Netflix Nerdery – Shadowhunters

I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of Netflix, despite the fact that even with all those programs to choose from, very often I don’t see anything I really want to watch.

At any rate, having worked my way through Daredevil Series #1, Jessica Jones Series #1, Sense8 series #1, Grimm series #1 and #2, Gotham #1, and iZombie #1 and #2, having tried and failed (again!) to watch Once Upon A Time, I blazed through Shadowhunters #1 in about a week and a half.

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I’m not familar with the books. I have the feeling there’s some kind of plagiarism debate going on about where the series concepts come from, in a similar vein to 50 Shades coming from Twilight which itself came from something else. Although I was in fandom at the time there was something going on with Cassandra Claire, I wasn’t in that part of fandom, and I don’t know what it was. All I really know is that I’ve heard of her and I’ve heard of the books, but not necessarily in flattering terms.

As a result, I really wasn’t expecting to like the series. And in fact the super-hyper-real high fashion glossiness of its visual style was very offputting to me at first. I have more or less got used to the fact that even the characters’ faces are a part of the overall aesthetic, but I still need an occasional double-take over the fact that everyone in this series is beautiful in exactly the same way. (Except for Jace who just thinks he is.)

The dress standards of this universe are way too high for me – even the werewolves manage to be stylish – and it is a world in which you will believe a woman could be born with neon orange hair. But it’s beautiful in its own highly saturated, highly coloured way, and better to have a consistent aesthetic than not, right?

Story-wise, it hits the ground running and accelarates from there – corruption in the heart of the good guys! Sworn brothers put at odds by the appearance of a mysterious lady! Tragic disappearance of our MC’s mother just as she was about to tell her the world-changing secret concealed from her at birth! OMG! My father is the villain! The demons are invading! Accidental near incest! My best friend is a vampire now!

Okay, perhaps the emotional realism is a bit lacking, and the characters tend to explain their emotions to each other rather than acting like they actually have them. But the sheer exhuberant invention of the entire thing is charming, and it manages to unify the appeal of a soap opera – weddings, jiltings at the altar, surprise siblings, cross-species romance, who’s dating who, whose parents are up to some dodgy stuff (all of them!) etc with the appeal of angels, devils, werewolves, vampires, warlocks and fairies.

I mean, there’s something for everyone in here.

I won’t deny that I’m probably hooked because I so rarely get a canon couple to be invested in, and I am terribly terribly happy to have the canon romance between Alec Fairchild and Magnus Bane to cheer on. (If something terrible happens to them later, don’t tell me! Netflix UK only has series 1. Let me enjoy it while I can.) I would definitely be fannish about Magnus Bane if I had time.

Just in terms of representation, it’s got to be rare to have a bisexual POC character who gets to be openly in a m/m relationship while being Magnus’s level of awesome, surely. I hesitate to recommend the series just for that. (I’m braced to hear that they kill him off in series #2.) But it’s up there in my list of ‘top three reasons to watch this show.’ Number 1 of that list is that this series is a real masterclass in how to keep the hooks coming, so there’s never a moment when the viewer doesn’t wonder what the sinister plan is now, and how the characters are going to get out of this one. It’s fast and fun. I like it.

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