I was going to photoshop a poster like one of Taylor Swift’s infamous “Bad Blood” MV posters but then I realized all the characters on this show are basically “Bad Blood” MV characters, and this recap is late enough already.
Great, now “Bad Blood” is stuck in my head. And because I love you, I’ma make sure it gets stuck in your head too.
This episode was kind of an unexpected delight. Not that it is a good episode, mind you. But it was full of those unintentionally amusing moments that just make crappy TV shows worth watching.
We rejoin our intrepid heroes at the Institute, where they discuss what to do with the Mortal Cup. Isabelle and Alec are in favor of giving it to the Clave, but Clary insists that they need the Cup to find Jocelyn. Jace concurs, saying it’s their only bargaining chip. As always Alec just looks so done with everything and is clearly just here to collect his paycheck. Clary promises not to let Valentine get his hands on the Cup, and Alec expresses what I’m thinking and theatrically rolls his eyes before escorting Clary to a vault to hide the Cup. Clary thanks Alec for risking his ass to help her, and he warns her not to mistake his aid for friendship.
Clary calls Simon and gets his voicemail. Meanwhile, the Clave’s computers finally do something useful and detect a threat outside of the Institute. The gang all go outside to investigate, and while I’d normally make fun of characters for doing that given how well it usually works out in B-movies, it actually makes sense here since the Shadowhunters are kind of like mundane guard dogs anyway (as in, guard dogs for “mundanes,” but it works as an adjective, too). They run outside, light sabers drawn, to see Raphael a.k.a. Budget Lestat carrying an unconscious Simon.
After the credits, the gang sneak Raphael and Simon into a basement. Alec says he’ll cover for them and assures them nobody will come down here. So does this mean they’re in the Institute? If so, how would they get Raphael (and Simon) in undetected? It was established earlier in the episode that downworlders cannot enter the Institute without an invitation, so I’m going to assume Raphael was invited. But since the computer picked him up as an intruder, wouldn’t he still appear on the system, especially if he actually enters the building? I mean… it’s not like they just heard someone lurking outside and then Alec goes in and says it was just a cat or something. You can’t establish all these complex technological and magical safeguards and just have characters waltz right past them when it’s convenient to the plot. Oh wait, you can, because this is a crappy Freeform show.
Mournful music plays in the background while the gang discuss the situation. Isabelle says that if the vampires killed Simon, they broke the Accords and it’s grounds for war. Raphael is quick to deny responsibility, claiming it was Camille’s doing and nobody else’s. He brought Simon to the Institute because he doesn’t want trouble with Shadowhunters. Clary points out that none of this would’ve happened if Raphael hadn’t kidnapped Simon in the first place, to which Raphael delivers the classic “I never meant for this to happen!” line. So um… what did he think was going to happen? Camille’s obviously been around for a long time; this was established when Magnus talked about her being his ex-lover (he must like his women crazy). The vampires must be aware by now how unstable and power-hungry she is. Raphael really thought he could barter Simon for the Mortal Cup, no harm, no foul? And what’s Camille’s endgame, anyway? If Simon becomes a vampire, what good would it do her? Yeah, yeah, she’s batshit insane. But even insane villains should have some kind of basic motivation. And here I go overthinking this show again.
So Raphael tells the gang that Simon is in transition, and they have two choices: stake him and end his life, or complete the transformation. If they do nothing, Raphael adds, Simon’s soul will be lost forever. As far as I am concerned, these are great choices—Simon either dies and stops annoying me or is undead and continues to annoy me, but is at least mildly more interesting. Jace complains that Simon won’t be the “sexed-up romantic” kind of vampire, but um… isn’t that the exact kind of vampire that populates this show? This isn’t like The Strain or 30 Days of Night with grotesque parasitic or animalistic vampires. Shadowhunters vampires fit the attractive, alluring, aristocratic perception so embedded within popular culture, with no variation on that theme. Unless this line is supposed to be a dig at Twilight, but even then, the vamps on Shadowhunters are only mildly more menacing than the Twilight ones. (I should add that while I know the Mortal Instruments books pre-date Twilight, the show doesn’t, and I don’t recall if this line or a similar one ever appeared in the books).
Now that I’m done overanalyzing one of Jace’s “edgy” lines that fell flatter than his ass in leather trousers, we cut to Chernobyl again. I heard a throwaway line about Chernobyl on a show I like earlier and actually twitched. See what this show does to me? It ruined Chernobyl. It ruined everything. Valentine reminisces with comatose Jocelyn about their wedding. Who says romance is dead? A particularly greasy new lackey reports back saying Clary has the Cup, and she is under the werewolf pack’s protection now that Luke is their alpha.
