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Shadowhunters Season 1, Episode 1 Review

Shadowhunters Season 1, Episode 1 Review

‘The Mortal Cup’

Yes, I’ve read the books, and yes, I’ve seen the film (which got a lot more hate than it probably deserved) so, yes, I had a lot of expectations going in to Shadowhunters, the latest adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. The network formerly known as ABC Family has promised something dark and sexy, while the books I remember are all fantasy and intrigue, so combining those two ideas would take some serious pulling off on their part. I have to admit though, from the first scene, it’s a promising start.

Shadowhunters tells the story of Clary Fray (Kate McNamara) who is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters – a race of half-human half-angel beings who dedicate their lives to keeping humans, known as “mundanes”, safe from the demons and other downworlders – on her 18th birthday. When her mother goes missing, Clary teams up with a group of these beings to try and find her and learns more about herself and her newfound history.

That young, wild and sexy vibe is there from the offset with moody, techno music accompanying pretty people pulling some pretty poses as they track the progress of their shapeshifting target. There’s a cheesy synchronised jump, some slow motion walking and it culminates in a fairly abrupt meet-cute with our heroes.

The majority of the scene is slick and cool, but it’s ultimately let down by the clunky exposition flashback that follows immediately afterwards. I’m all for world-building, but when the entire premise of the book is a young adult discovering the secrets of a new world, I’m pretty sure the TV adaptation should follow suit, instead of laying out everything at the start so the audience knows more than Clary at this point.shadowhunters-season-1-episode-1-03Returning to where we started the episode 15 minutes later is when the action really begins to kick off and just serves to reinforce why the too-early flashbacks were a bad idea. The fun of the Shadowhunters world is learning that there is such things as demons and warlocks and vampires and the Pandemonium scene did a great job of setting that scene in the book, so I’m disappointed the TV series decided to take away from most of that but clearly setting it out beforehand.

Afterwards we fly through the plot pretty quickly as the series rushes to catch us up on 18 years in this world and all the allegiances, betrayals and discoveries are set up and ready to be tested throughout the rest of the series in the last twenty minutes of the episode alone. With a world as rich as Clare’s Mortal Instruments one, it’s understandable that the series wants to establish as much as possible early on to really take the time to enjoy it later on, but it’s a pace that shouldn’t be kept up in later episodes.

Having said that, ‘The Mortal Cup’ really does lay most of the groundwork we need to really immerse ourselves in what’s coming next, even if it ticks quite a few of the trope boxes in doing so. Sarcastic and arrogant stranger? Check. Awkward best friend with not-so-hidden feelings for the protagonist? Check. My whole world just fell apart but wait, is that a love triangle brewing in the background? Check, check and check. Well, that’s just young adult fiction for you.shadowhunters-season-1-episode-1-02Ageing Clary up was a good choice, and I like Katherine McNamara in the role, even if she wasn’t given a great amount to do straight off the bat. Dominic Sherwood as Jace performed better in the role than I was expecting too, and after this episode I have little doubt that he’ll be able to deliver Jace’s oft-quoted one-liners as the series continues. Matthew Daddario’s take on Alec is another character I’m looking forward to seeing more of, and not just for the fairly cool parabatai moment between him and Jace during the fight scene in the club.

As a series, Shadowhunters still has a lot to prove, but ultimately, Clary said it best when she labelled Jace and his fellow Shadowhunters a “supernatural fight club”, which is essentially what we have here – a bunch of teenagers going off to kill demons and not talking to anyone outside of the club about it.

At times it felt too much like it was leaning heavily (and unnecessarily) on the edgy, often at the expense of character, dialogue and pacing, with the aim of capitalising on this dark and sexy new direction it wants to go in, but there was just enough of the books and a promise of a more engaging story to come to bring most viewers back for a second episode.

Overall, ‘The Mortal Cup’ was a pretty good introduction to the Shadowhunters world, but I’m hoping episode two brings out the big guns to keep me interested.


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