Let’s talk about Castlevania Season 3’s death, sex, and references
OK, let’s get this out of the way. This article will contain major spoilers for Neftlix’s Castlevania seasons 1, 2, and 3. If you don’t want to be spoiled, well then why are you reading a review? Just watch the show for yourself!
Anyway, now that everyone who will raise a stink about that is either gone or already typing their hateful comments…
Castlevania is back, and frankly I didn’t know what to expect. The series was loosely based on the game Castlevania III and with the death of Dracula in season 2, that plot had been fairly well wrapped up. Where would our heroes go? What would they do? Who would they fight?
Well Dracula was the uniting force that brought all of our main characters together, and without him they naturally drift apart. As such, season 3 is really constructed of four separate plotlines that are only tangentially related to each other. They don’t meet or join up in this season, but it certainly leaves the door open for whatever is yet to come in season 4.
Plot A – Belnades and Belmont: Monster Hunters for Hire
Plot A follows Trevor and Sypha, now fully romantically involved, hitting the road as roaming monster hunters. Though Dracula is gone, creatures of the night still lurk out there and someone needs to deal with them. Trevor is his plain old misanthropic self, while Sypha has come to find that the rampant and wanton murder of satanic beasts my magic is incredibly fun, and she has taken to looking at this whole monster slaying business as an adventure.
They happen into a town that has a pretty obviously evil cult looking to resurrect Dracula, considering they say they are going to do that in episode one. Unfortunately they and the town guard are in something of a military stalemate, and Belnades and Belmont are here to swing the balance.
This was a quality, but also fairly standard plot. It’s where most of the fights and most of the jokes are. For most of it, it’s just a fairly simple “there’s something evil happening, let’s kill it” plot, but the last few episodes do take a sharp turn toward the more morally grey.
It’s also worth mentioning that this plotline introduces Saint Germain, the time traveling, world hopping, magician scholar from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, voiced by Bill Nighy, and he is incredible.
Season 3 takes quite a few cues from Curse of Darkness but unlike seasons 1 and 2, this really isn’t an adaptation of videogame lore. The writers have strewn far off the beaten path now, and are very clearly creating their own Castlevania timeline. It’s nice to see them able to flex their creative muscles, but it is worth noting that without a great framework of a game to work in, the plot of season 3 does meander a bit. Nothing feels quite as urgent as it did in seasons 1 and 2, which is all well and good for a few episodes, but a season? I’m not so sure. The pace will have to pick up in season 4 for this series to survive.
Plot B – The Binding of Isaac
Plot B focuses on Isaac attempting to make his way back to Europe after being teleported to the middle of the desert in the Middle East somewhere during the climax of last season. He is slowly amassing an army of hellish servants with his devil forgemaster abilities in the hopes of carrying out Dracula’s dream of exterminating the human race. Along the way, he has several crises of faith, and meets several humans who oddly help him out, making him question his ends yet never cease striving for his morally questionable goals.
In terms of character building, plot B is the strongest. Seeing Isaac grapple with his waning faith, his constantly changing opinion of other humans, his interactions with kind people, mean people, and everything in between, it’s just fantastic. Action-wise, however, it ends on something of a whimper. Isaac’s final fight is pretty amazing, going up against a monster that is very reminiscent of Legion, from the Castlevania games. Story-wise, however, this monster is just being controlled by some random, nameless, faceless mage that decided randomly to enslave a village to build a pyramid. It’s just not as thematically resonant as the rest of Isaac’s scenes, but it still leads to a fairly interesting conclusion.
Plot C – Politics and Pets
Plot C introduces us to our new big-bads: Carmilla and her three vampire sisters Morana, Striga, and Lenore. Their plot is largely about how they plan on retaking the lands ravaged by Dracula and turning them into a sort of livestock pen for humans in order to create a new vampire empire. A vam-empire if you will.
There isn’t a whole lot of conflict here. Mostly, this plot is just used for character building. Carmilla barely gets any screen time and she stays the evil nasty harpy that she was last season. Morana, Striga, and Lenore, however, are extremely interesting.
