TV Recap: Shadowhunters S01E12 “Malec” or “One Wedding and a Funeral… For My Attention Span”

We’re coming down the final stretch, guys. One more episode and season one is over. I shall soon taste freedom.

birthday

Meanwhile, we have the drinking game to keep us busy:

 

  1. Someone tells a past childhood anecdote in lieu of characterization.
  2. A quick and dirty plot convenience occurs.
  3. Someone haggles over the Mortal Cup.
  4. Palpatine Valentine’s behind it all!
  5. A creature, person, place, event, or organization has a generic Capitalized name (yes, I know you can’t tell from spoken dialogue, but you can usually imagine it’s capitalized in prose form).
  6. The vampires or Shadowhunters try to blackmail or threaten each other over the Simon kidnapping/vamping thing.
  7. Something egregiously stupid, tacky, or just wtf-inducing even by this show’s standards appears.
  8. Someone evokes this show’s answer to Godwin’s Law, with Valentine/the Circle.
  9. This show contradicts its own internal logic.
  10. Jace or Clary get informed attribute-d.
  11. Clary is about steps behind us or says something patently ridiculous, like asking the Old Spice guy if he’s her biological father.
  12. Jace risks his health/well-being or is just stupid for the sake of appearing manly/macho or for action-movie heroics.
  13. There’s a fanservicey training scene.
  14. Love leads to the Dark Side.
  15. Someone breaks a rule or displays a general lack of common sense in the name of action-movie bravado.
  16. A visual, image, or highly specific detail is blatantly ganked from another recent franchise.
  17. Someone has glamoured themselves as someone else and now reveals their true self
  18. A secret familial relationship is revealed
  19. Real or implied incest is happening
  20. This show writes itself into a logistical rubix cube that eventually ends with “eh, fuck it.”
  21. Luv triangles.
  22. A scene/event/conversation emphasizes Jace’s emo-hood.

We begin our episode with wedding plans! Isabelle is enjoying herself until Jace shows up being a killjoy, because Jace is a master at the fine art of ruining things. He’s been compiling a list of warlocks more powerful than Magnus, and fires it up on the big computer screen they always use. They need to figure out which one of them cast the spell on Jocelyn. Jace remarks that they’ve “got to find him” (emphasis mine). Hmmm, Jace, that’s kind of sexist of you. Isabelle suggests going to Alec for ideas, but Jace refuses.

"What are all these wimmins doing here? Everyone knows only the menz can be powerful warlocks!"

“What are all these wimmins doing here? Everyone knows only the menz can be powerful warlocks!”

Meanwhile, Clary and Luke are on Jocelyn watch. I’m not sure why Jocelyn needs to be supervised while floating in a coma, but I guess she’s pretty valuable and we’ve already seen that the Institute’s security has more holes than Swiss cheese. Now I want a grilled cheese at 3am. Fuck this show. Alec shows up in search of Lydia, but stays to talk to Clary while Luke heads back to the station. Alec and Clary both awkwardly thank each other, Alec for helping Clary get Jocelyn back and Clary for helping save Isabelle. This warm and fuzzy scene is interrupted when Magnus texts Alec for a booty call.

"Did someone mention a drinking game?"

“Did someone mention a drinking game?”

OK not really, but their relationship is the focus of the meeting. Magnus goes off at Luke for marrying a woman he’s not in love with, and I honestly don’t understand why everyone keeps belaboring that point. We’ve long since established that this is a political marriage. Such marriages don’t seem unprecedented among Shadowhunters, and we already know the Clave is an ass-backwards organization with customs and mentalities that seem permanently stuck in the Middle Ages (not to mention their décor). So why is everyone so shocked that Alec and Lydia are behaving accordingly?

Magnus tells Alec, “Even Shadowhunters fall in love,” but the show isn’t doing much to disprove the characters’ apparent mentality that love leads to the Dark Side this isn’t a good thing. Let’s look at the track record of Shadowhunters in love:

  1. Jocelyn and Valentine: one becomes an evil megalomaniac; the other flees. Jocelyn believes one child is dead and memory wipes the other so she never finds out her true heritage.
  2. Jocelyn and Luke: Luke is turned into a werewolf when a jealous Valentine tries to have him killed. Jocelyn is the only one of his friends who stands by him.
  3. Lydia and her first husband: he’s killed in a raid because they wouldn’t torture info out of a warlock. She loses her husband and career goals (running an Institute together).
  4. Clary and Jace: find out they’re siblings.
  5. Isabelle and Meliorn: Isabelle nearly gets de-Shadowhuntered and exiled for preventing his torture at the hands of the Clave. Meliorn risks his life to help Jace and Clary.
  6. The Lightwoods: have the most dysfunctional magical family since the Skywalkers.

