Shadowhunters Series Premiere Recap

Shadowhunters: Did Freeform's First Premiere Leave Its Mark on You?

Some girls wish for a new car on their 18th birthdays, while others — like the leading lady of Freeform’s Shadowhunters — have to settle for a supernatural hand-me-down.

Tuesday’s series premiere introduced viewers to Clary Fray (played by Katherine McNamara), a promising art student whose mother drops a hell of a family secret on her: It turns out she’s a Shadowhunter, a human-angel hybrid destined to defend our world from the forces of darkness.

Of course, none of this would be new information to Clary if her mother Jocelyn (Maxim Roy) hadn’t repeatedly asked a somewhat-fabulous warlock named Magnus Bane (Harry Shum, Jr.) to zap her memories when she was merely a child. (Don’t you hate when parents do that?)

Fortunately for Clary, she’s not facing her new destiny alone. A chance meeting with a devilishly handsome Shadowhunter named Jace (Dominic Sherwood) leads to her first kill — another surprise birthday present, I guess — and a pair of new allies: Alec Lightwood (Matthew Daddario) and his younger, whip-wielding sister Isabelle (Emeraude Toubia).

There’s also Clary’s bespectacled best friend Simon (Alberto Rosende), a guitar-strumming “mundane” — that’s Shadowhunter lingo for “non-magical human” — whose feelings for Clary come across even louder and more obvious than her own carrot-hued hair.

Other outliers include Jocelyn’s NYPD-detective boyfriend Luke (Isaiah Mustafah), whom Clary doesn’t believe she can trust, and a sinister gentleman named Valentine (Alan van Sprang) whom Clary hasn’t encountered yet… but will definitely learn not to trust.

Newbies, did Shadowhunters leave its mark on you? And if you’re a fan of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books, what did you think of the page-to-screen changes? (There were many, and I’ll be posting a full breakdown tomorrow morning.) Grade the premiere below, then drop a comment with your full review.


Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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85 Comments
  1. Mick says:

    It was less horrible than I thought it would be from the promos.

    • Ellie says:

      Is realistic character development even a thing in this TV show? Honestly so disappointing. I can’t even blame the actors for bad acting because I don’t even think Oscar winners could successfully portray anything due to that awful writing.

  2. Beba says:

    i liked it, i’m checking out the second episode on freeform/abc to see if everything fleshes out more…

  3. Steve says:

    It was more horrible than I thought it would be from the promos.

  4. Sara says:

    I enjoyed it! There were enough differences from the books to keep me intrigued while still being recognizable. The Institute was a bit more high tech and busy than I was expecting, but it definitely works. I liked most of the actors and their characterizations (which is good because I loved most of the actors from the movie). All in all, I am excited to see where this goes!

  5. nat says:

    Did anyone else think the guy who played Alec was hotter than Jace?

  6. Stephanie says:

    Seriously?? Terrible! Just terrible, awful acting, stupid changes to the original material, just completely ridiculous. I’m not asking for an exact replica of the book. I know things have to change for various reasons during the adaptation process but they’ve taken a decent work of fiction and watered it down to unmitigated refuse.

    • Debbie says:

      I agree. I was so disappointed in 2013 movie and was so hopeful for the TV series since it would have all the time in the world to develop the characters and build a history. Also…why do they have to stray from the descriptions of the characters in the book?!

    • Carrie says:

      It was painful to watch. Even the movie was better than that. There were things that were just too silly to justify, bad dialogue and poor acting. For example, why did Isabelle take her coat and wig off and begin to dance when they were about to fight demons?? On the bright side, it has to get better than that, right? Right?

      • shutuprob says:

        IMO, this one isn’t hard to figure out: Izzy took the wig off in order to confuse the demons she was attracting to her. After all, by that time, Jace had closed the curtain to the area, so it was essentially the start of the Shadowhunter trio closing in for the kill.

      • Daisy F. says:

        Hilarious! I thought the same thing. Several laughable moments came from super clunky dialog. Why wasn’t Clary asking more questions or expecting more answers/asking for clarification. I’m not sure that I will stick with it.

    • Nona says:

      Let me second that. I was on the 10th min. when I decided that I’m wasting my time.

