*This post contains spoilers for Netflix's Castlevania*
Castlevania has beautifully animated visuals that get progressively more mind blowing throughout the seasons, to the point where I’m amazed that the animators still have working wrists. The show is accompanied by an incredible soundtrack that adds to the breath-taking atmosphere. However, being a writer, it's the show’s writing that really blows me away.
We follow the story of Dracula, a vampire who hides away from human contact, until he meets his wife Lisa. Villagers execute Lisa, while Dracula is away travelling, and he decides that it is finally time to end the human race. His son, Alucard teams up with a magic user and a descendant of the Belmont vampire hunters to stop his father’s plan.
Throughout the show, a huge part of me was on Dracula’s side. I understood why he did what he did from the beginning, and constantly kept asking my partner if Dracula was really supposed to be the villain. In the later seasons, where different factions continued to fight over if humans or monsters deserved to rule, it was extremely difficult to separate the morals of the humans from the monsters.
The combat in the show is incredible, every character has their own unique skillset and the animation complements this incredibly well. What I really loved is how the combat is frequently partnered with huge emotional moments. One of the most chilling episodes in the show was when a huge battle was breaking out, whilst two of our main characters were having sex scenes.
I had heard about it before watching, and suspected that sex in this show was likely going to have malicious intent. The surprising part was how those scenes gave me more anxiety than the battles. The storytelling in this show always blows me away, especially the way the small intimate moments feel as impactful as the huge ones.
However, the fight that I always come back to is Dracula and Alucard. It’s hard enough watching a father fight his son, especially when they care so much for each other. The moment that breaks me is the way Dracula’s face softens when he sees his son’s childhood bedroom, and the sadness that he finally shows us.
Hearing his voice break and watching him realise how far gone he is while he just crumbles is so heartbreaking. That final scene is so beautifully written. I’ve never cried for a villain’s death before, but I was sad for him throughout the entirety of the show. Like Alucard does, we can see the pain that is fuelling his plans.
I initially stopped watching the show after season 2. With the main “villain” dead, how could the show carry on? Building up Dracula as this powerful force over two seasons and then having his loss felt throughout the next two is something that can be hard to pull off without becoming repetitive and full of sappy cliches.
I wasn’t expecting the show to have any of the excitement (especially with me loving Dracula so much) of the first two seasons. I expected that they would have Carmilla fill the villain’s shoes, which she did, but instead we got to focus on how the rest of the world fell apart once Dracula’s cull had begun. His ideology had affected so many people, and ultimately informed the rest of the decisions made in the show.
One of my favourite characters post season 2 was Isaac; watching the arc of him developing from Dracula’s assistant to a feared protagonist, seeking his own story informed by his own experiences, was incredible to watch. I was blown away by the way he took control of his own power. Dracula made him go on his own and travel the way he did as a human, which made Isaac realise he had his own agency and the power to influence the world for both good and bad.
This ideology manifests throughout the show with essentially everyone fighting to be more than a pawn so that they could focus on the future instead of simply surviving. Everyone wanted to forge their own path and create the world that they wanted to live in. My favourite moment of his was when he decided that his own journey was more important than being a part of someone else’s story, and how in the end he didn't feel guilty for what he had done. He didn’t let his wrongs affect his ability to move forward with his life and make the world better for everyone.
Lenore was a character that invoked a lot of emotions in me, because her ideology was just so f***ed. She truly believed that keeping Hector as a slave was fair as long as he had a small amount of agency. In the end, Lenore killed herself instead of facing the fate she was subjecting Hector to. She acted like it was a fair trade when she herself couldn’t accept it. When she finally discussed coming from a well off family, it all made sense to me.
She had never experienced real hardship, and believed that ‘democracy’ was taking power from the weak and offering them scraps in return. Her family being murdered likely wasn’t for no reason. Even in her final moments, she wasn’t satisfied. Imagine experiencing the sun for the first time and thinking ‘is this all?’. The vampire sisters plot line taught us how always reaching for more never leaves you satisfied in the end. The ones who struck me as truly happy, were the ones who chose to live simply with people that they cared about.
We also got to watch how Alucard went through the motions of trying to live as a human like his mother, only to be shown exactly why his father separated himself so aggressively from them. Every time a human is offered help, they throw it back at you. He finally understood how lonely his father felt before his mother came along, and what ultimately lead to his father’s downfall.
Castlevania shows us how there is always just as much brutality and evil amongst humans as there are amongst any creatures, and how truly no good deed goes unpunished. One of my favourite lines in the show was “Why is it that only human hands can reach into hell?”. Through the story, we see how stopping to think, learn and remember our pasts is the one true way to become better as a species.
The ending of the show honours all of the characters so well. Just as Alucard’s parents wanted, the knowledge of the ages would finally be shared with the public, taught to children to advance and better society. Alucard was not only accepted, but became the heart of a village after years of being an outcast. He finally met someone who accepted him, saw the human inside of him and challenged him to be more. The next generation of Belmonts get to learn of their family’s history from their family home, turned into a public library in the heart of a happy town.
At this point, I expected Dracula and Lisa to be together in hell, finally at peace. When I saw them running through the rain together in a quiet street, I actually physically got up from my seat. The second that I realised that they were not only alive, but they were happy together I burst into tears. Knowing that one day, they may get to see the town that Alucard has built, is welcomed into, where he teaches the next generation everything he knows - makes everything worth it. I also love that they will be travelling through the North East of England, where I grew up, and exploring Whitby together with all of its Dracula folklore. It just made me all the more happy.
The final realisation I had about the show was the way Dracula seems like a villain because we only see him during his first human interaction in a long time, and then during his grief and madness. When we finally see him back with Lisa, he’s so gentle and human. He says that he feels sane for the first time since he died, and we finally realise that this is the man she loved and the man who raised Alucard. It finally makes sense to me why he broke the way he did when she was murdered.
I, amazingly, got back into this show at the perfect time, with the creator Samuel Deats teasing news of the sequel series; Castlevania: Nocturne on social media. On top of all of this, I’m currently running The Curse of Strahd for my D&D group, and Castlevania has provided the perfect inspiration.
You can watch the teaser for the new series here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NS_prENOgqQ