All right fellow Shadowhunter fans, it’s time to talk about this week’s episode, “The Descent Into Hell Isn’t Easy.” There was action, there was intrigue, there was verbal sparring, there was oh-my-god-it’s-more-exposition. But overall, there was a decent second episode with some definite highs and lows.
The highs: Hodge’s burning rune. The Clave does not mess around with their gag orders. Every time Hodge speaks of his traitorous past, his neck burns more than the smolder in Jace’s eyes. Unfortunately for Hodge, he’s the one with all the answers. Clary alternates between demanding answers and agonizing over the pain she’s causing Hodge, which just goes to show that while her surrogate dad might be a detective, Clary sucks at interrogations. Luckily, Jace is there to force his trainer and mentor to spill the beans. The character interactions help mask the fact that it’s 100% exposition here, and make this a good scene.
Literally any scene with Alec, Jace, and Simon. The boys play so well off each other that it’s hard to tell who the best is. No, actually, that’s easy. It’s Simon. Jace and Alec may have the one-liners, but it’s Simon who wins the verbal battles with his reactions. The consistency of his character is wonderful- he just wants to get Clary and get back to band practice- and serves as an excellent foil to Clary’s ever-shifting moods. Izzy is a lot of fun in this episode too, and book readers will enjoy her almost-perfect translation from page to screen.
The lows: this was addressed in last week’s review, but seriously. What in the name of the Angel is Valentine doing in Chernobyl? Do Shadowhunters have a rune for protecting them from lethal doses of radiation? Or is the story of the world’s most catastrophic nuclear meltdown just a super clever ward against the mundanes? More importantly, who forgot to ward the warlock’s cage? Dot breaks out of her iron bars awfully easily, but not before the world’s greatest henchman explains his plan while choosing his poison syringes with care. It’s hard to tell if Dot was grimacing more from the poison or the cliché.
Luke. Sorry, but Luke is falling down on his job here, which is impressive as he literally only has one. Find Clary. Protect Clary. Save the girl that he’s spent the last 18 years raising. Instead, he’s spending his evenings wolfing-out in a parking garage (sidenote- hiding a werewolf transformation behind an SUV has got to be the best CGI budget-saver ever conceived), or filing secretive paperwork at his desk while talking about finding Clary with various fellow policepersons. If he doesn’t get off that rolling chair and start using his Downworlder powers, he’s going to need more than a very forgiving boss to survive the season.
The final verdict: This is a good set-up episode. It improves on the pilot by making the exposition more digestible, cements the character relationships between the Shadowhunters, Clary, and Simon, and introduces some potential major players in the Silent Brothers and the Night Children. Freeform is playing chess with its viewers- moving the pieces into place slowly but surely. As long as they keep their eyes on the game board, viewers should keep their eyes on the screen.