‘Castlevania’ Season 2 Review: Bigger, Bloodier, and with More Bite Than Ever

     October 26, 2018

castlevania-season-2-reviewThe only complaint I’ve heard levied against Season 1 of Netflix’s Castlevania adaptation was quite literally this: “It’s too short.” Everything else about the dark and violent animated take on the classic Konami video game series was high praise. Executive producers Kevin Kolde, Fred Seibert, and Adi Shankar delivered on their promise to bring about the best video game adaptation ever seen, and I’m happy to say that Season 2, now available on Netflix, continues that trend and satisfies fans’ needs for more of everything. More episodes, yes, but also more mythology, more bloodletting, and more sharply-written dialogue, political intrigue, and social commentary from the inimitable Warren Ellis.

If you missed out on Season 1, not to worry; not only are there only four half-hour episodes to catch up on, but there’s also an excellent recap at the front of Season 2. I’d highly suggest starting from the beginning, however, since this excellent series opens with a four-episode prequel of sorts that establishes Dracula’s grudge against humankind and the trio of heroes who rise against him. That being said, this review will go into some spoilers (for those who aren’t caught up with Season 1) so go ahead and bookmark it for a later return.

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Image via Netflix

When last we left Castlevania, the newly united trio of complicated warrior Trevor Belmont, Speaker/magician Sypha Belnades, and the half-vampire, half-human dhampir Alucard had managed to survive an assault from Dracula’s forces on the small town of Gresit. The story picks up from there (after a lovely flashback sequence featuring the dearly departed Dr. Lisa Tepes when she was in her prime, treating an old woman before being hauled away to her death by the bishop) and is split into two tracks: One follows the trio as they amble across the Wallachian countryside in search of Trevor’s ancestral home (or what’s left of it), and the other focuses on Dracula and his generals, whom he’s gathered as part of a war council.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s the vampire’s side of the story that’s more compelling in the early going. Dracula, played exceptionally well by a somewhat detached but menacing-when-he-needs-to-be Graham McTavish, is hellbent on wiping out the plague of mankind and is giving his generals–vampire and human alike–free rein to do so. But this version of Dracula is not quite the same one we saw in Season 1. His anger over Lisa’s death has turned from a raging fury to a simmering irritability, and it’s becoming clear that he’s emotionally compromised, leading him to instability and madness. This lack of strong leadership from Dracula allows dissent to creep in among the ranks of his generals. The disagreement between loyal human generals Hector and Isaac, each with their own gifts as Devil Forgemasters, soon turns to discord, spurred on in part by the newly arrived Carmilla, and to a lesser extent by Godbrand.

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Image via Netflix

Jaime Murray‘s performance as the manipulative Carmilla is so good that you’ll find yourself nodding along with whatever she suggests, while Peter Stormare‘s insane, bloodthirsty, Viking vampire Godbrand is an unhinged delight, as you might expect. More subtle performances come courtesy of Theo James‘ conflicted Hector and Adetokumboh M’Cormack‘s loyal-to-a-fault Isaac, both names that should be quite familiar to Castlevania fans. There isn’t a weak link in the voice cast here, even if there are some gaps starting to show in the armor of Dracula’s leadership through fear and unbridled power.

On the heroic side of things, viewers will get a break from the bloodshed and the political maneuvering as they get to enjoy the burgeoning camaraderie among Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard. The last surviving member of the Belmont clan has cleaned up his act a bit this season, but he’s still a brooder; not quite as “cold” as Alucard’s brand of brooding, as Sypha would put it, but a brooder, still. Alejandra Reynoso‘s Sypha brings some levity into the mix by playing the boys off of each other and teasing them along the way. And while the writing this season, especially the dialogue, is as strong as ever, it’s Richard Armitage‘s Trevor and James Callis‘ Alucard who get the most direct, playful one-liners. “Eat shit and die,” one teases, to which the other responds, brilliantly, “Fuck you,” before both of them share a laugh. It’s simple dialogue like this that eases the tension and brings some humanity to characters that are both more and less than human.

Let me spare one more thought to the dialogue in Season 2 because it’s exceptional. When Godbrand wakes from a dream of hunting humans alongside his Viking brethren, he says, “Fuck your eyes, man! Bring me blood and beer!” Earlier, Hector says to him, “Godbrand, you’ve never met anything you didn’t immediately kill, fuck, or make into a boat,” to which he responds, “I’m a fucking Viking! We make boats!” This tells you all you need to know about him. In a flashback sequence, Matt Frewer‘s excellent delivery as the bishop brings us such lines as, “Satan’s tools. Make fire. Clean it out.” And I will never tire of Trevor calling Alucard a “cockwart.”

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Image via Netflix

Swears and insults aside, Castlevania also makes time for those interesting asides in Season 2, like an earnest discussion among the vampire generals about whether or not vampires can cross running water and if it will kill them or not. There’s just as interesting a conversation on the other side of Wallachia, as Sypha asks Trevor about his family name and the origin of his first name, both questions which lead to some expositional dialogue that explains and takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the long history of Castlevania characters, especially the Belmonts. This season even has an undercurrent of ecological management and proper methods for the conservation of species, so it’s not without a side stream of social commentary, though thankfully it’s done with a light touch. All of this heady material slows the pace down a bit, but the excellently animated action sequence (of which there are plenty to enjoy) give each episode a nice punch-up.

All in all, these eight new episodes of Season 2 will give you everything you wanted from Castlevania and more. I just can’t wait to see what happens next.

Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent

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