Shadowhunters S02E05 “Dust & Shadows” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Alec is all mopey about the fact that he killed Jocelyn while possessed. Jace is all, “OUT OF PROPORTION, MAN!” but Alec fires off a few arrows from the roof of the Institute the runs off into the night, because epic moping is his thing, and not because he’s a secret Green Arrow cosplayer.
- Clary and Simon are mourning Jocleyn’s death when Clary suddenly remembers Simon died once too… and he recovered. Maybe Jocelyn can be resurrected too?
- Absolutely not, says Magnus when Clary pays him a visit. Sure, it can be done, but it’s dark, dark magic and he’s seen that Buffy episode, “The Body”.
- He gives her an old photo magically developed from one his memories of her and her mother together as a consolation prize.
- Clary tells Simon – who’s clearly thinking he can step into a Jace-shaped hole – to go home and tell his mum he loves her.
- Luke has gone AWOL.
- Victor announces to the Institute that Jace is exonerated of all crimes because he fought bravely during Valentine’s attack on the City Of Bones.
- Clary uses the Insitute’s databanks to track down a warlock who might help her resurrect mum – Iris Rouse, who’s been around since the 14th century.
- Rouse has a very posh private medical practice in an impressive house, plus a very young goddaughter called Madzie who doesn’t say very much but has an expression that says, “I’d be at home in American Horror Story”.
- Rouse resurrects a dead crow to prove her powers.
- Rouse agrees to bring back Jocelyn in exchange for a favour from Clary that she’ll call in when she’s ready.
- Simon moves back in with his mum.
- Victor calls Jace to his office and criticises him for being an undisciplined soldier. Victor says Jace should have let him die in the City of Bones in order to prevent Valentine from taking the Sword instead. He bans Jace from field duty.
- Simon’s sister Rebecca senses there’s something wrong with Simon. She visits him in his room, wrinkles her nose at the stink, then flushes his blood down the toilet, even though he tries to pass it off as fake blood used in his band’s stage act.
- As it’s day Simon is now trapped in his room with a growing bloodlust.
- Jace catches Clary cutting lock of hair off her mother’s corpse for the resurrection spell – he realises what she’s doing but warns her against it. She ignores him.
- Jace and Izzy spar. She has still not recovered from the wound inflicted on her shoulder in the demon attack, but tries to get Victor to assign her to lead a mission to the Iron Sisters (she’s a bit of an Iron Sisters fangirl, apparently).
- Victor says she can’t go if she has a demon infection, but he can cure that. He gives her a potent ointment called yin fen, which seems to give her an orgasm as well as make the pain go away. He seems to enjoy rubbing it into her neck. We think he’s trying to get her addicted.
- After a pep talk from Magnus, Alec apologises to Clary and agrees to go with her back to Iris’s place to help with the resurrection.
- Alec is immediately suspicious of Iris especially when she makes him wait in the waiting room, claiming his energy is too turbulent.
- In desperation, Simon reveals to his mum that he’s a vampire. At first she thinks he’s pranking her, then she thinks he’s mentally ill. Then she sees him eating a rat.
- During the resurrection ceremony, the crow that Iris brought back to life gatecrashes and acts like a mad thing. Iris captures it and breaks its neck. Clary is not impressed and halts the ceremony. But Iris still wants to call in her contractual favour.
- Outside, Alec talks to Madzie and realises she has gills.
- Iris explains that she has a personal private demon whom she uses impregnate young women with baby warlocks. She intends to create a warlock army to face Valentine’s forces. She has found a way for a demon and a Shadowhunter to mate (which should be impossible), and hopes the pairing will create a superwarlock.
- She places Cary in a cell with the rapey demon.
- Alec realises what’s going on but Iris lays into him with some warlock juju. Madzie saves Alec by asking her “nana” not to hurt him.
- Meanwhile Jace and Izzy turn up having worked out where Clary and Alec have gone.
- Outnumbered, Iris portals the hell out of there with Madzie but warns that she will claim her favour off Clary one day.
- Clary defeats the rapey demon when she sees a vision of a rune and draws it onto her hand, giving her the ability to emit intense sunlight out of her hand.
- Only Jace sees this and tells her not to tell the others what happened. We’re not sure why. Clary doesn’t ask.
- Izzy is definitely addicted to the yin fen.
- The funeral is held in the Institute for those who fell in the war against Valentine last episode. Luke and Simon are not invited.
- Outside Luke transforms into a werewolf and howls.
And so, after a couple of promising episodes, it all goes a bit wrong. Ironically, we’ve been praising the show for its improved character work recently, and there are certainly lots of scenes here that try to continue that trend. Sadly there’s not a lot else. And what else there is, is embarrassingly corny. Iris may call herself a warlock, but let’s be honest – stick a pointy hat on her and she’d be right at home in Once Upon A Time with all the other fairy tale witches and evil queens.