Back at the Institute, the Lightwood ‘rents discuss the threat of Valentine, and have little faith in the Clave to handle things. The Clave sounds almost as corrupt, useless, and impotent as any other governing organization on a paranormal fantasy show. Alec and Isabelle walk in. Their parents inform them that the family is in hot water due to all the unsanctioned Shadowhunter activity here as of late, because reiterating shit we already know is this show’s specialty. In actual news, the Clave is sending an envoy to the NYC Institute to babysit the Lightwoods.
Back in the basement, Clary finally listens to Simon’s message and blames herself for what happened to him. Wait, I thought she blamed Raphael? I give her a pass since she’s grieving, though why anyone would grieve Simon, I’ll never know. Raphael gives a more detailed description of Clary’s choices. Apparently, if they complete the transformation ritual and bury Simon, there’s a chance he won’t emerge and will thus “hunger for eternity.” If they stake him, he gets a normal human death. So there’s no guarantee the vampire turning ritual will even work? Is this some 50/50 shit? How do the vampires perpetuate their numbers, particularly if the Accords forbid them to kill mundanes? Do they procreate via spontaneous generation?
At the Institute, Alec walks with Max while discussing more of the latter’s adorable baby Shadowhunter hijinks. Guys, can we just paint a “this kid is doomed!” sign on Max’s forehead and be done with it already? And I know I keep saying this, but I’m still blown away by this show’s casting a kid who could not, in any real or fictional universe, ever pass for a blood relative of the other Lightwoods. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when shows or movies cast actors as immediate family who in no way, shape, or form could pass as relatives in real life, so forgive me for harping on it a little. Anyway Valentine just strolls into the Institute like no big deal and everyone just stands around with their collective thumbs up their asses except for Alec, who, despite being unarmed literally a minute ago, now has a bow and arrow and fires on Valentine.
I’m once again reminded of that Doctor Who episode in which Captain Jack suddenly produces a gun despite being buck-nekkid, then jokes about where he hid that gun. I’m thinking Captain Jack and Alec would get along. I ship it.
Valentine grabs Alec’s arrow before it can skewer him. He draws a rune on his forearm while people continue to gawk like idiots, and transforms into an unfamiliar blonde woman. She scoffs with disgust at everyone’s lack of reaction other than Alec and his amazing ability to pull a bow and arrow out of his ass, much like the writers with these plot twists. She introduces herself as Lydia Branwell, envoy from the Clave.
Lydia wants to know the whereabouts of Clary, who along with Jace is still preoccupied with the Simon situation. Obviously, the Lightwoods can’t tell Lydia that, so they just vaguely say she’s training with Jace. Lydia is unimpressed and points out Jace’s unsanctioned vamp raid. Maryse jumps to his defense, declaring Jace “their best soldier” as everyone repeatedly does in this series despite textual evidence to the contrary. Like Clary, Jace seems to have a terminal case of Informed Attributes, so I think it’s safe to say we have a Gary Stu on our hands.
While skimming through this episode, I really noticed the extras standing behind Lydia in this scene. I do wonder what the casting call for Shadowhunter extras must have looked like. “Men and women age 18-30, permanently stuck in the 2005 Myspace aesthetic. Manic Panic hair dye and faux-tribal tattoos a plus.”
The next scene opens with zombies! Yes, that’s right, I said zombies. Because this show hates me, it’s decided to test my theory that everything is improved with zombies, and fails with flying colors. The zombies, led by Valentine’s greasy lackey, attack the Jade Wolf, but the scene abruptly ends before we actually get to see any action. Talk about undead blue balls. I feel like there’s a metaphor in here of this show’s entire existence, but I’m too lazy to flesh it out.
Since zombie battles are apparently too boring and pedestrian to waste airtime on, we cut to Clary and Jace loitering in the living room at Simon’s house. Excitement out the butt here. There’s a “Harry Potter weekend” ad in the lower right corner of the screen, a hilarious juxtaposition given Cassie Claire’s Harry Potter fandom notoriety. Clary’s here to tell Simon’s Mom he isn’t coming back, but can’t go through with it after seeing how hopeful Simon’s Mom looks as soon as Clary mentions him.
Back at the Institute, Alec treats the others to a powerpoint presentation of the Jade Wolf zombie attack. Lydia asks where Alec is getting his info, and he tells her about Luke. Lydia is suspicious seeing as Luke is an ex-Circle member. Maryse tries to make with the distraction by suggesting Alec and Isabelle investigate the attack to determine if Valentine had a hand in it. Um, what more can Alec and Isabelle investigate? Luke is a cop; if anyone knows how to investigate crimes, it’s him. Not to mention that if Lydia is suspicious of Luke, she’s also suspicious of the Lightwoods, since the entire reason she’s here to start with is to check up on them for the Clave. It just strikes me as a waste of time and resources to send the teenaged offspring of a couple the Clave already distrust to double-check the findings of a guy they also distrust, but surely by now we know better than to expect the Clave to do anything logical.
