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Shadowhunters: Malec

“Where’s the honor in living a lie?”

It's Alec’s wedding day. Although given the title, it’s no secret how the day turns out. The narrative may be straightforward, but the themes of honor and truth follow a more circuitous path.

Honor and duty are embedded into every facet of Shadowhunter life. And mostly it boils down to Lydia’s statement that “Shadowhunters know that our duty to our family supersedes our personal desires.” Implicit is the idea that the Clave is the family writ large. It’s also worth noting that truth is nowhere to be found in the Shadowhunter adage. From what we’ve seen, truth is whatever the Clave dictates, which amounts to whatever is in its own interests.

At the beginning of this series, our heroes saw no daylight between honor and duty and truth. There was only black and white. The Clave is good and their enemies evil. Things are no longer so clear cut. Now each of them must define honor, duty, and truth for themselves and learn to live with the consequences.

Before we get into the eponymous storyline, we should probably discuss the other major event of the episode. Namely, the fallout from Valentine’s little bombshell. He may have lost last week’s battle, but he’s far from conceding the war. Informing Clary and Jace they are siblings, only seeds the ground for Valentine's next attack.

Clary is reeling from the news. But unlike Jace, she’s had time to process her father’s villainy. And any anger Clary harbors regarding her mother’s secrets is outweighed by the fact she’s now safe and sound, even if unconscious. It also helps that Clary isn’t bogged down by a lifetime of Shadowhunter indoctrination.

Jace, on the other hand, is about to erupt. Learning the love of his life is his sister is bad enough. Discovering the woman he spent weeks trying to rescue is the mother who abandoned him, and his father is the Shadowhunter’s greatest traitor is a lot to process. Worse is Jace’s belief he allowed his father’s escape instead of bringing him to justice. That this is a gross oversimplification means nothing. It confirms what Jace has always suspected. That there is a darkness in him.

Clary may want to talk, but Jace’s answer is to smother his emotions and bury himself in work. He may not be able to have the life he wants, but he can at least do his duty and capture Valentine. If he can’t be good, at least he can do good.

For all their differences, Alec and Jace have similar ways of dealing with their emotions. Sublimate them in work and duty. The only person either of them is comfortable expressing their feelings to is their parabatai. And for most of the season and much of this episode, it was not an option.

Alec won’t lie about his feelings, but it doesn’t mean he has to acknowledge them. For someone as honest as Alec, acknowledgement means sacrificing everything he was raised to want and is so close to getting; restoring his family name, securing his position in the Clave, and leading the New York Institute. Abandoning one’s dreams for a chance at love is an enormous risk.

I don’t want to belittle Magnus’s side of the equation. I can’t imagine what it takes to open your heart up to someone when the best you can hope for is to watch them grow old and die. But at this stage it is still a potential and not a promise of love. Alec’s claims that Magnus is asking him to give up his life while Magnus risks nothing are not unfounded. Especially when you realize they’ve never even gone on a date. And strictly speaking, Magnus using magic to augment Alec’s reactions in the hope Alec would choose him wasn't exactly honorable. But all’s fair in love and war, right?

It worked. Alec could not go through with the wedding. In the end, he defined honor as being true to himself. There was also the bonus of not condemning Lydia to a life without love, though I doubt that’s how she saw it at the time.

I think part of what Lydia admired most about Alec was knowing he loved Magnus yet chose her. It was confirmation of the Shadowhunter ethos of duty over desire. Yet when the moment came for Alec to choose, she was gracious enough to let him go despite the blow to her ego and her career. I’ve grown quite fond of Lydia. So, if they kill her off for convenience's sake, I shall be very put out.

Let’s take a moment to discuss Isabelle. She gloried in planning her big brother’s wedding. Not only because it would be the event of the season, but because it was tangible proof of her love and loyalty to her brother. She did her best in providing her brother every wedding tradition... and every opportunity to back out of it. She got it all exactly right. Especially the bachelor party and Magnus’s timely appearance.

And how can we forget Simon? From his pretended ignorance regarding of Clary and Jace’s relationship status to his elation at being Clary’s date for the evening. However, it was his comparison of Magnus and Alec to The Graduate that stole the show. Although his speech might appeal more to my generation than the show’s core demographic.

The nuptials overshadowed the Shadowhunters’ mission of reviving Jocelyn in the hope she can lead them to Valentine. It did lead to the introduction and rapid demise of Ragnor Fell and the discovery of a mole at the Institute. Hodge.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. While the Lightwood family name had been stained by their Circle membership, Hodge was punished with a rune that left him in agony at the mere mention of the Circle. On top of that, he was imprisoned in the Institute with no hope of parole. I’d be a tad resentful too.

