Mundie Moms

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Shadowhunters TV Series: Episode 1: The Mortal Cup, (Advanced) Review #Shadowhunters


We're only a few days away from the premiere of 'SHADOWHUNTERS' on Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family. Recently I had the chance to watch the first episode of the series. I have to admit, my reaction was mixed. Like many fans, I've been extremely curious to see Freeform's adaptation of Cassandra Clare's books. I've been in the book blogging world long to know that no adaptation stays 100% true to what the authors gives their readers in the books they write. Nor does an author have any say in what is adapted from their books for the big screen or TV. Their story is at the mercy of TV executives who may not always have the fans in mind.

Like many pilots, Shadowhunters is one that was fast paced and throws a lot at fans to get them quickly engaged with the story. Some of this works, and some of it does not. Fans are introduced to the characters fast, but not given an extensive back ground on who they are. The positive of that is that it skips from exposition right into action. The downside is that you don't feel like you get to know any of the characters, and therefore the decisions they make are confusing as are their roles in the story. Like Clary, you're left wondering what the heck is going on, and what kind of world just she just get thrust into. Mirroring the main character's confusion is understandable, but it is concerning that we are given multiple flashbacks and a visit to Valentine in his lair in a bizarre and hilarious location, none of which Clary is privy to, and we're still as confused as she is. Part of that is because in addition to the enormous amount of information from the books that needs to be laid out and presented, already a huge task, a great deal has been invented: new characters, new plotlines, new world-building, and that all has to be stuffed in as well.

This is a great cast. I've said that from the get go. This cast really seems to know their book characters, and has done a great job at challenging them in the pilot. My favorites from this episode are Valentine, Simon, Alec, and Luke. Visually, Valentine is just as I had pictured Valentine from the books! Thankfully he's wearing a suit! It's a downside that it's very hard to figure out what he's doing or what he wants, because of his poorly written dialogue. I can't help but wish they'd held the reveal of him back and let our dread build up. Simon! Oh my word, Simon. This is book Simon brought to life! He is fantastic! Then there's Alec. He's every bit the Alec we're first introduced to in the book, City of Bones. He comes across as cold, grumpy, mean. With Luke, he has a warm presence, though unfortunately the mystery he's investigating, bodies with their blood drained, doesn't make sense. Now, that's not to say everyone else was bad, because they're not, but these were my favorites.

The Script

There are some fan favorite scenes missing that I was really disappointed with. There is one particular scene that fans will pick up on when they watch this, that was clearly filmed and cut from the episode. The dialogue is clunky, awkward and rather than clarifies, is more confusing. For example, at one point Valentine's minion says, "The only thing she's capable of is smelling like a mundane." Are we supposed to think mundanes and Shadowhunters smell different?. There's so much sarcasm and humor that Cassandra Clare wrote into the dialogue of City of Bones that fans expect, yet these characters speak woodenly and stiffly. I hope that this changes as the series goes on. It can take a while for a television show character to find their voice, but it's sad to see no dialogue from the books included at all. 

I liked the scenes between Simon and Clary. It is clear they have a close relationship. It was good to see the Lightwoods together, though as of yet they have little warmth between them. Hopefully that is something that will develop over time. What I didn't like is that I can't figure out where this show's Izzy and Clary are from. In this episode they're a polar opposite of their book characters. For fans of the books, we know how incredible strong these two women are. Here, Izzy is constantly shamed for her clothes by her family, and is better at sexy dancing than fighting. Clary seems weak and shrill, rather than bullheaded, directed and strong. 

I really missed the Jace and Clary chemistry that opens the book. I felt it was really lacking in this episode. People will say "It's only the pilot!" but you only get the first meeting of a destined couple once. Their chemistry is crucial. I can't comment on Magnus and Alec, since they don't interact in this episode with each other, or Simon and Isabelle, either. That's not a critique, as those characters don't interact this early in the story from the books either.

None of the issues I mentioned are the fault of the actors. The cast is the best thing about this episode. They could only work with the material they were given. One of the things about TV is that each episode is often written by a different person. This episode was written by Ed Decter, the show runner for 'Shadowhunters'. I am hopeful that the other writers will have a firmer grasp on the dialogue and characters as the series goes on.

Over All

While changes from the books are necessary and expected, it's hard to watch forty minutes of a show based on a book you loved or even liked and have much of it devoted to characters that aren't in the books. New characters have been invented for the show, and it's very hard to watch them on screen without thinking "This could have been Magnus doing this." Or "This could have been Alec, Luke, Clary or Isabelle doing this." Yes, adaptions change some of the story, but they don't need to change the characters so much that they're not true to themselves. The Hunger Games movie is proof of that, as are beloved adaptations like Game of Thrones and Outlander. I really hope that as the Shadowhunters series goes on, we'll see more of the characters being who they are. There were far more things I had issues with, than what I liked. Since it's the first episode I'm holding onto hope that the next one will be better. Over all, this episode gives the series potential, though there's still a lot left to see.