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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shadowhunters is a fantasy series adapted from the bestselling series of books by Cassandra Clare. In this paranormal romance, werewolves, vampires, warlocks, demons, and fairies are real and can be both friends or foes. The series' protagonists are in their teens, and they engage in risky behavior, sometimes to save the world, and sometimes just because they're adolescents. As they try to navigate a world of violence and danger (where supernatural surprises lurk around every corner), the main characters adopt some devil-may-care posturing and attitudes -- again, standard teen behavior. Sexuality is mentioned but limited to some steamy kisses.
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What's the story?
When Clary Fray turns 18, she's plunged into a terrifying world that's been hidden from her since childhood by her mother: the world of vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and demons (to name a few). Clary's mother Jocelyn barely has time to admit she's been keeping their family history as SHADOWHUNTERS a secret before she's kidnapped by the very demons that give the mystically powered hunters their name. They're looking for something called the Mortal Cup. Luckily Clary's human friend Simon and newer Shadowhunter friend Jace both have her back as she begins a quest to understand her secret history and her place in this secretive and dangerous new world. She'll need them both to stay alive and save her mother.
Is it any good?
This often melodramatic show exists in a very intricate world that includes several castes of supernatural beings. While the rules and history of this universe do have some depth, it's unfortunately not shared by Shadowhunters' characters. Too often they're boilerplate teen archetypes: the nerdy friend with a crush on the main character, the loner bad boy with a secret heart of gold, and even a sexy and outgoing queen bee. Though this was also true of the books the series is adapting, it could have easily improved on its source material by fleshing out these characters.
The two-dimensional quality of the characters renders it a mildly engaging romantic mystery at best, one that happens to include lots of stylish outfits and fight choreography. There are better role models than Clary and more interesting fantasy worlds out there, but the wildly popular source material lends the series appeal to its teen target audience. It's not the worst they could do, but parents should check out an episode or two with younger teens to ensure they approve of the more violent content.
Talk to your kids about ...
How would the story of Shadowhunters be different if Clary's mother had been honest with her from the beginning? Were there other ways she could have protected her daughter that would have left her more prepared for her family legacy?
How do Clary's friendships, both with her "mundane" friends as well as her fellow Shadowhunters, inform her decision-making? Why might it be important to have friends that know us from different parts of our lives?
If a friend texted you from a situation that seemed suspicious, as when Clary texts Simon to meet her at the abandoned church in the pilot, how would you respond? Are there steps to take when a friend is in crisis that will help keep you both safer?
- Premiere date: January 12, 2016
- Cast: Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood, Alberto Rosende, Matthew Daddario, Emeraude Toubia, Isaiah Mustafa, Harry Shum Jr.
- Network: Freeform
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Curiosity
- TV rating: TV-14
- Available on: Streaming
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.