Lydia blows off Maryse’s advice and declares that she’ll investigate herself. She invites Alec to come with her since he’s ostensibly in charge of the Institute. She also seems to have taken a liking to him, probably because he’s the only one in this joint who ever displays the most basic levels of logic and practicality.
Back at Simon’s place, Clary investigates Simon’s ransacked room. Jace launches into the now-infamous falcon story (well, infamous to Harry Potter fans or Internet gossip enthusiasts), a charming little anecdote of human and animal cruelty meant as a warning against love. The falcon story first appears in Cassie Claire’s Draco Trilogy and is later reproduced in City of Bones. As far as I can tell, the only plagiarism in Claire’s professional work is of her own fan fiction (the parts she actually wrote herself, that is) and this is a particularly talked-about example. Given all this history, I got a chuckle out of hearing TV!Jace deliver those lines.
As she does in the book, Clary declares this “the worst story [she] ever heard” and I can’t say I disagree. She adds, “If being a Shadowhunter means I have to be dead inside, I’m not sure I want to be one.” Well, recapping this series makes me dead inside, so tough shit, Clary.
While en route to the Jade Wolf, Lydia informs Alec he’s one of Idris’s most eligible bachelors and evokes the rumors of his impending arranged marriage. Alec is, predictably, less than enthused. Since it’s apparently Tragic Backstory Time, Lydia tells Alec that she once married for love and was meant to run the Lisbon Institute with her husband until he was killed, curtailing her life and career plans. Like Jace’s falcon story, this anecdote is meant to warn Alec of the dangers of love.
For once, Alec actually isn’t rolling his eyes at someone, but don’t worry, Alec, I’m taking up the slack. These two scenes remind me of Harry S. Plinkett’s criticism of the Star Wars prequels in his Attack of the Clones review (the discussion of love starts at about 13:32). The Jedi are forbidden to love, yet are free to display other strong emotions, including anger. Similarly in Shadowhunters, love is frowned upon yet these same people are getting pissed at each other, mistrusting each other, and breaking rules left and right. Yeah, love is the problem here. Characters lacking in any relatable human connection, as explained by Plinkett, come off as “cold, lifeless, and boring as the computer generated universe they’re projected against.” Now, while Shadowhunters lacks the resources to CGI the shit out of everything, it’s definitely cultivating the same kind of “weird, sterile, sexless universe” Plinkett talks about in the Star Wars prequels. Clary and Jace are Anakin and Padmé 2.0.
Lydia and Alec walk in the Jade Wolf and confer with Luke about the attack. In this show, zombies are referred to as “the forsaken” because I guess “zombie” was just too banal. Luke informs Lydia that the zombie seemed to have a plan and was far more powerful than a normal forsaken. So a forsaken on steroids, I guess? Lydia wants to take the body back to the Institute for an autopsy. Luke balks at being shut out of the investigation, and Lydia points out that the Institute is the only place properly equipped to examine a supernatural creature. I gotta say I’m Team Lydia here. What did Luke think he was going to do, take a dead—well, deader zombie to the police precinct and use their facilities? Even if their ME is another downworlder, the morgue is still designed for mundanes, and they’d have to keep the body hidden from everyone else. Luke concedes the point and asks to be kept apprised of the situation.
Luke believes this attack is the work of Valentine and that he’s after ex-Circle members. Lydia says they’ll put extra wards on the Institute. Alec assumes they’re for Hodge, but Lydia lets it slip that the Lightwoods are also ex-Circle members. Now, I hate to nitpick here (OK I lied; I love to nitpick) but why didn’t Lydia offer Luke protection as well? Sure, Luke has extra powers being both werewolf and Shadowhunter, but he’s still in danger, and the Institute is theoretically the safest place for him (though given their security, I’m not convinced of this). Luke would’ve probably turned down the offer, knowing Luke, but I still think Lydia should’ve offered.
Back at the Institute, Lydia wants to consult Magnus to determine if magic was used to make the creature. Alec acts all weird about Magnus and Lydia totally picks up on it. She mentions that her ancestor and Magnus invested the portal, because Magnus has apparently had his hand in everything in this series, including characters. I’m surprised she didn’t reveal her ancestor and Magnus were lovers or something.
