After Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, along with its prequels The Infernal DevicesI, is my favourite fantasy series. I’ve been a huge fan of the books since I was 19 (eek, its been a while!) and I am completely invested in the rich storytelling, diverse characters and ever-growing world (Clare has another a couple of trilogies in the works). When the first novel in the series, City of Bones, was filming in Toronto a few years back, I hit up the set and met a few cast members, and later had the opportunity to photograph the Toronto premiere of the film for the fan site The Mortal Institute.
I always felt that the density of Clare’s world was better suited for television a la The Vampire Diaries and that only became more confirmed when City of Bones released in 2013. The screenplay was so overstuffed with mythologies and teasers for future plotlines that viewers who hadn’t read the books couldn’t really appreciate because it was messily thrown together. I loved majority of the cast, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers fanatical take on Valentine deviated from the cool, slick persona I pictured from the books.
When the City of Ashes sequel got cancelled and the announcement that the series would instead be adapted for Freeform (previously ABC Family), I became a little bit hopeful that Clare’s series would finally get the treatment it deserved. Freeform and Constantin Film once again chose to film in Toronto and after several months of production, leaked screenplay pages, adaptation rumours and teasers, Shadowhunters premiered last night (and is now available to view on Netflix fellow Canadians!).
So, here are my five thoughts on the premiere:
I’m Sold On Everyone in the Cast EXCEPT Dominic Sherwood
I really thought I would need more convincing with Kat McNamara and none for Dominic Sherwood, who play lead characters Jace and Clary respectively. Instead, I really felt like Kat nailed Clary’s independent but good nature and Dominic didn’t quite hit Jace’s sarcasm as well as I hoped. There are still another twelve episodes for me to determine if I like him in this role; there are also another twelve episode to enjoy the supporting cast, the highlights of which are Alberto Rosende (Simon), Matthew Dadario (Alec) and Isaiah Mustafa (Luke). I think those three understand and project their respective characters in a way that feels true to the books. I love them!
Shadowhunters Captures the Essence of the Book
I know fans were in a huge uproar when a few script pages leaked online and there were some notable differences between the source material and the television show (ex. Simon and Maureen). I want to see how Cassandra Clare’s expansive world is weaved into the show and what directions they take with the story. Based on the pilot alone, they’ve nailed the gritty/hipster/dark elements of New York as a setting and most of the characters are in the right place. Remember, this show isn’t being built for fans alone, and television is a completely different platform; changes are necessary in order to appeal to a wider audience, especially one that has had more experiences with YA adaptations in a short period of time than it probably wanted.
But I’m going to forget about that because…
Why Is The Institute Such a Busy, High Tech Place?
Okay, I know (and just stated) why, but I need to ask: WHY?! I think the scene where Isabelle, Jace and Alec are scheming for their night at Pandemonium just made my heart break a little because the Institute is too modern, slick and hectic compared to the relatively empty, ancient building I pictured it to be in the books (and what you see in the film adaptation.) The advanced set doesn’t capture the feeling of a race with a long standing history and legacy and comes off as less charming.
Toronto is Still A Great Stand-In For NYC
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the show uses a lot of different sets compared to the film; yet, most of the external sets used in the show worked really well. I did not foresee Toronto’s Distillery District being used as a neighbourhood for Pandemonium, or expect that I would see what I think is Snakes and Lattes in the show, and yeah, I liked seeing the Gardiner Expressway in the background while Luke investigated a body drained of blood. I know they did a lot of external shoots for the show and I’m really looking forward to seeing how else they incorporate Toronto locations in the story.
There Are More Questions Than Answers
It’s a challenge for me to distinguish the show from the book, but I tried to consider the first episode from the perspective of a regular viewer and I think there’s just enough in the episode to keep newcomers to the story interested. Some may complain that the pacing is too slow, but that was one of the biggest problems with the film. Instead, we get these individual threads dangle in every episode and see them gradually tie together, while explaining the fine details of the story, which I think is necessary for people to completely buy into the mythology. Even as a book reader with little to no indication of how close they’ll stick to the story, there is enough in the episode that will ensure I return next week to watch because I want to see how they dish out these answers, how they assemble these initial building blocks, and how true this adaptation will be, particularly for the first season. I hear Americans have access to the second episode on the Freeform already, so please, no spoilers!
Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays on Freeform at 9pm EST in the United States and is available for viewing on Netflix Canada the next day.
If you watched Shadowhunters, how happy are you with the show’s take on the beloved series? Comment below and let me know!