Shadowhunters S01E07 “Major Arcana” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Netflix, new episodes each week on Wednesdays
Writer: Peter Binswanger
Director: J Miles Dale
Essential Plot Points:
- Clary has worked out that her mum used her “turning objects into pictures” power to hide the cup in the Ace Of Cups cards of the deck of Tarot cards. Clary has inherited this power – let’s call it conscriptiomancy – so she’ll be able to turn the picture back into the real thing.
- Luke says those cards are now in his desk drawer at the police station.
- When Luke goes to fetch them, he’s apprehended by Internal Affairs before he can get to them. They’re trying to work out why his car was found, wrapped around a lamp post, covered in blood with GPS records showing it had previously been at the site of a murder. You can’t really blame the for being suspicious, can you?
- So Jace and Clary try to find the Tarot cards instead, but they’ve now been moved to the evidence vault.
- Anyway, a lot of misadventures and near-misses with demons later – and with help from Alec and Izzie who are freed up from infodumping duties back at the Institute this week – Clary finally has the Cup!
- But the mission has brought her and Jace closer together and they end the episode snogging.
- Simon, meanwhile, starts hallucinating and inflicting damage on innocent furniture.
- He ends up returning to the Hotel Dumort where Camille is waiting, ready to bury her teeth into him.
Ah, Simon, how wrong you’ve proven us. A couple of weeks ago we were complaining that Shadowhunter’s little Jewish Xander Harris avatar had lost his geeky charm with the onset of vampirism. This week, though, Simon’s increasing blood lust provides all the best moments.
There’s his rapid reversal of fortune in his first scene: one moment a rampant sex God, and the next a callous love rat who can’t remember the name of the girl he just slept with. Then he starts making lists to help him weigh up the likelihood of him becoming a creature night, which bemuses a delightfully sarcastic coffee shop barista (“Where’s what’s-her-face? Latte-and-no-whipped-cream girl?” “Clary? Uh, I don’t know. She’s not answering my texts.” “Can’t imagine why.”). Finally he has a melt down and destroys a desk in front of his mother and sister, who, considering they think his weird behaviour is down to drugs, must now be convinced he’s on PCP.
Sadly campire Camille (is “camp”-ire a thing?) turns up to derail things with her usual pant0-vamp performance. It truly is like nobody’s told her this isn’t an Addams Family reboot. She certainly makes Simon pull the bizarre expression; he looks like he’s going to vomit a frisbee.
Until that point, though, this has been Simon’s episode. Now, you might expect a statement like that to be followed by some snarky comment about “which isn’t hard because the rest of the episode is a stinker”. And considering the main Clary & Jace storyline in little more than “hunt the Tarot card” in a police station, there’s certainly not much in the way of a plot to enthuse about.
And yet… it’s actually a lot if fun too. Much of that is down to a level of wit, snappy dialogue and deft character moments that are a cut above the norm for this show. There’s almost a Buffy-esque quality to Binswanger’s script in the way it pokes fun at the show’s own silliness in lines such lines as, “Paying off a few demons is easy, especially as they rarely survive long enough to collect.” Also like Buffy there are loads of geeky references (Star Trek, The Mummy, Nosferatu), amusing inversions of supernatural tropes (Simon ordering a garlic bagel with extra garlic to test that piece and vampire folklore) and a refusal to treat any guest character, no matter how small the part, as mere dialogue-dispensers. Vargas may be dead before long but she still has a lovely moment with Clary (“Matching tattoos? Big red flag.”). We’ve already mentioned the barista but even Fisk, the Internal Affairs guy, develops somewhat surprisingly from clichéd pain-in-the-butt jobsworth into a sympathetic character by the end.
None of this quite excuses the skimpy plot but it does go a long way to making it more palatable. The episode also benefits from a massive reduction in the amount of exposition it want to dump on us.
Alec/Magnus shippers may be disappointed on the lack of movement on that front but hey, delayed pleasure can be a very good thing. Instead we get Jace and Clary finally snogging even though Jace continues to have all the charm of driftwood. Yep, for all the other things the episode gets right it still can’t make the idea of Jace and Clary as an item feel in any way believable. Which for the purposes of the show at this point it needs to be…
Overall though, a very satisfying example of how good this show can be when it ups its game just a little. And now Clary’s found the Goblet Of Fire (or whatever) at least we can move on from that search finally.
- Lots of really amusing dialogue.
- Even the secondary characters have a chance to shine.
- Simon’s bedroom gaffe.
- Simon’s lists and garlic experimentation.
- Simon’s meltdown in front of mum.
- Simon had a good episode, didn’t he?
- Oh yeah, and… Gruesome grandma!
- Not much of a plot.
- Camille manages to be disproportionately irritating in about 30 seconds of screen time.
- There’s something faintly ridiculous about way all the staff at just wander off like they’re bored when Clary turns up safe and sound.
- Let’s be honest – there’s still no sign of chemistry between Jace and Clary. They’re only together because the script says they’re supposed to be together. (There’s something we REALLY want to mention now but in deference to those who haven’t read the book or worked out the significance of the initials “JC” yet, we won’t).
- Simon’s impression of Rygel from Farscape was frankly disturbing.
And The Random:
- Despite the episode’s title, the Ace Of Cups is not one of the 22 cards that make up the Major Arcana in pack of Tarot cards.
- The film that Simon is watching is the 1922 German silent classic Nosferatu, directed by FW Murnau. It was an attempt to dodge the Dracula copyright by changing names and locations but Bram Stoker’s estate was having none of it, and a won a legal case against the film. All copies of Nosferatu were supposed to have been destroyed but some survived and it went on to become a cult classic in its own right.
- We see the work experience guy at the LAPD was left to do the filing again.
- Maureen proves to be a loud-and-proud geek. After her night of passion with Simon, she says it was like Pon Farr, the Vulcan mating ritual from Star Trek when male Vulcans are overcome by emotions. Incidentally, a Vulcan only comes on heat once every seven years, which is probably how long Simon will have to wait for sex with Maureen again after calling her “Clary”.
Review by Dave Golder