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TV Review: Shadowhunters

Story by Sarah Baker, Editor

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The pilot episode of Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments premiered on Freeform (fka ABC Family) on Tuesday, Jan 12, and viewers could also watch the second episode a week early on the new network app. The network and the show’s production team had been building up anticipation for their new show for months, enticing fans with videos and pictures of the cast joking around, hosting live Twitter events and posting exclusive content almost daily.

Is all the hype worth it? Yes.

Is it fair to the book? Depends who you are talking to.

Shadowhunters is based on a bestselling young adult fantasy book series by Cassandra Clare, The Mortal Instruments, about half-human, half-angel demon hunters, called Shadowhunters, who keep the human world safe from the paranormal world — demons, warlocks, fairfolk, vampires and werewolves. It is a six-book series, concluded in 2014, with a growing universe of new characters from multiple companion series that are set at different time periods in the Shadowhunter universe. These other books could possibly provide even more content for the show to explore in the future.

The first two episodes seem to point the series on a path of its own, not entirely separate from the book universe, but not totally new. The production team has made it clear that they are not following the books word for word, and Clare has stated that she has no influence in the show’s production. The show borrows familiar plot, details and themes from the books, yet it adds in new twists, turns and basic plot changes.

The latter is causing a lot of controversy among fans. Some are excited and accepting of the changes and welcome the new series. Others are vowing to stop watching because to them the changes are too detrimental to the plot and the Shadowhunter universe.

The differences between the book and show are numerous but acceptable. Fortunately, the original characters seems to have the same characteristics and purpose from the book. Although the changes to characters’ professions, knowledge, very existence, age etc., are evident to people who know the story, they are understandable. To adapt a book to the screen, certain elements need to be changed, for audience captivity and plot flow. The audiences, even those who have read the series in full, will still be enticed by the added twists and turns.

The pilot episodes have placed some new and some familiar clues for viewers to pick up. Readers of the book can appreciate these subtle nods to the fans, like when a specific song played around one of the characters hints at their fate. For the new viewer, the show may be a little heavy with the exposition, but it is probably necessary for a pilot. The show is at least successful in generating viewers’ interest in the series, both the book and TV show.

The show has also been picked up for broadcasting by Hulu and Netflix. Every country with Netflix access, except the United States, can view the series as a Netflix Original Series in conjunction with Constantin Films.

Overall, Shadowhunters is an interesting new show and deserves a chance. It has great potential, acting and production, as well as, a lot of supporting fans eager to see that potential reached. Give the show a few episodes to gain traction, and it may take off.