#14 🍺

Look, I get what the show’s trying to do here. I don’t know if it’s the writing or the acting, but none of the so-called emotions here feel real. Alec’s inner struggle comes off more as a mild case of constipation while Magnus keeps saying the same shit over and over: “Alec, don’t marry this chick you don’t love! Come hook up with me instead!” I just find I staggeringly don’t care about Malec beyond the visuals, which I’m sure is all anyone is here for anyway.

Clary calls Simon and invites him to Alec’s wedding as her date. Simon asks about Jace, but Clary evades the truth of their situation. We hear more lip service of how Simon is Clary’s closest friend and whatnot. Keep fanning them love triangle flames!

#21 🍺

Jace and Magnus are sitting awkwardly together at the Institute when Clary shows up to the meeting, having just come from training. She’s dressed in a sheer sweater and Wonderbra. OK, now I have no problem with boobs, but as a possessor of them myself, I can attest that y’all don’t want to train in a Wonderbra. I suppose she could’ve changed afterward, but I don’t know, the way the line was delivered sounds like she literally just came from training. Yes, I’m being nitpicky. Because that’s what I do.

New rule!

23. A character who isn’t Isabelle wears completely impractical clothing for the occasion. 🍺

As usual, Magnus understands me too well.

As usual, Magnus understands me too well.

Magnus asks why they met here and not his place, as “at least there we’ve got cocktails.” Magnus knows what’s up. But they have to meet here because Hodge can’t leave. The man in question makes a timely arrival, announcing that he’s narrowed down Jace’s list to 3 warlocks. One of them, Ragnor Fell, is the former high warlock of London and one of Magnus’s oldest friends. Ragnor was a professor at the Shadowhunter Academy in Idris while Jocelyn was there, making him a likely candidate. Ever since Valentine started targeting warlocks, Ragnor’s been holed up in his secret country house outside of London. Magnus had attempted to contact him but he did not answer, and Magnus assumes Ragnor thought it was Valentine trying to trick him. Ergo, they have to meet him face to face.

Alec and Lydia show up, and the scene gets even more awkward. Alec and Lydia are on their way to greet Clave reps who’ve arrived early for the wedding. Alec bristles at being left out of this meeting of the minds, but Clary fills him in. He offers to help but Jace and Magnus rather coldly rebuff him. This is a minor detail but I notice that Lydia’s look is much softer and more feminine than usual in this scene. Gone are the power suit and ponytail. Now she’s in a dress with her hair down. This styling choice suggests that by mellowing out and getting married, Lydia’s embracing more “feminine” ideals while eschewing the implied “masculine” ideals of career and singlehood.

Lydia: "Where's my paycheck already?" Clary: "Needs more cleavage."

Lydia: “Where’s my paycheck already?”
Clary: “Needs more cleavage.”

New rule:

24. This show unintentionally implies some fucked-up or otherwise side eye-inducing ideals. 🍺

Clary wants to talk to Jace about their new situation, but Jace wants no part of it.

#22 🍺

Via dialogue between Alec and Isabelle, we learn that the Lightwoods are returning to the Institute now that Lydia has the Mortal Cup. Max is with his tutors in Idris as it’s safer there. Alec asks Isabelle why she isn’t giving him more shit about the wedding, and she replies that she’s standing by him now as he did for her during the trial. She tells Alec she’s throwing him a bachelor party. It should be Jace’s duty but it’s pretty clear why he’s not doing it.

The Three Amigos portal over to a nondescript field near Ragnor’s house. Magnus trolls Jace and Clary about their sibling relationship, mentioning an incestuous couple he knew in ancient Egypt. Wait, hold up… Magnus is 300 years old, right? So how was he around for ancient Egypt? Does he have a TARDIS? Out of curiosity, I looked him up in wikipedia:

In the book City of Heavenly Fire, he admits to Alec that he is almost 400 years old, although he often lies about his age (For instance, in “The Bane Chronicles” he claims to be under 300 years old, to which his friends Catarina Loss and Ragnor Fell laugh, obviously aware of the lie, and in “City of Glass” he claims to be 800).

