“The Guilty Blood” marks the premiere of Shadowhunters season 2, and it picks up right where we left off in season 1: Jace has joined Valentine and is making some questionable decisions while struggling internally with these choices. This was a fast-paced episode, building the foundation for another season full of plot twists and a deeper dive into the shadow world.
First, Jocelyn (Maxim Roy), who was in a dream state for a majority of season 1, was caught up on some of the events that transpired during her absence: Simon (Alberto Rosende) reveals that he’s a vampire and Clary (Kat McNamara) informs her that Jace is alive.
We also have a new — and extremely irritating, I might add — character named Victor Aldertree (Nick Sagar) to head the New York institute, since Valentine (Alan Van Sprang) has the Mortal Cup, putting the institute on lockdown. Victor gathers more information about Jace (Dominic Sherwood) from Clary and team to help in tracking him, which leads him to believe that Jace is a traitor to the Clave.
Since Victor forbade all Downworlders from the institute, Simon crashes at the Chinese restaurant with the werewolves. When he is cornered by the many unhappy werewolves that don’t want him around, he responds with a comical attempt to cast some vampire spell on them. When that inevitably fails, they lock him in the nearby boat shed.
Later, Clary poses as Victor to escape the institute and track Jace. She ends up stuck in the boat shed as well, where she and Simon have an adorable moment that will give any Climon shippers some hope: They reminisce about times before they knew about the shadow world and Simon almost tells her how he feels, though he was interrupted at the last second. This was by far my favorite scene of the episode; McNamara and Rosende have such natural chemistry that is a delight to watch!
In the midst of this, Alec is worried about Jace and emotionally pushes Magnus away, especially when Magnus refuses to help him use his rune to track Jace. Alec and his mom later have a brief discussion, where she says raising Jace was a mistake and that Alec should forget about him. Alec, of course, doesn’t go for this. He ultimately visits Magnus to apologize for his previous behavior, and Magnus agrees to help Alec track Jace with the rune. I was glad to see Malec work this out; we need at least one relationship to root for in this mess!
Perhaps the most important and intriguing storyline deals with Jace and his complicated relationship with his father, Valentine. There are multiple moments throughout the episode where Valentine tries to convince Jace to join him and embrace his darker roots. There is one uncomfortable scene in particular where Valentine cooks for Jace like he apparently did when Jace was a child. Valentine explains how posing as Michael Wayland was really in Jace’s best interests and claims that Jocelyn left Jace to die in Idris because he’s “special.” It turns out Valentine experimented on Jace as a child, giving him pure demon blood to make him stronger than any other Shadowhunter. As one would imagine, this does not make Jace’s internal struggle any easier.
The most pivotal scene comes when Jace finds a group of vampires feeding on mundanes. He tries fighting all of them himself, but one — a vampire named Maria — gets away. Right before he kills her, she surrenders to the authority of the Clave, making his decision complicated. Sherwood did an excellent job of showing the internal confusion he felt in this moment, right before he decides to kill Maria. Valentine watches and is clearly proud that Jace finally embraced his “demon blood.”
The episode ends with Jocelyn attempting to shoot Jace, though shooting Valentine instead, who jumps in front of Jace to save him. Jace and Valentine go into the portal, leaving Jocelyn, Clary, and Simon alone in the street wondering what to do next.
Hopefully Jace isn’t too far gone yet. But as Izzy put it, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy.”