Shadowhunters 3×17 Review: “Heavenly Fire”
What’s that? Are we finally learning about the secret Downworlder torture being conducted by the Clave that they’ve been mentioning since Shadowhunters returned? Yes, we are! “Heavenly Fire” at last gives us some answers into what I think is a far more compelling plot than whatever weird sibling crap is going on with Clary and Jonathan.
I was expecting some large flaws in Izzy and Simon’s plan to send him undercover – namely that since Simon is the first Daylighter in centuries, surely the Clave would be aware of him. Apparently not; either communication within the Clave is shoddy, or Downworlders are so beneath their notice that it wouldn’t occur to them that a Daylighter is a rather big deal. But then the jig was up when it turns out Victor Aldertree is in charge of Project Heavenly Fire. I shouldn’t be, but I’ll admit that I was surprised to see Aldertree return. There’s been very little mention of him since he was drummed out of the Institute in disgrace for that whole, you know, getting Izzy addicted to yin fen thing, but if a character isn’t dead, there’s always a chance they’ll return.
In this case, Aldertree is now head of the Science Division, and Project Heavenly Fire involves somehow “curing” Downworlders, whether they like it or not. Aldertree isn’t the only familiar face in this episode – Simon runs into both Raphael and Iris, who have been turned into Mundanes. They each have different perspectives on the transformation; Raphael considers it a blessing, but Iris feels as though they stole a part of her soul. There are definite real-world comparisons that could be made with this – I won’t go into them, but I’m sure you all have some idea. No matter on which side of the issue you fall, I’m sure you can agree that Aldertree was supremely misguided if he thought that “curing” Downworlders without their knowledge and consent was a noble thing to do.
It’s hard for me to feel any sympathy for Jonathan. Logically I can recognize that he’s a victim of abuse – Valentine was a horrible parent and he did sort of grow up in Hell – but all I can see whenever he talks is how he is trying to manipulate Clary (and the fact that he killed a whole bunch of people) and that’s something that cannot be excused away. “Heavenly Fire” seems to be trying to humanize Jonathan with all of the flashbacks of his time with Lilith, but if there’s one thing I learned from all those English classes I took in college, it’s that he is what we would call an unreliable narrator. Can we believe what he’s telling us, even if it’s supposedly been corroborated by Clary’s childhood nightmares?
But this whole thing is creepy times infinity. Jonathan has pinned all of his hopes on Clary “saving” him for so long that he’s built her up into some sort of impossible ideal. “You were supposed to be my princess!” he yells as he realizes that she plans to get rid of their twin rune and leave him at the mercy of the Clave. It isn’t Clary’s responsibility to save him, nor should she feel any sort of guilt that she isn’t able to. But she’s human, and as such, she does feel guilt, and this is how Jonathan is going to swoop in and take advantage.
I confess, I was giggling like an idiot with the idea of a Malec proposal. Alec and Magnus’ relationship is the reason I started watching Shadowhunters in the first place, and I love how they have been able to grow and develop over the seasons. Ever since Magnus lost his magic, we have gotten more depth in their scenes. Whereas before, Alec felt insecure because of Magnus’s worldly experience, now Magnus is struggling after being robbed of his identity. Rather than using this as an opportunity to inject unnecessary drama into a relationship that doesn’t need it, “Heavenly Fire” shows us a much more mature Alec not allowing Magnus to shut him out – something that Magnus has requested of him in the past.
I am glad that ultimately Alec did not propose. I think this ordeal will strengthen their relationship, and as there are so few canonically LGBTQ+ relationships depicted on television, it’s important that we get to see healthy queer couples. I initially thought Alec was being dismissive of what Magnus is going through, but now I believe he just didn’t realize the extent to which Magnus was hurting. And now that he’s aware, he can be of more help to Magnus.
Honestly, I feel that this may be the best episode of 3B so far. Not only did we get some stellar Malec development, Simon really shone in his undercover mission. I didn’t think we would wrap up that plot so quickly after just barely touching on it for so long, but it was very nicely done. There was a strong moral dilemma for which we got to see multiple perspectives, and aside from Jonathan being creepy there were some excellent dynamics among the different characters.
Have you seen “Heavenly Fire”? What did you think?
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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