Shadowhunters: Moo Shu To Go

"You don't have to do this alone."

Stories work on two levels. There is the internal journey characters must take to grow and change. Then there’s the external plot which forces that growth. This episode clearly knew what it wanted to say about the former, but had a hard time settling on the latter.

It began by focusing on the necklace Jocelyn gave Clary. I’d assumed Dot had created it. Wrong! It was a portal shard connecting Clary to the people she thought about. It also provided insight into each of our major characters’ worldview.

For Clary, the necklace represents proof of life. It is one of the few potential leads to locating and the last (meta)physical tether to her mother. Is it any wonder she resents Alec for locking it up? The problem is Isabelle’s right. Clary still thinks of herself as an individual. It’s her search for her mother even as she demands Shadowhunter manpower and resources for the hunt. Clary has yet to learn if she wants to be a Shadowhunter than she is part of a team and her actions have consequences for all of them.

Jace is the servant of two masters. Luckily for him, they both lead down the same path. The first is to help Clary rescue her mother. The second is to capture and/or kill the man responsible for the death of his father. The necklace is the means to both ends. Therefore, it is a risk he’s willing to take. Once again, he assumes his parabatai will have his back.

However, Jace has the luxury of focusing on this individual mission. Alec’s responsibilities extend to both the Institute and Clave. This is to say nothing of managing his mother’s expectations. If the portal shard allows Valentine access to the Institute, it is a threat that must be neutralized.

Which apparently it was. The battle over whether the necklace was a tool or a threat was discarded the moment Alec locked it away. Hopefully, it will be addressed later. In the meantime, the introduction of Maryse Lightwood sends storylines branching off in various directions seemingly more in service of season-long arcs rather than this episode's narrative.

The impact of Maryse’s arrival on the rest of the lightwood clan explains so much. Isabelle’s confidence and rebellious nature are at least partially defenses against her mother’s disappointment. Whereas Jace’s arrogance is bolstered by his inability to do anything wrong in Maryse’s eyes. And it looks like Hodge was right. Alec’s need to be perfect stems from the desire to be noticed as something other than “Jace’s parabatai.” Even for his mother. 

Whether Maryse believes Alec incapable of keeping his sister in line or Jace’s attachment to Clary may not be in the Clave’s best interest, she leaves Alec in charge of Clary and sends Jace and Isabelle to interrogate her Seelie “contact.” If it wasn’t clear before, Maryse crystalizes the Clave’s position on Downworlders. They are “creatures” civilized Shadowhunters can barely communicate with let alone trust.

Meliorn is not wrong about the unequal protection of the Accords. This is not treaty among equals. Equals don't "rebel" as Maryse claimed. They renegotiate. And the Werewolves’ Alpha is not wrong about the Shadowhunters infighting. Sending Seelie scouts to spy on Valentine is an admission the Shadowhunters cannot defeat him alone. Yet,instead of joining forces against Valentine, hunting for The Mortal Cup pits the Clave against the other Downworld factions, which only reinforces each side’s mistrust.

On one hand, sci-fi and fantasy can hold a mirror up to controversial topics without the baggage of real-life. The flip side is viewers can impose their own beliefs and biases to the material. I have no idea what Cassandra Clare or the Powers That Be of the show intended regarding the relationship between Shadowhunters and Downworlders. But I continually see the overt slurs and minor slights in terms of race. This isn’t surprising considering I’m a black woman. However, it is also true the current upheavals regarding systemic racism and policing may be giving this storyline added weight.

Alec’s quest to prove himself worthy of Jace and Maryse's trust is not helped by Clary. She may have abandoned using the necklace, but she has a new plan to return to her old home. Clary sneaks out of the institute literally the moment Alec’s back is turned, proving she learned nothing from Isabelle’s lecture. She exacerbates the tensions between Alec and Jace and endangers Simon (AGAIN). Even if Clary ignores Alec, you’d think she’d might pay attention when Simon tells her how dangerous it is to go back to the loft. Considering his semi-suicidal behavior of late, that’s saying something. But Clary needed him. And he appears. Becoming a bargaining chip for The Mortal Cup once more.

Simon’s loyalty to Clary is in stark contrast to Jace and Alec. I was semi-joking when I theorized there might be a mystical reason for Jace’s attachment to Clary, but now I’m wondering if it’s true. How else can you explain his preference of Clary over his parabatai?

You would think if anyone understood the weight of responsibilities Maryse placed on Alec, or his need to live up to his own impossibly high standards, it would be Jace. But instead of defending his parabatai, he berates Alec for perceived failures before even attempting to learn the facts. What’s worse, Alec has such low self-esteem he willingly accepts the blame. Even Alec’s eventual defense is weakened by his misguided comment that he “didn’t screw up everything.” And what’s the reward for Alec’s efforts to please everyone? Jace’s abandonment and the task of reporting another failure to his mother.

As for our short-lived Alpha, given the truth of his opening argument, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I believed he was bluffing when he threatened Simon’s life. After all, if kidnapping a Mundie is a no-no, killing one must be in violation of the Accords. And he had to know he couldn't keep it hidden from the Shadowhunters. However, I doubt Luke would have fought him to the death over an empty threat. This finally puts any questions regarding Luke’s allegiance to bed, and gives him an entire wolf pack to help protect Clary.

And if you weren’t paying to Luke’s comments (or any of the previous episodes), Valentine likes experimenting with other people’s lives. He knows the danger runes pose to humans. Is Valentine hoping the Seelie blood will protect the volunteer? Does he care? It’s never a good sign when they break out the “he’ll live if he’s worthy” argument. It absolves the villain of all responsibility.

The Shadowhunters are no closer to finding Jocelyn or The Mortal Cup. But the metaphorical and literal battle lines have been drawn. The only problem is our heroes may not all be on the same side.

3.5 out 5 portal shards

Parting Thoughts:

Luke was logging false confessions in the demonic murders. Are these confessions he sought to cover up what is going on in the Shadow World?

I'm sorry but I did have one issue with the episode. I find it hard to believe that an Alpha's bite to another werewolf must be treated by a warlock. This just smacks of narrative hand waving. OK. I'm done.

That Alec was even open to the idea of a date with Magnus gives me hope.

Quotes:

Alec: "Emotions are nothing but a distraction."

Alec: "Valentine is a real threat. He can't be handled by three and a half Shadowhunters."

Clary: "I'll take the risk on my own.
Isabelle: "The problem is you're not on your own. You're part of us now."

Maryse: "You're all so eager to do what you would prefer. It's time to face the truth. Life is not about what you want to do, it's about what must be done.

Magnus: "Playing hard to get. I love a challenge."

Clary: "Alec, just say it. You're in love with Jace."
Alec: "Forget it. You know what? You're in love with Jace."
Clary: "Oh, okay? The middle school comeback? Nice."

Jace: "Which is another way of saying you'll side with whoever wins. I promise you that will be us."
Meliorn: "I'm sure you believe that."

Simon: "Why do I keep getting kidnapped?"
Clary: "Not to be self-centered, but I think it's me they're after."

Jace: "Hello."
Simon: "Oh, I thought I'd never utter these words, but thank God it's you."

Isabelle: "I'm getting seriously tired of saving your life."
Simon: "I am not."

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and anything with a cape.

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