By Andrea Dixon
This week’s episode of Shadowhunters is nothing short of a masterwork effort dedicated to the fans.
It’s no secret that the most fan-lauded couple of the series is Magnus and Alec (better known as the one entity ‘Malec’). Episode 1×12, titled “Malec,” has gone down in social media history as the Shadowhunters episode that broke the internet because it featured Malec’s show-stopping (or rather wedding-stopping) first kiss, and since then, no episode has quite been able to top that level of exuberance on behalf of the fans. Until now.
It’s about time an episode gave Malec their due amount of focus, but there are plenty of other major events taking place in this episode, each working towards setting us up for the last two installments of the season (which I have the feeling work together as a sort of two-parter). The overarching theme unifying these various narrative threads is trust – Magnus contemplates the trust he has given to Alec with abandon over the course of their relationship, and whether he should now trust the Seelie Queen. New character, Bat, has no choice but to trust Luke and Maia when he turns. Maia trusts Simon with the story of her trepidacious love life. Luke earns back the trust of his pack, and Clary finally discovers that she should not have trusted Sebastian.
Writer Jamie Gorenberg has penned a script that illustrates the showrunners of the series pay close attention to and care about the opinions and desires of their fans. First-time director to the series, Amanda M. Row, delivered these scenes to the screen with a spellbinding intimacy shared between the actors which extends to the audience.
Coming right off of the last scene of the last episode, Max is unsurprisingly debilitated by Sebastian before he can reveal his identity to the other Shadowhunters. What isn’t expected, however, is Max’s subsequent recovery from the ordeal – something book fans were dreading seeing on screen. Max’s life hangs in the balance during the course of the episode and the expectation of his impending death is effectively used to create suspense throughout.
Magnus takes a break between flashbacks of missing scenes throughout the forming of the Malec relationship to help heal the ailing Max. These scenes include moments that were implied up until this point and only existed in online fanfiction. The first is the absent scene from 1×06 in which Alec spends the night on Magnus’ couch after he helps Magnus to save Luke’s life. It is jarring at first (especially in Alec’s case) to be reminded of how different these characters were before they got together – Magnus with his ingrained mistrust towards Shadowhunters in general, and Alec very much uncomfortable with his own feelings. However, these inbuilt characteristics do not hinder the two from feeling as though they can trust each other as individuals. There is also their first time sleeping together, and as if that wasn’t enough, the morning after as well – continuing a scene from 2×07 that fans were disappointed to see end just when it was getting to the best part. The blissful closeness they share in the last two flashbacks in particular provides a heartbreaking contrast to their current estrangement. Although Magnus walks away from Alec in the end, he still seems immensely torn about his decision to join forces with the Seelie Queen.
The introduction of a newly turned Werewolf, ironically named Bat Velasquez, motivates Luke to finally regain the loyalty of his pack. The rogue Werewolf named Russell is growing his own pack by turning innocent Mundanes and Luke cannot stand to let such injustice continue. Isaiah Mustafa is allowed his time to shine in a nicely choreographed man-to-man fight scene.
This event also allows Simon and Maia some further bonding time when Simon’s curiosity about Maia’s own turning causes her to tell her story of heartbreak, and we learn that these two stories are intertwined. Since flashbacks are reserved for Magnus this episode, Alisha Wainwright is given the challenge of telling Maia’s story through her acting skills alone, and the fact that the scene successfully elicits empathy from the viewer by its conclusion, is testament to what she can accomplish.
Finally, just when Sebastian’s mole activities within the Institute are becoming exceptionally devastating, Clary cleverly devises a plan to unmask Jonathan using a substance from Izzy’s whip that is harmful to demons. Since Sebastian/Jonathan was first introduced, we have seen him continue to build his immunity to pain, and this nearly gets him off the hook, but thankfully Clary pursues Jonathan before he can leave. These two actors share an intimate scene as well, though in a more violently confrontational capacity, as Clary and Jonathan have a showdown trapped between doors in the entryway. Clary manages to steal back the Mortal Mirror, which Jonathan procured just moments before their encounter by massacring multiple Shadowhunters. Jonathan does manage to escape, but now the truth is out, and after what just happened with Max, the Shadowhunters will be seeking revenge.
In the last scene, the compact version of the Mirror turns out to be a red herring as Clary makes sense of her visions. She saw her own reflection while in Lake Lyn in her nightmare and the two swords coming towards her in the other vision were not two after all, but only one being reflected. Lake Lyn itself is the Mortal Mirror – a detail that book fans are happy is left intact.
Overall, this episode was an extremely satisfying experience and will undeniably go down as a fan-favorite. It takes its cues from social media and other fan-produced content while at the same time continuing to incorporate the most important parts from the book series in a way that best suits the television medium. It also primes us for the two final episodes of the season which are rumored to be the most exciting and intense episodes of the entire series, though from the looks of the SDCC ‘17 trailer, we might never be truly ready.