The second season of the Netflix series refines its formula and delivers another love letter to the gothic horror video game franchise!
“The suffering doesn’t really matter to me anymore—only the death. Only the death matters now.”
Castlevania’s first season made a strong name for itself and proved to be a video game adaptation that demanded to be taken seriously, but season one really felt like an extensive prologue to what this Castlevania series would become in its sophomore year. Season one concludes with Trevor Belmont and prolific magic user, Sypha, joining forces with Dracula’s son, Alucard, after a grueling battle. The trio resolves to take down Alucard’s dad and now the show can finally let them kick ass as an eclectic monster-fighting team. Naturally, Dracula is also more prepared than ever this year and wields a number of new dangerous relics and allies at his disposal. These new complications bring out the best in the show and indicate the scope of a Castlevania series once the heavy lifting is out of the way.
Curiously, this season’s beginning charts back to the days of the Inquisition where a naïve Lisa Tepes, Dracula’s second wife and Alucard’s mother is persecuted for being a “witch.” More than anything the scene is meant to accentuate the power of Dracula and it’s incredibly effective in that regard. The scenes that he’s in are electric, but these moments where others speak of him in fear are just as intimidating. Castlevania absolutely nails scenes like this that honor these characters storied reputations from the game series. At the same time, this scene also reinforces this season’s mission statement and Alucard and company’s goal to avenge his mother’s death and end Dracula’s unholy rule. They both fight in Lisa’s name, but with diametrically opposed goals.
Dracula prepares his undead army for their attack on Wallachia on the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death, while Belmont, Sypha, and Alucard prepare to prevent humanity’s extinction. Curiously, this season really fleshes out Dracula as a character and tries its best to create sympathy for the tyrant as it simultaneously intensifies the fight against him. Word to the wise, don’t besmirch Lisa’s name around the guy.
Furthermore, Hector and Isaac, Dracula’s two (human) generals, but also his must trusted individuals, perhaps in spite of how they support a mission to wipe out humanity. The season provides them with their own respective spotlights to shine and provides some warped backstory for them both while not getting indulgent in the area. Popular recurring villain from the game series, Carmilla, also lends her support to the Lord of Darkness.
Perhaps the most fascinating element here is that there are demons amongst Dracula’s army that begin to second-guess their leader’s endgame. Not everyone thinks that a blanket extermination of humans is the best plan and these thoughts of mutiny bring the tension to a boiling point around the undead. They also have a ridiculous zombie/vampire dog that’s a lot cuter than it has any right to be (he even gets a backstory!).
Castlevania’s first season was about developing each of its core characters, their specific goals, and their individual powers, but this year really gets to let loose and have fun with everyone kicking ass as a team. This season digs more into character development and tortured backstory for these demon slayers, which works as a welcome balance to the high-paced action that season one helped establish.
The awkward team dynamics on both sides of this war are also enjoyable to watch play out. The show’s wry sense of humor is back and it’s surprising how funny this show can be at times. At the same time, simple scenes where Trevor, Alucard, and Sypha chew the fat and wax on about nothing, in particular, are surprisingly deep. Audiences may be hungry to watch these characters hack and slash their way to victory, but it’s just as satisfying to watch them grow closer as friends, even if Trevor doesn’t fully trust Alucard. Dracula’s son asserts his awesomeness early on and proves what an asset he is to Trevor and Sypha, but most of the fights this season are over far too quickly. But hey, the Morningstar shows up!
Castlevania’s second season also retains the operatic pacing that was present in the first season. Episodes will slow down to allow characters to get melodramatic and introspective, but thankfully there’s twice as much to this season as the show’s freshman year, which definitely helps on this front. However, there’s a bit of an imbalance when it comes to the more thoughtful moments of exposition and the chaotic battles. It feels like action takes a backseat to world building and story development for the majority of this season.
That being said, the final two episodes feature more action than the previous six episodes combined. Many of the season’s best and most bad-ass moments (particularly ones that feature Sypha) are reserved for the final installments. Castlevania’s second season rewards its audience with dessert for eating its vegetables and the finale is full of exciting developments. Wallachia really gets played as a Westeros surrogate this year and the show leans into the Game of Thrones angle especially hard. This may irritate some, but frankly it makes sense for such ancient archetypes of good and evil like humans and vampires to play into such Shakespearean levels of betrayal and strategy.
When it comes to the series’ animation, the show still looks pretty impressive. Some of the best moments here are from subtle touches that aren’t even important. There’s an incredible bit where Dracula’s castle teleports to the forest and the sheer force of its arrival causes the gusts of wind to shear the skin clear off of a deer. The voice work in the series remains amazing and even ancillary characters embrace their roles with such passion. Can we get Graham McTavish to read the audiobook of Bram Stoker’s Dracula already? He has such fun in this role and relishes every syllable of his dialogue. Warren Ellis’ scripts are also perfect in their gothic, classical nature. They capture the energy of old serials as well as faithfully honor the lore and action of the video game series.
Adi Shankar and his team have put together such a loving tribute to the video game series (there are some real obscure Easter Eggs from the games included this year), but Castlevania is also just a triumph for horror series and animation in general. The show’s second season expands upon the formula that worked back in season one and creates a captivating companion piece to the previous year. Castlevania’s second season may occasionally become too slow for some, but the heights that it hits are so high that it’s hard to begrudge it for its lethargic pacing (most of the season is spent in one location). If you were a fan of season one, there’s absolutely no reason why you won’t fall in love with these new episodes.
There have been reports that this season would conclude this installment of the Castlevania anthology, but a third season has already been greenlit and is underway. It’s unclear if season three will chronicle another chapter that involves Trevor and his team, or if it (and a hypothetical season four) could shift its focus to Simon Belmont or any of the other many characters that comprise the rich, sprawling storylines from the Castlevania universe. Adi Shankar and Warren Ellis have created such an impressive world here that they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, regardless of whichever direction that they decides to take the series. The moon will be full. The blood will be flowing. And the whips will be cracking. Does anything else really matter?
All eight episodes of “Castlevania’s” second season will be available to stream on Netflix on October 26th.