Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments Recap: Mea Maxima Culpa

Before I get into the recap, I have to say that I am impressed with how the main cast has come into their own.

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Prior to this episode, I used to think that Katherine McNamara was struggling to find a balance between portraying Clary’s badass side and her softer side. Her transition from not knowing about the Shadow World to fully accepting her identity as a Shadowhunter was rough because of the character’s inherent sarcastic and stubborn nature. These are both difficult character traits to pull off due to how they can be seen as either endearing or annoying. Now that Clary is a full-time Shadowhunter, McNamara is finally able to show the subtle nuances that made fans of the books love the character.

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As for Dominic Sherwood’s interpretation of Jace, I believe that he has come a long way from the wise-cracking bad boy that we saw in the pilot episode. He is navigating Jace’s identity struggle now that he knows that he is not Valentine’s son and is starting to establish Jace’s emotional capacity. This is a great start to Jace’s character growth as it shows viewers that are unfamiliar with the books that he isn’t just a pretty boy love interest.

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Alberto Rosende’s Simon is still geeky but he is definitely an endearing presence on the show. He makes the show’s darker tone less overbearing through his chemistry with McNamara and Sherwood’s characters. Simon and Clary’s relationship makes sense as a result of how Rosende and McNamara easily play off each other and how they’ve made sure that the relationship doesn’t feel forced. With Simon and Jace’s rocky acquaintanceship (they really only tolerate each other), Rosende and Sherwood have established that the reason why they don’t get along is that they are just too different from one another instead of just being romantic rivals. I like that they were able to depict this since it is a vital part of the characters themselves and makes the love triangle (Clace vs. Climon) more realistic.

Now on to the episode.

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The episode begins with Jace and Alec (Matthew Daddario, a.k.a Baby Daddario) sparring as they bombard the audience with exposition. Exposition is tricky to handle during fight scenes since it can easily overwhelm the audience and detract from the action taking place on screen. Unfortunately, this fight scene straddles this line. We learn that Jace hasn’t told Clary about not being her brother and that Jace is also hiding his guilt about unknowingly activating the Soul Sword in the winter finale. I will say that I did like the teasing back-and-forth between Jace and Alec during this scene since it shows us how they act like brothers and best friends. I just didn’t like the fact that it seemed like the dialogue almost dominated the scene.

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Outside of the Institute, Clary and Simon are cuddling on a bench and openly talking about how Simon is now a Daylighter. I realized that they were probably glamoured after the hotdog man didn’t turn around and look at them after Simon said “vampire.” Jace interrupts them when they start making out by telling her that they have to go back to the Institute since Inquisitor Herondale (Mimi Kuzyk) wants to see them after she finishes interrogating Valentine (Alan Van Sprang). As Clary is gathering her things, Jace and Simon have an awkward chat. Jace, still bothered by their PDA, begrudgingly lets Simon go through his spiel. Simon believes that Jace’s angel blood made him a Daylighter and swears that he will keep it a secret safe in case any other vampires wonder if how he became a Daylighter. Of course, Jace doesn’t believe him and immediately shoots down Simon’s hug.

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In the interrogation room, Herondale is using a torture rune to get Valentine to divulge the Mortal Cup’s whereabouts. There was some talk about a Mortal Mirror, which is another Mortal Instrument. I honestly don’t remember this Mortal Instrument, which means that I will have to finish reading the entire series at some point.

Anyway, Herondale reactivates the torture rune and we see a kid (Jacob Skiba) standing in the middle of a burning pentagram. This is obviously a nod to Clary’s real brother, Sebastian (Will Tudor). He supposedly died during a fire, which made the storyline about Jace being Clary’s brother possible since Valentine experimented on both of them as kids. What was interesting about this flashback was that it showed that Valentine at least regrets causing Sebastian pain as he burned down the Fairchild manor.

Once Clary and Jace arrive, Herondale asks them if they know anything about where the Mortal Cup is and scolds them for helping Valentine activate the Soul Sword in the last episode. She then gives them a stern ultimatum: “Fall in line or you’ll end up like Aldertree (Nick Sagar) in Idris facing reprimand.”

