The mid-season finale of Shadowhunters, “By the Light of Dawn”, directed by Joshua Butler has officially aired and we are all officially dead! Only joking of course, but what an absolutely spectacular episode it was! An action packed, stomach churning, edge of your seat thrill from beginning to end that left many fans passionately declaring this the best episode of the season so far. With the lives of every Downworlder in New York hanging in the balance, our favorite Shadow Squad attempted to thwart Valentine’s evil plan of activating the Soul Sword despite a mountain of obstacles at every turn. There were so many close calls and near death experiences for our favs we were holding our breath the entire time. The only thing we can say for sure after surviving this episode is, “How much longer is it until June 5th?” Because that’s when Shadowhunters will be returning for the remaining half of season two. And we can’t wait!
The episode began with Alec, clearly now in command of the Institute, responding to the alarms that were sounding throughout the building to alert everyone the wards had been breached. We’ve seen this happen before in previous episodes so we know someone, most likely a Downworlder, has come onto the Institute’s grounds. Alec and a team of Shadowhunters split off from Victor Aldertree and his group and immediately ran to the main entrance to investigate the breach. They were surprised to discover it was the little warlock girl Madzie, cute as a button but surrounded by several dead guards. Alec recognized her immediately and attempted to talk to her in a calm and soothing voice while also telling the others to lower their weapons. Madzie seemed to remember Alec from their encounter at Iris’ house in episode five. Although she didn’t speak to him, she responded by instantly throwing Alec into a nearby elevator, sealing the doors shut, and locking him inside.
At first we thought she was attacking him, but quickly we learned she was actually saving his life. As soon as Alec was locked away Madzie used her gills to suck all of the oxygen out of the room, killing everyone there. Alec pounded on the elevator doors desperately trying to wrench them open. But he was stuck inside, helpless to protect his fellow Shadowhunters. (More guilt coming for Alec yet again we suspect.) We still can’t help but love Madzie even though she just slaughtered half the Institute, and we’re hoping to see her interact with Alec sometime in 2B. Perhaps they can find common ground after both being forced to take the lives of others. A tragically painful type of connection no doubt in need of intense healing.
Meanwhile at the loft, Magnus was treating a newly rescued Dot as she filled him, Clary, Jace, and Luke in on Valentine’s plan. Magnus decided he wanted to see Jace and Clary’s mutual vision from the angel so he placed his hands on their heads and used magic to be able to enter their minds. Afterwards we found out the meaning behind the vision could be that of a “demonic Morgenstern” and his ability to destroy the Soul Sword. Jace of course immediately thought he was the one the vision was referring to, having been told by Valentine he has demon blood. So he began hatching his own plan to destroy the sword. Which would also sacrifice his life in the process.
Once Alec finally got free of the elevator he called Jace to fill him in on everything that had just happened at the Institute. Jace was with Luke and they were already speeding to Alec’s aid, leaving Clary at the loft with Magnus so he could protect her. Of course everyone’s main objective was to keep Clary as far away from the Soul Sword as possible while also protecting her from angry Downworlders who would gladly sacrifice her life to protect their people. Alec needed to get to the Institute’s main power core to shut it down so Valentine wouldn’t be able to use it to fire up the sword. But just as he was finishing his phone conversation with Jace he was hit from behind by one of Valentine’s thugs. This forced him into combat with his seraph blade which we’d been dying to see all season! Of course we love Alec’s skill with a bow and arrow but it was awesome to see him show off his fighting technique for a change. We were impressed with Matt’s stunt choreography here and really surprised to see him move so fluidly through the various action sequences. He should have these talents showcased more often. Luckily Aldertree showed up just as Alec was about to be outnumbered and the two of them worked as a team to defeat the onslaught fairly easily.
Next we cut back to Magnus who was out on the balcony of his loft looking somber. The last time he had been with Alec they’d argued over the yin fen situation with Izzy and Raphael. Magnus had used his magic to break up the fight between Alec and Raphael, certainly a difficult situation for him to be stuck in considering his strong feelings for them both. Alec had been angry and spoken fairly harshly to Magnus before he took his sister and left in a huff. Their strained parting clearly taking its toll on Magnus now as he stared out into the city despondently. Harry Shum Jr. doesn’t disappoint as he pulls at our heartstrings yet again with his expressive face and eyes. Easily showing us exactly what Magnus was feeling in this tense and sad moment. If you haven’t read our episode six review please check it out. We took an in depth look at Harry and Matt’s incredible acting talents.
