Based on the best selling novels written by Cassandra Clare, the Shadow Hunters TV series gives us an extended glimpse into characters and a world we have come to love. While I was excited for the announcement for the TV series, there is something about being hooked on a week to week viewing along with season breaks that tends to steer me clear of initially watching these shows. With the introduction of more and more shows being made in this way on Netflix and the convenience of Netflix on multiple devices I have become more open to the idea of starting series like these. Of course, having the added benefit of almost two seasons finished before I started didn’t hurt. The TV series has the interesting challenge of not only being compared to the books that is often a touchy subject with book to movie adaptations, but a film has already been done and must now compete with both the books and the film. I think at this stage though we can all agree that while we loved watching the Mortal Instrument: City of Bones film adaptation, there were far too many things that went wrong to ever hope for additional films in the series. That is where the TV series comes in. It is able to continue the story on a smaller scale, with the freedom of time and seasons, as well as the ability to alter and expand on characters and scenarios.
For those unfamiliar with the series, it is about a girl named Clarissa (Clary) Fray who on her eighteen birthday discovers that her mother has been blocking an entire world from her, one that she is thrust into without the help of her mother. Clary’s mother is kidnaped by a dark Shadow Hunter named Valentine and while Clary must try to deal with the kidnapping of her mother, she must also try to comprehend the existence of demons, vampires, werewolves, shadow hunters and angels. The series written by Cassandra Clare is very expansive having a main series, a prequel series and other side series to build off this intriguing new world.
I think we can all agree that the show is already better than the movie after watching the first episode and finally getting a Jace we deserve. While everyone has their own tastes, we all know the only thing going for the Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) from the film was the accent. While our new Jace (Dominic Sherwood) may seem a bit rough around the edges at first, his character and his two toned eyes start to grow on us.
The main character of Clarissa (Clary) is played by Katherine McNamara who brings a better visual portrayal than that of Lilly Collins in the film version (more of what I had pictured), though the acting abilities are non-comparable. Though we can sympathize with Clary’s plight, her acting is a hard pill to swallow complete with cringe worthy scenes and classic campy horror movie running.
I can’t really touch on the character of Clary’s mother Jocelyn Fray (Maxim Roy) for comparison purposes as I can’t even remember Clary’s mother in the film. The TV series mother had a rocky start as well, though this seems to improve as the series progresses.
Clary’s best friend is Simon Lewis (Alberto Rosende), the awkward nerd who also has a hipster rock band is a favourite for many. While Clary’s life is turned upside down with the knowledge of the Shadow World, it doesn’t take long for Simon to be dragged in and buried by the events. (Ha!) As for Simon’s character, we will touch on him more in season two.
Alec Lightwood….oi… where to start. Played by Matthew Daddario, as our struggling gay shadow hunter it took me quite some time to come to terms with his early 2000’s hip mom lesbian haircut. Sure it is a very shallow thing to point out, but it truly overshadowed his entire character for the whole season. While Alec’s character can be a bit of a pain in the ass in both versions, I have to say I prefer Daddario’s portrayal over Kevin Zegers.
Isabelle Lightwood (Emeraude Toubia), Alec’s sister, is on par with our main heroin Clary, but with the added benefit of not being the main heroin. Isabelle is able to be all the things we want to be without the harsh spotlight. Isabelle is a bad ass warrior who hooks up with all the good looking bad guys all while wearing revealing clothing, heels and looking hot. While Jemima West was able to portray the good looking aspect of Isabelle, Toubia’s ethnicity adds a much needed spice to Isabelle’s character.
Luke Garroway, Jocelyn’s boyfriend and ex-shadow hunter turned werewolf had little change in the film version for Aidan Turner who portrayed a werewolf for three years on the show Being Human. The show version turned things up with the very attractive Isaiah Mustafa who is a vast improvement.
Magnus Bane is a very enigmatic character and I was worried how they would portray him in the tv series compared to the film. The film stars Godfrey Goa who played a great Magnus and I was very pleased to see that Harry Shum Jr. was able to keep up and not let us down. While everyone is meant to watch the story of Jace and Clary, it is the story of Alec and Magnus that really steals the show (though struggling and awkward at first).
While Valentine Morgenstern is our villain we should not like him in any way shape or form. The tv series cast Alan van Sprang who is a more likely depiction of Valentine, though we can’t help but miss the face of Jonathan Rhys Meyers from the film version.
While there are many more actors and actresses that could be touched on, these are the relative main characters of the show. The first season for the TV series of Shadow Hunters can be summed up as amateur and low budget. Despite these things the show is engaging in a way that we can’t help but enjoy the extended retelling of Clare’s best selling stories, along with the unknown for the embellishments that the tv series introduced. There were many conflicting things with the first season with some actors and actresses needing much needed help compared to others, amazing scenes and props in some areas while issues in others. The weapons weren’t something I already touched on, but the runes or “tattoos” have always been a confusion topic. Some of the runes are so large that you have to wonder how the Shadow Hunter is able to continue adding more. Could it be that the life expectancy of a Shadow Hunter is so short that they have never run into the situation? Or is there more that we are missing when it comes to these magic symbols? The series took liberties when it came to the markings by having some in black, some in dark red, and some showing up as scarred flesh. Some were most obvious outlines and coloured in, while others were more authentic. These were just some of the issues that the first season ran into.
The first season was a rocky start, but enjoyable none the less. It took no time at all to blast through the first season and well into the second season where you see many of the issues addressed. The show follows the main points of the books, but as mentioned there are many allowances made for the TV series adaptation that usually occurs with TV series.
The first few episodes it is hard to tell the differences, but there are many things that were addressed in the second season to try to clean up from the first. The actors and actresses seem to have improved their acting abilities (or perhaps we have just become accustom to them after a full season), though there are still moments of cringe. The Seraph blade weapons have gone from cheesy light sabers to full metal blades with glinting blue runes. Still not quite what was envisioned in the books but perhaps more visually understandable and pleasing than the first attempt. They also seem to have gotten the hang of the ruins settling on a full black rather than the shotty attempts and dabbling of the first season. The show seems to struggle between the boundaries of film budget worthy visuals and made for tv stunts, but still worthy of a TV budget series. The institute was turned into a more technology heavy headquarters than what was envisioned in the books but I loved the stained glass throughout the institute.
While the story is relatively known to us for the first season, there were many things that were not from the books and things that occurred in the books that are missing from the series. Most of the time this is done to make things less confusing for the audience and allow those who have not read the books to be able to watch the show from start to finish with no issues.
Although season two is not quite finished with two episodes still to come, one in June 2017 and the other date unreleased at this time, we are left on a bit of a hanger and wondering what is to come next. The season two finale/break leaves us with a mysterious new character though I imagine there are a few of us who have read the books that have a couple guesses.
I have to say I had my doubts about the first season and I was grateful that the full two seasons were available at the time I started to watch it. I can’t say what the fate of the show would have held for me had I watched the first season on a weekly basis. I imagine I would have dropped it for some time to be able to binge watch, but also fear that I may not have picked it up again. With the convenience of Netflix and the Netflix and Go option for the series I blasted through both seasons and I have to admit I am hooked now (naturally now that I am hooked and have reached the end).
Fans of Cassandra Clare’s novels, as well as fans of all things Shadow World related should really give this show a chance. As mentioned in all my comments about the first season it is best to at least make it a few episodes into the second season before you really decide your feelings on the show. It will never live up to the visions we all had in our head but it is definitely better than nothing or having to sit through a second disaster continuing the film adaptations.