Morana and Striga are in a biracial lesbian relationship, and they appear to have given up their mortality to forge a better life for themselves. Striga is a brilliant warrior and tactician while Morana is more of an organizer and details person. Their idea of an empire rests on wanting to build a better life for themselves, with a bit of an evil twist of course. It’s really fascinating to see what makes these new characters tick and how they sometimes clash with Carmilla’s more blatant self-centered evil.
Lenore gets the most screen time since her plot directly intertwines with Hector. It’s pretty much all just her manipulating Hector into becoming a pet and bondage slave, culminating in a rather explicit sex scene. In fact, if there’s one word I could use to describe season 3, it’s horny. There’s full frontal nudity and sex scenes abound. It’s a bit disturbing when juxtaposed next to all the violence and gore, but then again that is Warren Ellis’s style.
Hector has become little more than window dressing at this point. His backstory has been put on complete hold and he’s essentially just used as a character building device for Lenore. It is rather interesting to see how Lenore views Hector as a pet and how that makes her willing to treat him with more respect than her sisters do, but the impact is lost due to the way the plot introduces the general concept of a mistress/pet relationship.
During the climactic sex scene (you see what I did there) Lenore binds Hector into magical servitude and it’s played off as a shocking reveal, but several episodes before that, in the first few episodes of the season, the other vampire sisters say things like “oh no, is she going to adopt him as her pet” or “is this like the time she took in a pet spider and looked for a splint for one of its eight legs?” We know what the conclusion will be well before it happens.
Still, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Plot C takes it’s time and just lets us get to know who will obviously be the antagonists in season 4. Not to mention it sets up a fairly interesting three way conflict. Isaac and his demon army are heading to Carmilla’s territory to get revenge for the betrayal of Dracula. Meanwhile Sypha and Trevor are likely to head that way too, simply because their job is hunting vampires. These three clashing forces are sure to make for a fantastic central conflict in the coming season.
Plot D – Alucard is Sad
Oh Alucard. Dear dear Alucard. This fan favorite half-vampire got the short end of the stick in terms of plot and character development. He is alone, isolated in his castle, and is going insane without any sort of social contact. He is sad.
Then two as of yet unintroduced Japanese refugee orphans show up on the run from an as of yet unintroduced Japanese vampire who was apparently randomly killed in the last season. I think she was one of Dracula’s unnamed cannon fodder vampire generals in the last battle.
Alucard takes them in, gives them a home, promises to teach them how to fight and cast magic and stuff. They become a happy family. Then-
And seriously, this is a big spoiler, so turn back now but it’s also kind of impossible to talk about how disappointing this was without mentioning it.
Then they have a threesome for no reason. They have sex until Alucard cries.
Then they betray him for no reason. LITERALLY no reason. Their justification is “everyone lies so you are lying.”
Then Alucard kills them.
Then he is sad again.
Aside from some allusions to becoming dark and twisted like his father, Alucard basically encounters no character building whatsoever, and neither do these new characters he becomes involved with. They build them up to be something like his children or younger brother and sister, so when they have sex it just doesn’t feel right and it comes totally out of left field. The betrayal feels like it’s done for a flimsy reason. It’s just sloppy.
Worst of all, he barely gets any screentime. Everything Alucard does could have easily been condensed down to a single episode, or better yet, totally omitted, and the season wouldn’t have changed at all.
Verdict – Enjoyable but not as good as seasons 1 and 2
Season 3 was mostly setup, and I’m OK with that. Arguably, season 1 was mostly setup and it was awesome. At the end of the day, I really enjoyed the plotlines in season 3, with the exception of how the Alucard plotline ended. I really enjoyed all the new characters and loved seeing the new conflicts old characters were put in.
However, I do not think they can do this again. Four storylines just not meeting up in any way is a good way to do a setup season, but not a good way to keep your franchise going. There needs to be some high-stakes conflict next season. Armies need to clash, villains have to die, Alucard needs to do something other than mope around.
Season 3 isn’t bad. I hesitate to even call it a “low point.” It is, however, lacking the “wow” factor that seasons 1 and 2 had. If this was a sacrifice to make season 4 gore punch me in the feelings by tying all these plots together, I’m OK with that, but that does mean that Ellis has to deliver something even bigger in season 4 to make season 3 worthwhile.