What a comeback! Shadowhunters had their mid-season premiere on Freeform Monday night, after a three month hiatus, and we absolutely loved every minute of it! This marked episode 11 of the 20 planned for season 2, and was titled “Mea Maxima Culpa“. Written by the amazingly talented Michael Reisz and directed by executive producer Matt Hastings, the hour was jam packed with action and suspense, plenty of drama, plus a healthy dose of romance and angst. All the things we love about the Shadow World. The story picked up right where we left off back in March with Valentine arrested and the Clave desperate to find the Mortal Cup. Our favorite Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood, played by Matthew Daddario, and the love of his life the magnificent Magnus Bane, played by Harry Shum Jr., came right out of the gate firing on all cylinders with stellar performances. Which of course doesn’t surprise us, we always look forward to watching them light up the screen each week.
The episode opened with the clanging of metal as we were taken to the Institute’s courtyard, a new set for 2B, where Jace, played by Dominic Sherwood, and Alec were playfully sparring in an intense yet strangely arousing training session. Not only striking with their weapons but also with their words, as they took verbal and literal jabs at each other.
Alec, who is always in tune with his parabatai’s feelings, told Jace he knows he is hurting. After the events in episode 10, Alec knows firsthand exactly what he’s going through. Guilt being an all too familiar emotion for both of them this season. Jace tried to appear cocky and aloof as he continued to crack jokes and deflect Alec’s concerns, apparently not ready to let his true feelings show. But behind his smile we knew he must be in pain over what happened.
Alec then brought up the fact that since Clary’s pure angel blood has given her special abilities perhaps Jace might have special abilities as well. Jace quickly fired off a snarky comeback, telling Alec maybe his special ability is kicking his ass, which made us all laugh. He then asked Jace when he plans to tell Clary the truth about not being her brother. Again, more sass from Jace when he tells Alec to worry more about his fighting skills and less about his love life. These two were literally on fire with sarcasm. We couldn’t help but think of the close, personal friendship Matt and Dom have developed over the last two years, which we feel adds authenticity to the scene. They seemed to be having a lot of fun with each other.
As much as we love Alec it sure looked like he was really struggling in this match with Jace. As much as he tried to get the upper hand it seemed Jace was always a step ahead. The fight choreography was fantastic! We loved how they handled their weapons as well as the fancy jumps and dives. Matt did a particularly awesome jump that impressed us.
Once they tossed their weapons aside, things really got interesting as the parabatai grappled and rolled all over the courtyard floor. Pinning each other in a variety of painful looking head and leg locks that left us wondering how either of them escaped without getting hurt. Kudos to the stunt choreography team, not only for this sequence but for all of the stunts we’ve seen so far this season. They are truly amazing. The physical strength and hard work put in by the cast has really paid off when making these superhuman characters appear believable on screen.
Next we move to a very dramatic scene between Alec and his sister Isabelle, played by Emeraude Toubia, where we saw him caring for her at her bedside as she tried to sweat out her addiction to yin fen. Alec was visibly concerned by Izzy’s shocking state of distress as she was covered in sweat and shaking uncontrollably. He tried to comfort her and bathe her face but he was suddenly called away due to a demon attack. Izzy promised him she’d be fine and insisted that he go. Alec was very reluctant to leave her, but eventually he did.
We loved seeing this nurturing, caretaking side of Alec. We think it’s very important for the audience to see that he’s not only a strong warrior and loving boyfriend but also an awesome big brother with a big heart for his siblings. With their father out of the picture Alec can step into the role as head of the family fairly easily, especially since Maryse is struggling with her own issues. Alec’s strength will surely be tested this season with trouble on the horizon, but Matthew Daddario has worked hard to give him a very strong and steady presence. Alec is really someone who can be trusted and relied upon by all his friends and family.
The brief scene of Alec assisting Luke, Jace, and Clary at the café where a crime scene had been set up after a demon attack was something new that we enjoyed. It brought the Shadow World out into the real world and gave it a legitimate feeling of believability. Normally we are so focused on the Institute and everything that’s happening with Valentine we don’t think about the Shadowhunters working with local law enforcement when demons attack mundanes. But this really grounds the show in reality and we like seeing them out in the streets of New York City. They touched upon this a few times in 2A when a demon was possessing people in episode 5, and also when Alec and Izzy investigated the flight clubs in episode 2. We like this marriage of fantasy and crime drama and we think it brings a broader TV audience into the fandom.
Finally we reached the halfway point of the episode and we rejoiced in our first Malec scene. It was a long three months to wait and Alec and Magnus surely didn’t disappoint us. From the moment Alec stepped into the loft we saw his face transform into a joyous and relaxed calm. He kissed Magnus with such a sweet, domestic peck we could almost hear him say, “Honey I’m home.”
