“Shadowhunters” is a curio on Netflix for two reasons. The first is that it’s the only Netflix series released weekly, made available for streaming the day after episodes air on Freeform in the US. The second is its mashup of magic and technology.
I went for the obvious when I asked Dominic Sherwood, who plays Jace, a demon-punching-kicking-and-slashing Shadowhunter, what he would prefer, tapping technology or slinging magic.
“Probably magic,” he said. “Just ’cause why wouldn’t you? The amount of times I’ve been trying to make a phone call and I’ve got literally no bars or no service and my battery dies. Why wouldn’t I just use a Seelie communication ring, have Magnus teleport me to wherever it is and have a conversation with that person. That would always by my choice. Always.”
“Shadowhunters” is a TV adaption of “The Mortal Instruments” series of young adult novels by Cassandra Clare, following Clary Fray and half-angels known as Shadowhunters who protect normal people from dark forces. You might remember the movie “City of Bones” that came out in 2013, based on the first book. It didn’t summon the magic of other young adult series like “Hunger Games” or “Divergent,” yet despite the cancelled sequel, fans could eat up a TV series that rebooted the events of the first book, finding an all-new cast that jumped into a second series, with a third recently announced.
Aside from Seelie communications rings and help from the High Warlock Magnus Bane, Shadowhunters use mobile phones, GPS trackers, sophisticated touch screens with high-tech maps and even a concentrated UV laser a la James Bond (that one’s for torturing-vampire use only). You might ask why these fearless demon-chasers need gadgetry when they’ve got an all-powerful magic wand in their back pocket.
“This is actually something that we talk to them about quite often,” Sherwood said, referring to the showrunners. “We only really seem to use GPS when we need a problem to happen with it. We use it and then I find myself thinking why didn’t we just use Magnus? He’s all-powerful.”
He concludes that the use of technology, while a part of the books, is often called on for a certain purpose in “Shadowhunters.” “So the line seems to be circumstantial for when it suits the show,” Sherwood said.
So basically, it doesn’t have to make sense.
One of the intriguing parts about “Shadowhunters” from a tech-fantasy standpoint is where the show can advance from the books. This season has new showrunners, Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer, who previously helmed “Smallville“. Sherwood says the response has been “resoundingly positive” and “there was definitely a change, kind of a more deeply impactful show.”
So where can tech on the show veer from that in the books?
“Cloning is good tech,” Sherwood said. “I think we should do that and then I could just clone myself seven times… and then we’d end up with a Dom battle royale. I’ll end up… systematically hunting and killing these Doms.”
It’s not just the show finding inspiration in the technological advancements of current times. That road is two-way.
“You end up with that weird complex that people have been talking about for a long time whether it’s TV or media that inspires technology or vice versa. So it would be interesting to see if this ever does come out in the future and whether it was science fiction that inspired it or whether it was already being worked on and the technology ideas inspired the science fiction. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s an exciting time.”
“Shadowhunters” isn’t the only Netflix content speaking to those themes. The recent film “Okja” may be tapping into current developments in cloning and gene manipulation. The film’s animal creation, the superpig, is bred to leave a smaller environmental footprint while feeding the masses. In real life, a biotech company in China has successfully cloned a dog using gene editing, which raises questions around the ethics of cloning. While “Okja” addresses topics like animal welfare and rights, “Shadowhunters” touches on addiction, homosexuality and prejudice, that “deeper impact” stemming from the second season’s new ambitions.
Netflix affecting the fans and the actors
Instead of ruing the show’s episodic release (like some of us impatient people), fans having to wait for new episodes have been affected in positive ways.
“That’s really rough sometimes, but I think because it’s only a day what we’ve managed to do is unify worldwide fans,” Sherwood said. “I look at my Twitter and I find that there are people from Germany talking to Australians or there are people from Spain talking to Latin Americans. They’re talking to people that they’ve never met before but they have this unified enjoyment, love of our show, which is really nice to see.”
But that can make things tricky for Sherwood, a Brit, in his interaction with fans in the UK.
“If we live tweet on Monday with fans we feel like we’re giving stuff away for people who can’t watch it until Tuesday. And especially being a Brit, that’s really tough when my British fans are like, ‘we can’t watch it yet,’ so I almost feel like I’m betraying the homeland.”
Most importantly, I ask Sherwood if he’s bingeing anything on Netflix. He answers with “Archer” and “American Horror Story.” “13 Reasons Why” stands next on his watch-list, though he’s aware of it being emotionally-taxing. “I’ve got to be in the right emotional head-space for it,” he said. “I don’t know if I need another show that’s gonna make me blub, cry for another 13 episodes. I do enough of that on my show.”
I have to ask what’s to come for Jace and the show. There are tears (Jace’s, not mine — not yet). I’m not confident Jace is going to be OK.
“There’s some real heartache on its way. Physical, emotional heartache, from a bunch of different characters. There’s some great book stuff coming in, the ending is some really cool stuff from the books. Some of our new characters get explored a little bit more, some relationships get tried and tested.”
Stream new episodes of “Shadowhunters” season two every Tuesday on Netflix internationally.
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