Shadowhunters episode “A Problem of Memory”, took a dark turn down the long and difficult road through Magnus’ tragic past. Many fans were familiar with his backstory, but seeing it play out on screen added so much more depth and realism to his painfully emotional journey. We felt our own hearts break for him as the events from his childhood were brought to light. Written by Allison Rymer and directed by Peter DeLuise this episode contained so many great moments between Magnus and Alec as a couple, as well as their individual stories, it turned out to be one of our favorites so far this season.
Our first look at Alec in this episode was the sight of him waking up alone in Magnus’ bed, shirtless, between some very nice red satin sheets, and we’re pretty confident we could hear fans screaming across the globe. It was a beautiful scene, we aren’t going to lie, and one the fans had been hoping to see for quite some time now.
Alec reached one arm behind him hoping to find Magnus there, but discovered he was absent. Which we learned was the fourth morning in a row Alec had woken up to an empty bed. (Does this confirm Alec is basically living at the loft now? Because we love that idea!)
While Alec had been sleeping, Magnus was out in the living room looking horribly distraught and exhausted. No makeup on, sagging tired eyes, not the typical look we are used to. Magnus then drifted into a flashback of his childhood where he remembered the night he found his mother had taken her own life. We are reminded of the conversation Magnus had with Clary back in episode 2×5 “Dust and Shadows” and the keris dagger she used to stab herself. These memories are being brought to the forefront of Magnus’ mind as an after effect from the torture he endured, while inside Valentine’s body, when the Clave used the Agony Rune as an attempt to locate the Mortal Cup. But Magnus apparently had decided not to tell Alec about these nightmarish memories, instead we saw him trying to pretend he was fine. Maybe he didn’t want to burden Alec with what he was going through, which seems really ironic after Magnus had been pushing for Alec to be the one to open up more. Now the shoe was on the other foot, and Alec was left confused, knowing something was wrong, but unsure of what he could do to help him.
We have to remind ourselves that Alec has been such a closed person for most of his life, and he’s never been in a relationship before, so it isn’t surprising he doesn’t really know how to handle this roadblock. By the end of the scene he still looks unconvinced, but Magnus was keeping up the façade so well Alec was left standing there speechless.
Matthew Daddario and Harry Shum Jr. did a brilliant job with this scene. We really felt Alec’s genuine concern for Magnus as well as Magnus’ overwhelming pain trying to bury his past. Watching them interact away from the other characters, having a very realistic and human moment, was really refreshing and we hope to see more of these in the future. A simple conversation like this can shine even brighter than moments of high drama and action. Fans want to see Alec and Magnus talk and share things about themselves with each other. This showcases their subtleties and adds a lot of depth to their characters. When you have two amazingly talented actors like Matt and Harry you need to play to their strengths, because in the end that’s what will make audiences tune in each week. They become deeply invested in not only the Malec relationship but in each individual character’s journey as well.
Later at the Institute, Alec informed Jace and Izzy that he requested Valentine be transferred to Idris, claiming it would help their relationship with the Downworlders who obviously don’t want Valentine anywhere near the city. This also kept Luke off the hook for being reprimanded for his attempt to kill Valentine in his cell last episode. Alec then admitted to Jace he was feeling unsure about his decision making as the new head of the Institute. Now we are really getting a sense of how divided Alec’s heart is going to be when it comes to Shadowhunter business versus how it affects Magnus and the other Downworlders. He’s truly between a rock and a hard place, navigating this slippery ground between what are basically two opposing factions. Alec knows the Clave really doesn’t put the wellbeing and safety of the Downworld ahead of their own interests. Which right now are securing the Mortal Instruments and maintaining order in the Shadow World. We feel this will be a theme for Alec throughout the rest of season two, and will probably add extra strain and tension to the Malec relationship.
