Episode Synopsis: On her eighteenth birthday, Clary Fray’s (Katherine McNamara) mother Jocelyn (Maxim Roy) is kidnapped and discovers that she is part of a supernatural group that call themselves “Shadowhunters”. Along with fellow shadowhunters, Jace (Dominic Sherwood), Alec (Matthew Daddario), Izzie (Emeraude Toubia), her best friend Simon (Alberto Rosende), and her father figure Luke (Isaiah Mustafa) they all find a way have to work together to get Jocelyn back from the insurgent Valentine (Alan van Sprang). (via Wikipedia)
My rating: 3 1/2 stars
Strengths: Interesting characters, good effects, visually appealing
Notes: The episode that I am reviewing is the pilot episode of a new YA fantasy TV series. I will therefore review it as the pilot episode of a new YA fantasy TV series. When I refer to shows of “the same caliber” I am referring to other YA sci-fi/fantasy TV series (The Flash, Vampire Diaries, The 100, Teen Wolf, etc.).
As a reader of the books, I will compare the TV series to the books, but I will also review it as it’s own separate monster. Comparisons to the book are used for reference, and the number of occurrences of similarities/differences does not determine the quality of the show.
The pilot begins with a shape-shifting demon being hunted by a group of Shadowhunters. For newcomers to the show, this acts as the hook, the visually appealing and somewhat suspenseful opening scene. I was at first apprehensive about the show beginning with no background, but the show quickly solves this problem by flashing back 8 hours previous to give some insight into Clary’s background.
Clary is an 18-year-old art student (shown by her presentation to the art school), somewhat of a dork (shown by her exchange with her best friend Simon), a loving daughter (shown by the scene with her mother giving her a stele), and the kind of person who acts first, thinks later (shown by her following a random stranger into a club because he made her look stupid). The show does a good job of somewhat subtly yet quite efficiently showcasing Clary’s character in these scenes. It also works to portray the fact that her best friend is in love with her and that she is too caught up in her own world to notice this.
After this, the show speeds up. A lot. The show involves a lot of information dumping of words like “shadowhunters,” “steles,” and other words you need a dictionary to spell. Though this information is necessary to the plot, the fast-spoken exposition leaves the information a bit jumbled and quite difficult to understand. For anyone who’s read the books, it saves you a boring history lesson. Anyone who hasn’t may need to watch the episode a few times to keep up.
The characters are also thrown into the melee quite abruptly, but there are a few subtleties that hint at the personalities beneath. My personal favorite is the scene with Jace, Alec, and Isabelle jumping from the overhang (if you look closely, you’ll see each of their personalities clearly written in the jump). The important part about the characters is that they are all introduced, made to seem intriguing, then sort of abandoned. If this were more than the pilot, this could be an issue. Standing as it does, this allows curiosity to build in the viewer, and for a new show, this is a very good thing.
The last thing I want to really focus on is the visual effects of the show. There have been a lot of complaints about the show’s CGI, and I think the first thing every viewer should realize is that it was the pilot episode of a new show. Every show operates on a limited budget, and first seasons don’t often work with much. More importantly, however, is how the show stacks up against other shows of the same caliber. When comparing the CGI of the pilot with other shows like Teen Wolf, The Flash, and even Once Upon A Time, there is no question that the show did a pretty stellar job. CGI has its limits, and though the show was far from perfect, it did hold its own, and viewers can’t really expect much else.
As far as complaints go, I’ve seen quite a few that I’d like to address:
- That didn’t happen in the books…
First and foremost, no adaptation is the same as the books, ever. Second of all, there was never a moment in time that it wasn’t made clear to the fan base that the show would be creating quite a few changes. Most of the changes made to the show were released months before the show even aired. The point of the show is to make the story new again. If that’s not something that you’re interested in, this is not a good show for you.
- Why is there so much exposition?
Pilots always have exposition. It’s true that this pilot included more information than most of us were prepared for, but it happens. The rest of the series will not be like this. The creators chose to dump everything out at once and move on. It may not have been the best choice, but don’t just the entire series based on the exposition of episode one.
- The acting is terrible…
Again, look at other shows of this caliber. Look at other actors of this experience level. Look at other shows of this genre. Are their moments that the characters seem whiny? They’re supposed to. Are there scenes that feel a little awkward? This was the first episode that was filmed, meaning the actors were still getting accustomed to working together. Are there things that could be improved on? Most definitely, but if you came into the show expecting award winning acting, you chose the wrong show, channel, demographic, etc.
- I just don’t like the cast at all
I’m sorry. You loved the movie cast? I’m even more sorry. The movie cast isn’t coming back. The movies are over. That’s just the way it is. If you can’t stand the new cast, can’t look past what you feel you’ve lost, can’t stand the idea of Alec not having blue eyes or Clary wearing heels, then I’m sorry, but there’s nothing to be done about it. This is obviously not the show for you.