Shadowhunters “The Mortal Cup” Review (Season 1 Episode 1)

Right up front, it’s perhaps worth noting that I came into Shadowhunters completely blind. Other than passing glances at the books at Barnes & Noble and half-remembered trailers for the flop film adaptation, The Mortal Instruments is a young adult franchise I’ve paid almost no attention. As such, any opinion I have of the show is going to be based entirely on the show’s merit, though with a greater assumption that the showrunners have some idea of what they’re doing than a completely original series. All that said, “The Mortal Cup” is still a jumbled mess of a pilot that does far too little explaining its world and characters.

Now, I’m not arguing that everything needs to be perfectly laid out on the table right away. In fact, given that our protagonist Clary has no idea what’s going on herself, it makes sense that we’ll be learning things as she does. However, the point of an audience surrogate is usually to get us up to speed fairly quickly, at least to the point that by the end of the first episode, we’ll know enough to better invest in the conflict at the heart of the series.

At the very least, I’d like to have a better idea of what the conflict is than the generic “Shadowhunters good, Circle evil” we get here. It’s possible the show is banking on an audience that simply already knows all of this and just wants to see it in live-action, but I would argue against such logic given the performance of that film adaptation.

Beyond the lack of exposition, the biggest problem with this pilot is that everything feels familiar by young adult standards. There’s a girl who had no idea of her own mystical lineage being pulled into an ancient conflict, with some sort of grand relic on the line and a pair of potential love interests to choose between. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with familiar if it’s done well, there’s just let to set this show apart so far. Hopefully, things will pick up in the next few weeks, as we get a chance to learn more about what makes the world of Shadowhunters unique.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments!