Shadowhunters S02E06 “Iron Sisters” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- At the Adamant Citadel, the Iron Sisters – who forge the Shadowhunters’ weapons for them from a metal called adamas – learn about the Circle attack on the City of Bones and beef up their defences.
- Clary and Jace research the new rune she was sent by sources unknown last episode, but get nowhere.
- After the rat-eating incident, Simon gets Raphael to wipe his mum’s memories of him ever having come home.
- Clary tells Izzy she wants to go on the mission to see the Iron Sisters. Izzy asks Aldertree to okay this. Amazingly, he says yes, but blackmails Izzy – by threatening to cut her supply of Yin Fen – into spying on Clary for him.
- Simon agrees to look for Luke while Clary is away on the mission.
- After Jocelyn’s death, Luke has gone feral because high emotions can cause werewolves to lose control of their transformations.
- Magnus puts out an emergency call to Alec. It’s only to get his attention – he thinks the Shadowhunter could do with some quality down time. They go on their first official date which turns a little sour when Magnus learns that Alec has never had a real relationship before, while he’s has in the region of 17,000. In the end they decide to embrace their differences.
- None of the werewolves want to help Simon find Luke, except Maia, the werewolf from the bar in “Parabatai Lost” who was helped by Luke when she was first turned.
- Although they initially have a frosty relationship, they’re soon best geeky buddies, and possible future ’shipping material.
- They find Luke. Simon talks him back to normality with tales of Clary getting a haircut. No, really.
- Outside the Adamant Citadel Clary and Izzy meet the Iron Sisters – including Sister Cleophas, who is Luke’s sister.
- The sisters insist that Clary and Izzy take a purity test before entering the Citadel to make sure they have no demon infections.
- Clary passes; surprisingly Izzy doesn’t. The Yin Fen she’s been taking contains vampire venom.
- At the Institute, Aldretree places Jace on lowly sword-cleaning duties.
- Jace realises Aldertree is trying to make his life so unbearable he’ll leave.
- Jace tells Aldertree he refuses to leave so Aldertree threatens to show footage from Jace’s trail to the other Shadowhunters – footage that shows Jace admitting that he cannot give the Shadowhunters a guarantee of absolute loyalty.
- Jace leaves the Institute and goes to Magnus’s place to see if he has a spare room.
- Sister Cleophas infodumps to Clary: “Long ago the Angel Raziel bestowed the Mortal Instruments to the first Shadowhunter. Among them, the Soul-Sword. Its primary purpose is to compel the truth, but it has a secondary purpose. If ever the day came when Shadowhunters failed in their holy mission, and demons overtook the world. As a last resort the Sword could be activated with angelic energy, releasing heavenly light that will destroy demon-blooded creatures in its path… To activate the sword it must be weirded by an angelic being, and struck by a bolt of lightning.”
- Clary shows Sister Cleophas what her newly-acquired mysterious rune can do. Oddly, Cleophas doesn’t immediately go, “Holy shit! That’s just like that heavenly light I’ve just been talking about!” Even more oddly, this doesn’t appear to occur to Clary either.
- Izzy has been spying on this last development, but when she and Clary return to the Institute, she doesn’t tell Aldertree what she saw and heard.
- At the Citadel, Sister Cleophas hurriedly leaves, killing Sister Magdalena on the way.
Congratulations to Shadowhunters on some format-breaking experimentation – an episode completely made up from B-plots. The odd thing about this episode is that each of these parallel plotlines has something decent to offer and they all work pretty well in isolation. But they’d all work damn site better if they were supporting a decent, exciting, incident-driven, action packed A-plot.
Okay, TV drama has moved on from the case-of-the-week, monster-of-the-week, medical-emergency-of-the-week blueprint into more serialised plotting, but you still want each 42-minute episode of a show to feel like there’s a main course. “Iron Sisters” is more like a televisual finger buffet.
So yeah, it is great to see Magnus and Alec on their first date; watching it go slightly awkward before they embrace their differences and become stronger than ever. Yes it’s great to visit the Iron Sisters’ citadel and learn more about Shadowhunter lore. Yes, Maia and Simon are adorable together, even if Maia has had a personality transplant from her previous appearance. Yes, Aldertree’s Machiavellian schemes are becoming intriguing. Yes, there’s a great WTF? moment when Sister Cleophas stabs Sister Magdalena.
But… the whole is considerably less than the sum of its parts.
