Finally: a good Netflix original.
After sitting through the okay Arlo the Alligator Boy and the utterly mediocre snoozefest that was Yasuke, it was good to watch something that was a near-masterpiece of story-telling and animation. Castlevania’s final season like the rest of the series was amazing.
I always get nervous with final seasons – there’s so much that can go wrong. There are so many expectations and the writers have to wrap all the storylines satisfactorily, have the ultimate life and death showdown with the big bad, solve all the relationship drama while still leaving enough room for the characters to adventure afterward.
That’s a lot.
And a bad finale can ruin an entire series. We’ve seen that plenty of times,
Thank fucking God, Castlevania isn’t one of them.
The final season focuses on our heroes: Trevor and Sypha unraveling the mystery of who is trying to bring back Dracula from the dead and stop them from unleashing a new reign of terror of the world. Meanwhile, Alucard is asked to assist a nearby village that has been under siege from night creatures.
Like the previous seasons, several storylines are going at once, resulting in epic, climacticfight scenes.
Changes, Timeskips, and Other Critiques
While the pacing of the episodes was excellent, I found myself a little lost during the first episodes. Maybe it was because I hadn’t watched the series in a while or maybe there was a time skip and I missed it – but there were things that had changed – or seemed to be different than how I remembered them,
The main issues were Isaac and Hector. What happened to these dudes?
Like last time I checked Isaac was about to wage war on the human race and get his revenge on Hector – but now he’s suddenly burying the bodies of the deceased humans. Hector was a miserable sex slave to Lenore but now they’re flirting and enjoying each other’s company?
Stockholm Syndrome must have hit him hard.
No explanation was really given to either of these and it left me feeling confused. Not enough that it ruined the show for me – but confused enough.
Of course, I have other, probably more legitimate issues with some of the writing. There was a lot that seemed to be forgotten or underutilized or that seemed to come out of nowhere.
The slave rings were a huge thing last season – and this season, they aren’t a particularly huge obstacle. Nothing happens after Hector cuts his finger off – not to Lenore or the other sisters. I could have sworn there was something about the rings that made it impossible to chop off the finger – but maybe that was my imagination.
This isn’t really a BAD ™ thing but the way the show introduced it made me think it was going to play a bigger role.
And I’ll be honest – the new characters introduced this season were kind of wasted: Greta is cool but she’s kind of only a love interest for Alucard, Zamfyr was delusional and died much too quickly and there’s not a ton of foreshadowing that Death is the ultimate villain.
It could be that I’m unfamiliar with the games that I missed other signs – but still – the show should be accessible to people who haven’t played the game.
While I still wish there had been some Jewish folklore elements included in the series, I recognize that wasn’t likely to happen this season. But perhaps we’ll see something in the sequel series.
That would be cool.
Of all seasons of Castlevania, this one focused on relationships the most. The show has always had an underlying theme about love and obsession; love is what kicked off the whole plot in the first place, after all. This season shows how people can find strength in love as well as having obsessive love be their downfall.
You still have Dracula and Lisa’s unbreakable bond as the backbone of the story – and this time people are trying to use their connection as a way to bring them back from the dead. (I still don’t totally get the whole Rebus thing – but I got how their connection is important.)
And of course, you have Striga and Morana who in the past were only hinted at as having a romantic relationship – now are able to protect each other and even say. “I love you.” It’s not big – but it’s ultimately a very humanizing moment for the both of them.
They didn’t get a lot of characterization in the prior seasons or a lot of screentime in previous seasons. But in Season 4, they get a whole storyline focused on how much their relationship means to them – and how it’s more important than ruling over humanity.
It’s kind of beautiful.
Even Alucard gets a romance of sorts with Greta – but he also gets to connect with Trevor and Sypha again. Which is what he probably needed more. He even becomes a sort of father figure to some children from Greta’s village – which is a nice touch and unexpected.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about Trevor and Sypha’s relationship except they finally have their “I love you” moment – which is basically, the Han/Leia scene from Star Wars.
Sypha says, “I love you.”
And Trevor Belmont, a suave man that he is, says, “I know.”
I guess it suits him. And Sypha’s pregnancy nicely cements that as well.
But there are also negative consequences when the characters let their romance consume them. You have St. Germain’s quest to bring back his lover who was lost in the
Infinity Corridor. We never get to know this mysterious woman, we never even learn her name. She’s just this mysterious figure to us – and it’s the root of the season’s major conflict.
Germain had been working unknowingly with Death – yes, like the personification of Death – to open a door to the Corridor. He didn’t care that he was going to need to hurt some innocents, though he assists Trevor once he finds out his benefactor’s true identity – but he was still willing to murder hundreds of people if it meant seeing his lover again.
I understand Germain’s obsession is supposed to be parallel to Dracula’s. Both men are willing to harm others in the name of their lovers – but Dracula’s motive was revenge on humans. Germain’s motive was….I can’t say more selfish – but it felt that way. It was well-written. I’m just not sure what to make of it yet.
Take Note GoT Writers
Carmilla’s demise is how you properly show a woman in power losing it and letting her desires consume her. Avatar: The Last Airbender did it really well with Azula – but Castlevania, I think did it better.
Now, Carmilla was never as morally gray as Daenerys; she was always pro-vampire and wanting to have a stock of fresh human blood constantly available doesn’t exactly elicit sympathy. But, her struggles of being a woman in a male dominated world – did.
