Alternate universes are my jam. Seriously, if you me want to fangirl the crap out of something, throw in an alternate universe. Fringe’s altverse, 12 Monkeys and Misfits and Lost with the timey-wimey, Revolution with Aaron’s nanotech-induced altverse dream; Star Trek: the Next Generation’s many alt-verse scenarios, Star Trek: Enterprise’s mirror-verse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Wish”-verse—if it’s an alternative universe, it’s catnip.
Until this show.
I was actually really excited when I learned that this episode featured an alternate universe. Sure, this show makes me hate my very existence and everyone else’s, too, but alternate universes make everything better, right? That and cats. Well, I can honestly the say the most impressive thing about this episode is how boring they made an alternate universe. You know shit’s dire when a show’s being compared unfavorably to Star Trek: Enterprise.
In other awesome news, Shadowhunters has been renewed for a second season!
We open with Clary, Jace, and Meliorn strolling through a lush forest. According to Meliorn, this is the “Seelie Glade.” It probably has a nice fresh scent.
The Seelie Glade (shit, I’m never going to type this with a straight face) is apparently like the Shadowhunter land of Idris, which is like Narnia but the super low-budget version, accessible through secret gateways from our world. Meliorn’s making good on his promise to help Clary find Valentine. He’s brought her and Jace to the glade because of Clary’s purple necklace—the portal shard, remember? If Clary thinks of someone, the portal shard shows that person to her. So if Clary finds the portal it’s part of, it will bring her to the person she thinks of. However, here’s the catch—Clary’s portal shard is from another dimension. That’s why the portal works differently from portals in this dimension, which just seem to function as shortcuts to a place as opposed to a person.
The whole time Meliorn explains this to Clary and Jace, he talks in this weird way that makes him sound like a used car salesman mated with a game show host. And then threw on some extra dumbass.
At the Institute, Lydia interviews some random dude who was apparently on the security detail escorting Meliorn to the City of Bones. The dude tells her about the attack, mentioning that some assailants were vampires and werewolves. However, the guy who attacked him “moved a lot like a Shadowhunter.” This makes Lydia suspicious.
Meliorn leads Dumb and Dumberer to a pair of trees growing in an arch formation. They’re the site of a gateway into an alternate dimension, the one Clary’s portal shard comes from. These interdimensional gateways are a closely-guarded secret of the Seelies, one the Clave doesn’t even know about. Shadowhunters can’t enter without a Seelie’s permission. I have to wonder how Meliorn knew that Clary’s portal shard came from this particular dimension. Maybe the gateway called out to the portal shard? Eh, fuck it.
Meliorn does this does this hilarious interpretive dance to open the gateway.
Clary remarks that Seelies are “one with nature.” So I guess they’re the hippies of the downworld. Nice, y’all got some LSD to share? Anything I hallucinate is probably still makes more sense than this show.
According to Meliorn, the Shadowhunters in this dimension defeated the demons centuries ago. After that, they were no longer needed and their culture just faded away. So did they all go back to Idris? Apparently not, since Meliorn says there’s a Clary and Jace and co in that universe. He also says the downworlders live the mundane lifestyle in order to blend in. But um… isn’t that what downworlders are doing in this dimension? We know they’ve successfully infiltrated human establishments such as the police force and that some are even celebrities. We also know they can glamour themselves so mundanes are none the wiser. So what’s the difference?
Furthermore, Meliorn’s statement implies that the downworlders in the other dimension still have their powers–they just aren’t using them. So why can’t the same be true for Shadowhunters? If downworlders derive their power from their demon blood and Shadowhunters derive their power from their angel blood, then the Shadowhunters’ powers wouldn’t just disappear now that they’re not fighting demons anymore. Maybe they forget how to use them, but they’re still there. This sounds like a recipe for disaster. We know from Clary’s magical awakening that Shadowhunters are going to discover their powers eventually. So now you have all these Shadowhunters running around knowing nothing of their culture, having no training, and thus no ability to control their powers. I find it hard to believe nobody ever went all “oops, I got magicks!” in front of mundanes in this dimension.
Or I don’t know, maybe Clary only found out about her latent powers because it was fate, and other less important Shadowhunters would just go through life none the wiser if nobody ever taught them–eh, fuck it.
