Today marks a sad, yet special day in the Shadowhunters fandom. After four years, three seasons and 55 episodes, the show is coming to an end tonight with a two-hour series finale. We wanted to take this opportunity to look back on what exactly made this show so special to so many – and why saying goodbye will be incredibly hard.
For the past four years, Shadowhunters has been a large part of all of our lives. Whether or not you joined the fandom in 2015 when the TV show was first announced, or if you joined the bandwagon after a certain kiss at a certain wedding in March 2016, it is safe to say that being in the Shadowhunters fandom has been a memorable journey. Before the final two episodes air tonight, join us as we reminisce on exactly what makes the show so unique, and (try to) say Hail and farewell to a show whose impact went beyond all expectations and whose legacy will live on forever.
Take us back to the start
Saying that there are many paths that lead to the Shadowhunters fandom would be an understatement. With millions of fans all over the world, there are just as many journeys that have brought people into the fandom. Some have been part of The Mortal Instruments fandom ever since City of Bones was first published in 2007. Others joined the bandwagon afterwards or perhaps found the fandom through the 2013 film adaptation of City of Bones. And many people became fans of the show when it first premiered in January 2016. Equally as many, if not more, heard whisperings online about how a certain “tall, dark, and handsome” needed to marry “Mike from Glee.” Combine that with a spectacular first kiss between said two characters, and the existence of this exceptional fandom was a force to be reckoned with.
Since then, the fandom has only continued to grow. With millions of engagements for its episodes and several awards for both the show and its cast, Shadowhunters is one of Freeform’s most successful shows to date. Ever since the show was first announced, the fandom has increased in size – many fans even joined the fandom after the massive #SaveShadowhunters campaign that was created by fans after the decision to cancel the show last summer.
While many were hooked on the show from the very start, for others, it was more of a slow build. With the show having consistently improved in all aspects since season 1, some fans didn’t find themselves well and truly hooked until several episodes into the show. Needless to say, however – no matter how long it might have taken, Shadowhunters has gotten millions of people under its spell.
And why shouldn’t it have? As we’ve previously stated, the show’s trajectory has only gone upward ever since the pilot first aired in January 2016. While the show has always been good, it is safe to say that with the development of the cast and crew and the reboot ahead of season 2, it’s become nothing short of spectacular. Some stand-out storylines include Alec Lightwood’s season 1 arc which led to him coming out and starting to embrace himself, Maia Roberts’ impactful backstory of being abused by a former boyfriend and recovering from it, Magnus Bane’s character development and seeing him choose kindness time and time again even though the world has been so cruel to him, and of course – the development of Magnus and Alec’s relationship, which has changed the ground rules for how LGBTQIA+ relationships are depicted on TV.
Fictional characters, but very real issues
Throughout its three seasons, Shadowhunters has not only enchanted us with the depiction of a captivating world filled with Shadowhunters and Downworlders alike. The show has always woven real-life issues into its magical world, dealing with issues such as homophobia, racism, mental health struggles, abusive relationships – both parental and domestic, as well as both in terms of emotional and physical abuse –, and more. Love, loss, family, mental health, relationships, the constant struggle of finding your place in a world that tends to pull you in a million different directions – it’s all there. Besides fighting (more or less) scary demons and preventing the world from ending on a daily basis, Clary and her friends have had to face several issues that are part of every young person’s life, angelic blood or not. That dash of realism in a series full of supernatural beings was part of what made many people stick with the show.
When we asked our followers on Twitter, who are mostly Shadowhunters fans themselves, a few weeks ago about how they related to the show, many pointed out that the characters and the very real issues they had to deal with were what got them hooked. Some were impressed by Jace’s courage when dealing with difficult moments in his life, others related to Alec’s journey of self-acceptance. Magnus and Maia gave people hope while trying to get over a breakup and taught them to stay positive even if things may seem bleak. Clary inspired people to never give up, Isabelle showed them how to deal with serious setbacks and turning points in life. Simon inspired them to face whatever life throws at them and work with it rather than against it. Luke showed them that family is something you choose and not exclusively something you are born into.
Of course, none of those people are real, but their issues and struggles are. The characters’ ways of dealing with their problems were what had many people falling in love with the show. Shadowhunters has helped countless people deal with issues in their own lives. Whether it was by being a distraction from real life or by actually providing inspiration on how to deal with it – we suppose it’s safe to say that the lives of many, many people would be very different today if it hadn’t been for “that Shadow Hunting show.”