OK, so even if we take the highest of these numbers–800—he still misses ancient Egypt by a good millennium. Unless he’s bullshitting about knowing this couple, which is more likely. Eh, fuck it.

#20 🍺

Jace and Clary get into an argument about Jocelyn. Jace is emo and tortured thinking Jocelyn abandoned him, while Clary tries to defend her mother.

#22 🍺

Magnus is sick of refereeing their drama, but if that’s the case, why bring it up to start with? He’s totally the kind of shit-stirrer who claims to hate drama but secretly lives for it.

Jace senses a disturbance in the Force, and some green CGI rises up around them. Magnus says Ragnor must’ve put up wards to protect his lair. Only the pure of heart and intention can pass through. The three of them walk through the colorful CGI mist, but only Clary emerges on the other side.

♪

♪♬ “And we will walk through the fire…” ♫♩

#10 corollary: Jace or Clary have an exceptional Mary Sue/Gary Stu moment. 🍺

Clary runs up to Ragnor’s cottage and finds the door open. She gets out her light saber and investigates, eventually locating his hiding place within a portrait and yanking him out. The show is as extra as ever in portraying Ragnor as some quirky Rupert Giles-esque superBritish guy, right down to his arguments with invisible people while Clary is talking to him. Clary promises Ragnor anything in exchange for Jocelyn’s cure. Apparently, that promise is enough for Ragnor to magick Magnus and Jace back into sight.

Ragnor needs the Book of the White, an ancient tome containing super-powerful spells. He used the book to make Jocelyn’s potion but asked her to hide it from Valentine. He runs off to fetch something that might help them find it, but before he gets back, he’s attacked by a Shax demon (sp?). For those not keeping track, those are the ones that look like giant scorpions. Jace thinks the demon got in by following them through the wards. Um, guys? These wards? Not working. Maybe y’all should consider joining a neighborhood watch. Ragnor dies of his Shax wounds, and it’s time for a new rule:

25. A character we’re told is immortal and/or extremely powerful is easily killed for plot purposes. 🍺

And now he dead from plot device.

And now he dead from plot device.

To be fair, Shadowhunters is far from the only popular franchise to evoke this cliché. Most supporting characters fitting this archetype exist to impart their wisdom to the main character and are killed off in order to force the main character to stand on their own. Plotwise, I get it, but the death still has to be handled believably. If you’re going to kill off an extremely powerful warlock who’s survived for centuries and surely faced far greater threats than a Shax demon—a creature Clary and Jace have fought off with ease—at least do it in a way that isn’t, you know, fucking stupid.

Magnus gets pissed, makes a portal, and commands Jace and Clary to return to the Institute. He’ll take care of finding Jocelyn’s cure.

The first thing Isabelle asks Jace upon his and Clary’s return is if Jace is attending Alec’s bachelor party. Um, priorities? Jace, Clary, and Magnus just went to fetch a warlock and return warlock-less and Magnus-less, and Isabelle asks about a bachelor party? Jace refuses to go and they quibble about it for a bit before Jace shares his suspicion that there is a mole in the Institute. It’s the only way that Valentine knew about Ragnor and sent the Shax demon after him. Isabelle insists that nobody at the Institute would betray them, but Jace suspects Lydia. He’s about to go off all half-cocked, but Clary and Isabelle convince him to let Clary talk to Lydia first.

"This bitch makes me so mad, I get indigestion just thinking of her."

“This bitch makes me so mad, I get indigestion just thinking of her.”

Lydia denies being the mole (obviously). Given the clumsy way Clary broached the subject, I wonder what she expected Lydia to say? “Oop, you got me. Let me just turn myself in right now.” The topic shifts to Lydia and Alec’s wedding, and Clary goes on a spiel about Alec giving up his happiness. Hey asshole, there’s two people in this marriage. What about Lydia? While it’s true she has a more pragmatic view of the whole thing—she sees the value in the alliance and was touched by Alec’s commitment to saving his family—it’s not like she’s in love with Alec either. Are we meant to believe that since Lydia already experienced love with her first husband, it no longer matters if she cuts herself off to it in the future? I guess no one matters in this shitshow but Clary, Jace, and the Lightwoods.

