“Castlevania” Season 4 – A Great Ending With an Unexpected Twist

“Castlevania” season 4 is a fantastic ending to one of my favorite shows. I’m honestly glad that Netflix chose to end it here as this is a show that could’ve easily dragged on and in turn ruined characters and arcs. Instead nearly every character is given their due, we get the best animation and action the show has done so far and get to know what drives so many of the characters. We also get hints at possible directions this universe should still take with how some of the stories wrap up. There is a spinoff series in the works so I’m curious what storylines here it will tie into, if it ties into any of them. Regardless, this is one of my favorite shows and the best video-game adapted story. This a show I can’t wait to rewatch.

The story picks up where season 3 left off with as different factions of vampire seek to resurrect Dracula, while Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her forces seek conquest as Isaac (Adetokumoh McCormack) and his Night Creatures seek revenge.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – The world and politics of “Castlevania” continues to be amazing. We learn about the power vacuum left by Alucard, Sypha and Trevor killing off Dracula’s generals who ruled of their regions of the world and we learn about Wolf Creatures that the Carmilla and her faction Styria faced. We also learn about the royals who ruled before Dracula destroyed Targoviste as retribution for their murder of his wife. We also learn more about the other beings and see how the Night Creatures hold memories of their life and can learn and grow just as vampires potentially can.

The Animation – The animation is the best it has ever been. The level of detail in the environments, faces and costumes is spectacular and captures the gothic feel the greatest it has ever been. There are a few sequences where you can see they went cheap but it is the exception rather than the rule and in the last 3 episodes I couldn’t find any. This is the animators at their best.

The Action – We get some amazing fight action sequences in this. Some of the standout ones are Striga and her forces fighting a surprise attack from farmers where she comes out in armor that protects her from the light. We also have Isaac against Carmilla fighting in a room full of blood and the final battle of Alucard, Sypha, Trevor and refugees standing off against a large vampire force under the forces of Death. Death’s generals also have some amazing fight sequences too with one who uses strings to trap Alucard in a web, Dragan and his powerful spear and two casters with one throwing balls of skeletons and the other purple explosions. The fight sequence with these generals is honestly better than the final fight against Death and I loved seeing Alucard, Sypha and Trevor work together to win.

Striga and Morana – Striga and Morana have a realization as they are mapping out the region for Carmilla and realize that they don’t want to live in constant war. It is powerful as we see that war is all Striga has known until Morana so she wants to settle down with her. In the end after Isaac defeats Carmilla they choose not to retake the castle but to make their own kingdom. It is a powerful moment and a really good B Plot as they realize they want to live.

Hector and Lenora – Hector and Lenora are fascinating. They are honest with each other and there seems to be a level of caring there even with how Lenora used Hector, which he in turn uses her trust and helps give Isaac the opening to take down Carmilla. In the end Hector learns from Isaac that bringing back Dracula is wrong and the best thing he can do is grow. He chooses this, while Lenora chooses to die in the end as she isn’t able to grow beyond the role of the conquering through diplomacy vampire. It is sad but a powerful scene as she sees the sun and expresses that she did care for Hector as well as someone like her was capable of.

Carmilla – Carmilla is a character who lives off resentment, revenge and hate and it makes her powerful. Stryga was never aided by Dracula or the other courts and she has only ever dealt with selfish and abusive men. You can understand what drives her and it makes her compelling. This drive and ambition makes her a great antagonist and we see just how powerful she is as it takes many of Isaac’s Night Creatures and himself to defeat her and even at the end she chooses to turn herself in a bomb rather than let Isaac or his Night Creatures kill her. She was a BAMF and ended up being one of my favorite character. Jaime Murray did such a good job giving this villain nuance.