Carmilla struggled in the world of vampires – it being one controlled by “stupid, old men,” which as a woman I can relate to. Her relationship with her “sisters” also made her sympathetic – but she threw that away for power and control, ignoring their pleas.
Sure, they wanted to live in peace but they saw a very different way of going about it.
But the difference between her and Azula or Dany is, I don’t think Carmilla ever really went insane. Sure, she let the obsession consume her – but she seemed well aware of her actions the whole time.
She was a lady who knew what she wanted. She was a woman who desired control – after being turned into a vampire, not getting taken seriously in Dracula’s court, getting ignored by everyone except her sisters…and she did everything in her power to maintain that.
Her death – was one of her choosing. She wasn’t going to let Isaac take the credit, so even though she was getting beaten by night creatures and a human Forgemaster – her death was by her own hand.
And I think that’s important. She didn’t get defeated because she was a woman in power who went insane. She still won in her own way.
The show never tried to make it seem like she was unsuited for power because of heritage or gender – rather it was because she was selfish and didn’t take others’ needs (namely her sisters’) needs into consideration.
And it doesn’t come out of nowhere. Her whole arc was slowly building up to this final confrontation. It might have been a little rushed in places – but not terribly so. She was real.
The Women of Castlevania
Castlevania has never shied away from “strong” female characters; all of the main women are capable of holding their own in a fight, rarely need to be rescued and they each have their own defining motives.
Yay! Good job, writers!
But I’m still left with the question of: is this good representation? Because in the end Sypha ends up pregnant choosing to stay with Trevor, Alucard and the villagers instead of going back to her people. But she makes the choice on her own.
I get it; that’s how it worked in the video game and she genuinely loves Trevor. But it bothers me that she has to make this choice.
After all, her people were her family and she’s left all that behind. She might never get to see them again.
And the show doesn’t ever bring up a way for her to balance the two nor does it depict her not being able to be part of her people as a sad thing. In fact, going back to them is a sign of depression when she thinks Trevor is dead.
What does that say?
And while Greta is funny, strong, and witty – it also feels like she exists, at least in part, to give Alucard a love interest. She’s an interesting character and she does get a lot of personality – but I wish the female characters didn’t need to be part of a romantic relationship because in the end – they all are. Except for Carmilla.
And they aren’t really permitted to be “feminine” if they’re good. Carmilla and Lenore are the most feminine women in the show – different types of feminine but they’re both villains.
I want female characters to come in all the varieties the male characters have – obnoxious, humorous, hurt…and just plain evil as well as kind, courteous, passive, and feminine.
And Castlevania does pretty good at the first part – but not so much at the latter. It’s not the worst sin in the world – but it still bothers me a bit.
However, Castlevania never shies away from putting its female characters in the same situations as its male characters, never overly sexualizes them, and treats them like they’re full-fledged characters.
And hopefully, the new series will continue and improve upon this foundation.
Building Something New/ The Adventure Continues
The whole season had a theme of building something new, and something better than had been there before. Each season has had its own theme – but this one is perhaps the strongest.
The city of Belmont now surrounds the Belmont Hold and Dracula’s castle; where children will learn and none of our trio ever has to be alone again. It’s a new beginning for everyone there.
Striga and Morana decide to start a new life together, with just the two of them. Same with Dracula and Lisa.
Isaac and Hector forgive each other.
Dracula and Lisa even get bought back to life in their own bodies and are given a second chance.
Everyone who survives gets a new start. Everyone who survives gets a happy ending.
I never thought this would be a series that allows its characters to have a happy ending, and yet here we are. It’s well-deserved and the ending doesn’t feel like a cop-out. That’s hard to do in a show like Castlevania.
There’s still room for this world to grow. Vampires still exist and no doubt somebody will try to take over the vampires of Europe again; night creatures are still a possibility…the Catholic Church is still corrupt – but at least nobody is going to try to raise Dracula from the dead ever again. Our heroes can finally rest – they can be together and be happy.
Of course – since we know a spin-off or sequel series, we know this peace is only for the time being. Sypha and Trevor are going to raise their child to be a magic-wielding, weapons expert monster fighter and continue the Belmont tradition.
It will be wonderful. But hopefully, Trevor and Syoha get to rest the rest of their lives and don’t have to worry about anything. They deserve a break.
And while I’m normally a proponent of the “Dead Means Dead” ideology – I’m really happy that Dracula…I mean Vlad and Lisa get to be together again. That’s all I wanted since I first started the series.
And that’s the scoop
Year of release: 2021
Length: 10 episodes, 24- 31 minutes
Producers: Jason Williams, Maki Terashima-Furuta
Developer: Adi Shankar
Directors: Sam Deats, Adam Deats, Spencer Wan
Writer: Warren Ellis
Voice Actors: Richard Armitage, James Callis, Graham McTavish, Alejandra Reynoso, Tony Amendola, Matt Frewer, Emily Swallow, Theo James, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Jaime Murray, Peter Stormare, Jessica Brown Findlay, Yasmine Al Massri, Ivana Miličević, Bill Nighy, Navid Negahban, Jason Isaacs, Toru Uchikado, Rila Fukushima, Barbara Steele, Lance Reddick