Well, here we are, guys. We’re coming down the final stretch. It’s the season finale, and as a treat to fans, Shadowhunters has brought its EXTRA EMO A-game!
Let’s bust out our cocktails for tonight’s drinking game. Because we’re all goffiks here, we’ll have some red wine–the color of blood! 🍷
- Someone tells a past childhood anecdote in lieu of characterization.
- A quick and dirty plot convenience occurs.
- Someone haggles over the Mortal Cup.
PalpatineValentine’s behind it all!
- 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).
- The vampires or Shadowhunters try to blackmail or threaten each other over the Simon kidnapping/vamping thing.
- Something egregiously stupid, tacky, or just wtf-inducing even by this show’s standards appears.
- Someone evokes this show’s answer to Godwin’s Law, with Valentine/the Circle.
- This show contradicts its own internal logic.
- Jace or Clary get informed attribute-d and/or exhibit a classic Mary Sue/Gary Stu trait.
- Clary is about 10 steps behind us or says something patently ridiculous, like asking the Old Spice guy if he’s her biological father.
- Someone breaks a rule or displays a general lack of common sense in the name of action-movie bravado.
- There’s a fanservicey training scene.
- Love leads to the Dark Side.
- A visual, image, or highly specific detail is blatantly ganked from a recent or iconic franchise.
- Someone has glamoured themselves as someone else and now reveals their true self
- A secret familial relationship is revealed
- Real or implied incest is happening
- This show writes itself into a logistical rubix cube that eventually ends with “eh, fuck it.”
- Luv triangles.
A scene/event/conversation emphasizes Jace’s emo-hood.Jace exhibits one or more classic woobified emo white boy tropes.
- A character who isn’t Isabelle wears completely impractical clothing for the occasion.
- This show unintentionally implies some fucked-up or otherwise side eye-inducing ideals.
- A character we’re told is immortal and/or extremely powerful is easily killed for plot purposes.
ETA: I have edited the drinking game rules slightly since a few of them were unclear or redundant. It would be contradictory of me, after all, to complain about this show’s convoluted canon whilst having an equally convoluted drinking game. We here at the Unicorner always strive for excellence in our shitposting.
Secret sibling of the ETA: If there are typos here, it’s because my keyboard’s been shorting out lately and spellcheck doesn’t always catch the errors. My apologies for any typos I’ve missed.
The show opens with Jace emo-ing the fuck out, because what else does he do? He’s like a parody of every emo bad-boy trope shambling to Frankenemo life. He’s just found out that the man he believed was his birth father was in fact a long con by Valentine glamouring himself as Michael Wayland. After being orphaned at a young age, Jace is taken in by the Lightwoods, but their relationship is threatened recently due to Valentine’s machinations. Then Jace finds out the girl he’s fallen for is actually his sister. To add insult to injury, the fangirls have gone for Alec and Magnus instead. Jace just cannot catch a break.
#21 but with an edit:
21. Jace exhibits one or more classic woobified emo white boy tropes. 🍷
In a display of acting on par with Emma Ishta’s Emmy-worthy performance in the Stitchers season opener, Jace bemoans his fate, believing his fall to the Dark Side inevitable given his parentage. Clary is quick to point out that Valentine is her father too, but Jace argues that she was raised by Jocelyn and he by Valentine. Except Jace was taken in by the Lightwoods at a fairly young age. Wouldn’t the Lightwoods have as much responsibility in raising Jace as Valentine did? I guess the Force isn’t as strong with them. Clary is powerless in the face of his Jace’s emohood and switches gears, urging him to get his shit straight since they have more pressing matters at hand. They must get the Book of the White from Camille in order to break the spell on Jocelyn. I guess True Love’s kiss isn’t available at this time.
