When the 2013 film adaptation of the first book in Cassandra Clare’s The Moral Instruments series, City of Bones, was a massive let down and critical failure, fans were left devastated. Even more so when the sequel, City of Ashes (which was reportedly set to have Sigourney Weaver as part of the cast) was canned. However, fans felt incredibly lucky when, in 2014, it was announced that the series had been optioned to be made into a TV show on ABC Family (now Freeform) — this was a second chance that not many fans get when their favourite books are made into bad adaptations.
The Shadowhunters TV show premiered in January this year to an incredibly mixed reaction. In a poll run by Shadowhunters HQ, 31% of fans considered the pilot episode to be ‘bad’, while 27% of fans considered it to be ‘amazing’. The team here at Bookstacked recorded an episode on Bookmarked, our podcast, discussing our feelings and opinions on the very first episode of the series, which can be listened to HERE. Our reactions weren’t overwhelmingly positive, but it was believed that there was definitely a lot of potential from the pilot, with a lot of the downfalls considered to be just down to the fact that it was the shows first episode. Many successful TV shows have pilots which are just average, and fans hopes that this would follow that trend.
But has it been?
We’re now just past the half-way point in the series, and it’s somewhat disappointing to see that there are still some major flaws with the show. However, like the first episode, there are still a number of positives which can definitely still be built upon to give the fans the adaptation which they deserve.
One of the main concerns is the script. While the actors sometimes feel stoic, and at times just poor, the script still feels like it could be improved on. Some of the high points of the show have been brought down by lacklustre dialogue between the characters, from a script which chooses to play it safe and have characters speak in a very matter-of-fact, exposition-y way (*cough* “YOU have the SIGHT *cough*) rather than talk like actual human beings — or, rather, Shadowhunters — would in certain situations.
In terms of casting, things still haven’t really changed since the pilot. The cast looks great, with the majority of the actors looking perfectly like the characters who were described in the books, however their portrayals vary in quality. While Alberto Rosende continues to please fans with his fantastic performance as Simon and Matthew Daddario’s portrayal of Alec is praised weekly, there has still been a negative reaction to Kat McNamara’s Clary and Dom Sherwood’s Jace. The two main characters seem to have very little genuine chemistry between them, and their scenes together often feel too forced.
The plot, while having its rocky moments, is definitely one of the strong points. It has its cliché moments, and it’s cheesy teen drama moments, but it is following the heart of the book alongside minor additions (such as the Simon sub-plot, which didn’t appear until the second book, City of Ashes). It seems that as the show continues from week-to-week, it’s growing in confidence with the plot, and that the first few episodes were more concerned with setting the foundations for the shadow world to be built upon.
If there’s one thing that I think everyone can agree on, I personally think it’s this; the special effects in this show are just dreadful. So bad that I find myself laughing at them more often than not! (I can’t even think about the portals without laughing.)
So far, reviews have been pretty mixed. As expected, many fans are enjoying the show, while critics continue to provide harsh words for it as is expected when it comes to any YA adaptation:
“…the acting has gotten a lot better! Also, Alec and Magnus definitely make the show more enjoyable thanks to the actors’ great chemistry.”
– Bookstacked writer, Kristy
“Not fun enough to be trashy and not resonant enough to make you care…”
– The Wrap
“I left the pilot feeling optimistic about the direction of the show moving forward. The show has potential, and it appeals to both the book and a new audience.”
“I think the show’s going well and I’m liking it more and more every episode.”
– Bookstacked writer, Mary
At the end of the day, the most important viewers are the fans, so in terms of whether or not the show is actually working, you could say that it is. Ratings are going down weekly, but the intended audience continues to tune in and enjoy it.
Now as we’re into the second half of the season and racing towards the finale, there’s a single question being asked; will Shadowhunters be renewed for a second season? Personally, I feel like the show still has the potential to take off on its own and become great. It’s enjoyable to watch for the most part, but its insistence on playing safe with the script and not delving fully into the Shadowhunter mythology from the books holds it back. The way I see it, the show is allowed to break away from the books a little. I’m fine with changes from the source material, so long as they’re done well and go along with the heart of the book.
For now, all we can do is hope that the second half of the season continues to get stronger and that a potential second season can relax things, leaving them open to taking some risks to propel the series to what we desperately want it to be.