On the surface of it, ‘Iron Sisters’ seemed like it could be a promising comeback for Shadowhunters after last week’s disappointing turn – Emeraude Toubia’s Izzy was getting an all-too-brief moment in the spotlight and we were going to be introduced to a “badass” faction of warrior women (in Izzy’s own words) to boot. Unfortunately, the series once again dropped the ball this week. Or, rather, dropped the several balls it was trying to juggle at the same time, because trying to pack so much into a 40-minute episode can only end with underdeveloped storylines and a lack of real interest in any of them.
Take Izzy and Clary’s trip to the Iron Sisters. What was set up as a big moment for Izzy, particularly after adding the new and interesting dynamic of Aldertree’s asking her to spy on Clary in exchange for the yin fen she’s newly-addicted to, was cut short after a purity trial revealed the yin fen to be a demonic substance and Izzy was once again sidelined as Clary continued into the Citadel to find answers. Even Izzy’s side-quest as spy didn’t really go anywhere as she chose to keep Clary’s secret instead, making the entire arc a little pointless if no real conflict is going to come from it.
In fact, at this point, it’s just getting frustrating how little impact the core group of characters’ actions have on each other – it’s like the show won’t allow any conflict other than the overarching good-vs-evil one to evolve and have consequences. Aldertree introduces the idea that Clary could have demon blood in her system like Jace does, and it’s quickly disproved a scene or two later, while Simon’s family dynamic and all the new developments it brought, which was one of the best parts of last week, is soon brushed aside in favour of another new storyline thanks to a quick glamour from Raphael. Even Alec’s apparent guilt over killing Jocelyn while possessed by a demon (not to mention almost allowing Clary to be impregnated by a different demon last week) is referenced solely by Izzy’s saying that he “still feels horrible” about it, but Alec himself shows no signs of this during his and Magnus’ first date, once again leaving it to Izzy to be the soundboard for her brother’s feelings.
Although, having said all that, ‘Iron Sisters’ wasn’t all bad, and Magnus and Alec’s date was a huge part of that. Their burgeoning relationship makes for a strong story, particularly here because of how open and honest they were with each other. Harry Shum Jr and Matthew Daddario work off each other well and the fact that Malec are such a fan favourite couple and have been largely overlooked until now has meant that the writers actually giving them that extra time to talk about their relationship, their history and their expectations here really worked – and worked well.
It’s also nice to see Simon’s character developing in new circles outside of Clary and the shadowhunters to strengthen his relationships (or lack thereof) with other downworlders. His early friendship with Maia – and their bonding over a dislike of Jace – is looking like it could be a great new dynamic for him, and Alberto Rosende deserves all the praise for doing more to demonstrate how much Simon is in love with Clary in one facial expression than has been said in whole dialogues at times.After the problems in ‘Dust and Shadows’ last week, there’s no denying that this week marks a bit of a downwards trend for Shadowhunters. Not only has the show brought back some very bad special effects and an over-stuffed episode that renders its characters largely one-dimensional, but it’s also taking away the excitement I had for season two after its first few episodes. These past two episodes in particular have felt more like the show is trying to race through plot points and revelations rather than letting the audience enjoy the character growth and build up to some of the bigger ones, meaning Jace went from being back at the Institute to pushed out again within a five-minute snatch of dialogue, Clary managed to keep her rune-creating skills a secret for less than an episode and Izzy went from grateful for having the yin fen to addicted in about as long too.
A better balance needs to be struck between what we need to know and how it’s told and that’s particularly annoying because it’s a balance they used to have at the beginning of the season. Hopefully Valentine’s return next week will provide a common enough enemy that the plot threads streamline and the characters get a chance to slow down, interact with each other again and return to the glory days of three episodes ago.