Episode Review: Shadowhunters – The Descent into Hell Isn’t Easy

Scott McMullon
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It is the morning after the night before and after a pretty weak opening episode there has been at least some improvement in the second outing of Shadowhunters. Not so much that it will be forgiven for it’s past sins, but certainly enough to keep us watching . . . for now.

Clary has introduced her best friend Simon to the world of the Shadowhunters, and is ready to hit the road and look for her mother, who has been captured by rogue hunters, the Circle. But in order to reach her goal she has to work with resident looker Jace, and his adopted siblings Alec and Isabelle, to find her surrogate older sister Dot, who has been revealed as a warlock.

Now Clary has to not only make her own way in this new world, she also has to drag along her hopelessly human and a-dork-able Simon, leading him into danger. All the while the Circle is closing in, as well as a new enemy which could lead our cast into disaster long before they can reach their goal.

This time around the script is thankfully a little less cringeworthy to get through. After trying to pack in so much content last time the show has opted for a tighter narrative, focusing more on Clary’s hunt for her mother and less on introductions.

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There is still jargon a-plenty, along with some occasionally painful dialogue, but this has been curtailed somewhat from the show’s last outing. We are hoping that as Shadowhunters finds its feet, these clunky moments will tail off completely for a more streamlined approach.

Looking at the characters and their development, this time we can see a little movement but it is slow. One of our big critiques from the last episode was that the actors feel like they were hired more for their looks rather than their acting ability, and while some of their dialogue is still coming off as less than natural there are some minor improvements.

In particular, our brief moments with Dot and Magnus, along with Simon and Isabelle, helped give the story a little more gravity. We are still worried about Katherine McNamara’s ability to shoulder the series as main character Clary, though, and it was from her and Jace that we had some of our more clunky lines.

One area we can see some improvement on is in the construction of visual effects and aesthetics which has come along in leaps and bounds. While the ‘magic swords’ used by the Shadowhunters look more like toys than lethal weapons the use of magic is approached well, creating some pretty impressive visuals throughout. While it doesn’t really create a terrific spectacle in itself it does show some pretty creative people are working behind the scenes and that does give us hope for a strong visual pay-off as the series continues. We just hope that this doesn’t become a crutch for Shadowhunters to rely on while dialogue and acting are still weak.

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Altogether this was definitely a better instalment than the premiere in almost all respects. The tighter storyline helped to keep the overall balance of the episode in check and by and large stayed entertaining. Clary continues to grind at times, along with some of the other leads, but some strong performances from the wider cast help make these missteps a bit more forgivable.

While this is far from one of our favourites, we have to admit that the ending left us ready for episode three and intrigued to see where the story of Clary will take us to next week.

Shadowhunters airs every Wednesday in the UK via Netflix.

About Scott McMullon

Lover of literature, film and music living in Essex (no jokes please!). 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars' - Oscar Wilde