Essential Plot Points:
- Using Madzie and her amazing suffocating gills Valentine gains entry to the Institute and his Circle followers start attacking the Shadowhunters.
- Valentine is after the Institute’s power source – an angelic core – to power up the Soul-Sword.
- At Magnus’s abandoned fairground lair, Clary and Jace find Dot, who very suspiciously has been left behind. She says she overheard Valentine saying that Jace’s touch will destroy the Soul-Sword.
- Magnus checks out the vision the angel gave Clary and Jace of the sword being destroyed. He thinks it backs up what Dot is saying: the vision shows what looks to be a demon hand grasping the sword, and Valentine injected baby Jace with demon blood, so on a metaphorical level, it makes sense.
- On the downside the vision also shows that whoever destroyed the sword is killed in the process.
- Valentine sends Clary a video message via Simon’s phone, saying he’ll kill Simon unless she comes to the institute and activates the sword.
- Instead Jace and Luke go alone (so that Clary can’t be used to activate the Soul-Sword)… well, alone until Maia attacks them en route. They taser her then drag her along, convincing her to side with them on the way.
- Elsewhere, Raphael reveals to Izzy that he’s never been into sex – even before he was a vampire – and just likes sucking her blood.
- He secretly intercepts text messages sent to her from Alec about the attack on the Institute. He hides her phone, then leaves her in his apartment while he gathers his vampire clan.
- An impatient Valentine sends Clary another message showing him slitting Simon’s throat – this forces her (and Magnus) to go to the Institute to save Simon before he bleeds out.
- Raphael’s vampires attack Clary outside the Institute but Jace stops them.
- Meliorn arrives with his seelie army.
- There’s some speachifying while Jace and Luke unite all these warring factions into an attack force, promising them Jace has a plan.
- Inside the Institute Alec and Aldertree form an uneasy alliance as they fight their way through the Circle forces and attempt to access the angelic power source.
- Even after Aldertree reveals he was once in love with a downworlder – a werewolf whom he was ultimately forced to kill when she went crazy – Alec doesn’t totally trust the guy.
- Clary enters the Institute and gives herself up to Valentine. He takes her to Simon, who starts drinking her blood. He is almost overtaken by a bloodlust which threatens to drain her…
- …Except it isn’t Clary, it’s a shape-shifted Jace who now reveals himself. There’s a fight and Simon and Jace make a run for it.
- The real Clary and Magnus sneak into the Institute and spot Madzie. They split up so Magnus and Madzie can do some warlock bonding and Clary can find Simon. Magnus wins Madzie over by pointing out that Valentine has been lying about reuniting her with Iris.
- Lots of random fighting and running round corridors and getting captured and escaping later, Clary, Valentine, Simon and Jace all end up in the main operations room gathered around the angelic power source.
- Luke sends the massed vampire, seelie and werewolf forces into the Institute.
- Jace grabs the Soul-Sword but instead of destroying it, he activates it…
- …And Valentine uses it to kill all the attacking vampires, seelies and werewolves inside the Institute.
- Turns out Valentine has been lying all along about injecting baby Jace with demon blood… he was actually injecting him with angel blood. He always knew that Jace would grab the sword if he thought his blood would destroy it, so has been orchestrating everything to make him do exactly that.
- Blimey, that’s what you call a long game.
- Somehow, Simon, despite being a downworlder, survives and is even cured of his daylight allergy (presumably drinking Jace’s angel blood is the reason).
- Valentine escapes but decides to hang around right outside the Institute until Luke in werewolf form can knock him down. Valentine stabs Luke (but not fatally).
- Jace then attacks Valentine who – while holding the Soul-Sword (which means he must be telling the truth) – reveals that Jace is not actually his son (but he does still love him like one).
- Jace knocks the Soul-Sword out of Valentine’s hand and they fight.
- Clary picks up the sword, then see another one of her mysterious sigil visions. She draws the sigil on the sword; it lights up and she drops it, then it vanishes.
- Valentine is captured and imprisoned in the Institute.
- Izzy, who has discovered that Raphael hid her phone, tells Raphael that their relationship is over.
- Jace tells Alec about Valentine’s revelation that they aren’t true bro’s. He’s going to tell Clary that it’s okay for them to shag each other, but then he sees Clary and Simon hugging excitedly about Simon’s ability to tan again.
- Elsewhere, a mysterious figure wanders off into the night with the Soul-Sword.
So, mid-season finale, then. Well, um… it’s certainly climactic. It’s also mostly utter bobbins. We keep tuning into this show hoping that we can give it a wholehearted thumbs up, because there’s a lot of potential and some great characters. But when the plotting is as trite and contrived as we get here Shadowhunters is a very hard show to like.
There are so, so many things here that simply don’t work, many of which we’ve listed in the “Bad” section below. But the main overarching problem with the episode is how offhand and perfunctory it all feels.
