There is no way to sugarcoat this: Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family, has a new show and it’s bad.
In January, Freeform premiered its new fantasy-drama “Shadowhunters,” a series based on the book “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare. In 2013, the series was made into a movie, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” with actor Jamie Campbell Bower portraying Jace and actress Lily Collins portraying Clary Fray. The film was a box-office bomb and, if this is Freeform’s way of reviving the struggling series, they did not do it justice.
The series chronicles the life of Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara), a teenager living in New York who discovers, on her 18th birthday, that she’s a Shadowhunter: a half-human, half-angel hybrid who protects humans from demons. She is thrown into the Shadow World when she meets attractive Shadowhunter, Jace Wayland (Dominic Sherwood), sassy Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood (Emeraude Toubia) and her overprotective brother Alec (Matthew Daddario), while they’re in the middle of demon fight.
She joins forces with them after her mother, Jocelyn Fray (Maxim Roy), is kidnapped by a fearsome and mysterious man known as Valentine (Alan Van Sprang), who will only let her free if Clary brings him the Mortal Cup. The cup is an ancient artifact that has the power to make more Shadowhunters — or for Valentine’s benefit, more Downworlders.
It’s hard to give this show the benefit of the doubt when it is clearly attempting to make up for the lackluster 2013 film, but with its poorly written script and predictable plot points, there’s not much to defend. Clary’s aggressive need to prove that she’s a good asset to the trio when she’s mostly a liability doesn’t come across as admirable — it’s just annoying. Granted, the whole plot of her not knowing anything about the Shadow World is the point of the character’s journey throughout the series, but she doesn’t seem to pull off the right amount of ignorance that would make this character more enjoyable to watch.
Cassandra Clare’s young-adult series offers a fresh take on the fantasy world that many young readers have enjoyed, as evidenced from the excitement that first spawned the movie. However, Freeform’s attempt to capitalize on that popularity is affecting the show’s quality.
The clunky and awkward dialogue is cringeworthy to listen to and even harder to relate to — the actors look like even they know that some of the lines they’re saying are cheesy. It doesn’t help that the pilot episode seemed rushed, with the show cramming in as much information as possible. If Freeform wants to really keep viewers interested in “Shadowhunters,” they have to stop trying too hard, or they’ll lose the appeal that has made the series famous in the first place.