Simon’s still hanging around the Institute, so Clary and Jace go to him for assistance. Simon offers to set up a meeting with Raphael. Meanwhile, Alec approaches Maryse and inquires about Lydia. Gee, finally showing some concern for your almost-bride? That’s nice. Maryse is still pressed about Alec humiliating the family in front of all the Clave bigwigs at the wedding. The show is quick to dismiss any potential homophobic or racist metaphors (despite Maryse’s derogatory sentiments toward Magnus’s downworlder status last week), emphasizing instead her and Robert’s objections to Magnus’s reputation as a “lothario,” to quote Robert. I love this dialogue so much.
Alec and Magnus search for Lydia and discover her unconscious but alive. She wakes up briefly and gasps, “Hodge!” before we cut to the credits.
When the show returns, Magnus treats Lydia while the rest of the gang comb security footage for clues. In a “Sherlock comma no shit” moment, Clary suggests that Hodge took the Mortal Cup. Isabelle is quick to deny it, as she and Alec “knew Hodge [their] whole lives.” Then the footage shows Hodge knocking out Lydia and taking the Cup, and Clary is a better person than I by not smugly declaring “Ha! Called it!” Other footage shows Hodge standing over Jocelyn and using the ring to talk to an unseen person, whom we know from last week is holoValentine. Jace insinuates that the Lightwoods might’ve gotten the ring to Hodge. Isabelle takes offense until Jace shuts her down by replying, “Isn’t that what you said about Hodge?” Look, Isabelle might be naive about her loved ones, but that is a dick move even by your standards, Jace.
The gang deduces that Hodge must’ve gotten the ring from the Forsaken who broke into the Institute a couple episodes ago. Sure enough, security footage confirms this theory. I love how in shows like these, characters quickly find the relevant clips among countless hours of security footage. Since this trope isn’t specific to Shadowhunters, though, I’m leaving it out of the drinking game.
Hodge arrives at the pier where he meets up with Valentine to deliver the Mortal Cup. Valentine dips the Cup into some kind of mystical aquarium thingy before offering it to a random henchman. The henchman gasps and collapses before rising as a new Shadowhunter.
Back at the Institute, Jace and Alec are about to go off all half-cocked after Hodge but Clary intercepts them. She repeats Jace’s own words back to him: “You cannot let emotions cloud your judgement.” I love this show’s inconsistency regarding Shadowhunters and emotions. First they’re telling tragic stories of love leading to the Dark Side (but as I pointed out in a previous recap, it seems A-OK if Shadowhunters feel negative emotions like sadness, impatience, or anger). Then they’re all like, “Yay emotions!” when it comes down to a tough decision. This is clearly a cheap ploy to make Shadowhunters seem romantically tragic without potentially alienating fangirls with cold, hard logic. Ain’t nobody here echoing Spock’s iconic “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” speech. Ironically, Spock’s self-sacrifice on that basis packs a kajillion times more emotional punch than anything this show has given us thus far. Logic FTW!
Clary is unable to talk Jace down, or else we’d have no plot. Jace calls Luke to enlist the werewolf pack’s help in tracking Hodge.
Back at the pier, Valentine sends his latest lackey after Jace and Clary and, in a move that surprises literally no one but Hodge, double crosses the latter by kicking him out of the Cool Evil Kids’ Club. New rule:
25. The Idiot Plot strikes again! 🍷
Clary and Isabelle meet up with Raphael at the DuMort. Given how often Shadowhunters come to him for help, Raphael taunts, “You don’t seem to do a lot of shadow hunting.” OK, that was funny. Simon pleads their case but Raphael refuses on grounds of Camille’s potential to fuck over the vamps if she’s running around free. Raphael offers to let the Shadowhunters go through Camille’s remaining possessions, which satisfies no one so you know shenanigans will ensue.
Hodge tries to evade the wolves, who utter some amusingly fake-sounding howls. Jace, however, finds him first. What ensues is one of the most shameless scenes I have ever seen. Beat for beat, visual for visual, cheesy line for cheesy line, it blatantly ganks from the Star Wars playbook. Now, I know Star Wars is not exactly a bastion of originality and was created with the express purpose of echoing the classic adventure sagas of the era. But Star Wars did bring some truly memorable world building, characters, imagery, and visuals that still resonate in pop culture today. Even people who
live under a rock haven’t seen any of the movies have probably heard numerous references to them without knowing it. So while the tropes used in Star Wars are far from original, the specifics of their implementation are highly recognizable. So it’s probably best to avoid any trope usage too overtly similar to the way Star Wars did it.
