Was that a mid-season break or a season-ender?
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Something to call out before I get into the thick of this review: I grew up with Castlevania (some, not all the games); I am a fan of the games and I am a fan of the series.
The first two seasons were a treat. Great character arcs, storylines, raining Easter eggs and the most violence I had seen in a cartoon in a long time. It was good, to say the least. The icing on top of the cake was a key fight scene featuring Bloody Tears, an iconic song from the games. They knew how to do that one well.
The thing is, in season two, Dracula was defeated. It ended by giving us a new villain in Carmilla, who doesn’t seem to carry the same gravitas as Dracula, whether you’re a fan of the series or not. So with the biggest bad guy out of the picture, was there really a lot to still look forward to? Was season three going to be able to keep up the momentum?
For the most part, you better believe it.
Chapter depth for days
Four arcs, 10 episodes and a lot of talking. And not in a bad way.
There is so much character development in such a short amount of time that, by the end of the season, you end up thinking about the conversations from the show. The huge moral gray area in this season that’s discussed is worthy of a Tyrion Lannister conversation. It’s this area, blended with the character’s own personality traits, that creates such a strong glue despite the lack of a concrete backing story (but more on this later).
The dialogue is extremely well played out across the characters. By the time I got to the tail end of the season, I found myself (overly) invested in Hector’s situation, so much so that when Lenore revealed her real intentions, I had to shout swear words into a pillow. Same involvement goes for Isaac during his conversation with the fly demon—don’t get me wrong, this isn’t new. There are shows that have created this kind of depth before, but I expected it less from a cartoon.
A cartoon, especially an anime (as it isn’t as detailed as other types of animation), doesn’t always capture the subtlety of human acting, but Castlevania has that pinned down perfectly. Tremendous voice acting and a perfect script make for the building blocks of this great season.
Mid-season break vs. end of season
All the praise towards character depth aside, the story plot hardly moved forward after 10 episodes. While it does set the stage for what’s to come, that’s the main concern: It took an entire season to move the story an inch forward. To be clear, the season didn’t waste time, but rather, at least story-wise, is taking its sweet (it was enjoyable, definitely) time bringing something material to the table.
Let me do a quick take of events: There was a climactic battle between the pair of Trevor and Slypha and some cultish conjuring, which resulted in a failed attempt to bring back Dracula; Hector, through the biggest betrayal of the show, is now a pet to the vampires; and Isaac ended the season with a massive army to use against Carmilla. Oh, and Alucard met two people (I did not see episode nine’s sex scene coming at all), killed them then went back to his castle. All of what happened doesn’t feel like season-ender material but instead scores points towards a mid-season break.
Why? Because there is no big cliffhanger to keep me drooling for season four. There’s no gasp, no hair-pulling, no “What-the-absolute-fuck just happened?!” Some say build-up; I call it a missed opportunity.
The return of Dracula
What it does leave us with is, apart from the possibility of Dracula’s return, is a motivation for revenge. We know that Dracula hates humans because they were ultimately the reason why his wife died, and we know that Dracula was together with his wife in the afterlife. It’s quite possible that in a future season, Dracula will be summoned from the dead, once again causing him to be separated from his wife and again triggering his hate for humanity.
It’s a wild guess, but the scenes that featured Dracula, however quick, pointed directly to this possibility. And while we are clearly not approaching Dracula territory, it’s good to know the showrunners made an effort to squeeze in this important detail, like so many other details and nuances that make Castlevania and this season just so goddamn watch-worthy.
While not without its flaws, the third season of Castlevania doesn’t disappoint. It continues where season two left off but moves at a much slower pace and, while the end may leave fans wanting a punchier season-ender, the deep detailed dialogue and storytelling contained within season three make it definitely worth your time.
Words Yosu de Erquiaga
Art Alex Lara