    • gio88 says:

      i agree ! terrible acting and storyline i don’t like the special effects and the actors seems taken from gossip girl instead of a supernatural show how can i take seriously a show where everyone seems a model?!

  7. VJ says:

    Wow. That was much, much better than this awful movie I was so upset about. I hadn’t much expectations for the series because I had so high hopes for the movie and they were crushed but this was surprisingly good. It’s been a few years since I read the book but if I’m not totally mistaken they captured the first few chapters relatively good(in terms of the meeting I mean, because otherwise they changed a lot!). I like that the cast is much better, it “felt” more true to the source material (again, they changed a lot to the books, but the overall atmosphere was better than the movie). I’m sure they will manage to disappoint me in the next few episode (again, no expectations for the series), but for now I will keep watching. And I liked the effects. They were surprisingly good.

  8. Gage says:

    Horrible acting and bad writing.

  9. nadialus says:

    I couldn’t get over how much her hair looked like a wig. The color was distracting. I know it’s a mundane detail but my god. Wasn’t a fan of the lead actress but will give it another shot.

    • Daisy F. says:

      I wasn’t a fan of the color either. When watching the 30 minute special they make a point about talking about the color of Clary’s hair. I’ve read the books, and it seems to be similar to the color of her hair on the cover art of the books, but it’s such an unnatural looking color.

      • nadialus says:

        I think it was a bad job on the hairstylist end. They could have done a more natural looking red. Holland Roden’s (Lydia – teen wolf) hair color would have been awesome and it still would have honored the books.

      • Tanya says:

        No, Clary’s hair looks natural enough – she’s a red-head (like me). I like her hair color :) But, I think the actress has that prissy look that tv shows too often put on the “good guy” female roles. The prissiness is in her mouth, her expressions. I never read the books or book – but I did see a movie, same title, same story. Ergo, I knew that Jace was Clary’s brother and that Alec was gay guy with a crush on straight guy (bad idea right there). I like Magnus.

  10. Jewels says:

    I’ve never read the books – at least I don’t think I have. I caught this tonight out of curiosity and absolutely loved it!

  11. Gina says:

    I thought it was great. The second episode is even better. Really starts to dive much more deeper into the story.

  12. Diz says:

    I thought it was pretty terrible. Orange hair with the dark roots was the worst. I dislike most first episodes though & will give it 1 more episode.

  13. James says:

    Aside from the cheesy dialogue (“It’s not like I’m going to go on an epic journey”), I thought it was entertaining and fun.

  14. Goldenvibefan says:

    I love it!! Never saw the 2013 movie, or read the books, but this has me hooked :D

  15. Velocisexual says:

    It felt very childish and immature to me, both in writing and acting. The whole scene at the club pandemonium was incredibly messy and confusing (I can only imagine what someone who hadn’t read the books would’ve understood from that scene). And the main thought I kept having, was why out of all the YA book series out there they thought this one was worthy of not just getting a movie, but a tv series too?

    Anyway, kids/young adults, if you want to see something like this but done right, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, don’t settle for this mediocre crap.

    • hannah says:

      Buffy took me quite a few episodes to really get into. idk. i’d say give this show another try. i’m not necessarily talking about you since you seem to hate it. but others who weren’t hook from the pilot. they should try more episodes to see if it gets better.

    • Sara says:

      A couple of things coming from someone who has loved Buffy since it premiered. First off, they are barely comparable. Yes, they both deal with teens battling demons, but really they both have very different and complex mythologies.
      Secondly, compare the first episode of Shadowhunters to the first episode of Buffy and you don’t really see much difference in the quality, other than perhaps a little bit sharper dialogue in Buffy. The first episode of Buffy wasn’t exactly a masterpiece and again I speak as someone who has loved it since it first aired. Buffy needed to take some time to get on its feet and so will this show.

      • Sammy J says:

        Could not agree more. If you actually watch the pilot episode of Buffy, and I adore the show, own it in fact, that first episode didn’t hook me right away either. I was on the fence and thought eh, it might be alright. You can never rally judge a show by a pilot episode. Most are cheesier than the rest of the series turns out to be.

