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Shadowhunters – A Promising New Adaptation of ‘The Mortal Instruments’

The cast of Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments. Photo: Freeform

THE SHOW: Shadowhunters

WHERE: Freeform (previously ABC Family)

WHEN: Tuesdays at 9/8 c

THE CAST: Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood, Alberto Rosende, Emeraude Toubia, Matthew Daddario, Harry Shum Jr., Isaiah Mustafa, Alan Van Sprang, Maxim Roy


Shadowhunters premiered last night on Freeform (previously ABC Family) in what was a decent start to the supernatural series. The show is an adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s hugely popular book series, The Mortal Instruments, and despite being imperfect was very entertaining to watch. In fact, after last week’s weak premiere of The Shannara Chronicles, Shadowhunters was Buffy the Vampire Slayer good in comparison – which is ironic considering the complete lack of wit in the premiere. Still, the pilot was strong enough to grow an audience, while giving it time to find its voice over the course of the season.

RELATED: The Shannara Chronicles Review – A Disappointing Beginning

Shadowhunters tells the story of Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara), a girl who learns on her 18th birthday that she is a Shadowhunter, a human-angel hybrid there to protect the world from beings of darkness like demons and vampires. Her mother, Jocelyn hid the truth of who and what Clary was so as to keep her safe. However, on the night of Clary’s birthday, she begins to see strange things, including the handsome Jace who she witnesses killing a handful of demons. Clary soon learns that she, like Jace, is also a Shadowhunter. He quickly becomes her protector and teacher as she enters this unknown world.

Clary and Jace meet for the first time.
Clary and Jace meet for the first time.

From there, she (along with her human best friend Simon) are pulled into the supernatural world. Luke, her mother’s “boyfriend” isn’t who he says he is, her mother is kidnapped, and she meets other Shadowhunters including Jace who has an obvious attraction to her.

Meanwhile, the villainous and mysterious Valentine kidnaps Jocelyn in search of The Mortal Cup. But what is he really up to?

If you’ve read the book series, then you know Shadowhunters makes quite a few departures from the source material. Clary and Simon are older than their book counterparts, Luke is a detective rather than an owner of a bookstore, Jocelyn runs a shop, there is a new mystery introduced about humans being killed, not to mention Valentine and his minions running around at Chernobyl. However, while the series does depart from the book series in more ways than even what I mentioned above, it remains true to the essence of The Mortal Instruments – which is half the battle won.

Clary and Simon.

Besides that, the show has a strong cast in its favor. Katherine McNamara shows promise in the lead with Dominic Sherwood a vast improvement over Jamie Campbell Bower’s lukewarm interpretation of Jace. Newcomer Alberto Rosendo is perfectly cast as Simon – it felt like he walked right out of the book. Harry Shum Jr. as Magnus Bane and Isaiah Mustafa as Luke both have great charisma onscreen. Matthew Daddario as Alec and Emeraude Toubia as Isabelle play this brother-sister duo with ease. I was also happy with the casting of Alan Van Sprang as the Byronic villain, Valentine. While he isn’t as campy fun as Jonathan Rhys Meyers, we know he can play a mad villain with relative skill as seen in CW’s Reign.

Besides the acting, the dialogue was mostly natural if not a little cheesy, the overarching mystery arcs are interesting, the romantic chemistry between the actors work, and the production design is well done for a smaller TV show. I did think a few of the female costumes were over the top, but largely the costumes were believable to the mythology presented.

Overall, Shadowhunters was an entertaining introduction to the series. And while there are definitely a few wrinkles to smooth out, they have time to improve what doesn’t’ work. Still, Shadowhunters started with a stylish bang and a whole lot of promise that will keep me watching week to week. Fans of the urban fantasy genre should definitely give the series a watch.

Photos: Freeform


“Hello, Gorgeous.”


“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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By on January 13th, 2016

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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4 thoughts on “Shadowhunters – A Promising New Adaptation of ‘The Mortal Instruments’”

  1. From promos, the trailer and previous reviews, we all knew that it would differ a bit from the book, so I was prepared for that and surprisingly ok with it.

    I like the chemistry between Kat & Dom, I like them better as Clary and Jace than the movie version (although I think Clary likes to flirt more than book Clary (good for her! ;))).

    As you said, Simon is perfectly cast; the Lightwood brothers are like real life siblings on screen. I liked movie Magnus but Harry’s version is as equally good. I don’t care if Luke is a cop and not a bookstore owner, although AT was a sweet, strong, caring Luke, this one is also great in his part, with charm and charisma, he is such as caring as the Luke character should be.

    Valentine wasn’t a surprise, quite different from JRM take on him, I saw how he played Mad King Henry with all of his nasty, evil behavior. Since Valentine is as equally mad, obsessed for power, sacrificing every bit of happiness, of “light” that he could have had, this actor is perfect for the job.

    I agree that there it was a little bit naive, cliche at times, full of imperfections but they did say that it was a different take form the books and the movie. I’ve seen two episodes so far (Freeform released ep 2) and all I can say is I will give it a chance. It’s not great but it’s good.

  2. Completely agree!!! Better than I expected, even though Jace’s wit was missing (I’m assuming they’ll have a lot more after this pilot…they better) and the changes were good!!!

  3. I think this suffered from pilot syndrome. There was a lot of world building to do and so it felt a bit ham-handed in some spots and some characters I would have liked to see more of didn’t get much screen time because of it.

    As someone who hasn’t read the books (and I plan to remedy that) I appreciated the world building but I’m eager to get on with the show now.

    I also thought the acting and writing left a lot to be desired. Some of the dialogue was actually painful and painfully delivered (some of the interactions with Clary and Jace specifically). I hope that evens out as the series continues.

    I hope as the show moves forward we get to see more of the characters who didn’t get much time tonight. Alec, Magnus, Izzie to name just a few. They are the ones who hooked me in spots where the pilot failed to.

  4. I found that it was a lot better than the trailer led me to believe. It wasn’t perfect but very few pilots are. Still, I’d have preferred if they hasn’t made so many unnecessary changes and wonder how they thought Clary’s hair was a good move, its the least convincing red hair I’ve ever seen.


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