Aug 11, 2017

[TV] Castlevania: Season 1 Review

While I was never a die hard Castlevania fan growing up, I don't think many folks in my generation could have escaped playing at least one game in the long-running franchise or at least heard about it. And the Castlevania story is pretty far-reaching given years of development and so it's a prime basis for any number of adaptations.

 I didn't  have much advance warning of the release of the Netflix Castlevania series, but that's just as well. It helped me get into the series without too much advanced research so I just dove into the experience.

But man it's a short experience though. Clearly Netflix was hedging its bets when it gave the green light for this series. Who runs a half-hour animated series with only four episodes? Were they that eager to release it without finishing the story? Did they want to see how the first four episodes would perform before going ahead with the remaining episodes?

Why did Netflix go into this so hesitantly? Because that's what it looks like to me.

Synopsis: Castlevania is an animated series written by Warren Ellis as based on the story of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. The first season is only four episodes but the show has since been confirmed for a second eight episode series.

We are first introduced to Lisa (Emily Swallow), the woman who had the nerve to ask to study under Dracula (Graham McTavish) in order to expand her understand of the healing arts. In time she became the object of his affections and even his wife. But their love would be short lived when she is burned at the stake over accusations of witchcraft. This naturally angers Dracula and he swears to get his revenge on the people of Wallachia.

The land is then overrun by monsters and demons under Dracula's command and thus the villages now live in fear for their lives. One thing leads to another and the infamous deon hunter Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), descended from a long line of demon hunters, to finally challenge Dracula's rule. Helping him in his quest is the magician Sypha Belnades (Alejandro Reynoso) and one other surprise person of interest.

What I Liked: At its most basic I describe this show as what if someone wanted to make an R-rated series based on Castlevania. And this show really lives up to that name with so much blood and gore despite only four episodes. I actually wish that there was more action but they more or less made the most of things particularly in the last episode.

Richard Armitage makes for a brilliant voice actor for the impetuous Simon Belmont. He starts out a disgrace and one who has been dealing with the shame upon his family name. He eventually rises to the challenge of facing Dracula...and yet still sounds almost disinterested at times. But there's no question that he's the hero that we need in order to drive this story forward.

What Could Have Been Better: Given the brevity of the season, the beginning is a little rough. I know they thought they were giving us just enough to figure out what's going on but I really wish we had a bit more exposition or maybe a bit more time to explore the relationship between Dracula and Lisa. That's a major moment in the series and it sort of drives Dracula on this whole path of revenge against the Wallachia and yet it only got a few scant minutes.

Simon is the only character to get a bit of background mainly through the hecklers at the bar but everyone else suffers from a lack of proper introductions. It's never entirely clear who Sypha is and the big reveal later would make more sense with a bit more understanding of things. I guess given the limited writing space, it was felt that most viewers would be fans of the games and would know who everyone us. But as a show that's rather lazy writing.

TL;DR: Castlevania is a great little romp that is only limited by the length of the series. It's a promise of greater things to come and hopefully the second season will give us a lot more of what this first season couldn't deliver on. Thus the first season gets a good 3.5 flashy action bits out of a possible 5.

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