The lack of a decent outside threat once again leaves the show listless and directionless. Admittedly, Valentine can be a bit of a panto villain but the way he keeps disappearing for episodes on end means that it’s easy to forget what all out heroes are fighting for. All that info dumping about angelic energies and the supernatural equivalent of the nuclear option becomes an academic exercise it’s difficult to get excited about.
It’s also slightly odd that while he show treads water in many respects it seems in an almighty rush to push the Simon/Maia relationship along. Maia in “Parabatai Lost” was the kind of sassy werewolf who’d eat Simon for breakfast. Here she becomes his best geek buddy within a couple of scenes. It’s not completely unbelievable – and some fun dialogue helps smooth the way – but it does feel like something that could have been spread over a few episodes to make it a little more convincing.
Plus, Luke going feral then being talked back to normality by Simon reminiscing… well, it wasn’t exactly the most exciting plotline, was it? If Luke had killed someone while he was wolfing out and there were consequences then maybe there would have been some point to it all. Instead, it just feels like a weird diversion into a dead end street.
There’s a lot of incidental details and isolated moment in “Iron Sisters” for hardcore fans to enjoy, but overall this is a flaccid, meandering episode of a show that seriously needs to start shifting up a gear.
- Sorry to sound like a stuck needle (hey, vinyl’s back, kids understand that analogy again!) but Magnus and Alec provide the best moments yet again. It’s amazing how much we moaned about Alec’s lack of charisma in season one compared to how integral he is to the show’s success now. He does, of course, have the benefit of sharing plotlines with Shadowhunter’s MVP – Magnus. From his sage advice (“If you fail to grant time for the things you care about, you’ll forget why you’re even fighting at all”) to his cheeky pool hustling he’s just great.
- Using an animated mural on the ceiling of the citadel to liven up some infodumping was a good move.
- We’re liking how devious Aldertree is turning out to be. He clearly knew that Izzy would fail the purity test and is getting her addicted to the Yin Fen for his own reasons. Also, we get an explanation why there was no audience at Jace’s trial – Aldertree didn’t want the hoi polloi seeing Jace’s confession so that he could use it as blackmail material. (Still doesn’t excuse the trial being dull, though).
- Despite some misgivings about Maia’s character makeover and the speed at which their friendship moved, she and Simon did make a very sweet couple, and there was lots of fun dialogue between them (“It could have been worse. You could have been sucking on a rat naked”).
- “This is more amazing than I imagined,” coos Clary when she sees the Citadel. She clearly has a very limited imagination…
- Plus, the (desperately uninspiring) Citadel in the FX shot doesn’t match the look of the geography of the real locations used for the citadel.
- And while the concept for the Citadel gate is kinda cool, its impact is rather lessened by the fact that it looks like you could walk around it.
- “The Iron Sisters” sound like they should be hard-as-nails, kick-ass warriors but they come across more like an advert for washing powder featuring a kung-fu-themed hen party.
- While the Maia/Simon scenes were very sweet, Maia seemed like a very different character to the one were introduced to in “Parabatai Lost” (2.03).
- The flashback featuring Maia and Luke is very dull and could have been cut out of the episode with no damage at all.
- Why is it always a deer? Deers’ only function in US films and TV shows is to be either eaten by supernatural beings or get knocked down by cars. Why can’t vampires and werewolves pick on bears for a change?
- And after deer, the next most clichéd target for a film or TV forest attack is a pair of campers. Oh look, we get both in one episode!
- “Ignis aurum probat” (which the Sisters says on a number of occasions) is a Latin phrase often translated as “Fire tests gold” but it’s actually part of a longer phrase coined by famed Roman philosopher Senaca, “Ignis aurum probat, miseria fortes homines,” which means, “As gold is tempered by fire, so strong men are tempered by suffering”. It derives from the fact that in Roman times, gold ore was transformed into pure gold by exposure to very hot fire. So the phrase “Ignis aurum probat” has come to be a metaphor for people who thrive under adversity.
- In the Shadowhunters books, “Ignis aurum probat” is the motto of the Iron Sisters and must be said to lower the drawbridge into the Adamant Citadel (not “Stand and deliver” then?).
- When Izzy explains to Clary, “It’s what allows the Iron Sisters to shape pure Adamas” we couldn’t help but think of…
- Seriously, though, in the books adamas is the silvery metal from which Shadowhunters weapons are made. Which makes it rather odd that when Alec used an “adamas stone” to help him locate Jace in “A Door Into The Dark” (2.02) it was bright green.
- Please, please, please let there be someone else out there who saw the unintentional humour in the line, “I’ll check with the pack and see if they have any leads.”
- Gratuitous wet T-shirt competition of the week…