Synopsis of 2×18: After a devastating attack at The Institute, everyone is on high alert as the Shadowhunters close in on their hunt for Jonathan; Simon and Maia help a new Downworlder as the Seelie Queen demands an answer from Magnus and Luke.
I always feel a little shaken after every Shadowhunters episode, this episode left me a little more shook than the others.
I think everyone in the audience was expecting Max to die this episode by the way the cast had been beating around the bush about his fate. But instead of his death, we got a ton of random red shirt deaths and the heart-wrenching breakup of Malec.
Obviously, I’m not an idiot, and this is clearly not a permanent breakup, but for the time being, this was a rollercoaster of an episode. The main plot of the episode centered around the Institute and protecting the mirror after realizing that Jonathan is in the building. After the cliffhanger last week, we jump back right where the episode ended and see Jonathan mercilessly knock Max out and leave him under the table when Clary comes into Alec’s office.
When Izzy finds him later, Max has crawled from Alec’s office to Izzy’s room and has a Jocelyn’s box with him. Finding him unconscious and bleeding out, the team rallies around him and goes on the hunt for Jonathan. They correctly assume that he’s hiding in plain sight, and despite Jonathan’s sleuthing as Sebastian, he isn’t able to find out where exactly the mirror is being hidden, with the knowledge of the location known only to elite guards.
Although he’s in bad shape, Max has the potential to recover and Jonathan freaks out trying to get some alone time with the kid, presumably to get the chance to silence him for good. But with Izzy constantly at his side, and then Robert and Maryse arriving from Idris, there’s really no opportune moment for him to do the deed. Instead, he focuses on retrieving the mirror. Max’s condition doesn’t get better, Robert and Maryse are told that there’s some random procedure that basically reboots Max’s mind and it’s his only chance. It’s dangerous and people die from it, but it’s really their only shot.
Desperate, Alec turns to Magnus, who he’s been trying to get in contact with all day. Cue the ultimate feels. I was already pretty distressed last week, but this week they turned the drama up to eleven when the Seelie Queen poses Luke and Magnus with an ultimatum. To unite the Downworld, she demands that they go against the Clave. Luke is opposed, but Magnus is still unsure. The episode mostly focuses on his inner battle between his loyalty and love for Alec and doing what he must for his people.
We get a flashback to when they first met, the first night when they had drinks together, a touching scene back when Alec was still in the closet and denying his feelings and when Magnus had frosted tips. Then another from when they first have sex, giving fans a more intimate look at the ship that’s been steering the majority of the fandom. We’re no strangers to the fans’ comments on the scene back in the first part of the season, in which we saw Magnus and Alec finally get together only for the camera to pan away as they were entering the bedroom. That same episode saw Jace in bed with Kaelie, who was basically a nobody back then.
It felt cheap. There’s no doubt that this flashback served a dual purpose in both character development and balming some of the wrongdoings of the past. Regardless it was definitely one of the most romantic and emotional scenes seeing Magnus reveal his mark to Alec and having Alec call him beautiful. It’s just the twist of the dagger knowing the choice that Magnus makes at the end of the episode. Avoiding Alec’s calls, Magnus finally answers the door when Alec comes to his apartment to beg for help concerning Max. Obviously, Magnus goes. After attempting to save Max, the end result is that they’ve got to reboot his brain.
Meanwhile, Jonathan attacks the elite guard and threatens him for the location of the mirror. Finding it out, he heads it only to find that Jace is going to guard it himself. Jace reasons that since he was also trained by Valentine, he is the adequate match for Jonathan. Realizing that he can’t face this upfront, he uses Alec’s phone and texts Jace to tell him that they lost Max as a diversion. Jace leaves the chamber where the mirror is, and Jonathan drops down and kills everyone and then steals the mirror.
Just when he thinks he’s home free, he’s caught by Clary. Using a substance in Izzy’s whip, she’s able to test people to see if they are Jonathan. Jonathan manages to hide the results from Clary, but she catches him in his lie just as Jace realizes that he’s been duped. Clary stabs Jonathan to no avail, and of course because Clary can’t have normal family members, he’s super creepy about being stabbed. He goes on about how he wanted her and the mirror, while she takes the opportunity to take out another blade and stab him again and take the mirror for herself.
She manages to escape his clutches, but Jonathan goes free. Knowing Sebastian’s true identity, Jace and Alec come to her side and she makes the executive decision to nullify the mirror, only to have it turn to dust in her hands. It surprises them all, and while they think that they are free of the mirror, Jace surmises that it is simply a decoy. The team reconvenes and Clary realizes that her visions of Lake Lyn are a clue from the angel and that the lake’s reflective surface makes it a mirror.
Later, after the drama has subsided, Alec finally gets to speak to Magnus. He apologizes to him, but to no avail. Magnus is clearly in love with Alec and has been in love with him for a while, but he views the love as a weakness. He tells Alec that he had nothing to lose before meeting him and that is holding him back from being a good leader and from making the right choice. It’s devastating. Let’s just get that out there. Going from one of the most intimate scenes between these two people, both physically and emotionally, to this painful separation, it’s definitely brutal.
It’s also what makes the subplots of the episode so lackluster in comparison. On its own, the werewolf subplot this episode was really strong. I really enjoyed seeing Maia and Simon bond more, I wasn’t a fan initially since the relationship felt so uneven, but I liked seeing Maia and Simon help out Bat. I also would like to say that Bat is a horrible name, I know he is a book character, but I will never not dislike the nickname Bat for Bartholomew.
On top of meeting Bat and seeing him change for the first time, we learn about Maia’s backstory. It’s tragic and she opens up to Simon about her ex-boyfriend Jordan and how he attacked her and turned her and then essentially left her for dead. I like the relationship, but it is weakened in the episode. Shadowhunters has a tendency to put multiple pairings of characters together in back to back scenes, and it lends itself to an inadvertent comparison. It’s hard to compare the depth and complexity of a pairing that’s been cooking since the first deason, to Maia and Simon’s burgeoning relationship. It’s unfair, to say the least.
The same goes for the main dramatic plot and Luke’s werewolf pack leader plot. In any other episode, this would have been a huge moment. But this is also the episode in which the Shadowhunters find out who Sebastian truly is, and Clary discovers the true mortal mirror. Smashed in between that is Luke’s story with Russell’s pack. Russell’s Bat’s attacker and Luke goes to confront him. The two have a fight to the death to determine who will be the Alpha and obviously Luke wins. He spares Russell and gains his pack back along with some newcomers. When he welcomes them at the Jade Wolf, we find out that his new partner Ollie is actually spying on him and now knows the truth.
Again, in any other episode, this would have been the icing on the cake. But it’s already a busy episode, with tons of moving pieces. I love Luke’s character, but he often gets saddled with a plot that doesn’t feel fully cohesive. The addition of Ollie and her motives adds to the clunky feel of his storyline. I hardly have time to care about this vanilla sleuthing partner when the literal fate of the Downworld is at stake.
I’m desperate for the story to come together since the show doesn’t have the benefits of a medium like the books. I enjoyed a lot of the moving parts of this episode, and it definitely tore me to shreds over Magnus and Alec, but cohesiveness is the name of the game, and Shadowhunters needs to step it up.
Oh and obviously, Max is alive and well and the deadly procedure actually wasn’t a big deal.