Alucard and Greta – This show has a lot of couples and Greta the Danesti village head woman is the one who first calls on Alucard for aid and helps him learn to trust again. She is always at the front of battle protecting her people and it is in their conversations Alucard finds hope again. It is a really great arc and it is nice not to see Alucard moping and taking an active part in the world. In the end he forms a village with the Danesti refugees that Dracula’s Castle and the Belmont Homestead exist within. This new world gives promise and with Alucard and Greta leading it there is hope once again in the world of Castlevania. James Callis continues to play my favorite character of Alucard so amazingly.

Varney / Death and his Generals – Malcolm McDowell plays Varney, at least he appears to at first. This is a character who plays the idiot and was part of Dracula’s court while being a vampire from England before England was formed. This is all an act though as we learn that he is Death a vampiric being who has been feeding off the death Dracula was causing in the world and wants to bring Dracula back to bring about death once more. Both his appearances are fantastic and having a being more powerful than Dracula was a good way to up the stakes. Trevor’s defeat of him was rewarding. Also, as expressed above in the action sequence he has cool generals like Dragan and the web enchanter.

Trevor and Sypha – The other couple we have is Trevor and Sypha and their arc goes from them fighting and trying to stop folks from being back Dracula to going about and healing the world around them. This ends with them surviving the war against Death and Sypha being pregnant so them having a family and being a part of the community Alucard and Greta have made. I was okay with Trevor dying as Death was that powerful but Saint Germain finding a way to save him was worth it. Richard Armitage and Alejandra Reynoso truly inhabited these roles.

Isaac and the New World – We learn that Isaac has grown beyond revenge and when he appears to Hector tells him he should find his way and grow and to let Dracula rest. We see hints of the world he is building too as he rebuilds the city destroyed last season and teaches the Night Creatures that they are more then their instincts. His goal seems to empty and redeem the souls of hell making him all the more compelling. He is easily the best character in the series outside of Alucard. Adetokumoh McCormack is fantastic as the calming presence constantly seeking to grow and improve himself.

A Meditation on Mortality – One of the themes of the show that this season does well is to meditate on meaning and mortality. We see this in Striga and Morana finding a purpose to live and war as no way to live for an eternity. Also we see it in Lenore needing more than a life with Hector. We have people like Isaac, Greta and Alucard who see a big picture scenario in the end and seek to build a better world too.

The Importance of Connection – Connection to others is the other consistent theme in the show but especially this season. I chose characters with their couple counterpart because that was how the narrative framed it. Characters are defined by their relationships and in the end community that we build is what gives hope in a world full of suffering.

Okay:

Saint Germain – Bill Nighy is a great actor but Saint Germain is largely causing problems as Death manipulates him to bring back Dracula. This guy was willing to manipulate others to be murdered so he could be with his wife again. In the end he does realize how selfish he is and uses his power to give Trevor a chance to kill death and uses the last of his power to save Trevor’s life. It is a good arc though I’d only put the character as okay this season.

Lisa and Vlad’s Return – So the big twist is that Lisa and Vlad are successfully brought back and decide they going to go to England. They decide not to tell Alucard they are alive yet to give him closure. My issue with this as far as it not being a pro as Vlad has caused so much suffering and death in the world and unlike Isaac or Hector has done nothing to atone for it. I’m surprised Lisa hasn’t either. We know nothing about the Hell he was in but in our world he is almost human. This was an interesting twist but I’m not sure what it means in the scheme of all the other really good story arcs that were finished.

The Cons:

“The Underground Court” – There is an arc about “The Underground Court” which is a place of suffering where the last noble Zamfir guards the corpses of the King and Queen. It is a sad place and seems like it only existed as a contrived way to have a mirror to bring Sypha and Trevor to Dracula’s castle for the big final fight. Nothing is done here and the arc that would have been done here never happens since we have to get to the final. This whole area and story felt like a waste.