Later, we saw Izzy come to Alec’s office to let him know everything was set for the transfer of Valentine. She asked if Magnus was going to be coming to create the portal to Idris and Alec pretty much shut down that idea telling her to find another warlock. He explained he didn’t want Magnus to come because he hadn’t been sleeping. What’s left unspoken was probably the fact that Alec wanted to keep Magnus as far away from Valentine as possible, considering what the two of them went through with the body swap. This was a nice moment between Alec and Izzy, it’s good to see them working together and it was sort of reminiscent of how they interacted back in season one. Sometimes we get so swept up in Clary’s storyline we forget that the Institute is a big place with a lot of things going on. Alec has a responsibility to his new job and to the other Shadowhunters as their leader. Speaking of which, right after their conversation we saw Aline arrive, which made Alec and Izzy both very happy. She’s an old friend of their family who lives in Idris. Hopefully we’ll be seeing her more in the future. Fans would love a friendship between Alec and Aline in season three, especially since Alec really doesn’t have anyone to bond with outside of his immediate family and Magnus.
Now we get to the moment we all knew would be coming, but didn’t quite know how to prepare for. We were taken back to the loft where Magnus was sitting alone, martini in hand, his face sad and despondent. As he took a sip of his drink the flashback we saw a bit of earlier in the episode continued, but before we saw much more Alec arrived and Magnus was snapped back from his vision, caught by surprise. This is where things really got interesting. Alec apparently had decided it was time to confront Magnus about whatever was bothering him. And this time he wasn’t taking “I’m fine” for an answer. In fact, Alec reached back to a defining moment in 2×1 and used Magnus’ own words to drive his point across. “When things get crazy don’t push me away.”
Magnus of course remembered that time in their relationship when Alec was reeling from Jace’s capture by Valentine and had shut him out. He knew he wasn’t doing the right thing by keeping Alec in the dark and it was time to come clean. As much as he had good intentions for wanting to protect Alec from the painful truth of his past, this big of a secret was really putting their entire relationship in jeopardy. Thankfully Magnus trusted Alec enough to tell him the whole story of what had happened that night his mother died, and how his stepfather had screamed at him and blamed him for her death. Magnus admitted he had killed him, telling Alec “I burned him right where he stood”, and Alec, being a compassionate listener suggested, “You were just a boy, you weren’t in control of your powers.” But Magnus explained that he was in control and he never wanted Alec to see “this terrible, ugly side of me.” What an incredibly moving and heart wrenching moment for Magnus. Harry Shum Jr. hit one out of the park with this tearful admittance that surely didn’t leave a dry eye anywhere in the fandom. His facial expressions and the pain he was able to deliver onscreen was just flawless. There’s really nothing else that can be said. The delivery, the timing, the emotion, simply perfect. Then the icing on the cake was big, strong, emotionally closed Alec Lightwood reaching up to take Magnus by the face and look him right in the eye and say, “there is nothing ugly about you.” Can we please just give them all the awards and recognition they deserve for their hard work? Harry is just lining them up and knocking them down every week this season 2B. And we are being told by the showrunners he’s going to do even more in these last four episodes. How is that even possible?
In the final moments of the episode we saw Magnus and Alec, down in the basement of the Institute, helping prepare Valentine for transfer. Standing side by side they’ve never looked like more of a united team, truly showing us that by facing these tough times together it only makes them a stronger couple. They’ve come so far in such a short period of time when you think about it, having only known each other a little over a month. Now it’s hard to imagine a time when they were just “pretty boy” and “some warlock”.
Valentine was brought forward in chains as Magnus opened the portal to send him to prison in Idris. Looking like a badass warlock, with yet another killer jacket, you can see how satisfied Magnus was to be the one to banish him. He’s been through so much misery since the body swap, but we were glad he could be there to show Valentine he hadn’t beaten him down or caused him to hide. Magnus stood there bravely and proved himself to be a pillar of real strength. Alec also seemed to take immense pleasure from finally ridding themselves of Valentine’s evil presence.
We hope you enjoyed this emotionally charged episode of Shadowhunters as much as we did. The show as a whole really continues to grow and evolve every week into an even more impressive body of work. As the end of the season draws closer we really look forward to having time to go back and rewatch all of these amazing episodes so that we can relish every detail. This difficult look back into Magnus Bane’s past left a lasting impression on us. We hope we’ll have more opportunities to see flashback moments from his very long life, as well as Alec’s reactions to learning more about his boyfriend. Their relationship and how it continues to grow despite their differences is very fascinating to witness. Be sure to tune in to Freeform next Monday night for another new episode of Shadowhunters and also following along with us on ShumDario News for all the latest updates about Matthew and Harry’s careers.