Isabelle goes to the DuMort to talk to Simon about Jace’s bachelor party. So why not just call him? I get Magnus having to see Alec in person since he’s a weirdo and tried to manipulate Alec into admitting his feelings, but you really need to meet in person to talk about a fucking bachelor party? Isabelle doesn’t even know what a bachelor party is, so Simon gives a cheesy explanation about celebrating with best friends. And strippers. In a way, this explanation is kind of fucked up. Like they’re celebrating that they’ll still be BFFLs after one of them gets married, right? But why is that even a question? If anything, a bachelor party should be about celebrating a momentous occasion for a friend, not affirming that marriage isn’t going to end your friendship or some shit.

#24 🍺

Back at his lair, Magnus looks at an old photo of himself, Ragnor, and Camille. Ragnor Obi-wans his way into Magnus’s lair to give him sage advice. I guess Ragnor is one with the Force now. Magnus says that Camille broke his heart, to which Ragnor counters, “You let her break your heart.” With that pithy remark, Ragnor-wan disappears. Magnus starts to call Alec, but chickens out.

"Well, they did book me for X amount of scenes so I guess now I'm a ghost."

“Well, they did book me for X amount of scenes so I guess now I’m a ghost.”

Using the ruse of the bachelor party, Isabelle tricks Jace and Alec into talking to each other. Basically, “hug it out, bitches.” They work it out, and the convo shifts to Jace and Alec’s respective romantic entanglements. There’s clearly a parallel being drawn between Jace/Clary and Alec/Magnus.

#19 🍺

Alec says, “emotions get in the way” while Jace argues that “you still have to be true to yourself.” OK, but weren’t you the one peddling that falcon story to Clary, towing the very same line about love leading to the Dark Side emotions getting in the way?

#14 🍺

Alec asks Jace to be his best man, but it has some weird name as all Shadowhunter things do.

#5 🍺

Back at his lair, Magnus speaks to Ragor-wan again, who is apparently the ghost of relationships past. Ragnor-wan tells Magnus he has to fight for that special love or something like that.

It’s time for the wedding! Jace is wearing some weird shiny jacket that looks vaguely leatherlike. At a fucking wedding.

#23 🍺

The ceremony is presided over by one of the Silent Brothers. I don’t know about you, but I’d sure like to be married by some scary looking motherfucker who can’t even talk. Which begs the question—how do they hear what he’s saying? Is he tapped into everyone’s minds, like some really emo Borg? I guess since the guests are Shadowhunters they all have some kind of mind connection. Or something. There’s longing looks passed between Clary and Jace during the ceremony, of course.

"Our minister had a great costume for our Walking Dead-themed wedding!"

“Our minister had a great costume for our Walking Dead-themed wedding!”

Just before Lydia draws the marriage rune on Alec, Magnus bursts in for his Taylor Swift “Speak Now” moment. Jace wants to know who invited him, and Isabelle admits to it. Lydia seems rather chill about Alec leaving her at the altar, saying “[he] deserve[s] to be happy.” But what about you, Lydia? Why is everyone acting like Alec is the only one sacrificing anything for this marriage? Lydia’s entire arc thus far has been devoted to humanizing her after her initial Clave bot persona, yet now the narrative’s presenting her as… well, a Clave bot.

I touched on this before, but I still find it extremely disturbing that Lydia’s humanization coincides with a more feminine look and style of dress, highlighted particularly strongly in this episode. When she walks down the aisle in her wedding gown—and she does look stunning—everyone oohs and ahhs in the way they do in 80s teen movies when the nerd takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. Couple this with Clary’s new Isabelle-lite wardrobe as she settles into her Shadowhunter identity (I could buy Clary borrowing Izzy’s clothes in the first ep or two but by now they’ve surely had time to go shopping) and there is a strong alignment between traditional hyperfemininity and self-realization for female characters.

#24 🍺

Maryse tries to interfere, but is unsuccessful. Malec make out and the sound you hear is the squealing of fangirls around the globe. Reactions among the characters vary, but Hodge’s is my favorite.

"Well, this is awkward."

“Well, this is awkward.”

