The death of Dracula was only the beginning
Castlevania has been nothing short of a character study thinly veiled within an animated adaption of a popular video game franchise. Warren Ellis continues his character study of humanity into season three, as we are forced to question who the true monsters of this series truly are. While seasons one and two give a more thorough adaption of Castlevania III for the NES, season three seeks to explore the fates of the three stalwart companions as they attempt to acclimate to a life without Dracula. The true beauty of this season rests solely in the decision to follow not only our main heroes but to also allowing the antagonists of season two a chance to experience their own Journeys ; journeys that mirror and contrast those of seasons one and two. I also appreciated the unreliable narrator approach to this season, as certain details and information provided by the supporting characters of season two ultimately leave the viewer questioning the linearity of this tale, ultimately requiring a second and potential third viewing of the season. Details that may possess the keys to the inevitable fourth season of this acclaimed series.
The series picks up roughly a month after the fall of Dracula, finding our three heroes separated as Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) and Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso) continue their journey to rid the land of the remnants of Dracula’s commissioned night creatures. The journey ultimately lands them at the town of Lindenfield after a mysterious event triggered by an attack of night creatures, alters the lives and behaviors of those living within the local Priory. Trevor and Sypha soon learn that the somewhat carefree life they’ve had up until their arrival has come to quite a drastic end. The pair work alongside Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) and the towns Judge (Jason Isaacs) to uncover the secrets the members of the Priory hold, while discovering that beyond the night creatures, things aren’t quite what they seem in Lindenfield.
The closing of season two saw Alucard (James Callis) claim the life of his father. Tasked with protecting the now inoperable Castle Dracula and protecting the remnants of the Belmont Clan’s stronghold, Alucard has been left to deal with the emotional fallout of his actions while contending with the despair of loneliness. The first episode opens with a slice of life moment for what has become Alucard’s new normal, which I am sure will amuse viewers but it should also be noted that regardless of his appearance, we are witnessing the pain of a teenager. By the second episode we’re introduced to two characters that’ll define Alucard’s arc this season, in the form of “Sumi” (Rila Fukushima) and “Taka” (Toru Uchikado). Sharing a tale of despair and a will to fight, the two are quickly taken under Alucard’s wing in order to gain the strength to fight the growing power vacuum in Japan left behind by the death of their vampire lord and captive. While the new trio grow closer through training we are unfortunately left to ask whether this momentary happiness is truly meant to last, as at the end of the day we are dealing with Castlevania!
“ it should also be noted that regardless of his appearance, we are witnessing the pain of a teenager “
Season three also introduces us to an all female vampire covenant, ruled by “The Sisters”. After Carmilla (Jaime Murray) failed to overthrow Dracula (Graham McTavish) last season, she returns home to regroup with the now imprisoned Hector (Theo James). A plan to enslave a large pocket of humanity for consumption rests in the ability to convince Hector to once again partake in the dark art of forging the souls of Hell to the corpses of the recently deceased. I found this plot thread to be one of the most intriguing, as the show addresses Stockholm Syndrome while granting sympathy to a character some would find undeserving. This thread also serves to demonstrate that Carmilla is far from being the most dangerous threat looming over the world.
Finally we have a quest of revenge and enlightenment, courtesy of a selfless act by Dracula last season. Being cast through a magical mirror into a desert, Issac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) has been left with regret and unbridled hatred. This path sets him on a collision course with Hector, as he bears resentment over Hector’s betrayal last season in Braila. This path leads Issac on a journey of discovery and power. Along the way we’re introduced to new characters that aid him in his journey and eventual confrontation with Hector, however those observant viewers will ultimately begin questioning the true nature of those he meets.
For those looking for a solid continuation of the momentum season two built, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I will warn those who might choose to watch this series with their children that this is NOT a show for them! This season even more than the previous seasons deals with some rather adult themes, with at least one moment in the final episode of the season dealing with a rather heady subject that’ll be sure to trigger some viewers. Castlevania season three masterfully mixes elements that are both new and old to the lore established in Castlevania III, while injecting elements from other games within the franchise. I was left quite disappointed in myself for completing the entire ten episode run in mere hours but with so much to unpack from this season, I welcome subsequent views. Between the introduction of new characters, jaw dropping animation and exciting set pieces, there is currently nothing on television that comes close to the scope of Castlevania.
The animation quality of this season was breathtaking. The seamless blend of animation and real life assets added to the overall immersion of the story. The voice acting of this series continues to be nothing short of amazing. Dialogue feels natural and the delivery of all of the cast can often times make you forget you’re watching an animated feature at all. I’m beyond pleased with the plot and pacing for this season, as it sets up what should be a stellar season four. For those with a good ear, the soundtrack for this season injects a partial score from a previous Castlevania game entry. Which one? Have a listen during the end of episode ten! This season has become the measuring stick for all animated Netflix series, leaving a lot of pressure for season four. With Warren Ellis heading this series, I feel that we’ll be in for many more surprises before its all said and done.