Welcome to another week of discussion about Shadowhunters. This week we will be talking about Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood, and setting up the pace for some hopefully really great and meaty analysis about representation in this show. This week’s three episodes (little different than usual, but it’s important I talk about storylines and the show as a whole as it finishes early April) finally seems to push the show forward away from strictly introductory work. Kidnapping! Vampires! Faeries! Oh My!!! These episodes are also filled with demons, warlocks, transformations, flirting, and much more!
As the discussion this week is based on these three episodes, let’s get right to it. In episode 1×03 “Dead Man’s Party” the main thrust of the plot is trying to find a way into a run down hotel where the Vampire’s den is to rescue Simon. Clary, of course, butt’s heads with Alec in particular for not protecting Simon properly. Their bickering includes Clary being ungrateful to Alec and Izzy, and Alec snapping on about how “human beings should have a modicum of common sense”. Tensions are high, but then again when are they not? Jace explains the reason the vampires took Simon as a way to lure Clary to them in hopes that she will give them the Mortal Cup. Clary, however, still has no idea where her mother hid the cup, and she still does not have access to most of her childhood memories. In trying to find a way to rescue Simon, Clary repeatedly appeals to Izzy and Jace’s soft spot for her. It is especially clear in these moments when the group is deciding how to rescues Simon that Clary is infusing the bunch with a sense of compassion they haven’t experienced in a long time. Alec is suspicious of it, especially now that they have learned Valentine is Clary’s father.
Meanwhile, Simon is hanging out at the vampires den. One of them, Raphael, tries to get information about the Mortal Cup from Simon. It doesn’t work, obviously, and the vampires (specifically Camille, their leader) then seem to just enjoy the presence of Simon as a human with drinkable blood. Back at the Institute, Clary wants to run head first into the hotel Simon is being held in, but the rules of the Clave are stopping them. Alec, who is in charge while their parents are away, struggles with breaking the rules in order to go after Simon. This is the first episode also, where the full status of Alec’s repression is explored. Alec and Izzy have a moment after discussing Izzy’s interest in Seelies (half-angel half-demon, part of the faerie family) saying she has a “thing” for them. Izzy responds with “We’ve all got our things, don’t we?” directed straight at Alec, whose tight smirk and eye roll response leaves the audience question what exactly Alec’s thing could be.
In order to get around the rules, they attempt to find a stealthy entrance, figuring the consequences from the Clave will be minor when they rescue Simon, as kidnapping humans is worse than going on an unsanctioned mission. Or at least that is how they see it. Izzy comes in to save the day and goes to visit one of her lovers, a Seelie, to find a way into the hotel where Simon is. Since they are breaking the rules Alec, Jace and Clary need to look for weapons somewhere other than the Insitute as to not draw attention to themselves. This leads them to an old graveyard. As the look for the weapons hidden in a grave, Clary and Jace share a series of moments. Clary feels guilty about Simon, and her mother, and it seems as though the stress of this situation is starting to get to her.
Jace also teaches her how to use one of their weapons, in of course, an intimate way. It is clear in this episode the show is highlighting Clary and Jace as having a connection that is far different than Clary and Simons. In contrast to this, this episode also features moments between Alec and Jace that are almost if not more intimate. Jace questions Alec’s bad attitude toward Clary, and in there seems to be some current running under all of their interactions. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Alec and Jace’s bond (called Parabatai – an intense bond two Shadowhunters have that enables them to fight well together) is without a doubt one of the strongest on the show, but the two boys are getting different things from it.
Interestingly enough, the show is not shying away from the exceptionally homoerotic tensions between two of its main characters and “Dead Man’s Party” is the first episode where it seems apparent there may be another love triangle in the midst. This time however, with two men and one women. We’ll get to that later though. Of course the merry band of misfits find a way to rescue Simon, thanks to the help of Izzy, who seduces one of her Seelie lovers (Meliorn) to find a way into the vampires nest. The rescue however is marred with increasing tensions between Clary and Simon and Alec. The last few moments mirror each other, Clary clearly does not love Simon the same way he loves her, but he remains oblivious. While Jace remains increasingly oblivious to Alec’s feelings for him (Jace, much like Simon, cannot seem to understand Alec’s motives for helping), which only increases the rift that seems to be starting between them. Oh. And the episode ends with Simon staring hungrily at a vein in Clary’s neck. I guess something more than a little fun might have happened while Simon was with the vampires!!