More than just a TV show
While Shadowhunters might be a TV show, it is safe to say that it has become so much more than that over the course of these past four years. When we asked the question “What has the show meant to you?” on our Twitter, none of the replies we received described Shadowhunters as “just a show.” Through the show’s three seasons, fans have found lifelong friendships, second families, and new homes. In Shadowhunters, its fans have found a safe haven, a place where they feel safe and where they can truly be themselves. Through its multifaceted characters and representative storylines, fans have found characters they see themselves in, and characters they look up to and learn things from. Shadowhunters and its fandom represent acceptance, family, home. Shadowhunters has helped people change the way they see the world and taught them valuable life lessons, as well as things about themselves. It represents strength, solace and the hope for a better tomorrow, for a world where issues such as homophobia and racism become more and more a memory rather than a prominent fixture.
Four years and 55 episodes have, needless to say, resulted in countless memories. Cast and crew have live-tweeted with the fans each week using the hashtag #ShadowhuntersChat – an event fans have joined in for from all over the world, meaning that some fans have stayed up until well past midnight their time just to watch the show live and experience it all with other fans. The show’s 55 episodes have led to laughter, joy and infinite tears. Some of the fans’ favorite memories include the days after Magnus and Alec’s first kiss in episode 1×12, their first “I love you” in episode 2×10, as well as the season finales and their adjoining cliffhangers. Others involve getting to watch the show with their friends and finding new things to bond over, as well as introducing the show to friends and family. No matter what episode we’re talking about, it’s safe to say that we experienced the whole spectrum of emotions during each and every one of them. In doing so, and in sharing the show with those closest to us, we have made memories that will last us a lifetime, memories that are part of this show’s magnificent legacy.
While memories are one thing that will live on long after the end credits of the last episode roll, they’re far from the only ones. Because of the show, fans have made lasting friendships and formed new connections and bonds. In the friendships created through the show, new families have been established, families that are always there for you, no matter what. Fans have found confidence within themselves, and come to new insights about themselves in the process of watching the show. The show has led to immeasurable growth, both personal and professional. Fans credit the show for helping them become better people and, for example, better writers. Openness, acceptance, and love are themes that permeate the fandom as a whole, spreading far beyond its initial reach. While there may be no new episodes airing after tonight, the safe, accepting space established through this fandom isn’t going anywhere. As Katherine McNamara phrased it, it will “continue to grow and exist.”
Fan-friendly since day one
Another reason why Shadowhunters has been such a special show is how open the cast and crew have been toward the fandom. From the writers’ room to the directors, showrunners and cast, many people who worked on this show have been in touch with the fans on social media and made a point of interacting with them online. Whether it was through the weekly #ShadowhuntersChat sessions while new episodes aired or just by interacting with them on Twitter, Instagram or the occasional Periscope live chat – it has been really special to see how much effort they put into staying in touch with the people who care about their show. But they didn’t just see what the fandom had to say about the show – they actually listened and took the fandom’s opinion into account. Both in good moments and in tough ones, such as when they fixed the “fade to black” moment in 2×07 by including some beautiful flashbacks to Malec’s first time in 2×18. The Shadowhunters fandom isn’t always easy to deal with. We all know how critical the fans can be – and how ugly things sadly can get at times – which makes the fact that the writers stuck around and worked on improving the relationship with the fans even more special.
As far as the cast is concerned, interacting with the fandom isn’t limited to solely tweets or Instagram stories. Many of the cast members have been attending several conventions all over the world over the past few years and given the fans the chance to meet them. Now, anyone who has ever attended a convention will confirm that the prospect of meeting people you admire is pretty terrifying. But if you’re a fan of the Shadowhunters cast, the nerves are absolutely worth it. Being able to meet the cast has meant a lot to the fans, and when we asked our followers about their experiences while meeting the cast, many of them pointed out how much they enjoyed those encounters. Some said that it was a surreal experience, others noted how much they had been looking forward to it, but they all agreed on one thing – that meeting the cast was an experience they will treasure for a long time.
