Inspired by the video game series of the same name, Netflix’s “Castlevania” season three picks up where the second season left off. Alucard (voiced by James Callis), son of the vampire Dracula (voiced by Graham McTavish) and his human wife Lisa (voiced by Emily Swallow) is alone in Dracula’s castle — his childhood home. His two human friends leave him to go on demon-hunting adventures. Sypha (voiced by Alejandra Reynoso) is a magic-wielding human woman and member of the Speakers (a group of scholars). Sypha is joined by the vampire hunter Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage). The idea of splitting up the main cast is an interesting one that breaks the formula “Castlevania” had been following up until this newest season.
In the 10 episodes of this season, we are given multiple story threads with Sypha and Trevor; Alucard; Hector (voiced by Theo James); Isaac (voiced by Adetokumboh M’Cormack); and new characters each with a unique storyline and time to shine. As the first episode ended, I did worry if the season could sustain a cohesive narrative with so many perspectives, but “Castlevania” manages to commit to the balancing act of characters without losing the impact. The season shifts tone quickly and smoothly, from Alucard’s loneliness to the banter between Sypha and Trevor in episode one.
However, the ending left me feeling that this fragmentation needs to end. It worked as a change of pace, but shouldn’t be dragged out in season four.
A Dynamic Duo
The split has its positives; it gives us time to see Sypha and Trevor alone together. The two have a good dynamic and their scenes are entertaining. Their dynamic goes some way to repairing the weakest plotline in the season. The duo come across Lindenfeld, a town filled with occult activity, and do their best to vanquish the evil they find there. It’s a fairly standard plot that acts as a break for the other plotlines and gives us a fun time, but it isn’t a story that captures attention. I was entertained but not invested in the plot.
I was invested in the characters and the good displays of teamwork. Sypha and Trevor’s teamwork shows itself best in the fight scenes. The fight scenes are excellent quality, with each moment smoothly transitioning to the next, making for an action-packed show with no obvious faults in appearance. Although none of the fights have the emotional weight of the first season, the new episodes take Sypha’s magic to a new level of creativity. Paired with Trevor’s quick thinking and quick whip, this season’s fight scenes are entertaining to watch.
Video Game References
One of the subplots of this season takes place in Carmilla’s castle, which appears in multiple games, including the 2001 Game Boy Advance “Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.” The cliffside castle will be a familiar sight to fans. The season’s environment art is as beautiful as previous seasons, with each location adding to the atmosphere, such as the empty forest of Alucard’s loneliness and the cold, snowy castle of Carmilla (voiced by Jaime Murray).
There are a great many moments fans of the “Castlevania” game series will enjoy, with season three taking some elements from the video game “Castlevania: Curse of Darkness,” including Saint German (voiced by Bill Nighy). The show adapts Saint Germain well; he comes across as intriguing with more to him than he’s willing to show at first, so I was excitedly waiting to see what he was up to. I wasn’t disappointed. Future seasons now have an infinite corridor of possibility to explore.
“Castlevania” isn’t afraid to take risks. Characters such as Hector and Alucard suffer awful experiences. Their emotional turmoil is expressed well thanks to the quality of voice acting throughout the cast, with Carmilla’s sister Lenore standing out with an excellent performance by British actress Jessica Rose Brown Findlay. The actress is known for her role as Lady Sybil Branson in “Downton Abbey,” and seeing her branch out further into voice acting is a welcome addition to her growing career and Hector’s storyline. Throughout the season, the voice actors all did well to convey emotion, and the animation by Powerhouse Animation Studios matched it.
Kill Your Darlings
For a time, Trevor and Sypha’s antics were the break in between darker moments. But, eventually, even Sypha is broken down little by little as she witnesses the world around her. We get to see the fallout of Dracula’s downfall and are reminded that every action has consequences, some unintended. We’ve all had moments where we thought we knew someone, we thought we understood what was right, but life is hardly clear. “Castlevania” Season 3 destroys whatever is left of Sypha’s naivety and makes her, and us, understand this world’s brutality.
Season three of “Castlevania” captures the main characters and takes out their hearts, stabs them repeatedly, then puts them on a display without glass barriers, where the writers throw rotten fruit at them just to make sure the wounds don’t heal. While these scenes served their purpose of building sympathy for characters and developing their storyline, hopefully, season four will avoid trying to outcompete it.
This season takes an unexpected but brilliant turn in developing Isaac further. The Forgemaster’s abilities are good to watch, but his character arc is where Isaac’s story shines. It wasn’t until this season that I fully understood Isaac’s reasoning, and seeing his philosophy play out and develop has to be my favorite part of this season. Fans will be on the edge of their seat; Carmilla started as a promising villain, but Isaac is the complex Lawful Evil character we didn’t know we needed.
All this character development comes at a cost. The season is always fragmented and the plot is more disjointed compared to other seasons, partly due to the lack of Dracula. Much like Harry Potter’s “Half-Blood Prince”, it’s clear that season three of “Castlevania” is building up to something much bigger than it delivers on its own. The setup is necessary for future seasons to be coherent, but season 3 looks comparatively weaker to its predecessors.
Although season three of “Castlevania” is the weakest so far, it has its strengths. It was brutal. It was beautiful. It made me wish that the “Castlevania” universe had therapists because the trio is going to need it. If you like angst, then season three will be your favorite season yet.
“Castlevania” seasons one to three are available to stream on Netflix.
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Featured image credit: Netflix
Kelsie is an English and Creative Writing graduate from the UK. When she’s not tapping away at her laptop to write short stories, she’s either playing with her dog Ben or playing Animal Crossing. She enjoys binge-watching Netflix alongside Ben, who doesn’t care much for TV but does enjoy the accompanying belly rubs.