Episode Grade: C
Episode 1×04 “Raising Hell” revolves around finally finding the person who can reunite Clary with her memories. The High Warlock of Brooklyn, Magnus Bane. Simon argues with Jace about Clary and mundane versus Shadowhunter things, and runs off in a huff. Clary and Jace have some more moments about Clary’s mother and her memories, and they agree that finding Magnus is their best bet. They decide that approaching Magnus at a Downworlder party and giving him back a necklace he once cherished is the best way to get him out of hiding. Izzy comes up with the idea and is excited, while-surprise-Alec is not. Hodge helps explain Magnus is usually distrustful of Shadowhunters but loves excess and is obsessed with his possessions (also we learn in this episode that Magnus was once in a relationship with Camille, the vampire who bit Simon). As usual, Hodge is sufficiently creepy and serves no purpose in the episode. This episode also shows us more moments of Valentine, as he kills Seelie scouts from the Clave.
Back in the real world, Luke is coming under pressure at the police station, as he is having a hard time not letting the Shadow world problems bleed into his work life. Since the Downworlder party is the sight of the gang’s mission, Izzy relishes in helping Clary find an outfit to wear and the girls bond. This episode also gives us a glimpse of Magnus, who, along with other Warlock’s are in hiding because Valentine is hunting them in hopes of getting Jocelyn out of her coma. In this glimpse the show gives us our first taste of his dramatic nature and lavish lifestyle. Izzy and Alec bicker over Alec’s distaste for the party, and Alec once again explains his reservations about helping Clary. Izzy once again mentions how repressed Alec is, and tells him to lighten up. This entire time Simon finally makes it home, has an awkward interaction with his mother and his maybe girlfriend Maureen? He is both sensitive to sunlight and licks some blood off of a broken picture frame. I wonder what could be happening there.A little later as the gang waits for entrance into the party, the show gives us another moment between Izzy and Clary where Clary compliments Izzy with sincerity. Instead of, as many shows would do, turn a compliment about looks into a backhanded compliment or one that would create tension between the two women.
Jace and Clary find Magnus, but before they can strike a bargain to get her memories back one of Valentine’s men attempts to attack Magnus. Luckily, Alec lets an arrow fly and saves the day. Magnus is immediately intrigued by Alec but not enough to stay. He runs off through a portal to warn the other Warlocks and Clary is left with only a button of his from his shirt. Apparently Shadowhunters can track people if they have their possessions so Jace and Alec do so to find Magnus. In potentially the most homoerotic way possible, in fact even Clary notices, she discusses how oddly intimate it is to Izzy. They arrive at Magnus’ lair to find that Valentine’s men have made it there first and have killed most of Magnus’ friends. Once again, Alec intervenes and helps save Magnus, but this time they share a moment. Alec, who so far we’ve known to smile rarely and be a general grump suddenly is flustered and smiley.
While deciding on how he will help Clary and her friends, Magnus repeatedly flirts with Alec. Eventually, the group has to summon a demon to retrieve Clary’s memory. In their attempt to retrieve her memories, the group must link hands and sacrifice a memory of the person they love the most. Izzy’s is Alec, Clary’s is her mother, and Alec’s is Jace. Yikes. Upset that the demon has presented the group with undeniable proof that Alec loves Jace, Alec breaks the connection and the demon gets free and traps Jace. The only way to save him is to kill the demon, and Clary does it. However, in killing the demon Clary loses her memories, and their hunt for the cup is back to square one. In terms of Simon in this episode, somehow at the end of the episode he ends up back at Camille’s hotel. Interesting!
