Shadowhunters 201 Review

I’ve decided I’m going to do something a little different for my reviews of Shadowhunters this season. There’s plenty of reviews out there, right? Let’s switch it up a little. This series of reviews is going to focus entirely on the visual aspects of the show; the visual effects, the props, the costumes, that sort of thing. Should be fun.

 Be sure to visit the lovely people at Folks VFX, the studio behind the visual effects for season 2. They’re a delightful bunch with a ton of great projects under their belts, and we’re super lucky to have them on board this season.

One of the first things you’ll probably notice this season is that the color-grading is much different than last season. The show is much less over-saturated this time around, though it’s still got a nice undercurrent of color to it. Nowhere was the over-saturation of last season more visible than in the portals:

They were…very purple. Very, very purple. I was not a fan. They were just far to jarring for me to enjoy them. They also seemed to take the route of “deconstruct person at point A, then reconstruct them at point B” which, to me, feels more technological than magical.

I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, apparently, because when I polled twitter after the episode last night the new portals won by a landslide for favorite new effect of the night.

 ***Yes, this shot is from episode 2, not episode 1. I couldn’t get a good shot of the new portals in episode 1. Shhhh….

But the new ones! The new ones! I am so in love with them. They’re subtle, they don’t jar your eye and distract from everything else in the shot, and they’re wormholes! You can see the little wormhole tail poking out the back there, and you can see Jace and Valentine get sucked into it in a way that makes sense for a wormhole type portal.

Then we’ve got the glamour change effects. These aren’t updated to the extent of the portals, but they do have a bit of a new feel to them.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but that change has an almost “impressionist painting” feel to it. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I think it fits rather well. I’ve always said that I hate when artist characters drop their art the second stuff starts to go down, so to have even small nods to artistic stuff is rather nice (though I’d still prefer to see Clary pick up her sketchbook again!).

We couldn’t do this review without mentioning the new seraph blades as well. I mean, look at them!

They’re very different from the crystalish blades of the first season and I’m all for it. Crystal blades are one of those things that works great in books because the reader can picture them however they please, but actually making them look good and function well in a real environment is hard. Crystal isn’t going to give you the dramatic clangs of metal weaponry, it’s going to do weird things with your lighting, and it’s going to be tricky to make something that can stand up to abuse and actually looks like crystal rather than plastic. Those were all issues that the show ran into in the first season, so a refresh was needed.

These new blades feel very elegant, and they’ve kept the form of the blades from season one, if not the material. There’s also those lovely glowing runes all along their lengths. Overall it comes together to create something that fits the feel of the show incredibly well, better, I think, than the previous designs.

And, last but not least, my favorite effect of the night: the death wards on Valentine’s ship.

Firstly, it was just a straight up good effect. The crackles of electricity, the way the face particles spread out and scattered against the ward, the ripples, it all came together into the most shocking effect of the night as well as probably the most foreshadowy effect of the night. It clearly shows the tone they’re going for this season. They aren’t messing around, and things will get worse before they get better. Not only that, but there’s also the fact that this is going to be one hard boat to crack. If that’s what it does to people trying to get off what does it do to people trying to get on?


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