realised that what had been created was a fast-paced, emotional show that truly had me rooting for the majority of its characters. In many ways, it is an expansion of the universe rather than a direct replica, which means more content- hardly a bad thing at all, and I for one am eagerly anticipating the 20-episode season two.
Have a lovely day!