    • Nina says:

      I agree. I think that the show needs some more episodes to develop and I really hope it will become something awesome. Besides I loved Buffy too *-*

  16. chelsey says:

    I really liked it. Ive read the books and i wanted it to be a bit different to keep me interested. I’ll definitely keep watching!.

  17. Kim says:

    Free form has the second episode, not the first, on demand. It’s weird to miss the pilot.

  18. Longmire4ever says:

    Never read the books. Loved the cast in the movie. Did not care for the cast or the writing in the tv show. Will not continue to watch. Good luck to the current cast with the show.

  19. Sarah9 says:

    I like the first episode and even with some cheesy dialogue I thought the episode was good..
    The second one is much better and a huge improvement over the first :)
    Can’t wait for the rest.

    • Daisy F. says:

      This is good to know because I thought the pilot had several moments of awful dialog and kind of bad acting and I was thinking that I wouldn’t continue with the series. I’ve read the books and enjoyed them overall, so I really did want to like this series. i will stick with it for at least one more episode.

  20. Nina says:

    I was very excited for the TV-Show and I thought the premiere was ok. But I felt it was all very rushed and made me glad that I’ve read the books. Without this knowledge I don’t have an idea how I would have understood it all. BUT I’m definitively checking out the second episode, hopeing they are slowing down the pace and giving more space for the characters to develop.

  21. Brooklyn says:

    I liked it, it’s entertaining and fun. The scripting is a little awkward and a bit messy. I have read the books, loved them and loved the movie. I also have an issue with costuming and pace.

    The casting isn’t bad. Do I think it will get canceled? Maybe, but, I hope not. I’m curious to see how it grows and evolves as the episodes.

  22. wgsecretary says:

    I am a big fan of the books. I’ve read The Mortal Instruments, the prequel series, The Infernal Devices, and am impatiently awaiting the new series, The Dark Artifices. There’s also several short stories. I had trouble getting past all of the changes. I am going to give it another try and watch at least a few more episodes. I know the overall story will likely still be intact. But, they’ve made so many little changes, I worry they will make major changes down the line. But, if nothing else, Clary is supposed to be a natural redhead! Maybe they can fix that unnatural color, pronto!

  23. Jess says:

    I would have watched it but it’s not airing in Canada even though it’s filmed in Canada. Go figure.

  24. liame says:

    Sure did leave a mark and I removed that crap right away.

  25. Maria says:

    This really was horrible. I read the books and they were rather mediocre, but the one thing that was interesting was the mythology. Some of the secondary characters like Izzy, Simon, Alec and Magnus were also very interesting. The movie messed that up (except in the casting of Izzy and Luke). I had hopes that the series would be better, but the writing, editing, directing nad acting were atrocious. Just think about some of the things that happen, like the scene when Clary goes to the Brooklyn academy of art and the professors evaluate her portfolio. The lack of interaction between the professors and Clary was completely fake. The lead doesn’t convey Clary’s cute awkwardness at all but comes across as a mean girl pretending to be an everyday average Jane. I don’t know what the director told the actress playing Lizzy, but why did she seem to be sexually aroused by the hunt in the opening scene? She seemed like a horny catwalk model. She is also too short for Lizzy. The only good thing I can say is that the casting of Alec and Magnus was a lot better in the series.

    • M says:

      It’s a pilot episode. These things take time to get good. Look at Buffy. The second episode is already a huge improvement on the first.

  26. Gerri says:

    I Hope it airs in Canada so I can judge for myself

  27. spu says:

    Didnt live upto the expectations. And the girl who played Clary….I literally cringed everytime she opened her mouth. Very shrill voice.They’re trying too hard to look hot and funny. Not the best acting but then again this is the first episode so I guess we’ll see.

    • Fara says:

      From the two episodes I’ve seen, every character is fine and I don’t even mind the changes they made. However, I cannot STAND Clary’s acting which is a major flaw considering she’s the main character. I cannot get past her shrill voice, her awful run, and her overall poor acting. It’s a shame. I wouldve enjoyed this show so much if they chose a different lead

      • Jamie says:

        I agree! Each episode I watch makes me like her even less. She is always at the point of freaking out. That’s not what I get from the character in the book at all. For example in last night’s episode- they’ve barely started looking for Simon and Clary joins up with Luke. He tells her it will be okay once Simon realizes she’ll help him through it and all she can say is “how will he know that, when we can’t find him!” Give it a rest, she’s not supposed to be that whiny!!

