EXCLUSIVE! Writer Zac Hug Delves Into The Emotional Episode 'Dust And Shadows'

Work through your grief with this in-depth interview with the episode's writer!


1. What was your favorite part of shooting this episode?

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ZH: I met a lot of incredible people. It’s the first time I’ve been able to be on a set this large for something I’ve written. TV is such a collaborative thing, and I’m fairly new to this level of it. So right now it’s watching hundreds of people get behind making something cool together – there might be something better than that, but I honestly can’t think of anything. Also, Salli Richardson-Whitfield is a goddess. I learned so much from getting to watch her direct. She’s one of the most mentally organized people I’ve ever met and can get things done with such good humor. I want to be Salli, now.

2. What personal things did you draw on for the episode?

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ZH: I was really glad we got to set something in Park Slope. I spent my 20s there working in various service jobs and it was FULL of awesome people. Also when I was particularly heartbroken a few years ago, I got an email from a relative that said “Head straight into it and cry your eyes out.” I say it all the time now. It’s such a good way to process things. And I got to name a bunch of the characters (Iris, Leigh, Madzie) after some of my badass lady nieces.

3. What part of the show is your favorite to think about/work on?

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ZH: Look, my job is to go into a room every day with incredibly smart and funny people and make up stories about gorgeous angel-blooded people who police the world for Demons. If that’s your job and you find ANYTHING to complain about, you’re doing it all wrong. But more specifically -- I’m into the Warlocks. Magnus reminds me of a lot of the people I know in real life. I adore Dot as a character and I loved getting the opportunity to bring Iris Rouse into the world. I tend towards the very quirky and strange normally, so Warlocks are kind of my bag.

4. Getting into episode specific questions: Jace has been exonerated, but many of the other Shadowhunters still seem wary of him. Why is this?

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ZH: He's Valentine's son. He’s got pure Demon blood. Shadowhunters have never really been a forgiving bunch. And they've also been raised to believe that anything touched by a Demon is either beneath them or evil. So Jace is really working against the system here.

5. What makes Clary choose Iris Rouse out of the Warlocks in New York? What makes her think Iris will be sympathetic to her desire to bring her mother back to life?

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ZH: She knows that Magnus won't help her and that she needs a crooked Warlock who has done this in the past. When she flips through that database, Iris seems the most game. The thing about danger is, a lot of it is hard to see until you get below the surface. We specifically wrote her to be friendly and likeable and mothering but with a very very dangerous side and an evil that she actively pursues. And then there’s poor Madzie, who’s living with this monster she loves so much. [Showrunners] Todd [Slavkin] and Darren [Swimmer] really love expanding into how complicated the Shadow World is, and wow, stay tuned.

6. Does Simon truly believe he can hide the fact that he's a Vampire from his family while living at home?

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ZH: It’s such a stupid plan. He gives it such a good shot, and omg, wait till you see the fallout from it. Alberto is so adept at finding little things he can do in the scene. And the way he and Holly Deveaux (the actress who plays Becky) work together as siblings is so spectacular. I wanted to watch an entire web series of the two of them. Fighting crime. Eating rats. Getting up to mischief.

7. What can you tell us about the Soul Sword? Why is it so dangerous that Valentine has it?

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ZH: Well, there are some things coming that you should definitely pay attention to. But also, when we were all talking about this, one of the things we kept coming back to is that the entire system of Shadowhunter justice is based on this thing. It’s as if someone has stolen ALL of our lawyers and judges. And laws. And concepts of truth.

8. Alec chooses to confide in Magnus over his own Parabatai or anyone else at the Institute. What is the significance of this decision?

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ZH: Truth be told, when we were writing this part of the season, I was genuinely sad for Magnus and Alec. They’ve had such a hard relationship. You know how when you meet someone you’re into, and you both know it’s a real thing and just want to be around each other all the time? That’s totally where they would be (and kind of are) - but people are dropping dead and their worlds are falling apart around them. Honestly, that first date? Wh… how did that… where did that… these poor guys. So, we talked A LOT about how to show what that’s like for them, to show how hard it is and how gentle and great they are to each other in the process. That West Side Story fire-escape scene (as we started calling it) just felt like exactly the right thing and the boys were so great in it. Relationships are so gloriously messy and at this point in theirs, Alec knows exactly where his comfort lies.

9. Are there sparks flying between Aldertree and Izzy?

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ZH: MMmmaayybe. But based on what we’ve seen – should there be?

10. Aldertree gives Izzy Yin Fen, a medicine that he says has fast-acting healing properties - what are we supposed to make of this? Can we--and Izzy--trust Aldertree?

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ZH: I don’t think trust is anyone’s best move when it comes to Yin Fen. You’ll see more about this soon, but I’m a huge fan of the Infernal Devices, so I was really happy that we got to pick something and use it in a way that the universe of the show could adapt to.

11. Does Clary blame Alec for her mom's death?

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ZH: This is one of the things about the Shadow World that we come up against a lot. There’s so much about identity in these episodes. About how we are not always what we appear. And that we do things sometimes that we genuinely think are helpful and end up hurting people. Alec shouldn’t be held accountable, I don’t think. But if I were Clary, I would have a really hard time being near Alec.

12. Why does Alec so readily agree to accompany Clary on her mission to bring her mother back to life?

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ZH: Guilt is such a strong motivator. Once Alec hears there’s even a chance he could take it all back, he’ll run down that road.

13. Why do Shadowhunters wear white to funerals?

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ZH: There’s a Shadowhunters children’s rhyme in City of Heavenly Fire about colors that we actually reference quite a bit when creating scenes for the show:

"Black for hunting through the night
For death and mourning the color's white
Gold for a bride in her wedding gown
And red to call the enchantment down..."

(You can read the rest of the poem in City of Heavenly Fire.)

14. So, at the end of the day, Jocelyn was NOT brought back to life. Why not?

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ZH: Every time we talked about it, we kept coming back to the fact that death is final. When someone dies, our first thoughts are often: “What could I have done differently? How could this have been avoided, what can we do?” And even in the Shadow World, the answer is that there’s nothing we can do. Even if Clary DID bring her mother back, we all saw what happened with the bird, so it’s not really bringing her back. That’s a trick and a false hope. The point is that grief is terrible, but ultimately teaches us so much about ourselves that it has a value. Death starts a new journey for the people left behind. And in this case, it’s not only Clary, but Luke starts into some new territory as well.

Remember you can watch every episode of Shadowhunters on Freeform!

What did you think was the most emotional part of S2E5? Tell us in the comments!

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