9:00 pm EDT, April 8, 2019

‘Shadowhunters’ 3×17 hits all the emotional and tactical beats in a stellar episode

How much can change in 12 hours? Shadowhunters season 3, episode 17, “Heavenly Fire,” races the clock to find out.

It is going to take more than a rune to mend the cracks that are starting to form in these characters’ defenses. The wall that Clary attempted to build to keep Jonathan out has been deteriorating over the last few episodes. But one final blow in “Heavenly Fire” might have been enough to take the whole thing down.

Jocelyn chose to keep Clary in the dark about her family’s lineage. And for a decade, Clary lived a relatively carefree (and demon-free) existence. But in the recent whirlwind of meeting werewolves and vampires, raising her biological father from the dead, and rising up to take on the responsibility of her Shadowhunter heritage, Clary’s latest revelation might be the one to shake her to her core.

The series has taken this episode to divide the team into the physical and emotional camps. “Heavenly Fire” tasks Isabelle, Simon, Aline, and newcomer Helen Blackthorn with obtaining the information necessary to separate Clary from Jonathan. While back at the Institute, Alec and Magnus confront the uneasiness of the future, while Clary takes a deep dive into a suppressed memory from her past.

It’s a well-balanced outing for the team highlighting the range and talent of this ensemble.

The prince needs saving

The episode deals heavily in flashbacks when it comes to relaying Jonathan’s story. Burned, tortured, isolated to a tower in Edom, Jonathan has no one. Lilith demands all of his attention and affection, but demanding something that does not organically exist leads to misery on both sides. Told in reverse order (thanks for combing down your bangs to show a different time, Luke!) the memories of Jonathan reveal two things.

First, Jonathan and Lilith have very different ideas about what it means to be a family. Second, Jonathan is an innocent in this twisted situation. Jonathan uses the Morgenstern name as an attempt to bridge a connection with Clary and prove Lilith wrong — that sibling relationships can be strong. Their name means something to Jonathan, but Clary is not tethered to the name in the way that Jonathan hopes she would be. Imagine years of captivity, without knowledge of what your connection back on Earth holds. All Jonathan has to go on is a name — Clarissa Morgenstern.

Shadowhunters 3x17 Clary

This small detail, the clinging on to a name, is not enough to sway Clary. And to be honest, it felt very much like a show from a viewer perspective as well. Luke Baines has taken what the writers have put on pages and transformed it into a powerful portrayal of someone you cannot and should not trust.

That said, the second flashback is where the tides start to turn. Jonathan, recounting his time in Edom before knowing about Clary, describes the isolation he felt. His description of being trapped in a tower, looking out over nothing but flames, strikes a nerve with Clary. The connection she pushed against since the start of 3B, finally pushed back with enough force to knock her off balance.

One thing Jocelyn was not able to remove from Clary as a child was her recurring nightmare of a boy, trapped in a tower, waiting for his princess to come and save him. Clary drew the image over and over in an attempt to face it and rid herself of the haunting visual. The dream representing her recurring failure to save someone.

But now, she was looking at a physical manifestation of the boy she could not save. What should she do now? The innocent boy has strayed far from that tower with bodies littering his path. How can she reconcile her guilt in the wake of his destruction? It’s a complicated wrinkle to the narrative and a welcome platform to launch Clary and Jonathan’s final arc.

Zeke Russo is a daylighter

Shadowhunters 3x17 Simon prisoner zeke

Before we transform Simon into a killer, thank you, Shadowhunters for the six-pack nap visual. Unfortunately, Isabelle is too focused on her mission to give him more than a quick once over before placing him under “arrest.”

Operation Heavenly Fire is a redirect for prisoners of the Clave. The Downworlders who are in their custody are being experimented on — their identities are being ripped from them. Warlocks are losing their magic, werewolves their ability to turn, vampires lose their thirst. But the plan runs deeper than a few demons in lockup.

At the heart of the operation is Aldertree. Watching his interactions with Isabelle unsettled my stomach as I had flashbacks to their time alone in his office where he sent her on her Yin Fen addiction. Luckily, Aline sticks around the Institute long enough to get her hands dirty. The motivation of seeing Jonathan meet his end is enough to get her on board. She is able to relay this information to Isabelle, who in turn brings Helen into the fold via Seelie rings.

The most interesting bit of this mission was the time spent in the recovery room with Raphael and Iris. Two opposite sides of the coin are shown in that moment — the vampire who is freed from his cursed life and able to stand in the sun once more and the villain whose loss of magic only adds to her tortured imprisonment.

Helen reveals herself to be an innocent in the larger plan. As a half-Seelie herself, she cannot stomach the thought of Downworlders, especially those with inherent traits of Downworlder blood, being stripped away of their identity. Vampires can be centuries old, warlocks even older. Seelies and werewolves have communities and bonds that are pillars of strength, not barriers from the world.

In a great action sequence, Raphael, Isabelle and Helen are able to steal enough serum (a derivative of Heavenly Fire fragments) to possibly remove Jonathan and Clary’s connection. They are also able to destroy any further means of torture by this operation and issue an arrest for Aldertree.

What a relief to witness an action-packed mission. The entire package hit on all the emotional and tactical beats that make this level of storytelling so enjoyable.

Tipsy-turvy night

“You’re nervous. Why are you nervous.” Not that I had any doubt, but it’s nice to be reminded that the parabatai bond is still strong between Alec and Jace.

As I wrote in last week’s Worry Report, Magnus is not in the right head space to accept or process a proposal right now. The apartment hunting is a nice distraction for him, keeping his mind looking towards a concrete, achievable thing about the future. Unfortunately, even though he does his best to save face for his boyfriend, it only takes one other tangible item to knock him off balance — a gray hair.

Shadowhunters 3x17 Alec Proposal

With his tolerance for libations completely reset, Magnus slips down a drunken spiral, leaving Alec to pick up the pieces that remain in tact when he arrives home later that night. Magnus, luckily, is oblivious to Alec’s plan, but is not immune to seeing the pains Alec took to get them away for a night alone. In an attempt to acknowledge Alec’s gesture to enjoy an evening together, Magnus begins to come undone, fighting against Alec in a heartbreaking scene.

It’s not the time for proposals, it’s not the time for grand gestures. But it is time for those small intimate moments of just being together to process the events of the last few weeks. I’m glad Alec was able to get Magnus to stay and fall apart in the safety of Alec’s arms. It’s going to be a rough road, but an opportunity for them to connect and grow together.

Stray Observations

  • HELEN AND ALINE HAVE MET AND ARE IN LOVE INSTANTLY! Right? That’s how this works?
  • I’m so bummed we are getting Helen Blackthorn (played by Sydney Meyer) this late in the game. Granted, when they cast and filmed this, the show was not cancelled. I hope we’ll get a bit more time with her before the end of the season!
  • What was going on with Alec’s reaction to Simon being in the Institute? You cannot choose which Downworlders you let roam the halls, especially when they have a special connection to your family, Alec.
  • Meanwhile, Jace’s pat on Simon’s shoulder and Simon’s reaction to that silent acceptance was priceless.
  • I loved that the story of Clary’s nightmare and Jonathan’s dream had the princess taking on the hero’s journey.

Shadowhunters season 3, episode 18, “The Beast Within,” airs Monday, April 15 at 8:00 p.m. ET on Freeform.

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