The first season of Freeform’s Shadowhunters ended on quite the cliffhanger. Jace deserted the gang in favor of chasing after Valentine and the army he planned to raise, thereby leaving the entire Shadow World in grave danger. Though Valentine’s acquisition of the Mortal Cup is arguably the most important thing about the first Season, it’s the penultimate episode of Season 1 that drew the most attention from fans. Tentatively entitled "Malec" – after the fan given ship name for love interests Magnus and Alec – the episode was centered around Alec's decision to finally come out and live in his truth, proudly and unashamedly.
In tackling what is probably the book's biggest ship (fan-fave couple), the show has been under quite a bit of pressure to portray their burgeoning romance properly. As the show's only LGBT characters so far (prominent or otherwise), Magnus and Alec's evolution as both individuals and as a couple is an extremely important part of the show. Not least because LGBT representation in the genre of #YoungAdult is scarce to say the least, especially among core characters. The only other young adult show to properly tackle the portrayal of LGBT characters is the CW's The 100, who did so in a storyline that differed completely from the books, but was miles ahead of its genre in terms of LGBT visibility and representation.
Speaking exclusively to Paste Magazine, Executive Producer and writer for Seasons 1 and 2, Michael Reisz spoke about the importance of "Malec" and what their relationship and the visibility of their sexualities (Magnus is bisexual, Alec is gay) means for Shadowhunters, as well as what’s in store for the pair.
1. Season 1 Episode 12 – Why the title “Malec”?
When fans saw that Episode 12 was entitled "Malec," it sent a ripple of anticipation through the entire fandom. Though we weren't sure what was in store for these characters during the episode, it was obvious that their relationship and their bond would be the focal point of the episode – finally! When asked why it was decided that Episode 12 would recognize the fanbase in such a huge way by naming the episode after the fan-given name for the pair, Reisz had this to say:
Cassie…and I bonded pretty closely over the relationship of Magnus and Alec. It was so very, very important to me, and so very, very important to Cassie. It became clear to us just how massively important that ship was to the fans as well. The fans are everything. While not giving away what would happen in episode 12, we wanted to let the fans know we hear them, we think about them and we care just as much about the relationship as they do. And so we thought it was a deserving tribute.
Given that Freeform’s Shadowhunters is the second attempt at an adaptation of Cassie Clare’s The Mortal Instruments books, I find it commendable that the showrunners decided to recognize the fanbase in this way. Regardless of general opinion on the film, though Kevin Zegers (Alec) and Godfrey Gao (Magnus) did amazing jobs with their characters, there was not nearly enough Malec to satisfy fans. The show however, has enough for a lifetime and plans to give us a whole load more when Season 2 premieres on January 2nd!
2. Malec’s Very Public First Kiss – And Why It Was A Necessary Addition To The Season
Alec and Magnus's first kiss was a delightful public display of affection in the middle of The Institute, surrounded by all of Alec’s friends and family - and smack bang in the middle of his wedding to Lydia. As far as public displays of affection go, Malec's is pretty high up there given that until that very moment Alec was closeted. The only people who knew of his struggles with his sexuality were his sister Izzy, and Clary – who had guessed based on how he acted around Jace.
The decision to have Alec kiss Magnus in such a public setting, and in a very bold way, was a completely deliberate choice by Reisz. Though their on-screen first kiss differs significantly from the book it was written with the books in mind, taking inspiration from a similar scene in the book. Reisz described his "inspiration for that kiss and how it was done" as coming directly from the "very public kiss between Magnus and Alec in City of Glass." He said:
Alec coming out was always a very public thing. He was doing it for himself. He’s claiming the authenticity of his life. As we worked with the Lydia storyline and all that it brought up—as we were allowed to expand on Alec, Magnus and their backstories and what their personal struggles are—I really wanted Alec to make the definitive statement ‘I’m going to live authentically, this is what I’m choosing, even with everybody in my ear 24/7.’ Just as Cassie so beautifully did in the books with the public kiss on the battlefield, I wanted to honor that here.
3. Alec’s Out And Proud, But Why Now?
As mentioned, in the books, Alec and Magnus don’t have their very first public kiss until City of Glass (that's book three in the series). The show however, sped up the process. As television works differently to a book series, you’re able to explore the lives and stories of side characters much more easily than you are able to in a first person narrative in a novel (or a third person narrative with a focus on one character). The majority of The Mortal Instruments book series is written with Clary’s viewpoint and perspective in mind; it is, for the most part her story, so whilst characters continue to evolve etc in the background, we don’t necessarily get to read about that until it becomes relevant to the protagonist's story.
With the television show, although a lot of it is still Clary's story, we also get to explore the stories of other characters much more clearly and viscerally.
When asked about writing the evolution of Magnus's and Alec's relationship in Season 1, from two separate entities to the joined unit they become in episode 12, Reisz had this to say:
The journey of Alec in Season One is of him owning his power and his authenticity. The journey for Magnus is of him breaking down his walls and giving himself up to love…With that ability to explore the nuances of their relationship, having Alec come out at the end of Season One is truly just a beginning for both Alec and Magnus, in terms of where they both individually will go, and where they will go potentially as a couple. It was a natural progression of where the story was being told in our television series. [It] gives us an opportunity to launch into the stories we have planned for the future.
4. The Authenticity of LGBT Characters
When writing LGBT characters, one of the most important things to remember is that their sexuality does not necessarily define them as a character. In the cases of Magnus and Alec, whilst their sexuality plays a big part in their initial storyline Alec coming out etc, they are still as multifaceted as any other characters in the series. As much as we want to see them evolve together, it's important they also evolve and grow individually, as well as insuring we see the same layers to their personalities that we see with straight characters. On this, Reisz said:
One of the things that was really, really important to me was to tell a true, authentic representation of both straight and gay characters, and not just stereotypes. Every character, whether you’re straight, gay, bi, trans—every character is a multifaceted human being with many different levels of what they care about, what they’re willing to risk, what they’re not willing to risk. I think a lot of times there’s potential for all of those levels to get washed over and that’s something that we fought very hard to protect.
[In Season 1] When Alec says “Enough” to Maryse as he’s walking up to Magnus, for me as the writer—because I can only speak for myself—that was Alec saying “Enough” to the world. “I’m claiming this, I’m going to explore this, I’m going to live authentically and I’m going to become the person I’m going to become.
5. Magnus Lair – Set Tour / Sneak Peek!
Season 1 of Shadowhunters gave us a very small glance at Magnus's lair, with the most of the action of the Season taking place elsewhere. Season 2 however seeks to change that with Magnus's lair featuring more prominently. Not least because now that Alec and Magnus are officially an item, I daresay they'll be spending a lot of time there together.
I mentioned in a previous post that Season 2 has introduced essentially an all-new team behind the scenes. The entire look of the second Season is a notch up in quality from the first, with all new sets, and extensions of old ones. In a string of videos, Freeform have unveiled a behind the scenes look at almost the entire season, including extensions to the set of The Institute and more!
Fan of all things 'Shadowhunters'? Check out these posts:
- Shadowhunters - Just How Dark Is The Second Season?
- The Shadowhunters Cast Are Equally Adorable In And Out Of Character!
- Shadowhunters Season 2 Posters Are All Kinds Of Dark And Badass!
Freeform's Shadowhunters returns January 2nd in the U.S and January 3rd on Netflix for everyone else!
Do you think Malec had an authentic jump from page to screen? Let me know in the comments!