Shadowhunters’s third episode, “Dead Man’s Party,” was just that- an episode. It aired on time, for the proper amount of time, on the correct channel, and it (minisculely) moved the plot forward. These are all things that happened. Unfortunately for fans, that’s about all that happened. For an episode that should have been amazing- the gang went to a biker bar AND a hotel run by vampires, after all- viewers were left with nothing than a whole lot of talking and very little action (Melinore’s fairy homestead seeing the exception). The writers did manage to find just enough of a pulse in their body of exposition to hit some high points, as well as a whole lot of lows, and those are summarized below.
The highs: Alec Lightwood. Once again, the brooding eldest Shadowhunter wins the episode with his deep characterization, consistent actions, and barely repressed power. Actor Matthew Daddario packs more meaning into one word than the rest of the gang has managed in three entire episodes. There is so much going on with Alec this episode, and absolutely none of it is on the surface. He’s at war with himself, and every battle is clearly written on his face. That tension is going to break at some point, and woe be to any demon who is in Alec’s way when it does.
The set designer/ artistic director. The background nods to the book fans are strong here, just like in previous episodes. The sales slogan of the DuMort Construction Company alone is quality work, but the multitude of hidden crosses inside the hotel make the vampire stronghold one of the best sets so far. As a bonus, finding all the crosses is a great way to entertain viewers while the actors drag themselves through yet another scene of all talk and no action.
The lows: The talking. Everyone is talking in this episode: the vampires are talking, Simon is talking, Clary and Jace are talking (and about way more than just angel blade training). Even Izzy and Melinore are talking in the midst of doing other stuff to each other.
Clary tries to save a huge chunk of dramatic time by suggesting that the approx. 1,000 screens in the Institute could do something to help find Simon, but the rest of the gang is so intent on repeating the same arguments that her line goes practically unnoticed. Instead, viewers simply have to endure endless words followed by zero action. For an episode that didn’t have a single second of Luke in it, everyone sure wants to be like him and just sit at their metaphorical desks.
The waste of Raphael. This guy is the head vampire in New York, and he has no spine. Camille treads all over him in her high-heeled boots, he can barely control Simon (Simon!), and he spends the entire episode trying to convince everyone to just play nice. As a final insult, he seems to have lost his demon-powered motorcycle to another vampire (fans of the books will know that that bike is totally Raphael’s). There’s a hint of redemption at the end of the episode, but even then, he’s literally hiding behind a water main while talking. If you’re going to be a double-crosser, you’d better be confident in your position.
Final verdict: this episode moves slower than a vampire’s circulation. The brief moments of action were well-done as always, but too few
and far between to save the episode. Overall, viewers are left more depressed than Simon after Clary’s rooftop declaration of friendship. Here’s hoping next week’s episode will bring back the (heart)beat.