Adaptations Bookish Features

Adaptation Rant: Shadowhunters Season 1

Listen up, everyone. I’m not likely to admit this on a public forum ever again.

Recently, I binge-watched Shadowhunters. I killed the entire first season in a day. It’s one of the most ridiculous pieces of entertainment I’ve ever seen, but I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the television. I’m hooked. I can’t wait to watch Season 2 and see what other nonsense Freeform comes up with.

Okay, now that that is off my chest, here are my thoughts about the first season. This review is not spoiler-free, so if you’re ever planning on watching the show, proceed at your own discretion. Enjoy!

The Casting

I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed with the casting. While most of the actors are amateurs, and it’s often made obvious through their acting, the creators of the show did stay true to the book descriptions of the characters. My least favorite aspect of the City of Bones film was how different the characters looked in comparison to what I’d imagined when reading. But the television show did an A+ job with matching my expectations, especially for Alec, Izzy, and Simon.

Special Effects

So I know that Freeform isn’t HBO or anything, but seriously? I can’t believe how poor some of the effects were. The fight scenes were often atrocious, and apparently Shadowhunters can move with superhuman speed in this show. I mean, you don’t even need special effects for fight scenes. Just get a choreographer! Watch a few episodes of Arrow or something. Jesus Christ.

Also, like…their steles. Their plastic freaking steles.

The Writing

I think most people will agree that the writing is really what destroys this show’s chance at properly adapting Clare’s novels. The Mortal Instrument books can be silly at times, but they’re often filled with sarcasm and humor – you know, the kind that’s actually funny. Shadowhunters tries to replicate that, but the dialogue often comes off as forced and corny. Okay, Alec gets a few good lines. But Jace? Jace’s lines are horrific, as are most of Clary’s. And you know, they’re kind of supposed to be leading this operation.

I will admit, there were a few conversations that actually felt emotional and authentic (hint: they were mostly between Alec, Izzy, and Jace). But they were far too sporadic, especially given how much emotion is present in the books.


Can we just talk about the runes for a second? Because I had no idea that Shadowhunters used Sharpie markers to activate their powers. Or wait, is that just the lack of budget rearing its ugly head once again? But seriously, could they really not find a way to make their runes look decent? I feel like that isn’t a strenuous task.

If you ignore the ugly splotches all over their bodies, though, they totally mastered dressing the cast in black. Go team.


Well, if the show understood one thing better than the books, it’s this: Malec is the real power couple of this series. I’m pretty much watching for them and Sizzy at this point.

Clary and Jace have absolutely no chemistry in this adaptation, and neither do Clary and Simon. Clary’s the main character, and her relationships just aren’t interesting at all. And man, I don’t even care about Luke and Jocelyn in this either. Only a select few friendships and relationships actually hold my interest in this adaptation, which is a damn shame.

Also, is there a reason we need to see Camille so early on? Other than to make the show super-sexy-but-still-PG-13? C’mon now.

The Plot

And apart from the writing, here comes the majority of my gripe. I’ll never understand why people adapting books want to change so much of the original content. The original story has fans for a reason, and those fans want to see that story brought to life before their eyes. They don’t want to see your take on it.

I totally understand making some changes to keep things interesting or to better connect things. I feel that shows like Game of Thrones and The Magicians make changes as needed, and they do it well. But Shadowhunters honestly just butchers the plot of The Mortal Instruments. And there seems to be no acceptable reason behind it.

Is there a reason to add some random female character so that Alec can pretend to be a proper straight guy for an entire season? Doubtful. Was there a need to remix all of the events, other than to make the story Freeform’s instead of Cassandra Clare’s? Is there a reason Valentine is an Italian food connoisseur ? Okay, ignore that last comment.

Shadowhunters uses the bones of The Mortal Instruments to build its story, keeping the most important plot points and throwing everything else away. Then it adds in ridiculous means of getting to the important plot points, half of which make no sense in the context of the overarching plot. It’s frustrating to say the least.


Well, those are pretty much my thoughts about the entire first season. And with all of that in mind, I’m still planning to watch the second one. Because I’m Trash. Capital T.

Have you guys bothered watching Shadowhunters? I’m interested in hearing other thoughts on this show.

5 thoughts on “Adaptation Rant: Shadowhunters Season 1”

  1. I watched the first season. I think it was entertaining enough, but I really don’t remember how I felt about it anymore. I’ve never read the books so I think that made it a little more enjoyable. Now that I think back, I don’t think I really liked any of the characters.

  2. I agree with so much of this!! I have bad news: they really leave the books in season 2. There are some things that they kept but most of it is just made up crap. I don’t know why I can’t stop watching. It’s not even good. Maybe it’s like a train wreck and I just can’t avert my eyes. I will say, I think clary is the worst actress on the show! She has no chemistry with anyone, like you mentioned. Plus, she’s just bad at acting. She tries too hard or something.

    Season 3 starts in a few weeks.. will I watch? You bet . 😂😂

    1. Oh no, and I was going to start Season 2 this week! 😫 Well, at least now I’ll go in prepared. And lmao, I feel exactly the same about the train wreck! And yeah, the girl who plays Clary is so awkwardly over dramatic (and it doesn’t help that Clary is totally not like that in the books). Ugh.

      I’m trying to catch up before then too! We’re a mess. 😂

  3. THIS. I was so excited when they announced that the show was happening. This series is my favorite, it’s what truly got me interested in reading again and will always hold a very special place in my heart. I am pretty sure I cried after the first episode because I was so upset with how much it was butchered, and I completely gave up after like 3 episodes. The only reason I’ve considered trying it again is for Malec. I follow them all on Twitter and see a bunch of things, and they were my favorites in the books too so…

    Also, I love your remark: “Just get a choreographer! Watch a few episodes of Arrow or something. Jesus Christ.” I laughed when I read that, I love Arrow. 🙂

    1. I completely agree! This was definitely my introduction to YA Fantasy, and I was so upset that they butchered it. I originally gave up, but recently I detached and tried again. It’s almost worth it for the Malec moments (glad someone else will watch solely for those too).

      I’m glad you enjoyed that. 😂 Seriously, if The CW can manage to get good choreography, Freeform can too! And Arrow used to be a favorite, but I’ve fallen so far behind with recent seasons! 😩

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