The Shadowhunters creative team did not get this memo:
Now, before anyone protests that “double-ended glowy weapons and hand chopping-off-ing aren’t all that original!” that, my friends, is not the point. By themselves these images don’t mean much. But placed within the context of their respective scenes—in the case of the hand chopping, an emotional confrontation between characters with a complicated history plus a shocking and brutal manifestation of the hero’s rage and distress—ain’t nobody being slick here. Perhaps the show’s creative team were hoping the emotional currency from the Star Wars scenes would carry over with the visuals, because their script sure ain’t bringing it. See, in Star Wars, the hand-chopping motif had symbolic value in Luke’s journey. When Darth Vader lops Luke’s hand off, it’s during their first confrontation when Luke finds out the former is his father. After that, Luke has time to mature and grow and hone his Jedi skills, so when he confronts Darth Vader again, it’s he who cuts the latter’s hand off in retribution. This is a pivotal moment as it shows how powerful rage and hate can be and also serves as Luke’s wake-up call. It sets up his final defeat of the emperor and Darth Vader’s redemption.
Contrast with this Shadowhunters scene, which really doesn’t amount to much but a demonstration of Jace’s supposed descent to the Dark Side. These characters are too thinly developed for this scene to pack a whole lot of emotional punch. Neither Jace nor Hodge have elevated themselves above a walking Trope Mad Libs, and Hodge isn’t important enough to the narrative for us to care very much what happens to him. As for Jace, his emotional battle isn’t really with Hodge; the latter’s just a stand-in for Jace’s feelings for Valentine. Slapping such iconic imagery on a scene both similar enough to make it obvious but different enough to negate the emotional impact just comes off cheap, tacky, and lazy. I can’t imagine this scene being effective for anyone other than some emo twelve-year-old who’s never seen Star Wars and will probably go around boasting that Shadowhunters did it better anyway. It’s always reassuring when TV show writers think their audience are fidiots.
A shitload of drinks for #15 and #21—eh, just chug. 🍷
The final insult is, of course, that chopping off Hodge’s hand doesn’t stop Jace in his rage. It’s only Alec and Luke’s timely arrival that accomplishes that–Alec tackles Jace while Luke sees to Hodge. Alec tries to reason with Jace, but Jace is having his budget Anakin Skywalker arc and he’s gonna see it through, dammit. Alec assists Luke and while the two are busy, Jace ganks the ring from Hodge’s severed hand. Jace summons holoValentine, who attempts to woo Jace to the Dark Side.
#15, #21 🍷🍷
Isabelle distracts Raphael while Simon and Clary find Camille. Raphael catches on pretty quickly and escapes before Isabelle can stop him. Simon, meanwhile, sneaks Clary into the basement in a coffin. Since his vamping Simon has taken to wearing head-to-toe black leather like everyone else in this show, because apparently Shadowhunters could give a shit about animal rights. I don’t expect vampires to care, obviously, but aren’t Shadowhunters supposed to be protectors? For shame, Shadowhunters. For shame.
Alec and Luke discuss Jace’s downward spiral. Luke likens Jace’s behavior to Valentine’s back when the latter first succumbed to the Dark Side, and naturally Alec gets defensive.
Luke points out that it’s not like Valentine was always a psychotic megalomaniac. This is a fair point, though if the flashbacks are anything to go by, it seems like Valentine always had delusions of grandeur in some form or another. Given how much everyone props up Jace as the greatest Shadowhunter to ever great, I see how he could go down that path, but Jace also exhibits a hunger for love and acceptance that Valentine never seemed to. Eh, I don’t know. It seems the narrative is trying too hard to paint Jace as a bargain basement Anakin Skywalker when in actuality he’s more of a Kylo Ren.
