Why Freeform’s “Shadowhunters” Is One of the Best Shows on TV Right Now

 

 

    If you’re a young adult who reads, or even just a person who has been to a bookstore in the past five years, you’ve probably seen Cassandra Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments. The covers are shiny and mystical, depicting glittering citadels and teens wielding glowing swords. If you haven’t read the books, you’ve probably gazed at the covers wistfully, momentarily enthralled by the otherworldliness of them all.

    

Well, we’re in the modern age, and books left and right are flying off the shelves to become movies and shows. This is especially true for novels in the Young Adult genre. The series in the Shadowhunters chronicles have been especially prominent in the genre within the past five or so years, and for good reason: the books are rooted in fantasy deep in the heart of New York City, a fantastical world nestled within our own.

 

    The series ended in 2014, but the show based on it didn’t premiere until 2016. Shadowhunters is now halfway through its second season, and its ratings have continued to remain high. This is not solely because the books are so beloved; after all, the show deviates from the books quite a bit. Shadowhunters is so successful and engaging because it offers something for everyone.

 

    Its producers and directors made the (very smart) decision to cast nonwhite actors as some of the characters that were specified as white in the books. Isabelle, one of the main shadowhunters, is played by a Latina; Simon, main character Clary’s sidekick and best friend, is played by a Latino; Luke, Clary’s father figure and resident werewolf, is played by a black man; and Camille, head of the vampire clan, is played by a Chinese woman. This opens up the possibility to represent a larger population of people. In the books, there were no main Latinx or Hispanic characters, and there was only one main black character. A diverse cast means a diverse audience, and that is always a plus in television.

 

Via freeform.com

 

    Luckily, Shadowhunters’ cast is able to live up to the books’ epic fight scenes. There’s at least one every episode, and each one is fast-paced and shot with an artistic flair. The shadowhunters fight demons, werewolves, vampires, and sometimes even each other. It’s clear that each fight scene is meticulously planned, repeatedly rehearsed, and shot very carefully to make them the best they can be.

 

Via freeform.com

 

Even though the fight scenes and overall concepts of the show are very fantastical, the issues each character struggles with are very real and relevant. Alec, one of the main shadowhunters, deals with coming to terms with the fact that he’s gay, despite the fact that he’s been raised in a homophobic environment and fears not living up to his parents’ expectations. He’s able to accept his identity with help from Magnus, resident warlock and proud bisexual. Watching his path to growth and self-acceptance is touching for all viewers, whether they’ve been through the same thing or not.

Via freeform.com

Jace, another main shadowhunter, had an abusive father in his childhood, and he’s still coping and healing years later. It’s rare that a character on TV gets to actually heal after abuse, and Jace’s trauma never really leaves him, just like in real life. He has trouble letting people close and letting himself love, but through important relationships with friends and new family, he’s able to patch up some of the wounds his father created.

 

Via freeform.com

 

    But Shadowhunters is full of positive relationships, too. Clary and Luke have a particularly sweet dynamic, as he’s the only “father” she’s ever known. They’re always there for each other and never make decisions without the other’s wellbeing in mind. Similarly, Alec, Jace and Isabelle put each other first, always. They have the teasing sibling dynamic where they mess with each other and get under each other’s skin, but their care and love for the others is obvious and impenetrable. Isabelle and Clary also have a lovely relationship, in which Isabelle helps Clary understand the world of shadowhunters and cope with being thrust into a new reality.

 

Via freeform.com

 

    Shadowhunters is an incredibly diverse, enticing and well-developed show. I don’t say this very often, and I know it’s taboo in the book lover community, but in this case I much prefer the show to the books. It’s nothing against Cassandra Clare or her books; it’s just that the show fixes a lot of things the books do wrong. There’s more racial diversity, there’s no unnecessary animosity between the women, there’s different sexualities (not telling who-- no spoilers!), and the books take plot detours that make the story more fun and unpredictable. The show appeals to readers who already love the story and characters, but it also appeals to people who haven’t read the books. It’s a perfect mix of the the original story and new content, and together, the combination creates one of Freeform’s best shows to date.