Clary and Jace arrive at the Jade Wolf, where Luke fills them in on the zombie attack and investigation. Luke asks why they’re here, and Clary tells him about Simon. Luke brings up a valid concern about Clary’s safety given everything that’s going on, and I have to question why she didn’t just call Luke on the phone, either. I mean it’s probably best to tell him in person that Simon bit the big one, but these are kind of extenuating circumstances here. Jace seems to think he’s adequate protection for Clary, but considering it took 5 werewolves to bring down a single steroid zombie, I’m thinking someone’s a bit up his own ass.
Isabelle assists while Magnus performs the magical part of the autopsy. I hope that Isabelle wasn’t who Lydia meant when she said earlier that the Institute has the best supernatural forensic pathologist in NYC, because if so, to paraphrase Channing Tatum, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!11! And no, I’m not being derisive because Isabelle is a hot woman and hot women can’t be skilled professionals. I’m being derisive because Isabelle is supposed to be a teenager, and unless this is a Doogie Howser situation, I’m not buying it. But considering Jace is supposed to be the Institute’s best soldier I guess it’s not that much of a stretch.
Magnus and Isabelle talk about Alec, and Isabelle lets it slip that their parents are arranging a marriage for Alec. During the course of this scene, Magnus once again exhibits a facial expression that perfectly encapsulates how I feel about so many things in this episode.
Getting back to Clary and Luke, we’re treated to a flashback of young Luke being cared for by Jocelyn in the aftermath of the werewolf attack. Luke wants to kill himself, but Jocelyn talks him down. In the present, Luke recalls the dark period post-transformation during which everyone in his life abandons him except Jocelyn. His story serves as a warning of what’s in store for Simon, and Luke advises Clary to make the decision for Simon and not for herself.
It’s fanservice time! Magnus walks in on Alec training while shirtless. They flirt for a bit (well, Magnus flirts and Alec acts oblivious) and Magnus hands Alec the autopsy results. They have a heart-to-heart about everything that’s happened in Alec’s life since this show began—learning of his parents’ past, the pressure from the Clave, his arranged marriage. Magnus suggests Alec should “do what’s in [his] heart.”
Clary, Jace, and Raphael take Simon to the cemetery to complete the transformation ritual. Camille crashes their party, wanting “[her] property” back. So wait, if Camille wanted to retain possession of Simon, why did she leave him unguarded long enough for Raphael to sneak him out? The gang refuses to hand Simon over, of course, so Camille calls in reinforcements. They all superspeed in like Clark used to do on Smallville. Raphael challenges Camille, claiming she’s been breaking the Accords long enough. We’re never actually told what Camille has done to break the Accords aside from killing Simon. We’re just meant to take Raphael’s word for it. Raphael threatens to go to the Clave with Camille’s misdeeds, now that he has Simon as proof (I’m not sure how Simon is proof unless her blood is still in his system, in which case that only proves she killed Simon. I suppose it’s still a punishable offense by the Clave). Raphael’s threat is enough to turn the other vamps against Camille, and they all descend upon her in some massive vampire pileup.
At the Institute, Alec overhears Lydia telling his parents that the Clave has removed them from power and placed Lydia in charge. Alec walks in with the autopsy results, which show that no magic was used in creating the creature.
In the cemetery, sappy music plays while Clary, Jace, and Raphael bury Simon. The other vampires appear to have left. Clary tearfully recounts happy memories with Simon and Jace consoles her.
Meanwhile, at the Institute, Alec has thought over the situation and found a solution that restores his family’s good name and keeps the Institute under his leadership. So he proposes marriage to Lydia. Ahh, romance!
At the cemetery, the Three Amigos wait and see if Simon climbs out of the grave. He does, but he’s all feral and weird and freaks Clary out. Raphael unceremoniously tosses him a bag of blood, which he downs voraciously.
At the Institute, Isabelle goes over the results of the autopsy and sees that the creature is nephilim—meaning it has angel blood. We cut to a zombie shambling through an underground tunnel and carrying a club. The zombie bursts into the Institute, in the room where Hodge is training. Without missing a beat, Hodge jumps right into the fight like it’s just part of a training exercise. Alec arrives with his bow and arrow just in time to save Hodge. The zombie fights Alec, and Hodge recovers enough to get the jump on the zombie and kill it. Isabelle rushes in to witness the aftermath of the fight.
At the cemetery, Simon seems to have returned to himself and is terribly confused. The most shocking part of the vampire transformation seems to be that Simon can no longer say the word “God.” Clary explains what happened, but Simon freaks out and superspeeds off. Raphael assures Clary he’ll look after Simon and takes off in pursuit. We end with Jace comforting Clary, who’s spent pretty much this entire episode crying. Don’t worry, Clary. If I weren’t already dead inside, I’d be crying, too, for the forty-ish minutes of my life I’ll never get back.