For those of you who vaguely remember Aldertree, he singlehandedly made Izzy (Emeraude Toubia) have a Yin Fen addiction (vampire venom) and tortured Raphel (David Castro) while being the temporary Head of the New York Institute. The latter is a huge no-no in the Shadow World since he broke The Accords while doing so.

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After she leaves, the scene changes to a bar called the Heslodge. A suit-clad Greater Demon named Azazel (Brett Donahue) goes up to the bar and meets with two of Herondale’s guards and requests for the Mortal Cup. Before they can get up and leave, Azazel freezes them. The bartender (Sarah Chahley) doesn’t notice this, clearly an oblivious extra, and continues making his scotch. Seeing as these two goons don’t know anything, he promptly kills them with a wave of his hand and decides to kill all the people in the bar after the bartender sees this. He ends the scene by downing his scotch, slowly making his way out of the bar, and fixes his cufflinks once he exits.

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We return to the Institute and see Izzy deal with her Yin Fen withdrawal. Emeraude does a great job in this scene in realistically depicting the jitteriness and pain Izzy is experiencing. Her portrayal also shows how serious Yin Fen addiction is and how it is more than a momentary storyline for Izzy.

Alec tries to convince Izzy to let him stay with her after he gets a call about the demon attack at the bar. Izzy, ever the fighter, urges him to go and that she is fine (lies).

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In the Jade Wolf, the werewolf pack’s Chinese restaurant, Luke (Isaiah Mustafa) and Maia (Alisha Wainwright) deal with the fallout of the butchered attack on Valentine’s men when Valentine took over the Institute at the end of Season 2A. Russell (Noah Danby), a werewolf who believes that they have to turn humans in order to increase the pack’s likelihood of survival. Maia tells him this and Luke charges out of the kitchen to lay down the law as the alpha.

Russell challenges Luke for the title of alpha after Luke refuses to entertain the idea of the pack making more werewolves. He rejects Russell’s challenge and is about to bicker with him when he is called into work.

At the crime scene, Alec, Jace, and Clary are glamoured and examine the victims. They notice that there is sand on the floor and continue to talk to Luke as other NYPD cops guard the scene.

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His new partner, Ollie (Alexandra Ordolis), a nosey Mundane (human) sees that Luke is talking to no one and enters the bar. She grills Luke about who he was talking to, which he quickly deflects by saying that he is recording notes and has he bring around their squad car.

Elsewhere, Izzy gets out of bed and puts some makeup on before heading to the Hotel Dumort, the vampire hotel, for a hit of Raphael’s blood. He doesn’t give her his venom and Izzy flips out. She pulls out her sword and holds it near his bare chest until she drops it and leaves.

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As Jace and Clary talk about Greater Demons, Izzy goes to a vampire den. She bangs on their door until Azazel sneaks up on her and pushes her against a wall, predictably asking for the Mortal Cup. She tries to fend him off as bikers come onto the scene. Azazel kills them and is scared off when Sebastian tries to slice him in half by dissembling into a cloud of moths.

Simon runs into Maia when she starts her shift at the Hunter’s Moon as he is on a call with his bandmate. Maia gives Simon some advice about his new status as a Daylighter by telling him to stay on the down-low. This makes sense since Simon could get into trouble if enough vampires hear about his day-walking.

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Alec goes to Magnus’ (Harry Shum Jr.) penthouse and finds out that Azazel is from Duduael, a dimension of Hell, in addition to being one of the princes of Hell. I think that Magnus might have helped trap Azazel in Duduael since he immediately knew that the sand was Azazel’s calling card. This, of course, would have happened in Magnus’ distant past since he’s lived for centuries and is centuries older on the TV show.

Anyway, midway through their conversation, Alec notices that the shades are drawn. Raphael enters the room and tells Alec that he needs to look for Izzy since she is desperate for a hit of vampire venom. This is a great moment for Raphael as a character because it shows that he really does care about Izzy and respects her enough to face her brother even though he knows that Alec hates him.

Alec and Magnus check the local vampire den and find Izzy’s demon detector necklace. Alec makes his way back to the Institute and doesn’t listen when Jace guesses that Azazel doesn’t have Izzy. So instead of using a tracking rune, Clary and Jace decide to help Alec by interrogating Valentine.