Simon is oddly excited for this turn of events, comparing them to The Graduate. He likens Alec to a “taller, more masculine, handsome version of [Elaine],” and that has to be one of the least heterosexual lines I’ve heard on this show. Jace asks Lydia what’s next for her and it’s the first time anyone has shown much concern for her. She tells him she’s going back to Idris, and he assures her, “There will always be a place for you here.” Now I’m pissed at this show for making me say something nice about Jace. Immediately following this convo, Clary and Jace have a talk and Jace admits he can’t shut Clary out of his life. Once again, the parallels between them and Malec rear their ugly head.

I’ll tell you why this disturbs me so much. At this point in pop culture, incest seems to be the last remaining taboo. It’s certainly portrayed that way in recent TV shows and movies, most notably Game of Thrones. LGBTQ relationships used to be largely portrayed that way, too. Fortunately, much progress has been made since then, though we still have a long way to go. I get that Malec is trying to contribute positive representation, but the show keeps shooting itself in the foot—first by drawing a parallel with an incestuous relationship, thus implying there’s a comparable level of taboo-ness; and secondly by the Lightwoods’ disapproval of Magnus as a downworlder. The show isn’t being remotely slick at all with the downworlder parallels, and I also find it telling that the most stereotypical LGBTQ character is also one of the cast’s few people of color. While I do give the show props for casting actors of color in the roles of characters who were white in the books (Luke, Isabelle), this still earns some major side-eye.

#24 🍺 and new rule:

25. Obvious parallels are obvious. 🍺

Magnus also has some news about Ragnor. He’s pulled every belonging of Ragnor’s with magical importance and lays them all out on a table. Clary recognizes a bookmark from the book of spells that InstaMagnus looked at in the Instaworld, and concludes that it must’ve been the Book of the White. Alec suggests using the bookmark to track the book. Magnus does it, and sees a vision of Camille in the basement of hotel DuMort. So Camille has the book??? Clary says there’s no way Camille will help them, but Jace has a plan.

"Let me out... of this show!"

“Let me out… of this show!”

Now that she’s no longer getting married, Lydia’s back in utilitarian black leather though her hair’s still done up in her wedding ‘do. For some reason, this makes me sad. Presumably she’s on her way back to Idris. She retrieves the Mortal Cup out of the vault, but someone knocks her out and takes the Cup.

Meanwhile, Clary shows Jace the box she found at the loft. She says Luke told her that Jocelyn had a son, and this box contains his belongings. The JC on the box stands for Jonathan Christopher, Jace’s full name. “Jace” became short for JC. Clary says Jocelyn thought Jace was dead and she never abandoned him. Jace is all tortured like and reveals that he struggles against the Dark Side has darkness within him. Clary reassures him.

#22 🍺

Malec are approached by Alec’s parents. Maryse is angry at Alec for humiliating them in front of respected Clave dignitaries, and all for a downworlder. Robert is slightly more understanding. Subtlety, thy name is Shadowhunters.

#25 🍺

Luke talks to comatose Jocelyn, joking that they missed the wedding of the year. Nah, Luke, you really didn’t miss much at all. Hodge shows up and offers to take over Jocelyn watch while Luke gets some rest. Once Luke leaves, Hodge puts on a ring and a hologram of Palpatine Valentine appears. Hodge shows Valentine the Mortal Cup and offers to bring it to him if he helps Hodge break his punishment. Valentine gives a smarmy smile, and thus endeth the episode.

"You're not off the hook yet, bitches."

“You’re not off the hook yet, bitches.”

I can’t say how effective this twist was since I know from the books that Hodge was the mole. It should have been clear to any viewer less stupid than Jace that it isn’t Lydia—she’s too obvious, and it’s never the most obvious suspect. And as usual with this show I’m experiencing extreme narrative/viewer sympathy dissonance. I’m not liking/disliking the characters I feel I’m supposed to or caring about any of these couples. I just feel really bad for Lydia and she’s probably the character I’m supposed to care least about beyond her role in the plot. I don’t know if it’s the writing, acting, or me having no soul, but my complete and utter lack of investment in anyone in this show is making recapping hard. Even in admittedly terrible but fun shows like Stitchers or The Shannara Chronicles, I am able to somewhat invest in the characters and at the very least be entertained by their adventures. Everything about Shadowhunters just leaves me cold. I was hoping it would at least be entertaining in a kind of brain-dead way, and it isn’t even that. And now we’ve reached peak excitement heading for the season finale. I can hardly wait, and neither can Aaron.

I know how much you missed this gif.

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