Meliorn warns Clary that once she crosses, she will slip into the body of that universe’s Clary. She has to make her journey quick as there is a risk that she will permanently slip into her alt!verse persona, trapping her there forever. This is a common alt!verse trope–travelers need some kind of anchor to avoid being trapped. In Lost, Desmond had his Constant (shit still makes me tear up which is impressive given that I’m dead inside and all). In fact, “The Constant” is probably one of the most amazing episodes of any show ever and if you’ve never seen it turn this shit off and go watch it now. Thank me later. In Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is magically anchored to his corporeal self as he journeys to the demon dimension to rescue Abbie. But because this show is a half-assed copy of every other show in the genre and barely makes an effort to file off the serial numbers, it gives us some half-assed explanation that involves “remembering the differences” between the ‘verses or something stupid.
So Alaric and Luke are hanging at the Jade Wolf. It has just come to my attention that Luke is the Old Spice guy. I knew there was a reason he was one of the less shitty characters on this show.
Simon shows up claiming Raphael made him vampire ambassador to the werewolves. The latter all growl at him and we’ve finally found something more embarrassing than Exo’s “Wolf” music video.
Simon calls himself “Nerdferatu” and it was at this point I nearly lost my will to live, but then I remembered I had a couple Creme Eggs I hadn’t eaten yet. Simon eventually admits to Luke that Raphael got frustrated with his training and told him to take a walk. When Simon loses his shit over the Jade Wolf’s hot waitress, and Luke surmises that he’s having difficulty controlling his urges to vamp out.
Also, why is this waitress dressed like an extra from The Dukes of Hazzard? Oh wait, it’s so Simon can pop his vampire boner and Luke can figure out what’s wrong and they can make double entendres and there aren’t enough Creme Eggs for this.
Clary gives Jace the Mortal Cup (it’s back in tarot card form) for safekeeping while she journeys to the most boring alt!verse ever. Initially, Meliorn only gave Clary permission to pass through the gateway since it’s she to whom he owes is life debt, but she twists his arm into letting her bring backup a.k.a. Jace after she finds Valentine.
Clary walks through the gate and emerges into a world with a permanent Instagram filter. I’m going to call it Instaworld from now on. Since there’s no demons and shit I guess it’s supposed to be this shiny happy world full of picturesque moments, hence the filter, but more likely the writers just think the audience is too stupid and/or drunk to tell the Instaworld from the normal one. Clary finds herself in a weird and mildly creepy scene of domestic bliss in which Valentine and Jocelyn are still happily married. Though Clary initially comes at alt!Valentine with a butter knife, she acclimates very quickly. Hodge and Luke make ridiculous cameos in a commercial for Magnus Bane the psychic, and it reminds me a bit of Neville’s hilarious commercial in Revolution’s alt!verse episode except that one was witty with actual good acting.
In the normal ‘verse, Lydia arrests Isabelle on the assumption she helped Meliorn escape. I would start bitching about due process and shit but I need to quit posting prolonged rants about everything in this show that doesn’t make a lick of sense or I’ll be recapping forever. Isabelle totally calls Lydia out as being no different from Valentine; she just hides behind the law. The show’s already been wonderfully subtle, and by wonderfully subtle I mean the narrative equivalent of an anvil to the face, in showing Lydia as a woman so obsessed with the letter of the law she forgets the spirit of it. They could’ve gotten the point across without this quasi-Godwin’s law evocation, but as I said before, subtlety left the building a long time ago.
Back in Instaworld, Clary is en route to InstaMagnus when she runs into InstaSimon at a food truck. InstaSimon drags her over to have have coffee with their friends, who are InstaAlec and InstaIsabelle. What, no instaMaureen? Forgotten even here. InstaIsabelle is a glasses and Star Wars t-shirt-donning geek and is also Simon’s girlfriend, because apparently this ‘verse is still stuck in the 80s. Alec is working his best Bruce Patman look here.
They share some “as-you-know-Bob” dialogue with Clary informing her (and us) of an anniversary party being held tonight at the Institute, which in the Instaworld is the headquarters of InstaValentine’s Internet empire. I guess he’s the Steve Jobs of Instaworld or something.
Jace is working in the food truck, which I just noticed is called “Java Jace.” Alec Patman is the only thing preventing me from stabbing myself with a knitting needle right now. Jace is also Clary’s boyfriend in this ‘verse. They make out, and Clary looks like she’s about to have an orgasm right then and there. For some reason, they blur the footage, maybe to show the lines between normal Clary and InstaClary blurring, or maybe this is just too racy for
ABC Family Freeform. After a moment, Clary snaps out of it and runs off.
Luke and Simon are taking a walk outside the Jade Wolf, talking about them downworlder blues. Actually, they talk about Clary, who clearly is deserving of the Downworld Nobel Peace Prize for getting the werewolves and vampires to actually act in their own interests instead of squabbling like idiots. Actually, considering how ridiculous these characters are, that really is quite the accomplishment. Fisk, the nefarious Internal Affairs guy from a few episodes back, suddenly shows up and tries to apprehend Luke. Simon vamps out and Luke has to stop him from killing Fisk.
