Review: Shadowhunters, Ep. 2 – ‘The Descent Into Hell Isn’t Easy’
Jumping straight in to where we left off from the pilot, Simon has tracked Clary (played by Katherine McNamara) down to the institute and, in his mad search to find her, he leads members of the Circle straight to her and Jace (who Simon still cannot see, might I add) and Jace takes them out in pure Shadowhunter fashion.
Directed By: Mick Garris
Written By: Ed Decter
We continue with the narrative following Clary as she attempts to save her mother from the clutches of Valentine and the Circle. How does she plan to do this? She needs to look deep into her memories to see if that leads to any sort of clue to where her mother might be or, more importantly, to where Jocelyn would have hidden the mortal cup. First off, as soon as you mention memories in this Mortal Instruments series, you know what is coming and it may be the moment I waited for the most which is the Silent Brothers. The film version was pretty on point for a literal adaptation of the Silent Brothers so it was interesting to see where this series took them. It has to be said, they made them look far darker than expected. Reading about these cloaked men with their mouths sewn shut in the book struck an image of horror and nightmares for the reader and they actually managed to pull them off. The only bad point about them was the fact that there was not enough screen time with them. We got maybe a few minutes but I was left wanting more, which actually brings us to another aspect there clearly wasn’t enough of.
Freeform should know by now that Magnus Bane as a character is a major selling point for the series. Now I do understand he is coming back but even the few seconds we had his sassy character on screen was worth it. Harry Shum Jr takes on the flamboyancy of the Magnus Bane character and milks every single second of it that he has on screen. All he does this episode is warn Dorothea and flee through a portal but you feel like he is in the middle of a party or is heading to a party. He gives an excellent performance of the character down to his ‘You are beneath me, please back away from me’ side glances. I look forward to seeing more and more of him (we’ll get far more Magnus for our money later on, I hope) as the series progresses.
Adapting a TV series from a book gives us a much more detailed rendition of the book material than a film can give us, which also means changing details; the most notable change being Dorothea, who went from being the batty witch who lived next to Clary and her mother to her mother’s assistant or friend who work in the antique store. The character of Dorothea is used much more efficiently in this rendition, using her as a gateway character for the story but still incorporating her many actual plot points including a random demon imaging as her and being a fortune teller. That’s pretty much the only connection as all she does in this episode is gateway character work, but it was a nice addition.
The other major change is, of course Luke being a police officer for the NYPD. This is a major change but they are making it work by incorporating it into the narrative and, what is better, you can see his ‘condition’ and how it affects his everyday life and his job.
Lastly, where others are embracing and developing their roles from the original perception of the character while also adding their own flare to those characters, McNamara gives yet another lacklustre performance. The character of Clary from the book is full of angst, wit and sarcasm; she can fire out cutting one liners in a heartbeat but is also kind with a big heart. McNamara, however, is not putting that confident wit across in her performance and is, in my opinion, acting more like a damsel in distress who needs Jace to lead her by the hand into the adventure. There are moments you see Clary’s fire come out as she attempts to take charge but then she reverts straight back to being a poor helpless princess. I really can’t tell if this is just bad direction or an unfortunate casting choice. In the pilot, her relationship with Jace was stunted and awkward but it’s warming up and becoming more believable. However, they have nowhere near the sizzle and pop that they have in the books. There is hope, but McNamara needs to pick up the personality a bit.
Overall, it’s another good but not great episode. The story is chugging along but it’s not particularly interesting or ‘edge of seat’ stuff and the characters are coming into their own but, once again, the weak link is McNamara. Considering what is coming up next episode I certainly hope they pick up the pace and get some real action in there.