Dracula is depressed.
Update: Now that Castlevania Season 2 has hit Netflix in its entirety, we can look beyond the six out of eight episodes that the streaming service provided to us early for review. Although the seventh episode is full of slick action and exciting confrontations, it remains true that much of the season is spent introducing us to new characters while the existing ones--the ones you care about if you enjoyed Season 1--do little but mope and tread water.
That pacing issue may make it difficult to get all the way through Castlevania Season 2, even though it's worth it in the end. Since the show's release, we've also learned that it's been picked up for Season 3. Read on to learn more about what to expect from Season 2.
Original review: The first season of Netflix's Castlevania show was really more of a teaser than a full season. Over just four short episodes, it established the main characters and conflict and gave us a taste of the action, with the promise of more to come at a later date. In the portion of Castlevania Season 2 sent to press--six of the eight new episodes--that promise has yet to be fulfilled.
Castlevania Season 2 follows characters on two fronts: Dracula's court, and the small crew fighting against him. The latter consists of familiar faces: Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), Alucard (James Callis), and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), all of whom we met in Season 1. Like much of Castlevania, the chemistry among the trio has potential, but it's yet to bear fruit, even three quarters of the way through Season 2. Unfortunately, they spend almost the entire first six episodes simply sequestered away in a massive library researching ways to take Dracula down.
That probably sounds boring--because it is. And it's made even more so by the distinct lack of action; where Alucard and Trevor clashed blades at the end of Season 1, now they're content to simply trade childish barbs, much to Sypha's (and likely the audience's) frustration. Granted, they are on the same side now, but their dynamic gets old quickly.
Belmont and crew's preparatory storyline is really the B plot so far this time around, as the meat of Castlevania Season 2 follows Dracula (Graham McTavish)--or, more accurately, those in his vampire war council, since the Dark Lord himself does literally nothing in all the episodes we've seen so far. There's one medium length flashback in which he massacres a council of merchants who offended him, but it's not like that moves the story along. Dracula is actually extremely morose and depressed throughout Season 2 so far--an enormous sea change from his force-of-nature rage in Season 1, the reason for which is unclear, since these episodes seem to pick up shortly after the last batch.
Instead, we follow the intrigue in Dracula's court, which includes the bulk of new characters we meet: Godbrand, a hilariously brutish, hard-living, hard-killing vampire lord voiced with relish by the distinctive Peter Stormare; Carmella, a power-hungry female vampire who immediately starts to question Dracula's rule; and the human-hating-humans Hector and Isaac, who Dracula appoints to lead his war effort. This doesn't go over well with Godbrand, and Carmella seeks her own ends, so there's no end of drama among Dracula's generals.
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Hector and Isaac are particularly well fleshed out, as we get flashbacks and monologues that describe both why they hate other humans, and how they came to be in Dracula's service. Isaac is a former slave whose master was excessively cruel, while Hector is a "Forge Master" who uses magic to imbue dead things with life, making him the architect of Dracula's demon army. There are other vampires among the war council, and they certainly look cool during the handful of action scenes they take part in during these episodes, but they're not named or fleshed out.
One thing Castlevania Season 2 definitely does have is buildup. All the intrigue and tension is leading somewhere--there's never doubt of that. By the end of the sixth episode, with just two more to go, the pieces seem to finally be falling into place. Belmont is fighting demons, Sypha is doing magic, and Dracula is--well, Dracula is still brooding, but the rest of his forces are finally at war. The action is still creatively executed, and fights look cool.
But with eight episodes instead of just four, there was hope that Castlevania Season 2 would feel like more of a complete thing. Instead, it feels more like Season 1 was the first act, and this is simply a continuation, and the extra room has been spent developing new characters while the old ones tread water. We'll learn for sure whether it will all lead to a satisfying conclusion when Castlevania Season 2 hits Netflix on October 26.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Action is creative and cool||Pacing problems|
|Well fleshed out new characters||Several characters tread water|
|Lots of potential|