This is my reaction to Jace as well.
While the two morons’ backs are turned, Jace makes off with Hodge.
At the DuMort, Clary and Simon find Camille in a coffin. Simon makes dumb puns about her being dead before she awakens with a fang-baring jump scare. I’ve got to appreciate a character who has as much contempt for these people as I do. Camille fucks with Clary and Simon until the plot requires her to ‘fess up to the book’s location. Camille dealt in antiquities and obtained the book from Dot, and it’s now in her upper east side apartment, seeing as Shadowhunters vamps are oh-so-original and thus rich and posh, because no other pop culture vamps are rich and posh, ever. Camille is mildly less stupid than everyone else on this show, and offers to take Clary and Simon to the book instead of just, you know, giving them the address. Clary and Simon are idiots, so they agree.
Alec calls Jace and continues trying to reason with him, but Jace is too busy succumbing to the Dark Side and entreats Alec to go help Clary. Jace hangs up and attempts to torture Valentine’s whereabouts out of Hodge.
Before Clary, Simon, and Camille can make their getaway, they’re intercepted by Raphael and friends. The two groups go through the whole “let’s threaten each other and then just duke it out” song and dance, but then Isabelle literally busts in through the wall like a far hotter version of the Kool Aid pitcher. The hole in the wall creates a barrier of sunlight between the two groups, enabling our heroes to escape.
As the gang flee the DuMort, Camille ups the ante by leveraging a pardon from Simon. Clary balks and tries to threaten Camille, but Simon sees they have no choice. The gang goes to Magnus to obtain the “writ of transmutation” that needs to be signed in Simon’s blood. While Isabelle calls for backup, Clary urges Simon to reconsider. We hear a bit more lip service about Jocelyn’s Cool Mom™ status before Simon concludes that pacifying Camille is worth it to save Jocelyn.
Meanwhile, Camille taunts Magnus—remember, they’re exes who had a bitter breakup. She sniffs angel blood on Magnus and lays the most staged and passionless kiss ever on him just as Alec and Isabelle walk in. This causes drama, of course, because it’s not blatantly obvious that Magnus is about as into the kiss as I am into this recap. I’ve seen the guy express more passion toward a glass of wine, and I can’t say I blame him.
Alec informs Clary and Simon that Valentine has the Cup and that Jace and Hodge are in the wind. Clary immediately sets out after Jace, but Alec and Simon talk her into sticking to the plan.
Hodge takes Jace to the pier but finds it deserted. An angry Jace smacks Hodge around a bit before summoning holoValentine with the ring. Jace tells holoValentine he’s reconsidered and is ready to join the Dark Side, but HoloValentine isn’t buying it and threatens Jace’s friends.
The former disappears while the latter angsts around for a bit before calling Clary. As luck or plot would have it, he gets her voicemail. I can’t help but notice how oddly Jace walks. He always does this, and I can’t tell if it’s on purpose or if he’s just chafing like mad in all that leather.
Valentine’s new lackey has tracked down Clary and friends and calls the boss to inform him. The gang enter Camille’s apartment, where they find wall-to-wall shelves of books. Camille’s got to be one of the most well-read crazy people ever. She tricks Simon into signing the writ before the gang has their hands on the book, then promptly peaces out.
Before she goes, she claims she doesn’t know exactly where the book is—apparently, Dot hid it somewhere in here without Camille’s knowledge.
Jace calls and this time Clary picks up. He warns her that they have to leave Camille’s apartment because Valentine is on his way. Clary refuses, of course, since they’re so close to finding the book. As with the search in the police evidence room a few episodes ago and the search through security footage earlier, Clary finds the needle in this haystack with astonishing quickness. She opens a cookbook Jocelyn used to use and finds the matching half of the bookmark fragment she found among Ragnor’s belongings last week. The bookmark halves meld, and the cookbook turns into the Book of the White.
