This review contains spoilers.
1.3 Dead Man’s Party
It’s not saying much, but this was the best episode of Shadowhunters so far. With most of the major characters introduced and most of the basic rules of the universe already established, there was a bit more breathing room for things to happen. And with most of the worst aspects of the show pushed discreetly out of sight, there was even time to have some fun.
So, again, we pick up pretty much exactly where the last episode left off, with Simon being abducted by vampires who think Clary knows where the Mortal Cup is and quite fancy nicking it for themselves. That sense of continuity is quite nice; it can be disconcerting to feel like characters in a TV show are off having adventures we’re not seeing between our weekly episodes, though if they keep it up, the entire run of 13 episodes will end up taking place over about a week and a half in story time, which could also be quite strange.
Anyway, the vampires get away with Simon, temporarily removing Clary’s last link to her normal life. It’s quite the predicament, but luckily Jace is smitten enough to agree to sneaking out of the Institute and digging up a forgotten cache of weapons to help save the day for her. But the inevitable rescue attempt takes a while to get going, because we have to wait for Isabelle to milk some info from her Seelie boyfriend and for Alec to grump around a bit about… well, that’s a good question. It’s not entirely clear what Alec is so grumpy about, is it?
I mean, I know what’s going on with Alec, and if you’ve seen the film or read the books, then you do, too, but the show doesn’t seem to want to tell us just yet. He’s had a couple of scenes with Isabelle where she’s chided him for being too repressed, but then there was also a weird scene with Hodge that implied the problem is that he resents Jace’s leadership. And while I quite liked the Jace/Valentine parallel the show drew there, if you combine that scene with the bit where Alec tells Jace that he’s older than him and shouldn’t be ignored, you could come away with the impression that Alec’s just feeling rebellious, rather than hopelessly in unrequited love with Jace.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, because surely there’s no way you’d do a Mortal Instruments TV show without including Magnus and Alec’s relationship, but there’s a bit of me that’s a bit worried that someone’s decided Alec’s sexuality might be too controversial to address properly. Especially because we did finally get some sexiness in this episode, but all of it was very safe and heterosexual.
Well, maybe it wasn’t very safe for Simon. Locked up in the vampires’ lair, which has the most amazing gold sofa suite you’ll ever see, he’s having a fairly nice time waiting for Clary to come to the rescue. Vamp leader Camille (Kaitlyn Leeb) wants to try to catch Clary to find out where the Mortal Cup is, so she doesn’t want to kill Simon; instead, she’s drinking his blood, snogging him, and feeding him bloody Marys. There are definitely worse ways to be held prisoner, and he doesn’t have to go through the indignity of turning into a rat the way he did in the book.
The actual rescue played out interestingly, too, as second-vamp-in-command Raphael (David Castro) turned out to be an unlikely ally. That’s a new twist on what happens in the books, but I sort of hope it won’t mean we’ll lose Camille too soon, because she’s a lot of fun.
Elsewhere… ah, there wasn’t much of an elsewhere, was there? That’s good, though; this show has way too many moving parts at the moment. Not seeing wolf cop Luke for an episode was no great loss, and I definitely didn’t miss Valentine and his crazy lab of crazy. It was kind of a shame that Magnus didn’t show up at any point in this episode, but Camille’s wonderfully bonkers vamping about mostly made up for that.
Honestly, there were parts of this episode that felt like maybe, someday, Shadowhunters might develop into a show that’s actually worth investing time in. But then there was that dramatic rooftop reunion, where literally everything was overplayed and every line overwrought, and suddenly, this didn’t feel very different from the first two episodes after all. This is still a show that can’t make a joke without jumping up and down yelling about how they made a funny; it’s still a show that doesn’t trust its audience to understand human emotion, or remember how characters are related from one scene to the next. And it’s still, unfortunately, a show that’s using some really bad, really cheap CGI to zhuzh up anything vaguely supernatural.
Arghhhhhhhh. This is where I’m stopping, guys. I’m sorry. I wanted this show to be better. If it gets better in a couple of episodes’ time, will someone email me? Because for now, I’m filing it next to Dollhouse and Caprica and Tru Calling and Wonderfalls in the bin of TV shows I wanted to love, but couldn’t, because they sucked.