Shadowhunters S02E01 “This Guilty Blood” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Netflix, new episodes each week on Tuesdays
Writer: Michael Reisz
Director: Matt Hastings
Essential Plot Points:
- On a ship in the bay made invisible by a magic force field, Valentine tries to entice Jace to the dark side, first by torturing him (odd tactics!) then by reasoning with him (probably a more effective approach).
- Valentine reveals that he injected demon blood into his wife’s womb when she was pregnant to turn Jace into a super-shadowhunter. Valentine reckons this also means Jace will have a demon’s instinctual bloodlust and sets about trying to bring it out.
- The Clave installs a new boss at the New York Institute – Victor Aldertree. He immediately investigates the loss of the Mortal Cup and comes to the conclusion (officially at least) that Jace is in willing cahoots with Valentine (we reckon he has ulterior motives). He issues an order that Jace must be captured dead or alive. He also forbids Clary and mum Jocelyn from leaving the Institute. He then orders all downworlders out of the Institute, including Simon (a vampire) and Luke (a werewolf).
- Luke allows Simon to sleep at his cafe, but his other clientele aren’t so welcoming and force Simon to sleep in a nearby boat shed instead.
- Clary escapes the Institute by disguising herself as Victor (blimey, security is lax at that place – you’d have thought Shadowhunters guards would know about shape-shifting runes!)
- She goes to Luke for help. Luke sends her to the boat shed to wake up Simon, then secretly calls her mum.
- Jocelyn escapes the Institute with even more ease than her daughter – she simply asks Valentine if he’ll let her out to recover her daughter (at least, that’s what she claims…)
- She tricks Clary into handing over her cell phone and stele, then locks Clary and Simon in the boat shed. Jocelyn then starts tracking down Jace.
- Clary and Simon eventually escape the boat shed after – rather amusingly – the door buckles from Simon repeatedly running at it using vampire super speed. Hurrah for a good old fashioned brute force solution. Unfortunately, the door finally gives just before Simon is about to declare his undying love for Clary. This is a door with a sense of dramatic timing.
- They track Jocelyn using Simon’s phone’s find-a-friend app (or something along those lines).
- Valentine, meanwhile, has taken Jace to a vampire nosh-up in a pizza restaurant, hoping that Jace will turn all killery at the sight of the senseless massacre.
- Jocelyn, Clary and Simon all arrive just in time to see Jace kill the ringleader vampire even though she’s just asked for Clave sanctuary.
- Jocelyn fires a crossbow bolt at Jace but Valentine throws himself in front of his son and is skewered instead.
- Jace and Valentine escape through a portal just as Jocelyn lets loose with another crossbow bolt.
- Meanwhile, Alec and Magnus bicker then make up, which may sound a little dull but actually provides the episode with some of its best moments.
So, Shadowhunters returns with a pair of new showrunners, and it looks like their first memo to the writing team was, “More gratuitous shirtless scenes please.” We reckon these guys may have a good idea of their core audience…
Other than that (new opening credits aside) it’s difficult to work out yet if these newcomers will have any other major new innovations for the show. “This Guilty Blood” feels pretty much business as usual, though perhaps Valentine is a little less pantomime and perhaps Magnus is a little less camp, but that could just be the actors’ choices rather than new showrunners asking them to dial things back a bit.
It’s a decent enough season opener, though hardly a blockbuster. There’s an awful lot of exposition and scene-setting for the season arcs to come with a couple of action sequences – that perform little narrative function – bolted on to jazz things up a bit. The opening fight scene could be edited out with no effect on the story, while the Clary/Izzy training sequence reeks of a producer going, “This dialogue scene here – any way we can make it more interesting?”
New Institute boss Victor has the potential to become an intriguing new pain-in-the-ass for Clary and co, but does the Clave really need another arrogant boss? Presumably we’ll learn more about him and ths baggage he brings with him in the weeks to come (no doubt kicking off a whole new set of subplots) but for the moment it just seems that the Clave has an endless supply of arseholes to deploy at any given opportunity.
