One of the great challenges of sweeping television narratives is that you’re almost certain to have a weak season. It’s practically inevitable. Castlevania Season 3 could have been yet another weak season, transitioning from one storyline to the next, but the third season of the Netflix series rises to the occasion. Castlevania Season 3 comes off of two very exciting seasons of build-up and carries us through with more heart and soul and torment than the other two seasons combined.
Castlevania, so far…
For a brief recap of Castlevania, up to this point, in Season 1 Dracula swore revenge on the people of Wallachia after the corrupt church burned Dracula’s wife at the stake for witchcraft. Dracula makes good on his promise and lays waste to the land with a demonic army. Trevor Belmont, a monster hunter/nobleman, joins forces with Sypha Belnades, a powerful mage, to fight back against Dracula’s army of darkness and seek the help of a legendary soldier. At the end of Season 1, they locate the soldier, Alucard the son of Dracula, and convince him to join their cause.
Season 2 picks up with Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard going to battle with Dracula’s forces. The challenge of the season is trying to harness the intersectional power of science and magic to keep Dracula’s teleporting castle from escaping. The season introduces new characters like necromancers (called Forgemasters in the world of Castlevania) and rival vampire generals, ultimately expanding the world of the show. Season 2 ends with Alucard being forced to murder his father and going into self-imposed isolation in the forest as Trevor and Sypha ride off for new adventures.
Which brings us to Season 3, the aftermath of all that we’ve experienced so far. In light of Dracula’s death, a cult in his name has risen and is determined to find a pathway to Hell. Trevor and Sypha are seeking new adventures and battling monsters. Isaac and Hector, the Forgemasters, are coping in a world without a master in vastly different ways. New enemies are rising and Alucard must learn how to live alone, not knowing who to trust.
Castlevania was created by Warren Ellis, writer of RED, Iron Man 3, and a smattering of Marvel television projects. The series stars Richard Armitage, James Callis, and Alejandra Reynoso. Season 3 is, thus far, the longest of the series coming in at ten total episodes.
Welcome to Your Obsession
As if there weren’t enough reasons to love Castlevania, it’s one of the best-looking shows out there. The animation is stunningly beautiful and the design of the world, creatures, and characters is top-notch. In the third season, especially, the full beauty of Castlevania is on full display and beauty comes in the form of diversity.
The series is a fantasy in every sense of the word and, especially in Season 3, every possible fantasy feels catered to. The third season of Castlevania, more than any other in the series, devotes time to a wider array of representation. A court of multi-ethnic presenting vampire queens rules as the new series antagonists. Lesbian relationships are shown alongside straight romances and even a bisexual three-way (yes, you read that right.) A former slave becomes the ultimate liberator and vampires across cultures are portrayed.
Castlevania’s world feels rich and full. It also feels incredibly horny. Again, “fantasy” is the operative word. The show leans fully into a deeply sensual and sexual expression. Castlevania has always been tempting and titillating (all of the best vampire media is, for the most part), but in the third season, every major storyline oozes sex. Sex for manipulation. Sex for love. Sex for a moment to cling to intimacy and feel less alone in the world. The sexuality of Season 3 blends beautifully with the gore and violence, it’s primal and it’s intense without feeling gratuitous.
Speaking of gore and violence. The Night Creatures, unsung heroes of Season 3. A crucial element of Castlevania’s continuing story and world expansion is in our growing understanding of Night Creatures. Crafted by Forgemasters from recently deceased bodies and given monstrous new life, the Night Creatures are some of the most beautifully designed and gorgeously executed pieces of animation out there.
Contemporary Storytelling Meets Traditional Setting
Castlevania wears all the trappings of a classic fairytale, but with none of the rigid morality. A central theme of the show that really comes into full bloom, in Season 3, is that darkness lives in unexpected places. Corruption holds hands with holiness and justice, quite literally in the case of the show, and the definition of evil is murky.
What makes the show so exciting to watch is that the viewer’s moral understanding is challenged in every episode. A bad guy becomes a good guy with one deft stroke of perspective or tragic backstory. Characters that we understand to be fundamentally good do horrible things. Monsters are given the chance to speak for themselves and it’s enough to make a viewer cry.
This fluidity of good and evil means that Castlevania is never predictable or boring. The show is a masterclass in character development and narrative structure. It also creates an endless opportunity for new and equally compelling stories.
A Season That Stands on its Own Two Feet
Going into Season 3, this critic was naturally trepidatious and a tad skeptical. Without the looming figure of Dracula, it felt that the series would be a shell of its former self. Spending two seasons attaching so much significance to a single character, then killing him off and separating our core characters, was a ballsy move. What’s left for Castlevania?
Suffice to say that the show met my challenge and exceeded any expectations. Season 3 is a transitional season, no doubt, but it stands firmly on its own. The latest season does not require the previous two to prop it up. For the entirety of this third season, the story keeps our core characters separated. They’re off fighting their own battles.
Yes, this means that no major earth-shattering action can happen. What it does mean is that we can witness the gathering of insurmountable forces, knowing they will hit our heroes at an especially vulnerable moment. And that’s damn exciting. Beyond that, Season 3 provides a greater universe and context for all the action that is to come. The stakes automatically seem higher because, instead of a single powerful villain, the viewer understands that the entire world is a hostile foe to be conquered.
As a season of transition, Castlevania works! It’s just as exciting as any season that came before and raises the bar with one of the most shocking penultimate episodes of the entire show. More than worthy of becoming the object of your horny, spooking obsession.
Who is your favorite character on Castlevania? Let us know in the comments!
Castlevania Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix!
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