We’d been waiting for Magnus and Alec’s confident and comfortable relationship, post-I love you’s, to continue to grow and bring them closer right before our eyes. We want to see Alec feel more at home when he’s with Magnus at the loft, some of us even hope that maybe Alec might soon move in there permanently. Fans have been clamoring for casual intimacies and soft moments between the two and it seems like the writers and directors agree. The scene was really lovely and made us feel like Malec is very secure and healthy. Which of course we already knew, but it felt good to see the confirmation.
Alec immediately began to tell Magnus about the demon attack and ask for his help. He presented him with a bag of sand found at the crime scene and of course Magnus was able to identify where it was from and which demon they were dealing with. Possible foreshadowing to his own demon past? We shall see. He went on to tell Alec about the greater demon Azazel, one of the princes of Hell, proving yet again what a tremendous asset Magnus is to the Shadowhunters.
As we’ve come to expect, their perfect blissful bubble of happiness was soon broken as Alec discovered Raphael was also there. Joy quickly turned to anger and when Raphael mentioned Isabelle things continued to go from bad to worse. Since Alec had just witnessed Izzy’s gruesome recovery process firsthand his temper was flaring. Nobody could really blame him, since his sister could have died.
Raphael then told Alec about his concerns for Izzy’s wellbeing since she’d just shown up at the Hotel Dumort begging him to bite her. Alec was completely shocked having just recently left his sister lifeless in bed back at the Institute and he frantically sets off to immediately begin searching for her. There was a moment just after Alec stormed off where Magnus and Raphael exchanged worried glances. Magnus was sort of put between a rock and hard place here since he loves Alec and wants to help him find Isabelle but he also cares deeply for Raphael, since he’s like a son to him. Clearly he doesn’t want to see them at odds with each other. We like this father/son dynamic between Magnus and Raphael. Magnus prides himself on being a tremendous support to his Downworlder children. It’s a pretty important part of his personality. Fatherhood at this point is a foreign concept to Alec, but it will be interesting to see how their relationship might change this season.
After leaving the loft, Magnus and Alec head to the address of a vampire den they got from Raphael in hopes of finding Isabelle there. Instead of her they end up finding some dead bodies as well as Izzy’s necklace which has been broken. This intense, investigative moment of detective work was exciting for us since we’ve been anxious to see Magnus and Alec working together as a team. We want their story arc to be integrated into the main plot of the show, not only weaving them in but making their characters a valuable and integral part of the narrative. Their presence in the alley definitely gave off a Power Couple vibe and we loved this gritty, dramatic scene for them. Both actors are really great when it comes to pulling off emotionally charged performances, so they had a chance to shine in a way that was much different than their scenes together in 2A.
Also we have to take a moment to give a shout out to the costuming department because this coat Magnus is wearing is fierce!
Next, back to the Institute, Alec updated the team on what he and Magnus discovered as well as sharing his increasing concerns for Isabelle’s safety. Since they found her broken necklace in the alley, Alec is convinced the demon Azazel has taken his sister and he’s desperate to find her. Although none of them can come up with a reason why she would have been taken, Jace suggested they should ask Valentine who is currently being held prisoner in the basement. We loved seeing Alec take command as he continues to assert himself as a replacement for the now missing Aldertree. Alec is a natural leader and he really shines when put in a place of authority. He’s very confident with leadership, which is sort of a change from how he can sometimes be perceived in other social situations. But ever since coming out in episode 12 of the first season Alec’s growing courage to speak up and his self-assuredness puts him in position to take over as head of the Institute. He’s definitely the most qualified choice and we hope we’ll see him promoted this season.
After Jace’s explosive scene with Valentine, where Clary finally learned she and Jace are not brother and sister, Alec found him up on the roof looking out over the city. Once Jace heard Alec approach he turned around and we saw his face was streaked with tears. Honestly we were shocked and surprised by his intensely painful expression here. We felt it was inevitable he would eventually breakdown due to the crushing guilt he must be feeling after activating the Soul Sword, which killed a large group of Downworlders at the end of episode 10, but the gut wrenching scene was really very gripping. His pain was also coupled with the relationship drama he’s experiencing with Clary and his sadness was truly heartbreaking to witness. It was very reminiscent of his scene with Matt at the end of episode 3.
Alec immediately rushed forward to hug his grieving parabatai and offer him comfort. After holding himself responsible for the death of Clary’s mother in episode 5, Alec is very familiar with overwhelming feelings of guilt. He can relate to exactly what Jace is going through, and not only relate but as his parabatai he can literally feel what Jace feels.
