DISCLAIMER: There are *minor* spoilers in this review. If you don’t want to know any of the general plot plus some details in between, I suggest you watch and then come back!
THE PREMIERE: “Bless Your Dead Little Hearts”
Castlevania is one of my favorite video game franchises out there. While I haven't played every game in the franchise (some are better than others), the ones I have were classics. When I heard there was an animated series being made for Netflix, I was certainly intrigued. Now, after 2 amazing seasons, we have the third of what is truly the best video game adaptation out there and easily one of my favorite shows currently.
The premiere episode does a perfect job of setting up 3 of the 4 stories for the season. Set a couple of months after the end of Season 2, we open with Alucard who's alone in Castle Dracula after he, Sypha, and Trevor ended the reign of his father Dracula and his humanity ending scheme. We quickly see that he's very lonely and is a perfect set up to our first story for Season 3. Shoutout to James Callis, the voice of Alucard, for quickly making you feel his loneliness and also doing a terrific impression of both Trevor and Sypha in a funny scene.
After that, we follow Sypha & Trevor who, after defeating Dracula, have been traveling around as adventurers, killing demons and night beasts as they move from town to town. The relationship between these two has blossomed into what seems to be more than a friendship which isn't surprising for anyone that played Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse which is what this animated series is mostly based on. The pairing of these 2 is easily my favorite thing in the entire show. I have to give huge kudos to the writers for giving us a couple that subtly lets us know they are a couple. One hilarious scene involving beer lets us know where these two are at in their relationship and I thought it was subtle and perfect! We get a terrific and beautifully animated action scene which is one of many in this season. Here we get a lot of monsters from the games making appearances like the Minotaur and the Lizardman which I enjoyed.
After the fight, the duo decide to take a break from adventuring and lay low in Lindenfeld a small town which is where the rest of the Season takes place for the adventurers. Here we are introduced to 3 new characters. First we have The Judge (voiced by Jason Isaacs) who's the leader of Lindenfeld who seems strict and someone obviously harboring his own secrets that may or may not be revealed this season. The second is Saint Germain (voiced by Bill Nighy) a magician who's on his own mission that involves a certain priory in town. The last is Sala, a monk who's the leader of the Priory in Lindenfeld who has a major part to play in the story as it progresses.
All of these new characters, plus the old reliables of Sypha and Trevor, makes this the most interesting story of the season for me. The secrets being held by almost all sides and the way they are revealed throughout the season is perfectly done, suitably dark and delves deep into some of the lore that I find interesting in Castlevania. It helps that the dialogue is very well written and all of these characters interactions are interesting and, sometimes even funny.
The last story we have for the premiere follows Carmilla (Jaime Murray) who, along with a now captive Hector (Theo James), have arrived at her Castle in Stryga. Here we meet the sisters of Carmilla, which are 3 more new characters to add to the cast. These sisters are briefly introduced but they have a much bigger part in the story. Hector is stripped of his clothes, forced into a jail cell, and is served moldy, bug infested bread. It quickly makes you feel for Hector and his awful situation as he was tricked in the 2nd season to betray Dracula and now he's paying for it. The episode ends on a naked Hector, being sprayed with ice cold water, shivering in his cell.
While it only introduces 3 of the 4 stories in the season, I believe the premiere episode is the perfect starting place for this season. At this point, I have watched all 10 episodes of Season 3 which I'm sure everyone has gathered from review for the premiere so I thought I'd give my overall review of the season.
Genre: Adventure. Animation. Action.
Trevor & Sypha's Story:
The 2nd season dealt with a lot. A son killing his father, a man coming to terms that he's the last of his lineage, grief turning to rage, blossoming friendships and turning humans into boats (don't ask). This season takes it's time exploring each of the returning characters while also managing to introduce new ones and never feeling like it's bogged down with too many characters. The relationship between Sypha and Trevor is stellar like I said above. I had a big smile on my face the entire time they conversed or fought side by side on screen. A wonderful pairing and two of the biggest badasses out there. Sypha is the MVP once again towards the end of the season.
The main plot point of the season involves the priory in Lindenfeld and the evil that may be lurking in it. Sypha, Trevor, Saint Germain, and the Judge all play parts in revealing the true nature of the priory and, when all is revealed, it resolves in a brutally awesome final 2 episodes that are easily 2 of the best of the series so far. The animation is truly breathtaking in these final two episodes with smooth, inventive, and crisp action that lives up to the action packed games that it's based on.
Alucard's story ends up being more interesting towards the end than I thought it would be. For the most part, it deals with a man who is both very lonely and extremely depressed as he's dealing with losing not only his mother but also his father. Alucard is still technically young even though he has the appearance of a man. Vampires age rather quickly as mentioned in the second season. In the second episode, he meets and befriends a couple of vampire hunters that were students of a previous vampire that was killed in the last season. Alucard is more than happy to have some friends join him in his lonely and huge castle but where this story goes really left me with many emotions that I won't mention here in case of spoilers. It's a surprisingly great story considering how innocent it's played up throughout the season.
The third story I mentioned in the premiere involves Carmilla, her sisters, and the now imprisoned Hector. The Carmilla part of the story is mainly set up for future seasons and promises a big war which sounds very promising. The most interesting part of this story is Hector and Lenore's (Jessica Brown Findlay) who is the youngest of the sisters. In order for Carmilla's plan of human domination to succeed, she needs Hector's forging ability to create and army. Problem is, whatever Hector creates is loyal only to him so she needs Hector on her side so he doesn't betray her with an army of demons. That's where Lenore comes into play.
The season focuses on their relationship which is first confrontational with Hector attacking Lenore thinking her as the weakest of the sisters but quickly finds out after a superb beating that she is not. Later the relationship evolves into something more and the conclusion, which was obvious to me, is both incredibly satisfying and extremely cruel. It's also the perfect way for this story to continue in the future.
The last story, which wasn't covered at all in the premiere episode, is Isaac's who, like Hector, a former forge master that had been loyal to Dracula all the way to the end. Dracula saves Isaac from certain death at the end of the last season and now he's creating an army of his own to hunt down and kill Hector for betraying his master and friend Dracula. This season pretty much continues that story with Isaac meeting various characters that test his will and make him question his actions. Isaac is a character that I always found intriguing. He was deeply devoted to Dracula and wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty to make sure his reign continued. Now, he's his own man and is the master of an army of mindless demons.
Watching the servant become the master is a great character arc for Isaac and, of course, it has some of the most violent moments of the season with Isaac massacring anyone that gets in his way...or is rude to him. His story leads to another brutal action scene towards the end of the season with some gorgeous and horrific scenes including one that is CGI that actually looked great! I usually don't like CGI in 2d animated shows but this one did it right. It helped that the thing that was CGI was truly horrifying to look at.
Castlevania: Season 3 is a beautiful, slow burn of a season but the slowness of it all is what makes me love it. It takes it's time, has characters sit down and talk and Warren Ellis' script is dramatic, funny, and darkly cruel. The way this season ties all of these stories together and the way it all ends makes me super excited for the next season. To the people that thought the demise of Dracula would bring the demise of the show: you're DEAD wrong! It may even be more interesting now that we can get crazier with the huge amount of lore that the games have and, I'm sure, the bonkers ideas that Ellis and company have for the future. Making me more than excited for the future. Season 3 is terrific and solidifies this series as the cream of the crop for video game adaptations. Your move now Devil May Cry.
FINAL VERDICT: FULL POPCORN