Back in the Enchanted Seelie Forest, Meliorn is meditating outside the gateway when he feels a disturbance in the Force. He warns Jace that demons are attracted to the Instaworld as it’s “defenseless and peaceful.”
Meanwhile, Clary has found InstaMagnus. If he’s anything to go by, blending in among the mundanes means dressing like Mr. Rogers and owning a couple of cats.
Clary takes—and I’m not exaggerating—literally a minute or so to whip up a complex drawing of demons while explaining to InstaMagnus about her home dimension. InstaMagnus can’t help her, claiming his magic is dormant.
At the Institute in the normal ‘verse, Alec approaches Lydia while she’s training, because apparently it’s a requirement that every Shadowhunter character have a fanservicey training scene. Alec offers to barter the Mortal Cup for Isabelle’s freedom. When he and Lydia go to fetch the Cup, however, he finds it gone, and instantly connects the theft to Jace.
InstaMagnus’ drinks a concoction meant to jump-start his powers and in doing so, makes another face expressing my feelings toward this episode.
Clary offers her portal shard to help his portal-locating along, and it works. He says the portal is located in a sub-basement of Fort Knox. He means the Institute, but given how absurd this show is, he actually had me going for a minute. Clary says she’ll get him into the anniversary party and instructs him to meet her there tonight. Meanwhile, InstaIsabelle texts Clary with “911 Emergency” and it’s probably something stupid, or else InstaIsabelle would have called actual 911 and not Clary, but Clary heeds the message anyway.
Back in the normal ‘verse, Alec wants to track Jace through his Parablahblah bond. Isabelle warns Alec that this could weaken or break the bond, but he’s determined to go through with it anyway.
Fisk comes to and finds himself tied to chair in a basement somewhere. Simon threatens him with some blood-draining doohickey, pretending to be the demonic serial killer that Fisk has accused Luke of being. Simon fucks with Fisk for a while until Luke makes a timely arrival, doing what we all want to do and spraying Simon with bullets.
It turns out InstaIsabelle got a shiner thanks to an accident in kickboxing class and wants Clary to help her cover it up. The only notable thing about this scene is how terrible the actress’s accent is when she tries to talk like nerd Isabelle.
Cut to the anniversary party, where we’re forced to endure conversations full of more lame puns referring to the Insta-characters’ nomal ‘verse personas, such as Simon “bleed[ing] [some dude] dry” on poker night. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-themed affair, and Valentine is cosplaying the Mad Hatter.
In the normal ‘verse, Lydia and Hodge reluctantly start Alec’s tracking procedure, which requires Alec to lie shirtless on a cot and make really sexual looking faces. Meanwhile, Jace and Meliorn fight off demons. Jace seems surprised that weapons literally grow out of the ground for Meliorn, when they’ve grown out of thin air for Alec. Maybe only Alec can spontaneously generate weapons. Alec’s attempt to locate Jace via their bond messes with Jace enough that the demon gets past him and Meliorn, and runs through the gateway. Ruh-roh!
Over in Instaworld, InstaMagnus finally shows up at the party but Clary’s too busy making goo goo eyes at InstaJace to let him in. However, InstaAlec intercepts him because of course we’ve got to shoehorn Malec in here somehow. Let’s be real, y’all, Malec is keeping this show alive and at least InstaMagnus isn’t some messy walking stereotype of what straight women think bi men are like. While I appreciate show!Magnus’s shadiness, especially in response to Jace Stu, as a character he’s pretty awful. Check out his wikipedia description, bolding mine:
Magnus Bane is described as being of Asian descent because his mother was Indonesian. He is also said to be long and lean, but not skinny, with lightly muscled arms and an inch taller than Alec. He has brown skin and black hair that is usually spiked, colorful, and glittery. He wears all kinds of make-up, such as glitter around his eyes and lipstick. (He is also described as having more makeup than Isabelle Lightwood in City of Glass.) He likes to flaunt his bisexuality by wearing rainbow leather pants and other flashy accessories (such as a blue sparkly headband). Isabelle once said he was a “sexy, sexy, warlock” whereas Simon Lewis countered that Magnus “looks like a gay Sonic the Hedgehog” and dressed, “like the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” He is also described as having gold-green cat eyes (his warlock mark), and no belly button.
A particularly eloquent ohnotheydidnt poster sums things up succinctly: “It reads like your typical straight lady slash writer who doesn’t have many friends IRL, much less any gay ones.” (Allow me to emphasize that I’m only agreeing with what this description sounds like–I’m not trying to make any claims about the author’s real life or personality).
