Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sami on Shadowhunters 1.1

Shadowhunters airs at 9pm on Freeform* Tuesday nights.

You remember when Stitchers started, and I said the first episode was too fast and talky and not super naturalistic, but was also cool and kind of addicting?** That's apparently just how this channel does pilots, because this one was like that.

It's also both like and not like the books, and there was so much complaining on the tweets that it was hard to get through all that to get to the tweets that were more positive. Because it IS different--but it's also a different thing. They didn't just randomly change stuff like they did for the movie, they created something inspired by the books but not the same as the books, and they were very clear about that from the beginning. So on it's own merits, here's how the pilot went.

Clary is turning 18, and her mom keeps not just telling her what that means for her--namely, that through her whole life, she's been having her memories manipulated*** but now that she's adult, it's going to wear off, and that apparently also means that people who have been looking for her and her mom can find them. Jocelyn gives Clary a stele, but doesn't tell her what it is, what it means, or how to use it.

Meanwhile, Clary gets into a neat art program she wanted to get into, and hangs out with Simon and his band. But the art that got her in was mostly all those things she's not supposed to remember, and the band's gig happens to be near a Downworlder nightclub where she sees people no one else can see kill people who burst into flames and open up crazy jaws that aren't human. She tries to tell her mom what happened, and to her credit, Jocelyn tries to tell her, but they're attacked and she pushes Clary through a portal while she stays behind to stop the people following them. 

She manages to burn down their house, but doesn't stop herself from being captured, though she does put herself into a magical coma. They take her back to Valentine who has a hideout in Chernobyl of all places, and he actually seems to care about her and be mad that she's not conscious and whole as he told them to keep her. This scene was especially cool because 1) Jocelyn was a Shadowhunter and it's really neat seeing her fighting like one with my actual eyes, and 2) it would have been really easy to make Valentine a caricature like they did in the movie****, but they went just as evil but also much more human and a little more subtle than that.

Clary winds up at the precinct where Luke, her mom's sort of boyfriend, works as a cop, but her timing is not good and she sees him telling the people who were chasing her that she and her mom mean nothing to him. So she runs off. This scene was not so great, though, because the cuts were sudden and weird, and there was little context on Luke to know that he's bluffing--it just sounds like he's creepy and mean when he was nice one scene ago. Especially since he doesn't get beaten up or anything, he's just being cold. Also, there's no Jace at this point, so she has no context for anything that's happening, and when he saves her and she wakes up, there's a lot of weird exposition.

Inside the institute, he tries to tell her what's going on, but he's not nearly as suave as he thinks he is and they keep getting interrupted, and Clary comes off as a little dense and a little not-freaked-out-enough by finding a tattoo on her body that she didn't consent to. But they got it right that her main focus is finding her mom, and the start of falling for Jace is handled pretty well. Even better is the way Simon is always on the outside and trying to solve things in normal ways, but honestly trying to help, and how he has no chill for the crazy stuff happening around them. 

They're a little heavy-handed about putting Clary literally between Jace and Simon, but what evs. It's a pretty good set up for the story overall, and it's worth seeing more of.

The actors seem a little inexperienced and not quite settled into their characters, but they do a pretty good job of balancing the clash between normal life things and really weird things. The fight scene at the club was cheesy as hell, but later ones are better. The plot moves along way too fast, especially in the first half of the episode, and it really feels like it should have been a two-hour or two-part premier so that we could have more of the normal world, more of Jocelyn trying to tell her what's up, more of her having weird experiences before everything goes to crap, and more of the family interactions that were totally bulldozed over. As it is, we hardly know what's going on with her mom and Luke, with her and her school, with anything, before it all falls apart. And we don't get Jace investigating her and trying to figure her out before he rescues her, so his fascination with her looks less epic and more sudden.

The two biggest changes were Luke's job, and the Institute. Having Luke as a cop with a public job and a partner and crimes to solve will change things in unexpected ways. He's not keeping to himself or hiding in stacks of books, so he's already a more public and confident figure than he was in the books--and there's all these new characters we have to figure out. That's cool--we don't have a cheat sheet on them, so we have to actually watch them to see what happens. It's also strange, because so much of the rest seems a little cheat-sheeted.

The Institute is now sort of a supernatural CSI with fancy computers and displays and lots of other people, and that's strange. In the books, a lot of the problems the Institute has comes from how behind-the-times they are, refusing to update their tech and deal with the mortal world, and with how few their numbers are. That doesn't seem to be the case here. It does, however, separate them from, say, Sleepy Hollow and Supernatural, where they go after the baddies alone and with only their wits and some basic magic. It's more organized, which does suit a professional evil-chasing organization. We'll have to see how it goes.

The only other really big change so far seems to be Maureen. She was a younger fangirl of Simon's band in the books, all childlike and obsessive, and close enough to the edge that she goes crazy when weird things start happening to her later on. Here, she's as old as everyone else, and a part of the band's support system, doesn't seem all that obsessed with Simon himself, and does seem pretty self-confident and competent. We'll see how that changes things later on, but I guess it doesn't really matter that much now.

But they got Magnus Bane so right.

It was fun, in between the strange bits where people talk too much or sound off, and it'll be super interesting to see how the story develops--how close will it be to the books? How different will it go? What will the changes wash out like as the story unfolds? Will it just suddenly click and turn from okay to awesome in the second or third episode like Stitchers did? It's good enough to stick around and see!

What did you guys think about Shadowhunters? Share in the comments or come talk to us on Twitter!

*Used to be ABCFamily, but they're rebranding to be grittier and such.
**You probably don't because that was on my old page at Examiner and not here, and that's not mine anymore. But I did say something like that.
***Obligatory reminder that I really hate the "I didn't tell you vital pieces of information because I wanted to keep you safe" trope.
****I love me some Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but I think he was given a lunatic mess of that character and even he couldn't make it better.
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