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January 13, 2016

Review: Shadowhunters (US: Freeform; UK: Netflix)

Posted on January 13, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share


In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Freeform (ABC Family)
In the UK: Wednesdays, Netflix

When The Shannara Chronicles hit our screens less than a week ago, it would have been tempting to assume that 'peak fantasy bobbins' for the year had already been achieved. Surely, nothing so weighed down by expositional dialogue, overly intricate world-building and general teenage angsting could be beaten. Yet here we are facing Shadowhunters, which makes The Shannara Chronicles look as uncomplicated as an episode of Pingu.

The success of Twilight and The Hunger Games in recent years at the cinema opened the flood gates for a whole bunch of dystopian young adult (YA) novels to be adapted. Some, such as The Maze Runner, fared well and continue to spawn sequels; The Mortal Instruments, on the other hand, didn't do quite so well and the intended franchise never materialised. Yet, in an age where TV networks are hungry for more scripted drama - particularly one formerly family-oriented network that still carries evangelistic church services but that would like to go a bit darker by rebranding itself (cough, cough, ABC Family) - death at the movies for yet another (YA) YA franchise doesn't mean the end of all adaptations.

And so we have Shadowhunters, YA2 TV series in which a teenager discovers she is the most important person in the entire world and so consequently is fought over by both all manner of forces, both good and evil - and boys. You'd think that that would be a relatively simple concept to put forth (again), but Shadowhunters is for today's generation of wired kids, whose brains have been so sped up by constant digital communication that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is comparatively as mythos-lite as The Andy Griffiths Show.

So stick with me, grandpa/grandma, as I spell it out for you. Try to keep up.

Clary Fray is a perfectly ordinary teenager who wants to be an artist. Art college isn't so impressed by her work, but they do like her creepy demon doodles for a graphic novel she has planned.

However, on her 18th birthday, she comes into her powers as a Shadowhunter, a human-angel hybrid that hunts demons. Yes, demons. And warlocks, vampires and in fact every other legendary beastie that likes to prey on humans, because all the stories are true. You just can't see them unless you're a Shadowhunter - or they let you.

So far so simple. Thing is, Clary never knew that she the daughter of a rogue Shadowhunter who used to work for a group of other rogue Shadowhunters based out of Chernobyl, the boss of whom fancied her and may even be her real dad. Her mum (Annie Wesching from 24) hid her, with the help of a warlock who wiped her memories, along with the Mortal Cup. 

I don't know what the cup is. Sorry. But everyone seems to want it, particularly Chenobyl people.

Meanwhile, Wesching is marrying the Old Spice Guy (Isaiah Mustafa), who may be a traitor Shadowhunter and in league with 'the Circle'. But fortunately, there's a group of regular Shadowhunters, including hotty Jace (Dominic Sherwood), female underclad hotty Isobelle (Emeraude Toubia) and her broody brother Alec (Matthew Daddario), and they're going to help Clary find out about her true calling. Which is going to involve rune tattooing (because of the demon venom - duh!) and stabbing people with glowy swords in reasonably competent but unconvincing martial arts fights.

But what will Clary's best friend Simon (Alberto Rosende) make of this new life and the usually invisible Shadowhunters, particularly Jace, who finds Clary 'interesting'? And will you be on team Jace or team Simon?

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