Episode Grade: C+
Episode 1×05 “Moo Shu To Go” begins to merge the different aspects of the storylines together. Izzy’s relationship with Meliorn, Alec’s increased anger toward Clary, Simon and the vampires, and Luke’s odd behaviour at work all collide in this episode. Alec in his true form, is skeptical of Clary being able to see her mother and Valentine using the portal shard necklace her mother gave her in episode one. He berates her and stalks off to hide the necklace so it can’t be used. Big shocker! As Clary deals with the fallout of her argument with Alec, Izzy comforts her. They talk about Clary’s mother, and Izzy seems almost jealous of their good relationship. Almost instantly, with the arrival of Maryse Lightwood (Alec, Izzy, Max (their younger brother) and Jace’s (adoptive) mother) we can see why. Maryse has been called back to the Institute to deal with the problems that Alec, Izzy and Jace have caused with the unsanctioned missions to help Clary and try and find the cup.
Maryse is cold and harsh in her treatment of Izzy, and Clary instantly is protective of Izzy when she notices. However, Maryse shows clear favouritism toward Jace, and even has a warmer welcome for Alec than she had for Izzy. Izzy is noticeably affected by her mother’s treatment, though she attempts to downplay its significance. As the group has been doing whatever they please for a few days Maryse lectures them on responsibility and having to perform tasks they do no prefer because it is their jobs. This leaves Izzy and Jace to go find Meliorn and ask about the Seelie’s changing allegiance, and Alec in charge of looking after Clary for the day. What fun tasks! They run just about as smoothly as you can imagine. However before they depart Jace confronts Alec in hopes that he can convince Alec to listen to Maryse and look after Clary.
Alec attempts a half-assed apology trying to explain why his memory was of Jace. Jace quite plainly states that of course Alec loves him, they are paradatai. The two embrace and it is clear that Jace believes their bond to be coming from a mutual platonic brotherly love. It is also clear in this scene (and almost always) that that is not the case for Alec. Jace and Izzy find Meliorn in mourning, as the Seelie scouts sent to spy on Valentine were killed. The Seelie’s feel as though Valentine has the most power, so their allegiance is shifting toward him so they can survive. Simon once again has ended up at the vampire den without knowing how he got there, as he seems to be wandering aimlessly in its direction at odd hours of the day.
Additionally, Luke and his friend and fellow detective discuss the demonic murders happening around the city while trying to figure out how to find Clary in order to attempt to find the cup. At this time their role seems to be unclear but if we can remember back to episode two, Luke attacked one of the Circle members in a very animalistic way which is without a doubt a clue. Meanwhile, Alec is helping Clary train (YAY!!!) and as always they bicker incessantly. Clary doesn’t like Alec because he is rude and cold, where she thinks she’s warm and welcoming. Clary notices things however, much like Izzy, about who makes decisions, how Alec and Jace’s relationship works, and how to push his buttons. Their training session is interrupted by a phone call from Magnus asking Alec to get drinks with him. In a shocking turn of events Alec agrees and even uses the word “fun”. However, during this phone call Clary escapes and heads off to her old apartment in search of a box her mother hid that Clary thinks is related to her father and will help with the cup. There seems to be a werewolf den at an old Chinese food restaurant, where Alaric (Luke’s partner at the police station) appears as a wolf. The pack leader (clearly working against Luke’s interests) tells the pack to find Clary so they can have the Cup.
Alec finds Clary and she finally confronts him about the fact that he is clearly in love with Jace, how hard it must be because Jace is straight, and that coming to terms with his feelings will make him feel better. Naturally, Alec gives a sarcastic response, though never denies it, and the two of them head off to meet Simon and find the box her mother hid. It is important that the show deviates from the book in this way, because in the book Clary attacks Alec about his feelings for Jace because she is jealous, not out of concern for Alec like in the show. Also, Alec reacts violently toward Clary in the books. Good job, Shadowhunters, I would not have been happy to relive that exchange on television. During their recon mission Alec is annoyed with both Simon and Clary and their lack of common sense, though he does notice differences in Simon and questions him about his time at the vampire hotel. At the apartment Clary finds the box her mother used to hide but Clary and Simon get kidnapped by Alaric and the werewolves and Alec loses them.