However, talking with fans online and attending conventions isn’t the only way the cast and crew have shown their support of the fandom. Some of them also actively participated in fan projects. As an update account responsible for some of those projects, we know that all too well – and couldn’t be more grateful for it. We were lucky enough to collaborate with quite a few members of the Shadowhunters cast and crew over the years. Asking for an interview or about a project always comes with a bit of nervous anxiety, no matter how often you’ve done it before. We were amazed every time by how open toward our ideas the cast and crew were and how happy they were to collaborate with us for a project. Whether it was by talking to us in interviews, sending us Polaroids for our 3B countdown or by answering a bunch of questions about their work for our recent “Shadowhunters Debriefs” interview series – they have always been extremely supportive of this fandom. Both as content creators and as fans ourselves, we will never cease to appreciate that. It is extremely rare that the people behind a TV show have such a close connection to the people who watch their show, which has made the entire Shadowhunters experience even more special.
Magnus and Alec’s relationship, and its groundbreaking impact
While Shadowhunters has multiple characters that are fan favorites and have depicted several stellar storylines, it goes without saying that the relationship between Magnus and Alec is the most prominent one of them all, and the undisputed ultimate fan favorite. It isn’t hard to understand why, either. Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane, individually, are incredibly multilayered and complex characters. Together, they are nothing short of remarkable.
In season 1, Alec was deep in the closet, closed off to most people and, to quote his sister Isabelle, “not exactly warm and fuzzy.” He had all but accepted the fact that he would never be able to come out and nearly entered into a loveless marriage with Lydia Branwell because of it. Season 1 is a beautiful journey representing Alec’s path to self-acceptance, ultimately leading to him shattering the mold created for him by his parents and the society he lives in, breaking out of it and creating his own path. And while season 1 concludes with Alec having just admitted his feelings for Magnus, it does not represent the conclusion of Alec’s internal journey and road to self-acceptance. It has continued throughout the show’s following seasons. From Alec being closed off to people around him, he has continuously opened up more and more, letting people in and letting them see who he really is. Throughout the show, viewers could watch Alec continue down the path he set at the end of season 1. With each episode he stepped further and further away from the person his parents wanted him to be, and towards a more confident, happier version of himself.
In telling Alec’s story this way, the show has presented a depiction of a gay man that has been widely critically acclaimed. And more importantly, Alec Lightwood has become a beacon of hope for everyone struggling to come to terms with their identity and everyone struggling to find themselves, showing that there is light to be found even when the darkness feels suffocating.
When it comes to Magnus, viewers have always seen him as out and proud. It is exactly this which sets Shadowhunters apart from other shows: Magnus has never been anything but proud about who he is and his identification as a bisexual man. Combine this with Magnus’ Asian descent, and it results in a combination rarely seen on TV: a proud, openly bisexual Asian man. In this positive representation, Shadowhunters has also managed to contribute to the breaking of archaical and hurtful stereotypes about bisexuals. Bisexuals in the mainstream media have often been depicted as fickle and promiscuous and unable to maintain a stable, monogamous relationship. Enter Magnus Bane. From his declaration in episode 2×13 that he’s always been a “one soul at a time kind of guy” to the fact that shame has never been attributed to any of his past relationships, Shadowhunters has gotten it right where so few ever do. The depiction of Magnus and his bisexuality is not only healthy and represents a positive direction toward change in mainstream media, but it is also groundbreaking. Fans struggling with their own sexual orientation and identities see in Magnus someone who is unashamed to be who he is, and who always wears his heart on his sleeve – someone they can look up to and draw strength from when they need it most.
The combination of these two characters makes up one of the most powerful LGBTQIA+ couples ever portrayed in mainstream media. Magnus and Alec’s relationship is beloved by millions of fans worldwide and has been critically acclaimed on numerous occasions. One of the reasons behind the immeasurable popularity of the Malec pairing is the actors portraying them. Both Matthew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr. have always given their all when it comes to portraying Magnus and Alec’s relationship, and they have done so with the utmost care and respect for the community they represent. Another reason is the show’s writers; ever since season 1, they have worked closely with GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in order to ensure that the storylines were respectful and didn’t play into stereotypical tropes.