Isabelle informs Clary and Simon that Valentine is here, but the latter portals in before Clary and friends can make their getaway. Jace shows up just as the fight starts. Valentine is all “COME TO THE DARK SIDE JACE” or else he’ll have Jace’s buddies killed. It’s pretty clear from Jace’s puppy dog face that he’s conflicted, but he goes along with Valentine in order to save his friends.
Clary, however, seems to think Jace really is succumbing to the Dark Side and makes impassioned pleas with him to stay. Alec and Simon hold her back from following him through the portal, as Alec informs Clary that if anyone enters a portal without knowing where it goes, they’ll be lost in limbo forever. I don’t think it’d be any great loss.
#21, #25 🍷🍷
The gang returns to the Institute with Hodge, who’s hauled off to the Institute’s magical clink. I’m wondering where he was during the whole brouhaha at Camille’s apartment. Did he just wait in the car? Simon tries to comfort Clary, offering platitudes about love making us stronger and not in actuality leading to the Dark Side. I actually find vampire Simon far less annoying. He still cracks lame jokes and makes unfunny puns, but he’s marginally more useful to the plot now and has gained a bit more gravity from being undead. I have to wonder what became of his Mom and sister though. Did Clary tell them he was dead? Are they still wondering what’s happened to him? What about Maureen? So many unanswered questions!
Magnus assures Alec that everything is over between him and Camille. Alec, however, worries that Magnus’s immortality will come between them. Luke shows up, informing them that it’s time to do the spell on Jocelyn. What remains of the gang gather around while Magnus does the spell, and Luke romantically catches Jocelyn when she wakes up. Jocelyn apologizes to Clary for withholding her true heritage from her and the two of them enjoy a tearful reunion.
We cut to a Valentine giving a rousing speech to his new minions with Jace at his side and the Mortal Cup in his hand. The camera pulls back and we see that they’re on a huge boat, as Shadowhunters cannot track over water. And that’s a wrap!
Recapping this show over the course of its freshman season has been a long, tedious trip. In my defense, I wanted this venture to be more fun than it was. There seems to be a misconception that critical reviewers go in expecting to hate something and are just speaking from confirmation bias, but I genuinely did not expect to hate this show. I’m not even sure I hate it now–I just found it dull. See, I don’t actually hate anything I recap. Sure, I make fun of things and find them pretty bad by fairly objective standards of quality within their respective mediums, but I’m nearly aways entertained by them. I had hoped Shadowhunters would be an entertaining trainwreck, but alas, it only brought the “trainwreck” part.
I’ve seen this show and the book series that inspired it complimented for its subversiveness, a claim I find truly baffling since my biggest critique here is not only the show’s tropiness but its complete lack of a unique spin on those tropes. It’s just a poorly-drawn Frankenworld, basically. The characters, too, fail to rise above the collection of tropes that comprise them, with the possible exception of Alec. I’m not sure how much of that can be credited to the actor, who of the younger cast seems the most proficient at his craft. Fanservice is an issue as well. I dislike shows that are too fanservicey, as the vast majority of the time, fanservice is intrusive, distracting, and overall antithetical to good storytelling. Shit, my beef with Magnus, as I’ve explained before, as that he’s basically nothing but fanservice. It’s like the writers are trying so hard to make fangirls tingle in their girly bits that they forgot to put an actual character in there. I can roll with the gratuitous training scenes as this show has a mostly-attractive cast, but that’s as far as the fanservice should go.
Ultimately, Shadowhunters‘ greatest failing beyond the abysmal storytelling/world building/characterization and… well, pretty much everything but the majority of the cast members’ faces, is the utter lack of fun. It’s both too tryhard and too lazy at the same time, taking itself entirely too seriously and presenting this trope-a-palooza to us with a completely straight face. If the show would just say “fuck it” and go balls-out crazy, it’d still be awful but at least it’d be entertainingly awful. Take notes from shows like Merlin, Lost Girl, and Sleepy Hollow, which were, to quote an io9 commenter, “competently stupid” before devolving into just stupid. Shadowhunters apparently decided to skip the first step entirely. Where’s the fun in that?
Thus concludes this recapping venture, and I am free–at least, until next season.