The portrayal of Alec’s relationship with his mother is really interesting and important to me. In the beginning of the series, you have him trying to live up to his parents expectations, to set a good example for his siblings, to be a strong shadowhunter and leader. He doesn’t call out his mother’s problematic treatment of Isabelle, even though I’m sure he didn’t agree with it. He simply tries to keep the attention away from her by being The Good Son™ and making sacrifices on behalf of his family, so they don’t have to.
Alec never had a reason to question his parents before, to doubt the lessons they taught, to doubt their perspective and beliefs. It’s not until he learns that they were once members of the Circle, a group that wanted to completely eradicate the downworlders, that we see him slowly starting to question his parents and wondering if they’ve just been using him and his siblings to try and make up for their own mistakes. It’s not that Alec never thought for himself before, because of course, we know he did - it’s just that his perspective was limited and he didn’t question his parents or the Clave because he had never been given a reason to before. It’s what he, and many other shadowhunters, were raised to believe.
So we see Alec begin to turn on his mother a bit because suddenly a lot of her expectations for him and Isabelle seem hypocritical. She judges them for any mistake they make, acting as if she never made any of her own. She expects them to be obedient and law abiding when she and Robert both turned on the Clave. Of course there’s a reason for this - she’s trying to protect her children from making the same mistakes she did - but she goes about it the wrong way, and Alec is understandably too angry to even consider the reason behind her strictness.
And this kind of follows their relationship into the second season, where Alec has made it clear that he’s not going to be the obedient son anymore, that he is going to fight for the things he believes in and the people he cares about. More importantly, he’s not going to stand by and blindly take his mother’s criticism if it’s unwarranted and he’s not going to bend over backwards to earn her approval anymore because he’s learning that while it would be nice to have, he doesn’t need it. He never did. So he stands up for Jace when Maryse tells him to forget about his parabatai, and he stands up for Magnus when she lets her prejudice against downworlders show, because he is done standing idly by while she says bad things about the people he cares about.
But despite everything, despite the secrets and the criticism and her inability (so far, at least) to completely accept Alec for who he is and who he loves, Alec still loves her. He doesn’t turn a blind eye to her flaws and isn’t afraid to call her on them, but she is still his mother and that’s something that never changed for him. When he learns that his father is cheating on her and sees how it’s upsetting her, how hard she’s struggling to hold herself together, he sympathizes with her and immediately sets aside their differences and goes into protective mode. We don’t know a lot about Maryse and Robert’s relationship, but the fact that Alec shared the story of their proposal with Magnus so he could honor them with the theme for Max’s party suggests to me that they’ve viewed them as mostly being happily married. So learning of Robert’s cheating does come as a surprise, especially when Alec was under the impression that they were fighting because of his recent life choices.
And I just love that Alec gets to have such a complex relationship with his mother, who he has every reason to resent but can’t completely because… Alec’s all about his family. They mean everything to him, no matter how angry he may get with them or how much he may disagree with their views. And I find it very realistic that he would set aside his anger and frustration with his mother to offer her comfort during what he recognizes to be a difficult time in her life. That’s just who Alec is. And Robert cheating on Maryse obviously doesn’t excuse the harmful things she’s said, it doesn’t redeem her, but it adds a sympathetic nuance to her characterization that wasn’t there before because for all her flaws she does love her family. She’s just not very good at it.
And I think that this has the potential to be the beginning of a redemption arc for her, because Alec has made it clear that if she wants to make things right with him, she has to make them right with the people he cares about, too. And she’s started doing that with Jace, but let’s be honest, we all know eventually she’s going to have to do that with Magnus, too. Alec’s giving her time to come around while making it known that Magnus isn’t going anywhere so yes, she does have to get used to him and at the very least learn to be civil. And she will, or she’ll push him away.
IDK their relationship is just so multifaceted and I really enjoy it and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it in the future. Ultimately the goal is to begin eradicating the prejudice against downworlders and breaking those barriers, and although right now it seems like we’re a long way away from that, it’d be nice to see it happen with Maryse, especially with the depth Nicola brings to the character. At the very least, the narrative seems to consistently call out her problematic behaviour, and we need more of that on the show IMO.