Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, Season One, Episode One: The Mortal Cup

I suppose this is a case of if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.  I'm not sure that this television adaptation is going to be anymore appealing than the 2013 movie The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, staring Lilly Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. At this point I cannot even joke about who played it better because I think that they were equally bad, despite the gorgeous eye candy provided by Isaiah Mustafa (the man your man could smell like).  I do however think that in terms of Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, a special raspberry definitely belongs to Dominic Sherwood.

It begins with Clary getting accepted to the art school of her choice on her eighteenth birthday. Then comes the necessary coffee scene, where she sits with her best friend Simon, and discusses the fact that he doesn't realise that his band mate is in love with him.  Of course, Clary is oblivious to the fact that Simon is in love with her, despite all of the love lorn looks.  I really do think that Alberto Rosende laid it on a little thick here even for an adaptation of a Cassandra Clare book.

Clary heads home and is given a family heirloom - a stelee.  It looks like a paperweight and while Clary thinks it's cool and all, she has no idea what the purpose of the item is.  It seems that Clary's mother, Jocelyn Fray has been having her memories regularly erased by the warlock Magnus Bane to protect her from the Shadow World.  Yes, this means that all things which go bump in the night actually exist, it's just that mundanes (non magical beings) cannot see them.  With time running out, Jocelyn is anxious to tell her daughter the truth but being 18, Clary is more interested in partying with her friends and promises her mother that they can have their little chat over breakfast the next day.

As luck would have it, Clary ends up outside of the Pandemonium club. To make sure that the audience gets that this place is not safe,  Demon keeps flashing in the clubs signage, rather than the whole name.  This is where Clary meets the extremely emo and angst ridden Jace.  A short battle ensues where the Shadowhunters kill demons, leaving Clary scared that she is losing her mind.  This is Clary's official introduction to the hidden world.

Essentially, this first episode is taken pretty much from the book, City of Bones.  There are no surprises whatsoever and those familiar with the Mortal Instruments series, will follow this first episode no problem.  For those who are not however, the cascade of characters without any real explanation and the bad guy hanging out in Chernobyl might be a bit confusing. I know that we are supposed to put ourselves in Clary's position and be clearly ignorant of the politics at play here but I do think that the world could have been explained much better. We know that people are searching for the Mortal Cup, but in this first episode, we aren't told the significance of the cup, only what it looks like.  I suppose if you're a fan of this series you might well find it interesting but for me it was too contrived. Watching as Jace, Alex and Isabelle enter the club posing like they are models on a photoshoot felt ridiculous.  Yeah, the director clearly wants us to find these people interesting and to some degree compelling but it felt like a bad Zoolander mock up.

I absolutely bristled as Alec's jealousy became obvious when Jace took an interest in Clary. Naturally, Isabelle was there to call him out on it.  Since this is a television adaptation, it would totally have been possible to avoid Alec being in love with Jace. The world can do without yet another story involving a gay man being in love with and angsting over a straight man.  The flip side of this is that if they do follow the book, we do know that Alec will end up having a romantic relationship with Magnus Bane, giving us a little more LGBT representation on television.  Then there's the issue that in the books at least, Alec is little more than a petulant child. I don't hold out hope for much change or even good representation given that this is airing on Freeform (formerly ABC Family).

In terms of racial inclusion, thus far we basically have Luke and a few side characters.  If this series continues, Luke will be an important character but I hope to see more diversity than the pilot episode displayed.  That being said, should they choose to cut out the scene of Shadowhunters fighting in saris, I would be more than happy with that.

I didn't go into the Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments with high expectations. How could I after the books and the movie? I pretty much got exactly what I expected when I tuned in and while I wasn't bored, it's fair to say that I was irritated.  I know that this is clearly aimed at a younger audience but even given that fact, Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments takes itself far too seriously for my comfort.  The writing is at times ridiculous and I can certainly imagine the actors struggling to choke out the dialogue and keep a straight face. One episode down, 12 to go.