At the moment, the Clave’s wishes and our heroes’ desires align, but I worry about when those paths diverge. In some ways, the Clave has been as much of a Big Bad this season as Valentine. Given the finale is next week, I expect that divergence will happen sooner rather than later.

This is the most coherent and cohesive episodes since the premiere. More, please!

4.5 out of 5 Relationship Dramas

Parting Thoughts:

Alec and Clary apologized to each other. What is the world coming to?

Just for the record, Lydia’s dress was stunning.

Jace telling Lydia she always had a place at the Institute was another moment of grace. Unfortunately, it’s one more reason I worry about her future.


Magnus: “Remind me why we couldn’t do this at my place? At least there we’d have cocktails.”
Clary: “It’s nine in the morning.”
Magnus: “Oh, it’s happy hour somewhere, my dear.”

Alec: “This wedding is becoming more of a headache than I planned.”

Clary: “So we’re just going to be work buddies now? All about the mission and totally ignore the huge bomb that just dropped on us.”
Jace: “Yeah, sounds like a plan.”

Magnus: “I came with you to escape my relationship drama, not get a front-row seat to yours.”

Magnus: “Honestly, Ragnor, was that nonsense necessary?”
Ragnor: “Of course, she offered me anything. You were only up to a timeshare of your flat in Paris.”

Clary: “How do I trust you?”
Lydia: “You’re Valentine’s daughter and I learned to trust you.”

Isabelle: “What makes a bachelor party a bachelor party?”
Simon: “There’s a certain bridge and tunnel crowd that would say the answer to that is strippers.”

Alec: “It’s like you have this plan for your life. And you know what you need to do and what your responsibilities are. And you think, you know. If you follow the rules, everything’s gonna be fine. Then somebody comes along, and... pushes you off that path, and..."
Jace: “Hey, I get it.”

Ragnor: “Someday someone will come along who will tear down those walls you’ve built around your heart. And when that love comes back to you, you must do everything in your power to fight for it.”

Magnus: “Even in death, you give the best advice.”

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


  1. YouTube suggested me the wedding scene video, and I loved it. Everything about it was perfect and I was eager to watch more of the series. But after watching the first three episodes, I don't know... Neither the story nor the characters have been interesting enough. Should I continue? I have been following your reviews, Shari, and it looks like the writers keep making the same mistakes. Well, maybe this episode is a turning point?

  2. I know exactly how you feel. And yes, this is the turning point. Seasons 2 and 3 make it all worth it. At least this is a short season.

  3. Well, it sure took me a while to try the show again.

    This was the best episode so far. So many episodes this season, especially in the first half, had this frantic pace: the episode had barely started and the characters were already on we-need-to-solve-this-crisis mode. It seemed that the writers wanted to give the story a sense of urgency, but if it is all urgent all the time, nothing is urgent. The plot wasn't strong enough and the characters not interesting enough, and it all fell apart.

    Not anymore. The past few episodes have given the characters more time to flourish, and they aren't rushing through an underbaked plot anymore either. This episode was a culmination of all those improvements. It was just a good story being told with lots of good character moments.

    > She did her best in providing her brother every wedding tradition... and every opportunity to back out of it. She got it all exactly right.

    Yes! Isabelle was terrific. I liked that she was all smiles when she walked down the aisle, but then when it actually came down to the moment of Lydia and Alec marrying, she looked like she was at a funeral.

    Lydia was awesome too. She had so much grace and understanding while her own wedding was falling apart, more understanding than Alec deserved, to be honest. What a good heart she has.

    I also really liked how Alec and Jace bonded again. There was a maturity to the way they solved their conflict, much like Simon accepting why Clary chose to wake him up as a vampire a couple of episodes ago. More, please.

    Curiously, though, the scene that got me into watching Shadowhunters didn't work as well for me as it did when I had no idea what was the story leading up to it. Now that I know, I can't shake the feeling that Alec was a maxi jerk to Lydia. I mean, he was the one who proposed, he was the one who got his whole family into this arranged marriage, he had several chances to back out, but he actually backs out *during* the wedding and then proceeds to kiss someone that is not his bride in front of everyone. If Alec and Magnus had a forbidden romance, and Alec was being forced into marrying a woman, then Alec not going through with the wedding and kissing Magnus in front of everyone would have me shouting of joy. Love beats metaphorical homophobia. But as it is, I can't shake the feeling that Alec was somewhat selfish, even if he took a step in the right direction.

    Don't get me wrong, I think the scene itself is pretty much perfect. But it worked better for me as an isolated YouTube video than as a culmination of Malec, who haven't even had a first date for crying out loud.

    > Magnus using magic to augment Alec’s reactions in the hope Alec would choose him wasn't exactly honorable.

    That was another thing that bothered me. Magnus was very close to violating Alec's mind.


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