“Castlevania” Review – Part 2

Poster Art for “Castlevania”. Source

For the recap on the first three seasons, see my previous essay. Spoilers ahead for the final season of Castlevania, so don’t read if you haven’t watched yet.

Heading into the final season of Netflix’s Castlevania, all but one of the characters is in worse shape than when the adventure started. Only Isaac, the former slave and Forgemaster, has the freedom to act on his wishes. Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades are both were able to defeat a coterie of night creatures bent on bringing Dracula back from Hell, but in the process lost an entire town’s population to the foul magics used in the resurrection attempt. Alucard thought that he had found new companions in Sumi and Taka, two young people looking for ways to fight against vampires. But in the end, the paranoia of the two humans overcame them and they attempted to kill Alucard, forcing him to end their lives and use them as lawn ornaments to keep away everyone else. Hector, the other Forgemaster of Dracula’s, is now bound to the vampire sisters of Styria (Carmilla, Lenore, Striga, and Morana) and forced to build night creatures for Carmilla in her attempt to become a vampire queen to rival Dracula’s former reign.

Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades. Source

The first three episodes of the new season, “Murder Wakes It Up”, “Having the World”, and “Walk Away” establish where everyone is six weeks after the final episode of season 3. Trevor and Sypha have been constantly battling demons and worse, with each battle revealing more about a conspiracy to bring Dracula back from the dead. Isaac contemplates his future in a way that suggests his interactions with people during season 3 have dulled his genocidal tendencies. Carmilla’s brood continue to scheme for their eventual rise but factures are beginning to appear in their carefully laid plans.

Castlevania: The Art of the Animated Series, available on Amazon

The biggest piece of foreshadowing is in “Murder Wakes It Up”, when Trevor and Sypha find a shrine dedicated to Death. In the Castlevania games, Death is the personification of the Grim Reaper and it is often one of the boss monsters that must be fought before reaching Dracula. It is the one character from the game series that up to this point has not yet made an appearance (which fans of the show and games have been clamoring for).

Hector’s actions during the first few episodes lay the groundwork for one of the bigger episodes of the season, “You Don’t Deserve My Blood”. The Carmilla story arc from the third season felt oddly disconnected (but not in a bad way). What appeared like a united front in the third season appears to be fracturing at the start of the last season. Carmilla reveals herself to be incapable of rational leadership, instead being driven by petty ambition with no real idea of what cost she will pay for her power and the consequences that will appear after gaining this power. In many ways, Carmilla is a similar to Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones, in so much as she is a powerful woman who craves more power due to her issues with male leadership (not that she doesn’t have a point).

Carmilla and Hector. Source

The return of Saint Germain in episode four “You Must Sacrifice” marks the point where things begin to get worse for the protagonists. Germain’s quest to reunite with his lost lover in the Infinite Corridor (an alternate dimension that connects multiple realities together) has led him to become a villain, leading the charge to bring Dracula back in order to harvest the energy of his resurrection to gain control of the Infinite Corridor. Working alongside Hector and Varney (voiced exceptionally well by veteran actor Malcolm McDowell), the group are well on their way to accomplishing their goal.

Alucard’s story arc brings him back from the brink of despair that he fell into during the third season. Summoned to the town of Denasti, Alucard aligns himself with the humans there, offering to protect them against the night creatures attacking them. This brings him into contact with Greta (which the creators have acknowledged is a nod to Grant Denasty, a character from Castlevania III that wasn’t included in the initial group of heroes). Greta challenges Alucard, forcing him to admit that he needs people to be fulfilled.

Alucard aka Adrian Tepes. Source

The big episodes of this season are “You Don’t Deserve My Blood” and “The Endings”. For the first, Issac leads his night creature army right into the heart of Styria. It’s here that Hector’s plans come to fruition: isolating Lenore to protect her from harm and willingly facing Issac, ready to die at the hands of his former ally. But Issac spares Hector’s life, showing that the lessons he’s learned up to this point have taken root. The final battle between Issac and Carmilla is epic and tragic, particularly since Carmilla (while reprehensible) is an interesting character to watch. Her defeat and suicide allow her to end her story on her own terms: defiant and unrepentant. Issac and Hector then decide to build something new for the future, a place where the world can rebuild and forge their own destinies, separate from the wishes of others like Dracula or the Styria sisters.

Carmilla, Defiant to the End. Source

“The Endings” is the game-changer for the series. Germain learns that he has been serving the whims of Death (who has been using the guise of Varney since the beginning of the season). Death’s goal is to resurrect both Dracula and Lisa Tepes in a single body, known as a Rebis (a hermaphrodite body used in alchemy) that is said to be a supreme being. It’s revealed that Death had a large hand in Dracula’s descent into madness, using the vampire’s genocidal war against humanity to feed on the release of necromantic energies of those killed. The look of Death is creepy and, in its own way, beautiful. Germain pays the price for his role in bringing about this apocalyptic event, dying as he catches a glimpse of his lover in the Infinite Corridor, who turns her back on him. This final blow to Germain, who has done terrible things in the name of finding his loved one, is a harsh stinger but a satisfying one. The final battle between Trevor and Death is visually stunning as well as heartbreaking, primarily because there is every chance that Trevor will not survive the encounter.

Trevor Belmont faces Death. Source

The final episode “It’s Been a Strange Ride” brings everything full circle. Alucard, Greta, Sypha, and a returning Trevor, who was saved at the last moment by Germain. Sypha and Trevor are revealed to be expecting their first child and they, along with Greta, Alucard, and the former residents of Denasti, agree to build a new settlement called Belmont and work toward a better future for themselves. Left without Carmilla, Lenore watches the sun rise, killing herself in the process rather than live as a caged animal. Hector, for his part, understands all too well her motivations and watches as his lover/jailer turns to dust. The best part of the ending is the reveal that the fusion of Vlad and Lisa Tepes actually brought them back to life but in separate bodies (thanks to Trevor’s timely intervention during the ritual to create the Rebis). Seeing these two, who began the series as a loving couple, get the chance to have a normal life together is the best possible ending for the series. This doesn’t absolve Dracula of his wanton slaughter in any way. But with Lisa by his side again, both of them have a chance at the life that was cruelly denied to them at the start of the series. In all of the above scenes, hope for building a better future is what sustains the characters and, in the end, it is what sustains us as viewers as well.

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