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Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Shadowhunters S1

Series 1

You know, it's an interesting choice to adapt a series of books into a television series so quickly after another adaptation - in this case, the The Mortal Instruments film, a film whose considerable budget and gigantic marketing campaign did nothing to help it in the box office - bombed. This goes doubly when you consider that a lot of people involved in the film have returned to work on the television series (despite the series not being a continuation or aught like that), or when you consider that Cassandra Clare, often a controversial author anyway, can be her own worse enemy when it comes to PR.

Set in New York, because of course it is, the series follows Clary Fray, a young women who discovers that she can see supernatural beings, mere hours before her mother, Jocelyn, goes missing. Discovering that she is a Shadowhunter, part of a group of angel-blood-empowered hunters who act as a supernatural police force, Clary joins up with Shadowhunters Jace Herondale, Alec Lightwood, and Isabelle Lightwood, along with her best friend Simon, her mother's boyfriend Luke, and the warlock Magnus Bane. Together, they hope to find Jocelyn, and also locate the Mortal Cup, an artifact which Clary's father, Valentine, could use to create an army of Shadowhunters.

Clary and Jace, who the show tries to convince us are related, but who are
definitely not related.

The series has been met with a rather mixed reception from critics. Slow to get off the ground, with the first three or four episodes of the thirteen episode show being turgid and difficult to watch, to say the least, even when the series finds it niche and gets going (along with getting a notable uptick in quality), it can best be described as 'charmingly stupid' more than anything else. Which is, perhaps, its biggest strength: A lot of the time, it doesn't feel like the show is trying to be anything other than charming and silly (with those two aspects of it reaching their peak in episode ten, which is basically a coffee shop AU fanfic), and there's really nothing wrong with that. Quite the reverse: It's when the show attempts to be deep and meaningful it's at its worst, and when it barrels head-first into being completely ludicrous that it's at its best.

The show benefits from a pretty solid cast of actors, although it takes them some time to get adjusted to their roles. Katherine McNamara spends the first few episodes playing Clary less like a person and more like an incredulous animatronic before she settles - again, about three or four episodes in - on the right mix of incredulity, humour, and determination for her. Dominic Sherwood, Matthew Daddario, and Emeraude Toubia, playing Jace, Alec, and Isabelle also take some time to find their feet, but once they do they're all actually quite superb.

That's a really nice window, incidentally.

The supporting cast also has some great performances: Harry Shum gives a bombastic, layered performance as Magnus Bane; Isaiah Mustafa (the Old Spice Guy) shows off his acting chops as Luke Garroway (something which the last acting role I saw him in, in Chuck, didn't let him do: They seemed to just want the Old Spice Guy in a polo neck); and Stephanie Bennet, whose biggest acting credit prior to this was as Snow White in the terrible Disney film Descendants, does an excellent job as Lydia Branwell.

The special effects are good, the settings and costumes are well-designed, it's actually not a terribly paced story and, happily, there are even some emotional problems, mostly coming from Magnus and Alec, who are unquestionably the show's flagship romance - there's an editorial on that due to come later this week or early next week. The show never quite excels in any department, but it puts in a good showing in most of them, and when it's not taking itself too seriously, it's a lot of fun to watch.

That's a lot of bandages.

The series ended on a cliffhanger, with Jace - driven to the dark side by the obviously mistaken (obviously) belief that he's been accidentally committing incest for the past of couple of weeks, and also by the belief that his father raised him to be a wrong'un - going over to main villain Valentine's side, Magnus and Alec having relationship issues regarding Magnus' immortality, a potential conflict with the vampires brewing, and Jocelyn having been retrieved and woken up.

While I generally hate series ending on cliffhangers, I can somewhat understand it in this case - they have an entire series to adapt, after all, they were hardly going to do that in thirteen forty minute episodes.

Ultimately, Shadowhunters is a fun romp of a series - at least once it gets past its early episodes - but also definitely not a series that anyone should take seriously. I talk a lot on this blog about how I do quite like watching things which are just stupid fun, and that's still true here, and I'll be looking forward to the second series, most likely due early next year.

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