One moment perfectly exemplifies this point. Once the Soul-Sword is operational, Valentine – we’re told – makes a run for it. You assume he’d be hot footing it out into any heavily downworlder-populated areas of the city to try out his new toy. You assume the surviving downwolders would be livid about Luke and the Shadowhunters leading them into a trap. But no – Luke calms them all down, says he’ll deal with Valentine and then, IN THE VERY NEXT SHOT, he knocks over Valentine who, it seems, has been hanging around in the Institute grounds.
Sorry, what? Why? Did we miss a scene? Or three?
This offhand scripting, where things just happen because they happen, is symptomatic of the entire episode. Maia and the Seelies go from antagonists to allies offscreen with a complete absence of any convincing reason why. Izzy turns up on the rooftop to rescue Jace and Aldertree because, well, it’s a dramatic way to make an entrance. Clary is great at fighting Circle forces until the script needs her to be captured. Magnus and Clary spot Madzie wandering the corridors for no apparent reason other than the plot needs her and Magnus to have a natter. Dot is not longer a character, just a plot device. Oh, and let’s not forget the way one of the most crucial elements of the plot – that, “every Institute is powered by an angelic power core” – appears to have been created for this episode on a whim.
In isolation all these things would be insignificant irritations. En masse, they are very, very, very difficult to ignore.
Also problematic is the the way that the massed death of the downworlders has all the impact of a change to the train timetable. No key characters die (no, Alaric doesn’t count) and the scene is shot with a total absence of emotion. It just happens. There’s no feeling that it’s any more of less important to the show than Clary and Simon having a conversation about the weather.
Then there’s the big revelations about Jace. The idea that Valentine has been playing a very long game and gave baby Jace angel blood not demon blood is, for a short moment, a satisfying jawdropper. That’s until you start backwards engineering Valentine’s actions over the past season and a half and you wonder, “There must have been an easier way, surely?” Valentine’s long, long series of double bluffs seems incredibly open to failure.
Learning that Jace isn’t Valentine’s son isn’t much of a surprise, either (even if you haven’t read the books). The storyline has been heading this way since “Blood Calls To Blood” because Simon clearly was never going to end up with the girl permanently. But the fact that Valentine reveals it all while holding the Soul-Sword (so it must be the truth) is a nice touch.
Among all this mire there are a few bright spots: Simon being “cured” (but to what extent?) by drinking Jace’s angel blood; Aldertree and Alec’s grumpy, enforced alliance; Aldertree’s backstory about once loving a werewolf (though he’s still a prat because his one bad experience has left him with a racist view that all downworlders must be alike); the very bizarre end to Izzy and Raphael’s relationship; Alec and Magnus growing even closer under adversity.
But if this is the best script that the show’s showrunners can produce, you have to worry.
- The shot of Simon cowering in the light before realising he was no longer in danger from it was very pretty.
- Izzy’s rooftop fight was impressive.
- Raphael’s revelation that he’s never been into sex was… unexpected. A weird development, but certainly one we want to learn more about.
- “She’s out of control.”
“So true.” While Maia’s character has been almost completely ruined over the past two episodes, this little exchange showed some of her old wit.
- “Hey, you know how you can thank me? Shut up.” Similarly, Jace remains at his best went he’s at his surliest.
- Madzie’s air-sucking gills are pleasingly weird concept.
- How come after learning that Valentine’s not his dad Jace doesn’t seem too bothered about knowing who is?
- Angelic power source? Really? Surely this is a concept that should have been teased a few episodes earlier the stop it feeling like a suspiciously convenient plot device.
- Does anyone care about Dot any more? Clary doesn’t appear to.
- Why do angels communicate in metaphor? Other than for cheap foreshadowing?
- “I would have killed you.”
“I would have let you.” This line makes no sense as Jace is all “willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good” at this point. The line doesn’t even have the excuse of being funny, because it isn’t.
- Valentine never suspects his enemies might employ shapeshifting? We had him down as way, way, way more paranoid than that.
- Far too much random fighting and running.
- The big climactic when Valentine wields the Soul-Sword falls flat.
- Too many character change allegiances off screen to save the writers having to write complicated dialogue.
- Why the hell does Valentine hang around the Institute after he has the sword?
And The Random:
- Season two, part two commences on 5 June in the States and 6 June in the UK.
- This is the first episode of the series to be written by new showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer.
- For a moment, when we first saw the alarm saying, “WARDS BREACH”, we thought the Circle had attacked the Institute’s hospital wing.
- There were at least five occasions in the episode when we were expecting somebody to say, “By the power of greyskull.”
- One moment Luke and Maia are crouching behind a bush attempting to keep out of sight, the next there’s an entire armour of slightly camp seelies stomping around the Institute grounds. So, was stealth an issue or not?