This was such a great end to an amazing show. If you haven’t seen this show it is one I highly recommend. It has great animation, action, world and characters. I’m glad it ended too. This is a story that didn’t overstay it’s welcome and gave the characters closure. I can’t wait to see what the spinoff is and I would like to return to this world again in whatever time period they choose. Here is to the best video-game adaptation out there and to the amazing story and world of “Castlevania” that this show told. Through 4 seasons, this consistently stayed a favorite show.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

“Castlevania” Season 2 – Great Enough That the Show Could Have Ended Here

Castlevania' Season 2 Netflix Release Time: When Can You Watch New Episodes  of the Animated Series?

As I’ve been reviewing the different parts of horror cinema I have found the vampire lore the most fascinating. With vampires you get immortal politics, tackling mortality and the reason of life and often times good action as vampire make-up is easier than werewolf. You also have an intelligent foe unlike zombies. It was in this exploration I realized I hadn’t reviewed Season 2 of “Castlevania yet. I’ve reviewed Season 1 and Season 3 but I hadn’t done Season 2 yet. I’m glad I went back to watch it again as is the best of the show and they really could have ended it here. I’ll get into the why further below.

The show was created by Warren Ellis on Netflix that is produced by Frederator Studios.

The story picks up where we left off as Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), Sypha and Alucard seek Dracula to end his reign as politics unfold in Dracula’s Castle.

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – Trevor Morris did an amazing job on this soundtrack. It truly captures the fun of the games and battle and emotional sequences feel epic.

The Action – The action is one thing this show has always done really well and we get that here. We have unique creatures and each of the members of the Vampire Court fight in unique ways too. There isn’t just a zombie army being taken on and it adds intrigue to the actions sequences.

The World – The world is apocalyptic as you have the corrupt church at play, vampire politics and Dracula lashing out at the world with his only aim to wipe any of humanity who aren’t his Forgemasters. Season 1 we only got a little of it but 2 develops it so much more.

Dracula’s Court – Dracula’s Court is full of vampires from around the world as well as his 2 human Forgemasters. Each member of the court has a unique way of power and you can see why they were chosen. The weakest of all of them is Hector who is easily used by a member of the court to betray Dracula.

The Vampire Generals – The generals each get a moment of awesome and like the Bloodpack in Season 2 have unique designs that set them apart. You have the viking vampire Godbrand, you have Raman and Sharma two Indian vampires, Dragoslav a slavic Vampire, Zufall a German vampire, Cho a Japanese vampire and Carmilla from Astyria. You get to witness their unique fighting styles against our Trio and when they attack a town. The two factions that form are those loyal to Carmilla and those loyal to Dracula and it is here we witness the fascinating politics unfold.

Carmilla – Carmilla is ruthless and driven by what she sees as the corruption of man and the partiarchy, and she’s right. Her own master went insane until she killed him and took control of Styria and Dracula has no strategy because he is mourning a person who she thinks he only saw as a pet, given she was never turned. This provides a fascinating dynamic that ends with her forces invading the Castle until Sypha pulls it away.

Isaac – Isaac was abused growing up and hates humanity because of how they manipulate, use and lie. His only friend is Dracula and we see how deep that friendship is when Dracula saves his life hoping he makes his own path. In the end Isaac was more of a son to Alucard than Alucard in his eyes.

Trevor and Sypha – I’m putting Trevor and Sypha as one because it is the romantic relationship and opening up to each other that really defines this season. We see how they are both broken and how tied they are to their families. This leads to them resolving to adventure together after Dracula is defeated.

Dracula – Dracula’s war came from rage and besides his rage all he has is his hate and sorrow. This leads to us seeing his fascinating conversations in the recruitment of his Forgemasters and defines his final choices. His last acts were to save Isaac and to let his son kill him as he realized what killing his son was doing to him. It is powerfully done and Episode 7 is easily one of the best episodes of the show. Graham McTavish does an amazing job inhabiting this character with threat and also empathy.

Alucard – Alucard finally completes his arc and defeats his father, he also finds friendship with Sypha and Trevor only to lose it again. In this way we see him back in the loneliness he’s always known as he safeguards the Belmont and Tepes legacy alone. Alucard is the tragic hero and James Callis captures it beautifully.