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During the interrogation, the world’s worst dad offers to be the group’s bait (obvious trap) and says that they should claim that he has the Mortal Cup when they summon Azazel to trade him for Izzy. Valentine promises Clary that he would never try to hurt her (which might be true) and Clary calls him out hurting Jace. The subtle smirk on Valentine’s face when he notices that Jace is avoiding his eyes is pure gold. It shows that he is still getting under Jace’s skin and can use Jace’s temper to get escape.

Jace punches Valentine as he’s about to tell Clary the truth, which, to be honest, is a bit of an overreaction. It would have just been as powerful if he just punched him instead of also yelling shut up. After this, Jace finally tells her that they aren’t related. I wished that the reveal happened naturally but I get why the showrunners chose to have Clary find out in this scene. She’s able to take a good look at both of them and see how there isn’t a resemblance between them. Another benefit of having the reveal take place in this scene is that it shows that Clary is starting to question her trust in Jace.

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The scene switches to Izzy as she is waking up at Sebastian’s place. She doesn’t waste any time asking why she hasn’t seen him before and stupidly takes the “medicine” he offers her (stranger danger). It is just a little too convenient that he has the drug that will help her with her Yin Fen addiction. I get that he’s manipulative and charismatic like Valentine but he’s too obvious. Izzy decides to stay with him since he points out that the remedy wears off in an hour.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ollie are on a stake out when Maia appears. Ollie, trying to figure out everything about Luke, assumes that Maia is his girlfriend and begins rambling until Luke shuts his door on her. Maia takes him away from the car and tells him that Russell and three other pack members left for Philadelphia to create their own pack. As they continue to talk, Ollie takes a picture of them talking so she can look in Luke’s background even further.

Before Jace, Clary, Magnus, and Alec begin the trade-off; Alec finds Jace in his room. As he gets closer to him, Alec sees that Jace is crying. This is a sweet moment between them since we not only see that Jace is embracing being emotional but also get to see how strong their bond is as friends and parabatai.

As the group set up the summoning ritual, the scene changes back to Sebastian’s apartment where Izzy and he are chowing down on some soup (again, stranger danger). They bond over “strong-willed mothers” (most likely he is talking about his adoptive mother) and he convinces her to call Alec.

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Raphael sneaks up on Simon after he leaves Clary a voicemail about returning to NYU and majoring in music and minoring in accounting. Raphael grills Simon about how he became a Daylighter and makes it clear that he’ll still be keeping an eye on him. I love scenes like this since it shows that Raphael inspires the right amount of fear to keep people in line and that’s exactly why he frequently seeks out Simon.

The scene switches back to the Institute where Magnus begins to summon Azazel by creating a pentagram. Azazel pops in when the pentagram is finished and tells them what we have known all along: he doesn’t have Izzy. Alec, being a stubborn idiot, insists that Azazel is lying. The magical barrier that Magnus has drawn around the pentagram begins to fail to keep Azazel at bay. Clary tries using her sun rune but quickly sees that it isn’t working.

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Azazel breaks the barrier and forces the gang to hear an ear-piercing whistle. This causes them all to be in pain and allow Azazel put a spell on Magnus and Valentine (masked and chained like Hannibal Lecter). A random rune on Jace’s arm self-activates without his stele. It enables him to jump, do a side flip, and almost kill Azazel. Unfortunately, Azazel escapes before he could skewer him.

In the aftermath of the summoning ceremony, Izzy calls Alec and reassures him that she will be fine as she recovers from her addiction with Sebastian. Sebastian has his hand over a lit over burner as he makes Izzy tea, which might indicate that his demon blood gave him the ability to conjure fire. Jace and Clary make up, consequently reigniting the love triangle in the process when she admits that she has to still sort out her feelings for Jace.

The episode concludes with the camera focusing on Magnus as he examines his hands as he says, “disgusting warlock.” This reveals that Azazel had Magnus and Valentine switch bodies before he had escaped. It also means that next week’s episode will be a chance for both Alan Van Sprang and Harry Shum Jr. to show their range as actors, which is exciting.

Overall, this episode wasn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it did set up some interesting storylines for Season 2B.

P.S. The next recap will be shorter. I promise.

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