Clary then came out to join Magnus on the balcony and he told her, “I’m not use to feeling so powerless.” Which of course refers to not only his inability to recue Simon and stop Valentine from killing the Downworlders. But also his feelings of helplessness toward Alec’s current state of distress over his sister’s drug addiction. As well as his “son” Raphael’s involvement with her. Everything just seems to be slipping through Magnus’ fingers, without a magical fix available. These are all the people that he cares about the most in the world and we get the feeling Magnus is shutting down a bit as he tries to deal with the pain. A steady progression throughout season 2A which is so vastly different from his normally happy, sassy self we saw in season one. Just like Alec, he tends to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Something they definitely have in common.
When Clary’s phone rang, she and Magnus witnessed Valentine slitting Simon’s throat as he attempts to draw Clary to the Institute. Now in a frantic state, Clary ordered Magnus to portal her to the Institute, “Now!” Magnus knew that was a bad idea but agreed to portal them there anyway to see if they could do anything to help save Simon. Not to mention Magnus wanting to help Alec too. Of course that’s the last place we want to see either of them go, but we know the whole gang has to rally together at the Institute for the epic finale showdown.
Back at the Institute Alec and Victor were headed to the power core but already at each other’s throats. Alec basically letting him know that just because he helped him fight Valentine’s men didn’t mean he forgave him for giving Izzy the yin fen. Victor still claimed he was only trying to help her so she could go visit the Iron Sisters. We still can’t decide what we think of Aldertree, mostly he just seems like a bad guy but the lines were blurred a bit in this finale as we heard more backstory about his past. Matthew Daddario and Nick Sagar wowed us again this week with their ability to constantly one-up each other as Alec and Victor continue to lock horns. They both play the cocky yet confident leadership roles perfectly, although Alec always seems to usually come out ahead. Literally!
Once Magnus and Clary arrived by portal just outside the Institute Magnus told her, “I don’t care what happens to me,” to which Clary responded, “Alec is going to be OK.” We aren’t used to seeing Magnus so visibly shaken, which makes the whole situation seem just that more dangerous. Of course he would risk his life for Alec without question, we know that, but now we are seeing just how much Alec’s life being in jeopardy affects him. Just like it did at the party when Alec was standing out on the ledge. Magnus is continuously having to deal with the thought of Alec leaving him, and this seems like possible foreshadowing for their all too familiar immortality issues. We don’t know how that will play out in 2B, if at all, but they’ve definitely laid some groundwork for a mortality based storyline. Equally for Magnus’s worry for Alec’s life as well as Alec’s fears about Magnus watching him, “grow old and die.”
Next Magnus and Clary are ambushed by Raphael and Maia, who don’t want to see Clary get anywhere near the sword. Raphael said he was going to kill Clary to protect the Downworld but luckily he was stopped just in time when Jace and Luke showed up to save them. The only thing in this scene we were left questioning a bit was Magnus’ inability to perform magic while someone held his arms behind his back. Would Magnus need his arms free in order to cast a spell? Or could he simply call upon his magic regardless? An interesting thought to mull over.
Back to Alec and Aldertree, they made it to the roof but the power core was inaccessible without a key. Victor says he can still override it using his security clearance and in the meantime tells Alec a story about his previous relationship with a werewolf named Ava. Long story short, he basically told Alec he thinks it’s impossible for a Shadowhunter to be with a Downworlder, “No matter how strong our feelings might be.” Alec seems to ponder this statement, not agreeing with him but possibly allowing the doubt to seep into his mind a bit. Alec is always prone to negativity anyway so these kinds of statements aren’t helpful.
Inside the Institute at last, Magnus and Clary split up so he can go try to help Madzie who is still on a killing spree. Magnus approached her cautiously calling her, “Sweet pea,” and showing his warlock mark in an attempt to gain her trust. He explained that Valentine was just using her for her abilities and lying about her Nana (Iris) being there. He offered his help and Madzie seemed to take his word as she walked over to him and allowed Magnus to place one hand on her back. We absolutely loved this touching scene between these two precious warlocks and we’re dying for more interactions between Madzie and her two new “dads” as the fans like to say. Some may think it seems silly to consider the possibility of Madzie becoming the first Lightwood-Bane child, but if you really think about it the writers could be positioning Madzie to become the TV show version of “Max (Blueberry) Lightwood-Bane”. Since his story may not be available for them to use. Only time will tell.
Returning to the roof one last time, Alec and Aldertree have not been able to shut down the power core. Then things go from bad to worse as four of Valentine’s thugs arrive, blades drawn. Although outnumbered they seem ready to do battle until they are surprised by Isabelle who has come just in the nick of time to save them singlehandedly. Once she finished with the last of them she nearly collapsed, her drug addiction causing some serious withdrawal symptoms. Shaking and nearly unconscious she falls into Alec’s arms apologizing to him. Perhaps now she sees just how serious her situation is and how Alec was only trying to help her. We love these Lightwood siblings and Alec’s genuine love and caring for Isabelle is beautiful. Although they fight sometimes, like all brothers and sisters do, they always have each other’s backs. Something they’ve had to learn over the years since their parents have pretty much been unavailable to them.