The Cons:

Early Episode Writing – Early episode was a bit to “tell” rather than “show” and had some jokes fall flat between Sypha and Trevor. When we weren’t in Dracula’s Castle it felt like the writers were trying too hard in the first 2 episodes. Luckily, it did get better.

The Danger of an Open Ended Story – Dracula’s arc feels complete as he found his soul again and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard all had arcs where they grew in finding a higher purpose or learning about themselves. The story could have ended and I really hope they don’t ruin this story by keeping it going too long as it could have ended here.

“Castlevania” is a show I’d recommend to any fan of the games, action anime, vampire dramas or fantasy shows. This show captures all of these things and does it so well. I’m glad it got continued after that first initial small season as it has only grown from the great start it already was.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10 This season was great and I really hope we can see this level of storytelling in future stories since the story continues.

“Castlevania” Season 3 – An Exploration of Hope Lost

Image result for castlevania season 3 poster

  Season 3 of “Castlevania” is really good filler. There are a lot of pieces moving and characters are developed, but there isn’t the core driving action that was last season. I still highly recommend checking it out though if you are a fan of the show. There are 10 episodes this season and none of them are wasted. Warren Ellis has truly crafted an amazing story and I’m curious to see where the story goes next.

This season was directed by Sam and Adam Deats and written by Warren Ellis.

The story follows Sypha and Trevor uncovering the mystery behind a town, two twins befriending Alucard in his isolation, Carmilla’s plotting of conquest and Isaac as he creates an army in his quest to get revenge against those who betrayed Dracula.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Saint Germain – Saint Germain is a fantastic character. He is Lindenfeld seeking a portal in order to get back to his wife. He find allies in Sypha and Trevor and it is wonderful seeing them interact as he sees himself as above everyone but them. In a depressing season he is such a fun character who brings levity and humor to all that happens this season. He also helps save the day by closing the Portal to Hell when the Priory in Lindenfeld is trying to summon Dracula back from Hell.

The Sisters – Carmilla and her 3 sisters make up a Vampire coven in Styria who is planning conquest. In order to conquer they need troops though and this involves her sister Lenore seducing and tricking Hector into being their slave. I thought it was handled well as she showed a soft power approach and diplomacy compared to how blunt most of her other sisters are. Striga is the warrior who loves battle, Morana is the strategist and Carmilla is the spark and planner. They have a fascinating dynamic and I can’t wait to see Isaac, Sypha and Trevor take them on.

Sypha and Trevor – Sypha and Trevor are such a cute couple. In this we get to see how much they enjoy killing monsters and protecting people. Sypha especially revels in combat. They play off each other really well and it is the first time we really see a more happy Trevor…until the end. At the end they discover the Judge of the town they couldn’t save was a serial killer the entire time. Once happy fighting evil they discover the evil in humanity again and they have each other, but that is it. By the end of this season, they feel alone. They really should go back to Alucard.

Isaac – Isaac has a fascinating arc this season. He is driven by Dracula’s goal to exterminate humanity, though he still is willing to give people a chance. We see him spare those who show kindness and his conversations with a merchant, a captain and another Forgemaster make him realize that he should shape his own destiny. It is powerfully done and I can’t wait for him to take on Carmilla and her sisters.

Alucard – Alucard is alone and going mad until two hunters, Sumi and Taka seek him for training. He believes them at first until they try to kill him. This loneliness and betrayal breaks him and he puts their corpses outside the Dracula’s Castle as a warning, beginning to embrace the practices of his father, who also had lost all hope humans. He really needs Sypha and Trevor to bring him back to balance.

Hopeless Humanity – Isaac is attacked by multiple groups who are destroyed, Sypha and Trevor discover the evil in the town they couldn’t save and Sumi and Taka show that even those who appear good can do evil. This was the theme this season and is meant to explore why Dracula was the way he was. It is really well done and a proper way for filler to be handled.

