REVIEWED: SEASON 3 (ALL EPISODES) | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
Given how Season 2 ended, it might be a surprise to see Castlevania back for a third season. On the other hand, given how well the Netflix original has gone down, perhaps it was inevitable. It proves to be a mixed bag. The last two episodes stand out, and the cast is as faultless as ever, but Season 3 struggles to decide if it is the epilogue to what has already happened or the prologue to something new.
With Dracula vanquished, Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) and Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso) arrive in the mysterious town of Lindenfeld, populated in part by some occult monks and ruled by a creepy but seemingly friendly judge. Meanwhile, Carmilla retreats to a castle run by her sisters, dragging her forge master prisoner Hector (Theo James) back with her to make her an army. Alucard (James Callis) has to adapt to a lonely life moping around his father’s old castle. At the same time, Isaac (Adetokumboh M'Cormack) raises an army of night creatures to enact revenge against those who betrayed him. A lot is happening.
Even with the longest series to date, there isn’t enough room for every character in each episode. This four-part narrative slows the showdown in early episodes, the vampire sisters, in particular, being drawn the short straw. The biggest problem, however, is Dracula - or rather, the lack of him. His powerful, menacing presence - able to compel your attention even when he wasn’t doing anything - is badly missed, as is Graham McTavish’s outstanding voice work. This series tries but fails to fill the void with more plot, and none of the other characters draws you in as he did. The result is a first eight episodes that, at their worst, can feel poorly paced and unnecessary.
That being said, the final two episodes remind you of what made the last season so fantastic. The drama, action, and stakes are all raised, and the cutting between different storylines finally feels like it has a reason other than tying up loose ends. There are some spectacular battles, mouth-watering twists, and tantalising hints at what may yet come. A new arc for Alucard may leave you shaken. If you struggle to stay interested in the beginning, you will not be able to look away by the end, least of all from a genuinely haunting portrait of Hell.
And as ever, the cast is stellar. Armitage has a refined roguishness as Belmont, at once charismatic and reluctant, and also a brooding, powerful hero. His relationship with Sypher is injected with moments of relatable comedy, which both pull off well. Asides them, the other highlight is M'Cormack, who brings the series’ most driven character to life with a chilling, calculating absence of mercy. If the story leaves you wanting more, the cast does the absolute best with what they have to work with.
By the end, you might still wonder what the point of a third season was, but Castlevania lives on with plenty of bite. Gorgeously drawn, well-acted, and eventually rising to a gripping crescendo, there is much more to come from one of the last remaining representatives of the hand-drawn animation.