'Shadowhunters': Jace Herondale's melancholic backstory makes him more mysterious than his dashing looks and cold exterior
Jace reveals a part of his childhood to Clary and suddenly it becomes clear just why this sarcastic, snarky teen grew up to be the greatest warrior of his time.
When it comes to Freeform's fantasy show 'Shadowhunters,' there's an ongoing debate about who the main character is. The low hanging fruit, of course, is Clary Fray/Fairchild (Katherine McNamara) as she happens to be the protagonist of sorts in the original 'The Mortal Instruments' books by Cassandra Clare that the show is based on. But while Clary goes through the horrors and woes that every troubled main character of a young adult novel/show usually does, our other hero, Jace Wyland (Dominic Sherwood) somehow emerges as a counterpart - whose backstory and personality is every bit as riddled with troubles and conflicts as Clary's.
The fact that Jace pretty much resembles a ripped Greek-God is surely nothing to complain about. And right from the start, he comes off as a strong, sexy, somewhat damaged shadowhunter - fighting dangerous creatures, and laughing while doing so, even though he knows they could take him out in a snap. It's like the holy trinity for everyone with a soft spot for the brooding, cocky archetypical hero like Edward Cullen from 'Twilight,' or even Heathcliff from the age-old classic, 'Wuthering Heights.'
Ask his own fellow Shadowhunters, and they'll have you believe just why him being a closeted, superficially annoying person makes him so appealing to women. All that darkness within him seems to light up fires of passion within the hearts of the other characters on the show - well, pretty much everyone, irrespective of their gender. And it is probably this instant fondness he attracts that has made the best Shadowhunter of his generation and a hero of the Mortal and Dark wars this cocky and confident beyond the constraints of age.
This only takes us back in time to discover what exactly had happened to turn Jace into such a dark, troubled mess of a person, especially since he also has angel blood coursing through his veins. Born to Stephen and Céline Herondale, Jace was born differently from regular Shadowhunters. After a certain Valentine Morgenstern killed his parents, Jace was raised by the same man under the fake last name, Wyland. It was this upbringing by Valentine, that could be blamed for Jace's cold, dark exterior as it contained plenty of harshness and occasional beatings, to turn him tougher than he initially was. Valentine was also the one who instilled the idea of "to love is to destroy and that to be loved is to be the one destroyed" into Jace's mind and that explains a lot.
But what Valentine also did was fake his own, aka Michael Wyland's death, which led to Jace getting adopted by the Lightwoods - his first contact of human companionship. It allowed him to become good friends with the Lightwood children, Alec (Matthew Daddario), and Isabelle (Emeraude Toubia). The eldest, Alec, eventually became his parabatai - 'a pair of Nephilim warriors who fight together as lifelong partners, bound together by oath, regardless of their gender.' And the youngest Lightwood child, Max, ended up really looking up to Jace.
But this was only the beginning of Jace Herondale/Wyland/Lightwood's initiation to the concepts of love and friendship. Soon after, while Jace, Isabelle, and Alec were on a mission to kill a demon, our main man meets his leading lady. Though both the show and the original novel are from Clary's perspective, in Jace's life, she arrives right in time when he is sort of dabbling in exploring the idea of friendship and perhaps more. It's no secret that from the get-go, Clary finds Jace extremely attractive, but what also becomes clear is that Jace is equally taken with her.
And while he's taken with Clary, what is beautiful about Jace's approach towards her is how flawed he and his instincts are. But he is evolving, continuously, as becomes clear from him divulging the traumatic aspects of his upbringing. The conflicted young boy who had trouble even warming up to his adoptive siblings (the Lightwood children) opens up about the strictness and the beatings Valentine put him through, especially the story about the Falcon that Valentine had got him to raise and nurture, only to kill it eventually. Jace reveals all of this to Clary and suddenly it becomes clear just why this sarcastic, snarky teen grew up to be the greatest warrior of his time, armed with Nephilim physiology, Runic magic and a flair for heavenly weapons.
Jace soon realizes that his inherent conflicts and turmoils are not because of demonic blood flowing in his veins, as he had previously assumed. We start seeing Jace's evolution in a subtle, mysterious manner because as he finds it increasingly hard to cope with the new truths about his own self, it becomes just as hard for him to shed the lies he had carried all through his journey so far. And this dichotomy along with his signature blond hair, long eyelashes, and amber eyes that look gold in the light due to his angel blood just makes him all the more captivating.
It wouldn't be entirely wrong to assume it was Clary's entrance in his life that changed him from a cocky hottie to a compassionate knight in shining armor, as cliched as that sounds. And it was also probably Clary's continued presence that spurred the savior complex in him. Even once they have split on the show and there are other possible romances brewing for each, Jace doesn't stop being protective of Clary, even though he can't accompany her in every endeavor.
This just goes on to illuminate that what Jace has always been, is a bubbling cesspool of contradictions. At one point in the novel, Clary questions a sword's aura, saying "How could anything so deadly be so beautiful?" Something tells us that she could have also been implying the continuous work in progress of a mystery that happens to be her beloved Jace.