Clary’s attempts to bring her mother back never convinces as a storyline, and only serves to reinforce the suspicion that this series still hasn’t worked out what kind of a character she’s supposed to be other than “handy for hanging the plot off this week”. We’re supposed to accept that she grief-stricken enough to lose all her senses and fall victim to a woman who couldn’t more dodgy if she had an apple tree surrounded by corpses – but it just doesn’t chime with other versions of Clary we’ve seen before and Katherine McNamara is left floundering trying to convince us otherwise.
Then the cheesy resurrection plot turns into the fantasy equivalent of that old “we come from an alien planet to impregnate your women-kind” sci-fi chestnut. It’s the kind of goofy concept the Arrowverse frequently gets away with thanks to some knowing wit and fun performances, but Shadowhunters is too earnest to pull it off.
What else is there? Well, not enough Magnus for a start. Aside from his pep talk with Alec he is also part of one of the episode’s best moments when he refuses to become involved in any resurrecting shenanigans and magics up a memory photo for Clary instead. It’s such a lovely little scene it’s a shame it didn’t come nearer the end.
Simon’s mum thinking her son has lost his marbles and then opening his bedroom door to discover him in the middle of something embarrassing (no, not that… eating a rat) works well, too. And Victor getting a little too intimate with Izzy when he offers to apply the ointment for her demon infection opens up all sorts of worrying questions too about what he’s up to.
But Jace is back to his usual plank of wood persona; the funeral is very tedious (quite an achievement considering how little screen time it takes up); and there are too many navel-gazing morgue scenes that reveal little about the characters other than “we are sad”.
Perhaps “Dust & Shadows”’s greatest crime, though, is that it’s a little bit dull, and the action in the main plot doesn’t actually amount to a great deal in terms of advancing the overall arc plot.
Bring on the Iron Sisters. At least they sound exciting.
- We loved Magnus giving Clary an Instamatic memory photo of her mum and her. Very sweet.
- Ariana Williams was genuinely unsettling as Madzie.
- The scene between Victor and Izzy when he applied the yin fen had an extraordinary sexual charge – slightly pervy and also a little disquieting. We wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out he’s violated her in some way… which isn’t, of course, a good thing, but for this show it was an unusually powerful moment.
- Clary getting handy hints that just happen to give her the power to defeat the monster-of-the-week may border on deus ex machina, but the effects were still very pretty, and – we admit – we’re intrigued to know what’s going on with these secret sigils.
- Nobody’s going to mention the whole “Jocelyn tried to kill Jace” thing?
- The demon is TERRIBLE. There was a cheesy old horror film called Xtro (1982) which tried the same trick of having somebody in a costume bent over backwards, and three and a half decades of make-up and prosthetics advancements later haven’t made the effect look any less crap.
- The entire “let’s resurrect mum” plot is played out with a kind of embarrassed shrug, as if the writers know Clary would never fall this charlatan warlock but the plot demands they plough on with it anyway. Presumably we’re supposed to believe that the bereavement in itself is explanation enough for her sudden lapse into extreme stupidity (after all, Iris couldn’t be more obviously a bad’un if her house were made out of gingerbread and walked around on chicken legs) but it doesn’t wash.
- Neither does Jace blithely letting her carry on with her plan after he’s seen her take a lock of Jocelyn’s hair off the corpse. Yes, he’s been taking the stupid pills too.
- What was going on that final shot with Luke changing into a werewolf under a sky of dancing stars? Maybe it’ll become clear in future episodes but it simply came across as a very odd way to end an episode here. Possibly it makes more sense if you know the books inside out? Which most viewers don’t.
- So, Iris will return. Let’s hope not too soon. Like, not until after the show’s been cancelled.
- Dear Lord the music playing over the funeral was awful.
- Katherine McNamara Marcel Marceau impression was unintentionally hilarious. After that mime classic – “trapped in a glass cell” – we were expecting her to follow up with “walking into a strong wind”.
And The Random:
- The episode title is taken from Clockwork Angel, the first book in the second series of novels set in the Shadowhunters universe, The Infernal Devices: “Pulvis et umbra sumus… ‘We are dust and shadows.’ Appropriate, don’t you think? It’s not a long life, killing demons; one tends to die young, and then they burn your body – dust to dust, in the literal sense. And then we vanish into the shadows of history, nary a mark on the page of a mundane book to remind the world that once we existed at all.”
- According to The Shadowhunters Codex, the phrase Pulvis et umbra sumus is used in Shadowhunter funerals.
- Here are all those warlock bios for your perusing pleasure. Aside from Magnus, none of the others are from the books.