Netflix UK review: Castlevania Season 3
Next season potential8
Ned Newberry | On 19, Apr 2020
Warning: This contains spoilers for Castlevania Season 1 and 2. Not caught up? Read our spoiler-free review of Season 1.
Castlevania returns for a third season which proves to be the most unique yet. This season substitutes most of the bombastic action and demon slaying from previous seasons for more nuanced character exploration. This new story-telling direction is a mixed bag, offering some interesting character dynamics but occasionally becoming a little laboured. Additionally, while the narrative threads introduced are interesting, at some points they can become a little over-inflated and verge on the abstract and that’s saying something for an animated adaption of an 1980s video game.
The story picks up as Sypha and Trevor roam the country protecting the innocent from the spawn of hell. Alucard is living the solo life in dad’s old pad, Hector is regretting hitching his wagon to Carmilla and Issac goes full necromancer menace. Most of the action with Sypha and Trevor focuses on the village of Lindenfield which lies in the shadow of a Dracula-obsessed cult, which gives everything a bit of a Twin Peaks or X-Files vibe.
With the added flavour of Saint Germain, voiced by the immortal Bill Nighy, this narrative element really leans into the multi-dimensional, timey-wimeyness of the noughties games. Meanwhile Alucard taking on junior vamp hunters Tsumi and Taka not only gives us a wider view of Castlevania’s world but also lets us consider Alucard’s place in said world without Dracula. In Season 2, Hector and Issac spent their screen-time in the same place dealing with the same issues. In Season 3, their stories couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Hector is imprisoned by terrifying lady vampires and Issac roams Europe gathering an army of resurrected beasts to take his revenge. The variety between the two arcs really helps to give more layers to these characters.
Along with the usual merits of great voice acting, eye-popping animation and fantastic writing, that density really makes for an epic watch. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what keeps this season from being truly great. The problem is that Season 3 tries to jam two seasons’ worth of story into one. While normally this would be a good thing, some of the concepts are so big that they warrant a run all of their own. What’s more, some genuinely intriguing characters are left by the wayside because the show is trying to lay the foundations for an even bigger season to come.
It can’t be ignored that Netflix has confirmed a fourth season is coming and that showrunner Adi Shankar has hinted at wider plans for his “bootleg universe”. It does seem that this season is almost a stop-gap or a chance for the creators to experiment before getting back to business. Speaking of which, it does take a while for this season to get into the trademark action that have made previous seasons so impactful. When it does finally get there, Season 3 delivers some of the most bombastic action of the show to date. However, while Castlevania comes with an adults-only certificate, there are moments where this is liberally tested and rather than adding substance to a substantial show, it comes off as regressive and crude.
The fact that Castlevania’s third season is able to tell a compelling story without Dracula and introduce new characters is impressive. It’s a slow build to the demonic slug fests but for the most part, it’s a compelling build. Unfortunately, by dragging this nerdy icon out of the depths of the geek soup, some of the less appealing tropes of nerd culture have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Castlevania shines a light in the dark of what video game adaptions can be but the flame begins to wane when it tries too hard and then relies on cheap tricks instead of real magic to tie it all together; Season 3 shows the incredible potential of Castlevania but also the chinks in its armour.
Regardless of these odd failings, though, Castlevania tries some genuinely interesting things and a lot of it is a welcome change. The less tasteful parts of Season 3 can make it feel like it’s 1990, but it introduces a brave new world after the death of Dracula. Three seasons in and Castlevania remains a bag of fun, fangs and fantasy that is not to be missed.
Castlevania: Season 1 to 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.