Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Shadowhunters Talk: 3x05 "Stronger Than Heaven"

I have a lot to say about this episode even after more than a year since I first watched it, so let's dive in.

Lilith Visits Magnus

The first scene of this episode is Lilith going to Magnus for help. I love this because it's another reminder of how powerful Magnus is. This incredibly powerful demon needs help and she goes to Magnus instead of someone else.

At the same time, I'm surprised that Magnus isn't capable of identifying Lilith. She does live in Edom along with Asmodeus, and we know that Magnus spent time with Asmodeus. If he's never come into contact with Lilith before—not even once—I would be surprised. The body she's using isn't her natural form, but later episodes especially imply that it's the human form she always (or at least typically) uses when she wants to appear human. I feel like Magnus should have recognized that it was her, but I suppose that's a question that I'm not too distracted by while watching the show.

Jace's Mental Health

I have mixed feelings about the way they handled Jace's suspicion that he has a mental illness. For one, they keep talking about how his mother suffered from mental illness, but they only use the vague term 'mental illness.' There's not one mention of what mental illness she actually had, which I think is doing a disservice when talking about mental health. It's an easy way out because it means they can talk about what she suffered without bothering to be accurate to any particular illness.

(It's worth nothing that they have the canon excuse of Shadowhunters not taking mental illness seriously and no one bothering to take her to a doctor. But there's a lot I could say about that, and I'd probably end up ranting for several paragraphs at least.)

All in all, that was a small thing to me. What really got me angry about how mental health was handled in the episode was Clary's reaction to Jace raising the possibility of being sick (especially after having a nice scene of Alec and Jace both wanting Jace to get help).

Clary doesn't want Jace to assume that he has a mental illness, and though there are angels and demons involved here, I know plenty of stories about people who struggle with mental illness and are told that there's actually nothing wrong with them. It can get harmful because the people around them won't help them get treatment when they need it. I don't like that Clary is doing the same thing here.

She also explicitly says that she's worried about him being declared unfit for duty, which is a terrible thing to be worried about when someone wants to get help in my opinion. She's encouraging him to bury what's bothering him so that he can keep fighting even if it isn't healthy for him. If he's declared unfit, then that's a good thing because it gives him time to get better.

Clary feeling guilty that she might have caused Jace harm makes sense. There were ways they could have done that without her trying to guilt him into not getting help. And even though we know demons are involved here, seeking help could have only helped him in the long run. I fail to see how it would have been harmful. (If nothing else, the Silent Brothers might have realized that he was being influenced by Lilith instead of Jace continuing to deal with it on his own.)

Alec and Magnus' 'Moving In Together' Conversation

Watching Alec ask to move in with Magnus was one of those moments where you feel secondhand embarrassment as you watch it. I wanted to pause the episode for a second to escape from the awkwardness.

Having seen later episodes, this conversation makes some things that happen later feel out of place. Since eliminating this conversation wouldn't change anything else in this episode, I wish it hadn't been there. That would have made future events make a lot more sense.

Jace Helps Simon

There's something endearing about Jace deciding to help Simon because Clary cares about him. Of course, I'd love to see Jace and Simon become genuine friends who help each other because they care for each other, but it's also nice to see them getting along and helping each other for Clary's sake. It's a nice acknowledgment that they need to at least try to get along.

Alec's Snooping and the Immortality Problem

Magnus being a very private person, him leaving that box out feels like a huge sign of trust, which makes it more painful that Alec snooped through it. That being said, I appreciate that Alec went to Magnus and apologized without Magnus calling him out on it first. That made me feel a lot better about the whole thing and was a nice show of honesty in their relationship.

The conflict over Magnus being immortal and Alec mortal had to come eventually. Not only is this in the books, but it's something they'd have to discuss eventually. In romance stories, growing old together is seen as the happy ending, but Magnus and Alec can't grow old together. If they just pretended like that wasn't the case, it would seem a bit unrealistic.

Luke's Farm

We see Luke's farm for the first time in this episode. This is another detail from the books except in the books Clary grew up coming to the farm. In the show, I'm curious about the farm's sudden appearance in the story. How often does Luke visit? Because it looks pretty well maintained. Even before Cleophas lived there, it seems like someone had to be maintaining the house. If Luke was leaving the city that often to look after it though, what was he telling Clary about where he was going?


This episode also marks the introduction of Underhill, who because quite a hit with the fandom. I have to be honest and admit I don't understand the appeal of him. I love the fact that someone thanked Alec for coming out and showed him that he had a positive effect on other Shadowhunters. But when it comes to Underhill as a character, I say him as a stale character from the beginning. He doesn't have a personality when we meet him, and this really never changes in later episodes.

Izzy and the Doctor

Even after more than a year since I first watched this episode, I don't know how I feel about the storyline with Izzy and the doctor. The thing is, it's cute. It just doesn't go anywhere or provide anything to the larger story. There's no larger plot, and it doesn't give Izzy any significant character development. It feels pointless.

Alec Brushing Off His Own Problems

Alec telling Jace, "Just stuff with Magnus. Nothing I'd want to bore you with," kills me. Alec, Jace is your parabatai. The fact that Alec thinks his feelings would bore Jace really upsets me. The fact that Jace doesn't push back on this and ask again what's bothering Alec upsets me even more. There was such a great opportunity for parabatai bonding in that scene, and instead, I feel like the scene made their parabatai bond look weaker than it should be.

Obviously, Alec knows that Jace is going through a lot, and that likely was a big reason for it. It could also explain why Jace doesn't bother pushing for more I guess, but it feels strange when they're supposed to have such a strong bond. One of the show's weak points in my mind is not giving us more heart-to-heart moments with Jace and Alec.

Lilith's Love Potion

The episode ends with Lilith giving Jace the potion to fall out of love with Clary. Do you know what? I don't remember how this ends. I know that the effects of the potion must be reversed at some point, but I can't for the life of me remember how it happens. I'm not sure what that says about this particular part of the story. I guess we'll see how I feel as I watch it play out again while rewatching the episodes.

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