Shadowhunters S01E04 “Dead Man’s Party” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Netflix, new episodes each week on Wednesdays
Writer: Michael Reisz
Director: Tawnia McKiernan
Essential Plot Points:
- Simon alerts the Shadowhunters to the fact that Magnus Bane was probably the warlock who took away Clary’s memories (he learnt this accidentally from the vampires last week).
- But Magnus is in hiding from Valentine’s followers, shielded from discovery in his mystical bolthole.
- So the Shadowhunters lure Magnus to a swanky party using an amulet they know he’s desperate to have back as bait.
- Magnus reveals he fed the memories to a memory demon but isn’t keen on offering any further assistance and scarpers with the amulet.
- Valentine’s boot boys show up and ruin the party. They also discover Magnus’s magical hideaway.
- Luckily Jace and Alec have also located the hideaway by staring into each other’s eyes and wishing very hard.
- (Something else is going hard for Alec at this point though he’s in self-denial about it.)
- The Shadowhunters deal with Valentine’s men and Clary saves a young Seelie girl.
- This impresses Magnus who agrees to summon the memory demon so it can vomit Clary’s memories back up. Or something.
- But to do this each of the Shadowhunters and Magnus must give the beast one cherished memory involving the person they love the most.
- Embarrassingly for Alec that memory involves Jace (cue one very bi-curious raise of an eyebrow from Magnus). His shock interrupts the summoning and allows the beast to go postal.
- Clary has to kill it… losing her chance of regaining her memories.
- Meanwhile Simon has a strop, goes home, pines for Clary and realises he’s turning into a vampire. So he returns to the Hotel Dumort and Camille.
- Valentine randomly kills some spies in his Chernobyl hideout.
- Luke has a scene so boring it’s difficult to recall what he said in it.
Hail Magnus, for he shall bring some fun to the endless squabbling that is Shadowhunters. He might make Missy in Doctor Who look like a “master”piece in understatement (sorry, we could’t help ourselves with that gag) but he’s exactly what the show needs – a bit of anarchic, hedonistic, larger-than-life colour.
Because, let’s face it, all Clary, Jace, Alec and Simon do now is mope, moan, bicker and infodump. To be fair, Jace also takes his shirt off occasionally but that’s about it. Izzy tries to liven things up (and her “What if Cleopatra lived in the 1920?” party outfit is phenomenal dah-ling) but her efforts are increasingly coming to nowt. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Clary is short for “clarify” because her most important function in the show (other than saying, “we must do it to save my mum” multiple times an episode) is to prompt the Shadowhunters into revealing vital information about the magical world.
Magnus, though, injects some life back into the show. It may not be a subtle performance but it’s certainly a performance. He’s also been the catalyst to making Alec about ten times more interesting too, because the other great thing about the episode is the big reveal of Alec’s sexuality. And it’s not done in a titillating, smirking or mawkish way. It’s just: the evidence, the denial, the knowing look from the potential suitor. It’s quite amusing that Magnus has been “coming on” to Alec for most of the episode in a teasing way, presumably assuming he’s straight and trying to embarrass him to amuse himself, only to discover that he might be in with a chance after all.
So there are some interesting developments, but the show remains far too plodding, far too predictable and far too reliant on teenage-hormone-driven who’s-gonna-snog-who? shenanigans. There’s one scene each for both Valentine and Luke as lip service to the greater plot but they only really serve to remind you how much you don’t miss them when they’re not there.
- Harry Shum Jr’s Magnus is a weird old mix; fruity as Carmen Miranda’s hats, uninterested and aloof and posturing like an extra in a avant garde pop video, he’s no one’s idea of a centuries old mage. Yet the performance becomes such a piece of camp artifice – more spectacle than acting – that it actually begins to win you over. At least he’s not as bland as the many of the guest stars (and some of the main stars) have been so far on this show. And Shum puts everything into his magical gesticulating.
- This show is clearly after a GLAAD award with its delightfully on-the-nose approach to homosexuality. If you hadn’t read the books the moment when Alec is outed by his own subconscious must have been a bit of a shock – it was certainly one of the best bits of the episode. Or maybe it wasn’t such a shocker. After all, everything you needed to know was in the parabatai scene; even Clary notices that it’s very “intimate”.
- The mural in Simon’s bedroom is awesome!
- The pentagram was very pretty too. But, no, Magnus – it wasn’t a patch on Michelangelo.
- It was a bit strange that horny guy was killed off-screen; it felt like there was a scene missing.
- So much whinging and whining. Everyone except Izzy seems to be in strop
- The Luke scene at the police station was utterly pointless and felt like a contractual obligation. When is his character actually going to add anything to this show (which, if it follows the books, he must do at some point, but the writer’s aren’t exactly building him up)? The Valentine scene was forgettable too.
- Usually becoming a vampire adds all kinds of fun to a character, but Simon’s gone from being one of Shadowhunter’s biggest plus points to one of it’s biggest bores since he was bitten.
- The memory demon effects are terrible. And there was something really strange going on with Jace’s hair when he got sucked into the off-the-peg swirly cloud effect (that’s been a staple of Once Upon A Time’s CG since season one).
- We started off making jokey references about the way that Clary’s mum paid Magnus to take away her memories was child abuse, but the more this series goes on, the more that’s exactly what it feels like. Clary’s having nightmares about the experience now!
And The Random:
- Okay, so where was she hiding that dagger while wearing that dress? Just before she attacked the memory demon it looked for all the world like she’s produced it out of her front bottom…
- Looks like they’ve turned up the lights a bit at the police station this week. Or somebody has drawn back some blinds at the very least. Still looks gloomy in there, though…
- Considering Magnus seemed to be fuelled by the mystic power of clichés we can’t believe there was no, “Feeling a little horny?” gag.
- In case you didn’t recognise him, Magnus is played by Harry Shum Jr, best known for playing the twinkle-toed Mike Chang in multiple seasons of Glee. Meanwhile, Simon’s mum was played by Christina Cox, an actress with a huge list of sci-fi, fantasy and cult credits to her name including Elysium, The Chronicles Of Roddick, Arrow (Mayor Castle), Defying Gravity and the lead role in much undervalued vampire show Blood Ties.
Review by Dave Golder