‘The Descent into Hell is Easy’
Over in America, fans were able to watch this episode online immediately after last week’s premiere broadcast. Those who had seen it took to the comments of more than one review of the premiere to promise that the show gets better in episode two, while those of us who didn’t get the chance (like over here in Britain) just had to sit back, wait and hope the comments proved true.
Spoiler alert – they did.
‘The Descent into Hell is Easy’ did away with all the clunky character threads and jarring flashback scenes to really come into its own as an episode and focus on Clary’s journey, her discovery of Shadowhunters and what they can do – and not to mention the knowledge bomb dropped on her by the Silent Brothers in the episode’s closing minutes.Picking up where last week’s episode left off, ‘The Descent into Hell is Easy’ was able to delve more into the complexities of the half-human/half-angel hybrid world through the welcome addition of Simon, who went through all the perfect shades of freaking out and disbelief that Clary seems to have missed out. Things like how runes work and how to get around the glamours in place that stop mundanes from seeing them – “would you deglamourise so my best friend doesn’t think I’m losing my mind?!” – are all explained, and we can finally move on with the action with most of the world-building out of the way.
And, luckily, there was plenty to build on. Our core group of Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec and Isabelle jump from the Institute, to Pandemonium to the suitably creepy City of Bones in pursuit of Clary’s wiped memories and The Mortal Cup, all the while feeding into the subplots of Luke’s shady goings on and Valentine’s brilliantly deranged villainy.
Relationships are strengthened and explored, riffing on Clary and Simon’s long friendship and solidifying Alec’s role of the sensible one, but dialogue still suffers at times, and it’s becoming clear that some of the characters are weaker than others. Dominic Sherwood’s Jace and Matthew Daddario’s Alec are both big standouts for me. Sherwood pulls off Jace’s innate protective tendencies and arrogance extremely well, while Daddario’s tall, dark and moody persona aligns perfectly with the idea of Alec I had in my mind. Emeraude Toubia’s Isabelle, on the other hand, still has a lot to do to win me over, and even Katherine McNamara’s Clary is still a little hit and miss.I know at some point I will have to stop comparing this show to the books – if only because the show is flying through chapters so quickly that eventually the series will have run out of source material – but as of right now, it’s as good a reference as any. Every time Jace makes a quip I can recognise (“looking better in black than the widows of our enemies…”) or another character turns up, albeit looking very different than pictured (ahem, Hodge Starkweather), it just serves as another reminder of how rich the book is as a source, and just how much potential that this series has.
And also that FreeForm absolutely nailed their depiction of the Silent Brothers.
It looks like Shadowhunters is playing a delicate balancing game right now, blending the best of the books with the kind of new direction they want to take the series in and it does pay off, most of the time. There’s enough of the book to keep old fans happy, and plenty of new material to keep them interested without alienating anyone new to the series at the same time.
If episode two proves to be a good indication of the show’s upwards curve, then we should be in for a pretty good show.