Flowing down the Stream
“Castlevania” (Season 4) Review – A Stake Above the Rest
It’s a rare thing these days to find a western adult animated show that doesn’t suffer from Simpson’s Syndrome. Noun – A raunchy comedy obsessed with a dysfunctional suburban family that confuses constant sex jokes and profanity with maturity. It’s rarer still to find one that doesn’t overstay its welcome and bows out gracefully before its expiration date (also Simpson’s). Luckily Netflix’s Castlevania series manages to avoid both of those pitfalls, and delivers a satisfying finale to what has been a (mostly) tight four seasons of bloody fun.
While Castlevania is no stranger to crass language, hell, main character Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) practically infects the rest of the cast with his curseitis, it manages to have truly profound moments amidst the vampiric carnage. In fact, this final season manages to have some of the strongest themes (futility of war, depression, religious intolerance and grief) I’ve seen in television in a while. Every character beat and story thread goes towards answering the unifying thesis statement, that anyone can change.
Throughout the final season each and every character goes through a journey of personal discovery and growth. After their endless battles against vampires, night creatures, inner demons and the monsters among us, they question what kind of world they’ll leave behind and how they can leave it better.
The true standout of this season is Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack). Once hellbent on the eradication of all humanity after years of abuse as a slave or tool for revenge, for the first time in his life, he asserts his own agency and decides to fight for humanity’s future.
However, even though the rest of the cast goes through similar moments of growth and self-realization, the journey doesn’t quite line up perfectly with the destination. Alucard (James Callis) suddenly gets over his depression and reconnects with people after only an episode. Sapphic vampire power couple Morona (Yasmine Al Massri) and Striga (Ivana Miličević) go from being dead set on their leader Carmilla’s (Jaime Murray) plans for global conquest, to war-weary in the span of a couple weeks in-universe (all the odder still for nigh immortals).
By far the worst offender is Lenore (Jessica Brown Findlay). She went from tricking and enslaving the hapless Hector (Theo James) to becoming his helpless vampire housewife with nary an explanation for her defanging to be found.
Even Isaac’s epiphany, while compelling to watch, could have used a couple more episodes to truly cement his change of heart. I largely agree with nearly all the character endings, barring the 11th hour redemption of aforementioned enslaver turned goth GF. But, I still can’t help but feel that these characters skipped a couple episodes to get to their happy (or unhappy) endings. This is especially true in the main trios case.
Trevor and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) abandoned Alucard right after they murdered his father, Dracula, causing Alucard to spiral into depression and madness. Spending a whole season without them in isolation. When they finally do return to his side at the penultimate episode of the series, there is no proper reconciliation between them. Just straight to business dispatching a rather foul-mouthed (often to his own detriment) elemental spirit of Death (Malcolm McDowell). Alucard never really has a moment to take his sole friends to task for abandoning him when he needed them most. He only gets a couple words with them at best before their happy kumbaya ending. It’s just another moment of emotional catharsis skipped over to steamroll towards a admittedly good ending that doesn’t do just quite enough to justify itself.
That being said the show still ultimately delivers a satisfying finale that makes you appreciate the strange ride it took us on, and truly feel that the characters have earned their rest. The action is still some of the most well-choreographed, frenetic and fluid fights put to film, with the two highlights being the Carmilla vs Isaac death match and Striga’s staggering blitzkrieg against villagers that does her Berserk inspired armor proud. Even the few moments of quiet among the bloodshed delivers emotionally resonant character drama that rivals even the mighty Simpson’s in its heyday.
So, in the end Netflix’s Castlevania has more than earned its place among the Titans of Western adult animation and proves there is a future for both blood, laughs and tears for us fans of the twilight toons.
Castlevania is now streaming on Netflix
About the Author
Just another island boy getting lost in the city. Frequent surfer of the Interwebs and with my fair share of opinions on what's making waves in popular culture these days. (P.S. Can't really surf but I sure can swim)