Nov 7, 2018

[TV] Castlevania: Season 2 Review

I was not a big  Castlevania fan growing up. I knew of the game franchise and I had played one or two of them here and there but I never got all that invested in the franchise and its story. Despite that I got through the first season of Netflix's Castlevania animated series generally happy and now better informed of what makes the series so great.

This second season proved to be a lot harder to keep up with given the greater diversity of characters who just appear and don't exactly get properly introduced or fully explained, if you catch my meaning. A lot of stuff felt more like it relied on knowledge of the series to just keep up with the plot and that's not a great way to continue to draw in new fans to the franchise through a different medium like this.

Don't get me wrong, it still had its fun moments. But at the same time this franchise does bear a rather heavy weight because of all of its lore and backstory that has been developed in one way or another across the different games and other expanded media. It's a bit of a mess.

Synopsis: Castlevania is an American adult animated television series developed for Netflix by Adi Shankar. The series has already been confirmed for a third season of ten episodes.

The season starts with Dracula (Graham McTavish) having assembled his war council of vampire lords from around the world to map out his war against the human race. But it is somewhat controversial that he also decides to place his human necromancers Hector (Theo James) and Isaac (Adetokumboh M'Cormack) largely in charge of the war on man. Not everyone is comfortable with this idea but they're still faithful to (or fearful of) Dracula not to press this matter too much.

Elsewhere, Trevor (Richard Armitage), Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), and Alucard (James Callis) are still recovering after the big battle at the end of the first season and the thought of trying to kill his father Dracula is weighing a little heavily on Alucard's mind. But the plan to face Dracula remains and they know they have to do something before the vampire forces conquer all of humanity.

What I Liked: When you get past the initial drama and in-fighting on both sides, this season has some major, major fight scenes that really do feel like they were very much inspired by the video games but not limited by them at the same time. After all, a large number of the games in this series have been rigid side-scrolling platformers and the show made sure to better use space in 3 dimensions with their different fighting styles and special abilities. So that's a lot of good fun.

And this season really adds to the feeling that there's a lot more going on in this world than what's the subject of focus in the series, further adding to the allure and mystery of the greater worldbuilding that has taken place. And there's a lot more travel this time around ranging from Dracula's castle jumping around, finding the ancestral home of the Belmont family and even where all these different vampire overlords came from before arriving at the war council. This is one very weird yet fascinating world.

What Could Have Been Better: With the climax of the first season it really felt like we took several steps back in starting this second season. We literally began things with another flashback to stuff we generally knew about already as if we needed more convincing why Dracula is so angry with humanity that he has deemed it necessary to go to war. And things drag a lot as there's a lot of talking back and forth before things really get interesting at the end.

We have more characters in this season but also less explanation as to who they're supposed to be and what drives them so. This is particularly key for our humans serving under Dracula as it's not fully clear why they're so trustworthy over other vampire overlords. Then the other vampires are mainly reduced to wisecracks and tone of regular side remarks as to being fully fleshed out characters.

TL;DR: Castlevania is still an interesting and at times entertaining show but it's also one somewhat bogged down by the weight of its narrative obligations. It starts somewhat slower than the first season so it doesn't feel like the additional episode slots were well utilised. Thus the second season only gets a fair 3 kickass moments from that final fight out of a possible 5.

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