  28. tvjunkie says:

    I never read the books or saw the movie. I thought the premier was ok and worth giving it a little time to see how it develops, however, it pales in comparison to other recent scfi/fantasy shows like The Expanse on SyFy and The Shannara Chronicles on MTV, both of which grabbed me right away with their pilots and have kept it going.

  29. And we complained the move was bad.

  30. AngelWasHere says:

    It was alright, but kinda cheesy. I haven’t read the books, so I did find myself confused a few times. Hopefully they explain things better in the next episodes.

  31. jericho says:

    This really should have been a two hour premiere. The plot of the first hour was pathetically slow and completely uneventful, unexplained. If you had never read the books or watched the movie, you’d have very little idea what in the… is going on.

    McNamara is pretty good, the guy who plays Jace is above board, Hell even Mustafa feels like a good fit. But the rest of the cast just flat. At the end of the hour I dont want to know more about these people/characters. Which is a bad thing.

  32. Ally Oop says:

    Fellow Canucks, anyone know when it’s airing up here? I was disappointed to not find it anywhere on on the TV last night.

  33. westie says:

    I thought the movie was much better. I know it got bad reviews, but having not read the books I thought it was entertaining. The TV version was disappointing. I’ll watch the next couple of episodes with the hope it will improve, but I’m not optimistic.

  34. Anushka says:

    Being a fan of the book series, I tried to watch this without being overly critical…tried. But some things were just so glaringly missing from the TV Show that makes the books such a good read. My biggest problem with this adaptation (as well as the movie) is that the essence of the characters are missing. I don’t mind the little changes in the actual plot but please do not change the characters. Especially JACE! Come on. He’s my favourite character from the books and they have never gotten his personality right. Jace has never been that serious, at least in the beginning. Where is the cocky, sarcastic, devil-may-care guy? Where is Clary’s innocence? Isabelle here is more slutty than spunky. And all of their personalities just seem to flow into the other. I do however like Simon and Alec though. Their lines seem to come off organic…unlike the others. And don’t even start on Valentine. In no way in the books did Valentine ever come off as this sloppily maniacal. There always seemed to be a method to his madness. Not here. And he isn’t even his trademark blonde self! Still, as a fan of the series I will keep watching and hope that the stiff, ‘dead eyes’ acting and cheesy ‘taking itself too seriously’ writing improve. Here’s hoping.

  35. bluegossip says:

    my god! This is just downright horrible! Had no expectations and it still managed to fail every single one of them. I hate the lead actress…like really hate her, the only think i hate more than her acting is that dump look she makes in every single shot. The fight scene should have been less…’look at this cool weapons’…and a little bit more fast paced.

  36. Nicole says:

    I really hated the first two episodes of this show. It was such a disappointment. I understand the need to change some of the book material to make the transition to TV. However, I felt that completely changing the characters was so not necessary. They rushed the first episode way too much, I was watching it with a friend and they were completely lost ten minutes in. The acting was horrible the dialogue was cheesy at best. AND THE BOOKS WERE AMAZING. THERE IS NO NEED TO CHANGE THE PLOT TO “KEEP PEOPLE WHO READ THE BOOKS INTERESTED”. I didn’t watch Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones for the suspense, I watched them because they brought amazing fantasy worlds to life. That’s all I wanted from Shadowhunters. To say I was extremely disappointed is an understatement. I will 110% never ever be tuning in for this show again.

  37. Alexa says:

    I watched 2 episodes of this and can say I will not be watching anymore. I loved the books, liked the movie, and really wanted to love this series. The acting is just so God awful!!! It just seems to get worse. The lead actress is this 2 Lb, weird hair that I can’t get over, shrill voiced, over dramatic girl. I like who they put as magnus, alec, Jace, and simon. Clary and Isabel need to be changed. Not that they need to change the actress for isabel but change isabels character to be less hooker and more sexy badbutt. There is a fine line between trashy and classy. They make her out to be just this horny ditz. I am so disappointed in this series!! I tried so hard to like it grrrr.