The Cons:

The Twins – Sumi and Taka were slaves of Cho’s court. Cho was one of Dracula’s generals from Japan and we see how in control she was over the populace, even letting hunters in for fun. From this I can see why they don’t trust vampires but Alucard killed Dracula. Them trying to kill Alucard wasn’t fleshed out enough, they needed more development for the turn the story took.

Feels Like Filler – In the end what does bring it down is that it does feel like filler. It is good filler, but knowing a show could be canceled at anytime I tend to see filler as a waste. This was a good use of filler but the problem of it still happens. This was really good but if the show ended here it wouldn’t be a good end to “Castlevania.”

I really enjoyed this season. It is depressing as hell but the character development is well handled. I also love how big this world is. This season was largely setup for the big events that will no doubt play out and I think it handled it well. The only con was really the twins as I get why they existed (to make Alucard more like his father and lose hope in humanity) but their motivations needed much more development. I hope Alucard catches a break soon, he’s one of my favorite characters on the show and it sucks seeing him go through all this. Can’t wait to see how the upcoming wars go.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 Boosted slightly by the good character work.

“Castlevania” Season 1 – Of Origins and Building the Party

Castlevania promotional poster in highest quality avaliable I guess  [2400x3600] : castlevania

   “Castlevania” is a great video game adaptation. This is a series that explores Dracula’s motivation and really lets us explore and get to know the world before it gets into the action. Without going into spoilers, the only issue is how short it is. The first Season is only 4 episodes long and each of those episodes is only 20 minutes. It could have easily had 8 episodes just off of the characters and the world and I’m really that it has been renewed for future episodes. The fact that this is an adaptation of a video game is all the more amazing given the track record of suck projects as they usually always end up sucking.

The series was written by Warren Ellis and directed by Sam Deats.

The story involves Dracula’s origin and what lead him to turn against humanity (turning it into the depressed hellscape of the games). After the origin we pick up with the last of the Belmonts, Trevor Belmont as he wanders the hellscape, just trying to survive and find purpose.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Dracula’s Origin – Dracula’s hate is born out of tragedy. It begins with him as an illusive immortal lord who falls in love with a woman who wants to help the people through the medical sciences. Sadly they turn on her and we learn she married Dracula. Out of anger for the loss of his love he raises the army of hell and puts them on the population, leading to the status quo of the games. This is the first time in any of the games where he has actually been explored as a character and I love the character choices they made for why he became a monster.

People are Hell – A major theme of the story is that people are hell. The Church kills Dracula’s wife for being a “witch” and through the story we see murders who joined the church as enforcers and the general apathy of the general populace and our supposed hero Trevor Belmont. This theme is great at giving justification to Dracula and the question of hope even exists in this world.

Hope in Strange Places – Thankfully there is hope, both in the Speakers, travelers like the Roma who pass on stories of old who end up finding another hero, Alucard who is Dracula’s son who wants to stop his father since he knows the monster he’s become is not what his mother would have wanted. In the end Sypha (the speaker who finds Alucard) and Alucard show Trevor their is hope and give him a reason to fight. Also James Callis voices Alucard and Richard Armitage voices Trevor Belmont. Both these were brilliant casting choices and I really wanted more with both of the characters.

Okay: The Church – The Church is the Catholic Church and we only really deal with the corrupt members. One priest helps in the final fight but we never get his name or any of his story. Large organizations should have more complexity or their drive for power better explored…I hope we get both these things in the next season.

The Cons: Length – The show is only 4 episodes long and because of it the Church feels underdeveloped and we only get hints at the demons having their own agenda outside of Dracula. This is a shame as these were interesting ideas that could have been explored so much more. Regardless, I highly recommend this series. The writing is solid, the characters are fascinating and Netflix has once again made a great show.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great start to a series. Netflix has done it again.