This causes and argument between Alec and Jace, which Izzy is annoyed about as she favours Alec and feels Jace blaming Alec a waste of time. Jace attacks Alec’s ability to lead and Alec makes jabs about Jace’s judgment being clouded by his feelings for Clary. Once again, tensions are high. Simon gets strung up in a locker room as Clary is questioned about where the cup is, and he starts a fire as a distraction while Jace, Alec and Izzy make their way to save them. Just before they arrive however Luke intervenes and tries to explain that he’s on Clary’s side and had to lie to Valentine’s people in the first episode in order to keep her safe. Izzy saves Simon and they share a moment, and the entire group reunite safely. Though, the werewolves are not happy and in order to resolve the issue Luke fights the alpha and kills him, making Luke the new alpha. However, his wounds still could be fatal without the help of a warlock, so the episode ends with the gang heading to Magnus’ to save Luke’s life!
Episode Grade: B-
These three episodes push the story forward and allow all of the characters more time to breathe. Most significantly and interestingly are the progression of Alec and Izzy’s characters. Alec, who we have learned is a law abiding tight ass, seems to be more controlled by emotions than he initially lets on. Though his desire to be a good Shadowhunter and follow the rules is something he regularly struggles with. Izzy however, is slowly shifting from her confident outgoing self, as the pressure from her mother starts to take a noticeable toll. Subsequently, Clary’s story and the hunt for Valentine is moving, still slowly, but in a way that offers the audience the background information needed. With Luke as the new Alpha, suddenly Clary and her friends have more power behind them, despite whatever obstacles Maryse Lightwood will undoubtedly throw their way.
The show is also starting to embrace the parts that are working for them, which is their extremely beautiful and charming young cast. Kat and Dom as Clary and Jace are improving, and though their chemistry doesn’t rival Magnus and Alec’s I’m sure it will get there. Additionally, the way the show doesn’t shy away from different aspects of male intimacy is extremely noteworthy. It is very clearly starting to deal with the complicated relationship between Alec and Jace, what that means for both of them, what it means to the Clave, and to their lives. The show easily could have delegitimized the importance of their relationship in favour of Jace and Clary, yet so far, there is no sign of that. This coupled with them allowing both Izzy and Clary to be friends without unnecessary pettiness is certainly their way of challenging overused and boring tropes, portrayals of women, and I would argue, making some statements about masculinity as well.
Girls! Girls! Girls!
Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood. Sister to Alec, Max and Jace. Beautiful, confident, fighter. Izzy is presented in Shadowhunters as an unapologetic female character whose talent, attitude and sense of self is not questioned by her brothers, Clary or Simon. She uses her intelligence, power and sexuality to get what she needs and knows that her compassion and ability to fight make her strong. One thing the show accomplishes well with Izzy (it took too long in the books for her and Clary to be friends, and they always were jealous about the boys) is her complexity. It is true that as a competent Shadowhunter she is confident in her abilities and her decisions. However, the introduction of her mother in episode five, we see that despite that confidence the tense relationship she has with her mother complicates it.
Izzy is the most like Clary in many ways, as it is easier for her to let her feelings guide her where Alec and Jace would vehemently argue that feelings make you weak. Izzy also is never put behind the boys as she saves the day and Simon, numerous times. Izzy knows that Clary is struggling with learning the ways of this new life and she is supportive. Izzy also is extremely protective of Alec, as she knows about his feelings for Jace. The only place where this is complicated is in her relationship with her mother. Her mother’s obsession with keeping the families honour within the Clave and her need to fulfill her duties as a Shadowhunter trumps everything to her. So it only makes sense that Izzy, the only other girl in the family would get the brunt of the disapproval, as Izzy represents all the things Maryse once believed in before she got hurt herself. Maryse’s favouritism and her questionable parenting is undoubtedly linked to the strict cultural ways of the Shadow world. Izzy who is understanding and accepting of Downworlders and mundanes does not fit that mold as easily as Alec does, so she is a problem to her mother. However, with the introduction of Clary, who is the most obvious source of the human way of life and compassion these cultural ideas may end up shifting. Though not without some sort of sacrifice, because what kind of show would it be if everything ran smoothly?
The next two posts will look a little like this:
Saturday: Ladies and horror! We’re going to talk about my favourite horror films and the cool ladies who make them so great.
Wednesday: Episodes 1×06-1×08 of Shadowhunters!! One more long post about another group of episodes and we’re caught up to what has aired. We’re going to talk about Clary again but also the relationships on the show and what they mean in relation to these young women.