I’ve also seen some internet commenters whining that book!Magnus’s biracial heritage is ~problematic~ in the but not too foreign tropey sense and I’ma shut this bullshit down right now. Biracial people exist. We are out running around in the world. We were not specifically conceived by our parents to be exotically foreign while still white enough to appeal to the xenophobic racist masses. Magnus Bane is already offensive enough as a LGBTQ+ stereotype without this racial fuckery being thrown into the mix. So if you’re going to go around assuming every biracial character ever is some kind of social or political statement rather than, you know, a representation of people who actually exist, kindly fuck the fuck off not only for being an idiot but for making me defend this character. I hate you.
InstaMagnus finds Clary, who’s already started to disappear into InstaClary. InstaMagnus brings her back by evoking images of his cats.
They sneak off to find the portal while InstaJace is getting drinks. Clary casts a longing glance at her Instaparents being all lovey dovey since her father is not a genocidal megalomaniac here, giving us an inkling that she, like most superheroes, longs for a normal life. Meanwhile, InstaJace is back with the drinks just in time to see them leaving. Drama!
This is a minor point, but remember when Magnus’s demon-summoning spell established Jocelyn as the person Clary loves most, and finding Jocelyn has been driving this show’s entire plotline? Yet before entering the gateway, Clary suggested Jace as her anchor, and now that she’s in the Instaworld, he’s the single biggest force that keeps pulling her into InstaClary–far more so than her family. I can understand Clary turning to Jace in the normal ‘verse now that’s she’s lost her mother and much of her old life, but I’m uncomfortable with the implication that the romance with Jace now supersedes Clary’s one motivation through this whole mess–her mother.
I guess this is what happens when a Mary Sue and Gary Stu collide. They swallow the entire world in their combined Sue/Stu-hood.
At the police precinct in the normal ‘verse, Simon awakens in the morgue. Luke and Alaric make arrangements to fudge his identity so he’s not held responsible for the murders. Fisk, meanwhile, is off Luke’s ass now that the latter supposedly saved his. That ties this plotline up with a neat little bow.
In Instaworld, Clary and InstaMagnus search the basement when InstaJace finds them. He accuses Clary of cheating on him with InstaMagnus and flounces off in a huff. Clary goes after him, but they are attacked by the demon.
In the normal ‘verse, Meliorn senses more demons approaching and has to close the gateway to protect the other world. Jace gets Meliorn to let him through to defeat the demon, knowing the portal is the only way out once Meliorn shuts the gateway. Meliorn warns Jace that his light saber won’t work in that dimension since demons don’t disintegrate, Buffy vamp-style.
Lydia and Alec arrive in the enchanted forest, but Meliorn’s already closed the gateway and made himself scarce. So they did all that work for nothing, then. Also, does this mean everyone in the Clave knows how to enter the Seelie Glade? Did Isabelle tell them? Oh, fuck it.
Jace crosses over and slips into InstaJace. He and Clary fight and kill the demon, but not before it stings Jace with its tentacle.
InstaMagnus tells them the venom is too strong to be countered with a stele, but it didn’t come with Jace through the gateway so it’s a moot point anyway. Clary asks if Jace will be cured when he’s back in his normal body. InstaMagnus tells them “blood travels with you” which is why they still have their powers here. Remember my earlier rant that if Shadowhunters derive power from their angel blood, there’s no biological or evolutionary reason for the InstaHunters to lose their powers even after prolonged disuse? The only conclusion we can draw here is that their angel blood disappeared with their powers, yet for some reason, downworlders’ demon blood didn’t disappear, since they still have their powers.
Ladies and gents, we’ve finally found a franchise with even more nonsensical world building than Twilight.
Jace is a manly man who’s manly, so he insists on powering through his injury to find the portal. InstaMagnus locates it, they go through, but not before InstaMagnus thanks Clary for “[giving him] back a life.” It’s reassuring to know Clary is still a Mary Sue in any dimension.
Alec informs Isabelle that he failed in his mission, and his bond with Jace is now on life support. Isabelle comforts him, and so do I. It’s OK, Alec. Nothing of value was lost.
Jace and Clary make it through the portal and emerge at Chernobyl. Now that Jace has his stele back, he activates a rune to slow the effect of the demon venom. They find Valentine’s weird science lab and figure they’ve stumbled upon his lair. Then they hear something rattling a cage and investigate. They open the cage to find a middle-aged man there, who is… DUN DUN DUN… Jace’s father! Jace had believed his father was dead. Nah, Jace, that’s just my soul after recapping this shit.