Clary remains the most annoying shallow character on the show. Go on, try to sum her character in no more than five words – we bet you’re struggling after one, even if you get that far. Hopefully this is one weakness the new showrunners will address; it’s not Katherine McNamara’s fault – she seems a perfectly capable actress – it’s that the writers seem to be working from a character description written on a Post-It note in crayon: “RED HAIR!” Even though she has a bonding session with her mum, when her mum later locks her in a boat shed, she doesn’t seem unduly surprised by this major act of betrayal.
Simon remains fun, and seems to be a bit geekier again now, rather than the unconvincingly cool vampire he turned into at the end of last season. His failed attempts at glamouring and his throwaway line about running slow so that Clary can keep up add some much needed charm and humour amongst the full-on high tension everywhere else.
And while Malec are cause of a lot of that tension – they spend the first two thirds of the episode bickering and sniping at each other – they remain one of the best things about the show, mainly because Harry Shum Jr sells the relationship totally. Even more than last season, you actually believe these two could be an item (unlike Clary and Alec) making their reconciliation scene a shameless – but spot on – piece of fan service. Because this is a teen drama, their relationship is bound to have rocky moments ahead, but let’s enjoy it while it lasts, eh?
As for the revelation that Valentine created Jace to be a super Shadowhunter… well, it’s an interesting development, and we’re keen to see where this goes. But we would have liked Jace to ask a few more questions about what this actually means. It’s all a bit vague and wooly at the moment. Is he just stronger and faster? Or does he have other as-yet untapped talents? Maybe he’ll develop the ability to smile.
- Malec – especially their make-up scene: “You’re forgiven. Also, you’re great at apologies”
- Valentine mashing a warlock’s head against the forcefield surrounding the ship – a truly toe-curling effect.
- Simon settling in for the night in a canoe and assuming the classic vampire repose position – a wonderfully geeky little touch that’s so in character.
- The platinum blonde werewolf’s look of contempt at Simon’s rubbish attempt as glamouring is a classic.
- This is really minor thing, but it made a really pleasant change to see a decent exterior shot of the Institute in the daylight.
- And for people who like this sort of thing… loads of gratuitous shirtless shots. It was like the classic days of The Vampire Diaries.
- Why the hell does Valentine torture Jace if he wants to win him over to his side – does he believe in extreme Stockholm syndrome or something? Gratuitous shirtless shots are one thing but gratuitous torture porn stinks a little of desperation.
- The entire scene with Valentine trying to turn Jace into a killer by introducing him to some vampires fell flat. The whole, “she ate her husband” angle came across a little silly rather than shocking; the female vampire lacked any sense of menace; and the final few moments – with Clary, Simon and Jocelyn all converging on the scene at the same time – felt a little farcical. When Clary said, “What have you done?” we were wondering the same thing…
- And why was Jocelyn so intent on killing Jace? Does she suspect he isn’t Jonathan? Then why not just tell Clary as much? Or is she actually ready to kill her own son because the Clave demands it? Maybe we’re supposed to be on tenterhooks pondering these questions, but actually, it just felt like we’d missed out on a page of dialogue! One minute Clary is having a toching reunion with mum, the next mum is locking her up in a canoe shed, and Clary doesn’t seem unduly perturbed!
- “Impressive, aren’t they?” says Valentine of his new Shadowhunter army. Well, yeah, if you’re impressed that they’re able to tell left from right. What was that? Calisthenics?
And The Random:
- Shadowhunters has new showrunners this season: Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, who were previously showrunners on Smallville.
- The show has a new opening title sequence which is very nice and all, but it does look like some of those runes have been scribbled on the sword with a black marker pen.
- The Art Of War (5th century BC) by Sun Tzu is one of those books US TV scriptwriters love to reference because it makes them sound well-read and profound. We suspect few of them have ever actually read it, they just know all about it because it’s forever being referenced in TV shows.
- Considering this episode is supposed to take place immediately after the season one finale, it’s amazing how all the main male hunks have had time to have new hair cuts and/or a few sessions down the gym.
- That’s a bloody big ship – the force field may make it invisible, but surely other boats are going to accidentally bump into it?
Review by Dave Golder