As Shadowhunters both Jace and Alec are bound by the laws of their people to protect mundanes as well as Downworlders from demons. Because of this greater purpose they are quick to blame themselves and they seem to take on more than a normal amount of shame and remorse. These deaths go against everything Shadowhunters stand for and it obviously affects them very deeply.
Alec held Jace and lovingly patted his head, which we thought was a very sweet moment between the two. It’s refreshing to see male characters cry and display raw emotion on television. It really adds a layer of depth to both of them and helps draw the audience in. It makes us care about them and invest personally in their stories, outside of the war and the flashy fight scenes. Both Matt and Dom should be proud of moments like this. We could tell they put a lot of hard work into making it authentic.
Alec and Jace joined Magnus and the heavily bound and shackled Valentine down in the Institute’s courtyard where the gang was busy setting up to summon the demon Azazel. Valentine suggested they offer him as a trade for Isabelle and we were very surprised to see everyone agree to this plan. Since when do we take advice from Valentine?
After the demon was successfully summoned Magnus and the others demanded he return Isabelle and take Valentine in her place. But Azazel informed them that he didn’t have her, and now he’s extremely angry. This did not go well for the group. Clary rushed in to try and use her special rune ability, but she was thwarted. Magnus couldn’t continue to contain the demon and he managed to overpower him. He unleashed a blast that knocked everyone down, then produced a screeching sound that appeared to inflict horrific pain. Alec yelled for Magnus to help, but he was incapacitated. The demon went over and touched Magnus then moved to Valentine next, pressing his hands against his eyes. It looked like he was burning him.
Finally Clary shouted for Jace to help and fortunately he sprang to action debuting his new angelic power of activating his runes without a stele. His eyes turned gold and he managed to fight off Azazel who very dramatically erupted into a swarm of moths and flew away. Mind-blowing special effect! After the dust settled Alec rushed to Magnus’ side to check to make sure he was OK.
Immediately everyone on our team shouted, “That’s not Magnus!”
This revelation came to us fairly easily because of the absolutely amazing job Harry Shum Jr. did to completely change his character on the spot. He changed the way his body moved, his facial expressions, his manner of speaking, everything just screamed that this was not really Magnus Bane. It’s not surprising nobody realized this considering they’d all just been blasted and tortured. Valentine was bound and gagged so Magnus, who is now stuck inside his body, can’t communicate properly. Plus nobody would’ve believed him anyway.
Alec escorted a staggering Magnus/Valentine, who has now been renamed Magnentine by the fandom, to the Institute’s main entrance dazed and frazzled. He was obviously trying to quickly make his exit before drawing any suspicions from Alec. Everyone should appreciate this brilliant performance by Harry, we absolutely cannot wait to see how this switch plays out next week!
After Magnentine left Alec finally got a phone call from Izzy and he was absolutely thrilled to hear her voice. His face broke into the sweetest smile and his instant relief knowing she was OK really warmed our hearts. We loved seeing this touching moment between brother and sister. Izzy told him she was in a safe place and had decided to work on her recovery away from the Institute. Little does Alec know she’s in the hands of Sebastian, but for now he is breathing easier knowing she’s alive and not with Azazel. Alec certainly went on a roller coaster ride just in this one episode alone. Matt deserves a lot of appreciation for showing us such a wide range of emotions from Alec. From his tender moments with Magnus, Jace, and Izzy to his desperation dealing with the greater demon and Izzy’s addiction, he definitely brought his A game this week.
Our final shot of Magnentine as he walked down the New York City street left us wondering if he’s headed back to Magnus’ loft, and if so what kind of trouble he’s going to stir up next. He sure didn’t look happy to be inside a warlock’s body and we suspect he will want to find a way to get his own body back as soon as possible. Let’s hope Alec discovers the switch before it’s too late!
All in all this episode was really great. Our team agreed we were more than happy with the exciting script, another round of applause for Michael Reisz please, as well as the fantastic performances by the cast. We saw many new sets and props which added an even richer background to the story, along with some new camera angles and special effects. Being fans of the show since day one we feel like we’re watching our child grow up and mature right before our eyes. The complexities of the Shadow World are being more defined as the stories become more powerful and captivating every week. We can’t wait to share our reviews with you this summer as we ride the roller coaster of emotions we are undoubtedly facing.
Be sure to stay tuned to ShumDario News on Twitter to stay up to date on all of Matthew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr.’s projects and appearances. Shadowhunters Season 2B airs Mondays 8/7c on Freeform!