What all of this has led to is a relationship that is as rare as it is beautiful, particularly in terms of them being an LGBTQIA+ couple and especially an interracial one. The depiction of their relationship has never been solely “for the sake of it” or to gain brownie points for including LGBTQIA+ characters. Thanks to the work of Harry and Matthew as well as the writers, the portrayal of Magnus and Alec’s relationship has always been respectful and meaningful. Their romance has been at the forefront of the show ever since season 1, a position rarely held by LGBTQIA+ couples. Their honesty with each other and the work they put into their relationship and their communication are further aspects that set them apart from other LGBTQIA+ couples seen on TV. While other shows may portray drama between LGBTQIA+ couples in the shape of cheating or love triangles, this has always been out of the question for Magnus and Alec. Their sources of conflict have stemmed from external factors, such as their respective professional positions. Their sexualities have never been their sole defining factor, and they’ve always been allowed to thrive outside their relationship with the other. Harry and Matthew’s portrayal of the relationship has not only had a positive impact on the LGBTQIA+ community, but has also broadened the minds and acceptance of people outside of it, helping break down the stigma surrounding LGBTQIA+ couples. All these things combined add up to one of the healthiest, most positive representations of the LGBTQIA+ community ever seen on the television screen – and in mainstream media overall.
In this depiction of Magnus and Alec’s relationship, viewers have sought courage and strength. Magnus and Alec’s relationship have served as a source of representation and positivity, something for fans to look up to and rely on. Harry and Matthew’s portrayal of the Malec pairing has had a lasting positive impact on fans, helping them come to terms with and embrace themselves and providing a source of strength. The relationship between Magnus and Alec and all its layers and facets have served as a guiding light for fans all over the world, highlighting the path toward self-acceptance, even in the darkest of times. This light is not one that will fade as the screen fades to black tonight, on the contrary: it will continue to shine, always strong and luminous, for years to come.
#SaveShadowhunters and the #ShadowhuntersLegacy
All good things come to an end. We all know that for Shadowhunters that end comes far too early, but this is not the time to get into the hot mess that was the cancellation or the smaller and bigger disasters that followed. This fandom already suffered through a summer of pain, false hopes and the user interface of Tweetdeck haunting us even in our dreams; there is really no need to go back to that.
It’s not the cancellation we’d like to shine a light on here, but what the fandom made of it. In the hours and days after the news broke, the fandom came up with a strategic action plan involving many creative projects to save the show including billboards, a plane, millions of tweets, thousands of signatures on a petition and most notably over 20,000 dollars raised in support of The Trevor Project.
The people on the SDN team have all had their fair share of experiences with TV shows getting cancelled and fans trying to save them, but neither of us has ever seen a campaign blow up as big as the #SaveShadowhunters campaign did. Sadly, the campaign didn’t reach its ultimate goal, but it impressively showed what is possible when people decide to put their differences aside and work toward a common goal. The campaign to save the show transcended nationalities, age gaps, genders, identities, and beliefs, and underlined the show’s message of acceptance, kindness and diversity in numerous creative, inspiring ways.
So that’s what we should take away from it. Not the fact that the show ended far too soon, or the frustration that arises whenever we think of what could have been. It’s the things that the show changed while it was on the air that will be remembered. Shadowhunters, its characters, and their stories may leave us in a few hours, but their legacy will live on. This random young adult TV show managed to unite people from all over the world, create lifelong friendships and memories that will last far beyond the show’s end. Shadowhunters has been a safe haven for many, something people could turn to when real life became too much. It provided reassurance, hope and positivity when nothing else would. It was just a TV show, yet at the same time so much more than that. It left a lasting impression, was a source of inspiration and changed many lives for the better. And that is why the #ShadowhuntersLegacy will live on for a long time after the show’s final end credits start rolling.
While Shadowhunters concludes tonight, the impact this show has had and its legacy will live on. The show’s impact will be remembered for years to come and will continue to live on. The depiction of Magnus and Alec’s relationship has been groundbreaking in every sense of the word, permanently changing the way LGBTQIA+ couples are depicted on screen, demolishing archaical stereotypes and contributing to the establishing of a better tomorrow, giving fans all over the world characters they can relate to and identify with, someone they can draw strength from when they need it most. Whether or not the story will continue in some other form, Shadowhunters’ legacy has only begun to make its mark – the show may end tonight, but the accepting, open community and legacy left behind by this extraordinary universe, its remarkable characters, the hard-working, committed cast and crew, as well as the incredibly devoted fandom will continue to exist and constantly develop, for many years to come.
Swedish-Austrian writing duo that the rest of the SDN team probably still regrets creating (we may or may not have a problem with keeping our articles short). When we’re not busy with late-night writing sessions or struggling to find the perfect headline, we like to work on our escape plan because there is no way the team will let us live after writing another 10+ pages piece. However, if you‘re reading this, it means they let us get away with another monster, so yay us.