  38. Sam says:

    The books were bad, the movie was terrible, and this show isn’t any good either. I’m especially annoyed with ABC Family’s hamhanded decision to shove Shadowhunters down our throats by connecting it with Harry Potter and not only promoing it to an very annoying degree with every commercial bump during HP and every other commercial during the 25 days of Christmas, but to actually place the behind the scenes special in between movies on the HP weekend? Yes, we all know TMI was originally HP fanfic with the names changed – Clary is Ginny, Jace is Draco, etc, – but considering Cassie Claire’s contentious history in the HP fandom, making that link could come back to bit them in the behind. (Btw, she dropped the ‘i’ when she published, but the other spelling as a fanfic writer.)

    As an aside, why is it that with all the really talented fanfic writers out there and the many spectacularly crafted, well-plotted and well-written stories available, it’s always the worst representations of the genre that get picked up by the industry? TMI, 50 Shades, etc. are mediocre to flat out bad quality in writing and storytelling, and it’s mind boggling to much of fandom how these things were able to get book deals and movie/tv development deals.

  39. Vic says:

    I was disappointed. It was filled with beautiful actors who can’t act.

  40. PLL_Forever says:

    I thought it was okay and I wanted to like it, but, after seeing the movie and knowing that it rushed the first book the series is semi-ruined for the next few episodes (or maybe the entire season). The acting isn’t that great, but Alec (Matthew’s character) is very easy on the eyes.

  41. Whitney says:

    The girl that plays Clary is a horrible actress… I was very disappointed in the first 2 episodes.

  42. Chelsea says:

    I was looking forward to this show because the movie series was canceled. Yes the acting and writing in the movie was not good, but it is not nearly as bad as the show. Where did they find these people? What happened to good acting? The books are so amazing can they not find people who can carry the personas….
    Super bummed

  43. Morgan says:

    It’s alright so far I like how it still corporates to the book series but I think Clary’s character is a little shallow and the romance is already going really fast just in the second show.

  44. Kate says:

    Clary seems too submissive to be Clary, not a fan of that casting decision.

  45. Jesse says:

    I didn’t like this series at all. I watched the first 2 episodes and thought it was terrible but I was going to give it one more shot with the third episode and trust me, that was a mistake because they changed almost everything that happened in the hotel! I was looking forward to this episode because in the books there was so much action and in this show they just walked in and left with Simon! The acting is horrible and the script is cringe worthy! I watched this with my dad and he didn’t even know what was going on and I don’t blame him the show is messy and just doesn’t follow the books what so ever tbh I think people should just stop trying to make this a show or movie because obiously nobody can do it good enough! I’m not saying that it’s going to be perfect and be exactly like the books and I know they have to change SOME things but they didn’t just change some things they changed a lot of things! I feel like they are going to change the entire plot line! On top of all of that I don’t really think the hair it just wasn’t that good Clary’s hair just looked fake and unreal, like a wig…I just feel that the show isn’t doing the books justice…at all.

  46. nefelich says:

    i haven’t read the books, so i have one question from someone who has read them. is Clary suposed to be soo pathetic and weak?? or is it just terrible acting and very bad portrayal of Clarys character?

  47. Lindsay says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen this caliber of bad acting in a really long time. The actress playing Clary is the worst one. Why is she always yelling and crying at the wrong time. Of course that would be the result of bad writing. Also am I the only one that thinks the plastic swords with flashlights attached to them are just laughable. I don’t see this show lasting more than one season.

  48. Sandra says:

    Seriously did everything have to be awful about this show thank God the movie came 1st

  49. Mecha says:

    I was disappointed, McNamara needs to lay off the big Hollywood style gasping and screaming, I feel like her mouth is always open. :0
    I would much rather Sherwood kept his British accent so his speech would feel more fluid.

  50. emma says:

    worst and most boring lead actress – pretty but utterly void of any other attractive or interesting qualities – has completely put me off the show, the blonde guy is almost as bad leaving very little to save the show.