Castlevania continues to be Bloody Good in Season 3 (a Review)

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I’m not a fan of the Castlevania video game series. It is more accurate to say I never played any of them. So it is a weird thing to watch a video game adaption about something you don’t care about. It is often weirder to become a fan of that adaption because I am a fan of this show.

The first two seasons feature strong character writing that can bounce for subtle and haunting to sheer comic nonsense with ease. A great soundtrack, acting, and of course spectacular art design and action sequences. It’s journey of a trio going to kill Dracula was an excellent story. It seemed like even as they tried to set up future stories it would not be enough to keep the momentum going.

I was wrong in that assumption.

A couple months after Trevor, Alucard, and Sypha killed Dracula, Trevor runs into two Japanese monster hunters seeking revenge, Trevor and Sypha confront a town run by a demonic priory, and far away Carmilla plans her vampiric takeover of Eastern Europe.

Season 3 is bold in how it uses its 10 episodes. In a consciousness that is so focused on seasons that really move the dial plot wise it is risky, but paid off, to do a season that is far more character focused. By the end, when everything is laid out it becomes clear how much the characters changed.

Do not mistake a 10 episode character focused season as code for boring. This is still the show that had an amazing castle siege scene last season, an amazing whip band sword fight in season one, and outdoes itself again with the creative fights, powers, and designs of the creatures. It is exhilarating when the fights get going.

The trade off for these amazing fights is cinematography and shot composition to favor stillness and limited movement like lots of anime does. This mixes it up by going full tilt gothic and fantasy in a near perfect mix. However the subdued acting mixed with limited animation does result in some stiltedness, usually in faces and walk cycles.

What is not near-perfect is the same problem that has plagued the show since season one, pacing. The pacing for this show never felt like it was made for television or streaming. Episodes feel like they just end as a scene really gets going. Scenes with detailed conversations and flashbacks also take priority. This was manageable in season one when there were two stories going on, but as the cast has grown the show seems to find it difficult to juggle what characters are doing. This ends up making us leave character just long enough to forget what they are up to, making it jarring when we return to them.

This pacing is not fatal by any means. It is odd that in this shows production no one seemed to have noticed or pointed it out to Warren Ellis.

The show has always been violent and foul mouthed. This season adds the final mix and has sex and nudity to it. I only mention this because their inclusion from a plot perspective was obvious, and didn’t really feel like it added anything to the show other than moving the characters’ arcs. Those arcs probably did not need to include sex in them to get them to the point they are at, but it’s just something that bugged me and felt like an odd choice to cut to in the massive assault episode they occur in.

I enjoyed what is being done with the characters, and how their arcs are progressing, and the wider story on top of that. However I always get worried when a Netflix season doesn’t fully wrap up by the end because it feels very hit or miss if it will get an additional season. I enjoy what we have, but I want more, and it feels like the shows methodical pace would allow it to go on forever without really dropping in quality.

It’s still a good show.

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