'Shadowhunters': Emeraude Toubia's Izzy Lightwood is a badass with a heart of gold
Shadowhunters' Isabelle Lightwood, played by Emeraude Toubia, is no longer a gorgeous prop blending in with the side characters in the background; she is a warrior
Modern-day television has come a long way from stereotypical one-dimensional female representation on the screen. In that, there's no one particular action goddess, nor an annoyingly perfect Mary Sue to keep us entertained anymore. Today's female leads are tough but comforting, ambitious but also empathetic, and most importantly, so multifaceted that it becomes a struggle when one has to pick a favorite aspect of their favorite female character.
One such very fierce, yet compassionate, sex symbol of a character is Isabelle Lightwood on Freeform's fantasy show 'Shadowhunters'. In the last three years, played by the ever so gorgeous Emeraude Toubia, Isabelle has come off as a constant source of empowering snark and a phenomenal emblem of the badass with a heart of gold.
The most striking thing about Isabelle 'Izzy' Lightwood has been the casting. Based on the young adult novel 'The Mortal Instruments' by Cassandra Clare, 'Shadowhunters' chose to represent Izzy on screen as a strong woman of color, despite the books never mentioning her descent. And that has worked incredibly well because Toubia is beyond perfect in her portrayal of the cunning, knowledgeable, fierce aura of Izzy — with all her layers and the countless milestone character developments over the years.
To start off, Izzy is one of those characters, who — even with a bold personality with scopes aplenty — somehow always drifted back into the frame.
And that was infuriating in the initial stages of the show because here we have a marvelous beauty who is not only a kick-ass demon fighter but also the best forensic pathologist of the New York Institute of Shadowhunters. True, she made the demons go insane with her skills and exuded her sexuality with nonchalant elegance, but even then — as she herself had mentioned in the first season — there wasn't much on the exclusively individual aspect for Izzy to come out as a highlighted character among her brothers, Alec (Matthew Daddario) and Jace (Dominic Sherwood).
Her life pretty much kicks off only once they meet the protagonist Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara) and thus enters such a pivotal twist in Izzy's overall persona that, as viewers, makes it impossible to not constantly ask yourself, "What the f**k just happened?"
Izzy, despite her fierce brazenness, when it comes to dealing with others, is also an inherently protective woman. And that came out the moment she became friends with Clary. They were poles apart, to begin with, but there was no hiding the amount of care Izzy has felt and vocally shown towards the other girl and that has been touching to witness.
But speaking of relationships and bonding, true to her rebellious personality, Izzy has had trouble fitting in with people she is surrounded by too. Her relationship with her parents has been complicated, to say the least; while she always got along with her father, Robert, it wasn't the same with Maryse, her mother. The two are pretty polar opposites as characters, especially because of Izzy being such an aloof person, and her mother being the orderly, authoritative archetype.
Even their opinions on the Downworld were just as poles apart as their personalities, with Izzy showing a certain fondness for them, and Maryse brimming with pure spite for the lot.
But trust Izzy to turn this very conflict into a driving force towards change. That, and her protective instincts towards her brother Alec, who was pretty much forced into an arranged marriage despite being gay. This caused Izzy to 'grow up', as she puts it. She changed her demeanor, her sense of style, and started being a lot more like her own mother whom she couldn't disagree with not all that long ago. And while the show didn't focus much on this character development, that didn't mean Izzy's character arc was left to climb the steady road of one successful endeavor after the other.
'Shadowhunters,' as a show, has gained wide popularity for its all-inclusive representation of races, sexuality, and personalities and other social issues, and in one such diverse subplot, we even find Izzy — the toughest female on the show — falling prey to substance abuse. Izzy met a man who provided her a substance called Yin Fen that was supposed to heal her. But what the plotline ended up looking like was a black man coaxing a Latina woman into drug addiction. Severe flack from fans worldwide was probably what inspired the show to cut that plotline short, but that didn't compensate for the heartbreak Izzy's staunch fans went through seeing her in that shadow.
Still, Izzy's character has pretty much always thrived, no matter the situation. Izzy's addiction sort of kept the ball rolling for the show in one way or another, and it was also because of that that we got to see a plot strictly Izzy's own. Without romanticizing anything related to addiction, Izzy's storyline not only represented a social issue but also gave Toubia the scope to showcase her skills as an actor, as Izzy's character turned every shade darker while she went through addiction.
But while Izzy was battling demons of her own, snappier, and more irritable as ever, what remained constant was her fierce loyalty towards the ones she loved. And that is saying something because, all that time, she was also blinded enough to believe that she was in love with a man just because he was encouraging her addiction.
However, even in her withered, weakened state, never for once did Izzy hesitate to save her friends and brother in times of need. As confusing with a savior complex as this might seem, coming from an inherently holier-than-thou character, it was all stemming from a deeper emotion of love and loyalty in our pale, raven-haired beauty.
The worst was however yet to come, in the form of Jonathan Morgenstern, under whose manipulation, Izzy's trust and weakness both were toyed with again. Jonathan had Izzy convinced that he was the only hope of freedom from her addiction, but as he pretended to aid her through recovery for his own selfish motives, he pretty much preyed on her blind trust in him. Which is probably why her contribution in Jonathan's demise was so crucial to her individual character arc. At that moment, she wasn't just our kick-ass, tough fighter seeking revenge; she was more of a warrior purging herself of the tragedies resulting from her mistakes.
Still, one of the most beautiful subplots regarding Izzy that stands out beyond anything else has to be her resolving her issues with Maryse. Despite getting along with her father so well, she sides with her mother after her father's cheating is brought to light. And that shows the biggest leap in Izzy's character development, and we see her coming full circle. She is no longer the gorgeous prop blending in with the side characters in the background; she is a warrior with wounds both open and healing, and receiving bits and pieces of closure every now and then as the show pans out.