After Valentine tricked Jace into activating the sword Alec arrives to see the carnage left in his wake. The floor is covered with dead Downworlders and we see Alec completely shocked and terrified, asking them, “Where’s Magnus?”
Nobody is sure where Magnus might be since they split up quite some time ago. Alec’s face says it all though, his jaw dropped and eyes blown wide, as the realization washes over him. Our entire team felt our own breath sucked from our lungs as we felt everything Alec was feeling in this one horrific moment.
Alec ran out to search for Magnus leaving Jace behind feeling to blame. Another crushing blow of guilt to his already belabored soul.
This takes us to the moment we’ve all been waiting for but couldn’t have possibly been prepared enough to witness. Alec rushes outside of the Institute and down the stairs, frantic with worry. Breathlessly trying to locate Magnus and praying he isn’t dead. His face scans the crowded sidewalk.
Our hearts lurch as Magnus enters from the right, grabbing Alec by the back of the arm. Alec turns and sees Magnus standing there, alive and unharmed, and he throws himself forward, scooping Magnus off of his feet and into a fiercely loving embrace.
When they break apart Magnus tells Alec about finding Madzie and taking her to Catarina’s for safety. Alec, of course is glad she’s OK but obviously has something else even more important on his mind. He tells Magnus what he’s just been through, explaining, “I’ve never felt that type of fear… ever. Not knowing if you were alive or dead. I was terrified.”
Magnus reaches out to touch Alec, his face overcome with emotion as he hears him describe what he’s feeling. He responds, “So was I.” And our hearts are breaking for the pain both of them have had to endure.
Alec, still gasping for breath, isn’t going to waste another moment of his life without telling Magnus how he feels. Knowing the risks they each face every day and how their time together isn’t promised, Alec confesses, “Magnus, I… I love you.”
Magnus is momentarily rendered speechless by Alec’s heartfelt declaration. His eyes reflecting back all of the doubt and fear he’s fallen victim to time and time again throughout his life. Always feeling he’s undeserving of love and not ever allowing himself to believe he could have his love for Alec returned. After centuries of failure and disappointment, heartbreak and pain, it all melted away with three little words uttered by this honest and unbelievably pure Shadowhunter standing right in front of him. He replies, “I love you too.” And Alec, feeling overwhelmingly grateful and relieved, launches himself forward to kiss the man he loves.
When their lips break apart both men lean in gently, forehead to forehead, basking in the glow of their newly proclaimed love. They relish this brief yet intense moment, just breathing each other in, letting the world slip away. Magnus gives Alec the slightest little smile and our hearts have officially burst from joy!
Alec is even more overcome by his emotions and he wraps Magnus into another loving embrace, squeezing him tightly. Their arms comforting one another, Magnus is holding Alec likes he’s the most precious gift he’s ever received. Alec’s face burrowing into Magnus’ shoulder like he’ll never let him go again. The fear of the threatening loss in his eyes reduce us all to tears.
One of the best ways to identify a scene that has been acted to perfection is when the actors themselves disappear; and all you see are the characters living and breathing right in front of your eyes. That is what happened for us in this moment, because the portrayal of Alec and Magnus magically leapt off the screen and took on a life of its own. We felt every emotion, every fear, every hope and dream of love these two have for each other, and we felt it deeply and truly right down to the core of our souls. It transcended whatever was in the script and in that instance it was really happening. What more could an actor ever hope to accomplish in their career than to bring this kind of authenticity to their audience? We can’t imagine any other way it could have been more perfect, and we congratulate Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario on their stellar efforts. How lucky we are to witness their captivating talents come to fruition. They’re both truly incredible and deserving of the highest praise for their work.
With the first half of season two at a close we are still flying high on the emotions from this episode. More than enough to carry us through the next three months! We feel Shadowhunters has gone above and beyond our expectations, and its trajectory gives us hope that season 2B will be even better than we thought possible. Our hats are off to Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer who’ve amped up their game, giving us stories we can really sink our teeth into. Kudos also to Matt Hastings who has breathed new life into a series we already loved, taking it to new heights. The future looks bright for the entire cast, crew, and fandom as we set a course for what we hope will be a season three announcement soon, as well as many more years of amazing journeys through the Shadow World! Thank you all so much for supporting us here at ShumDario News. We have loved sharing our reviews with you all and we anxiously await more amazing episodes this summer!