If the first half of Castlevania season three put the main characters into completely new environments to get adjusted, then the second half of the season dives deeper into their respective storylines and brings together the season in a thematic whole. This season focused on each individual storyline without the distraction of needing to place characters together.
I did say in my previous review that I was hoping to see the storylines eventually coincide, however, I found the season as a whole stronger without that being a necessity. It also was immensely satisfying to watch the season play out and have my assumptions and predictions about the show confirmed. While there were certainly shocking twists, none of them felt like they came out of nowhere and none of them were there simply to keep an audience on its toes. And even though I left the season feeling sad for all my favorite characters, I am wildly excited for what the future seasons hold.
Surprisingly, Isaac has grown the most for me as a character. Not necessarily in development, but in my own personal rankings of favorite characters. I admitted in my first part review that I did not like Isaac at all in season two. He was an extremist and I felt like there was no depth to his character. Being tossed through a magic mirror was the best thing to happen to Isaac. Looking back on season three, some of the most introspective and interesting scenes involved Isaac. His conversation with the collector and the Captain and Flyseyes dive deep into philosophy without feeling lofty and are the type of scenes that benefit from rewatching.
In his journey towards Styria, we watch and learn way more about Isaac than any flashback. He deliberates human kindness and cruelty, his conversation with one of the night creatures, Flyseyes, offers a completely new perspective on humanity, hell, and sin. As a night creature, he remembers bits and pieces of his life as a human long ago. He was a philosopher from Athens whose heretical teachings turned him into someone that was hunted by the church.
Flyseyes is a compelling character both because he can be a very unreliable narrator but also because he paints a picture of someone very believable. A thinker whose thoughts stray out of the bounds of society, who was betrayed and betrayed others, someone that the church turned into a sinner. Isaac almost seems disgusted by the thought of Flyseyes as he recounts his story and proclaims that he’s learned to like sin and wants to make new dreams of sinning.
By the time Isaac arrives at the abandoned town inhabited only by the magician Miranda, he is a mere two weeks away from Styria. Miranda, a once-powerful magician, informs Isaac that the people in the town have been magically enslaved by another magician further up the road. All of the citizens have been forced to build a city-state where the magician intends to rule. She also lets him know that the magician is in possession of a very large and very wide transmission mirror, one that he can take his horde through.
Miranda encourages him to kill all of the people in the town as mercy and transform them into night creatures for his army before taking the mirror and continuing on his mission of revenge, but not before adding, “There are worse things than betrayal.” Isaac takes Miranda’s advice and rides into the city to begin forging more creatures for his army, but this is not your average group of city guards. The magician quickly becomes aware of his intrusion and begins to maneuver the thousands of slaves at his disposal with ease into a legion (admittedly, I have never played the Castlevania games so I did not realize that this was what the swarm was called until perusing Reddit.)
Alongside Sypha and Trevor’s fight at the infinity corridor, this battle was my favorite this season. It was so well designed and directed, with the bodies being lifted up into the air and collected like a swarm by the magician, it’s easy to see how terrifyingly powerful a magic-user can be. Sure, we’ve seen Sypha and the forge masters do insane things, but this is on another level.
Isaac is magnetic as we watch him weave in and out of the fray of the battle towards the mage’s tower. By this point, I was rooting for Isaac to end this magician, but of course, the magician has one last trap and Isaac has to fight to become enslaved himself. It’s a completely riveting scene to watch as Isaac uses his dagger to break through the smug magician’s enchantment and kill him in one swift motion. Bodies fall from the sky as the enchantment breaks and Isaac rises victorious. He adds thousands to his new army, he finds the transmission mirror, and he leaves the incomplete city-state to move on to his next conquest.
In light of the other main characters, Isaac not only had the most philosophical story, but he managed to come out of this season as a winner. Unlike Alucard, Hector, Trevor, or Sypha, he did not get betrayed, he did not have his hope destroyed, he did not have his faith shaken. He learned and grew and, in the end, ended the season on a win. I am very interested to see where his mindset will be by the time he finally faces Hector face to face.
Hector, Carmilla, Striga, Morana, and Lenore
Speaking of Hector, while Isaac has reached new heights, unfortunately, Hector has only gone from bad to worse. After softening to Lenore, Hector is molded by the vampire queen with ease as we see why Lenore is the diplomat on the group. The beauty of Lenore as a character is how you know she is a spider, but at the same time, you are quite happy to be the fly up until the moment you realize there’s no escape.
She’s exceedingly clever and could give Tyrion Lannister in his prime a run for his money. She’s cunning, manipulative, and ruthless, but she is so subtle you either don’t notice her or you choose to believe she is the soft one of the sisters. She revealed her true colors the first time she met Hector when she overpowered him, but he seems to quickly forget this after he’s offered a better cell, a bed, and some books.
Lenore breaks down Hector’s arguments against Carmilla with ease. She unearths some of Hector’s doubts about Dracula, redeems Carmilla’s violence by framing it as her temper (if she wanted to kill you, she would!), and commends him for making the right choice in Braila. After all, had he stayed with Dracula, he might have suffered the same fate. Of course, Hector’s betrayal was the key reason why Dracula’s forces were even weakened in the first place.
But, Lenore still paints a fair point. Dracula never intended for a cull. He wanted extermination and his grief over Lisa’s death blinded him to any form of reason or sympathy. Lenore insists to Hector that Carmilla “showed you the old man was insane and saved you from the consequences.”
And while Striga, Morana, and Carmilla struggle to come up with solutions to the scheme, Lenore has been weaving a delicate web that not only strengthens the scheme, but it guarantees loyalty. She even fools her sisters, who worry that she has grown too close to Hector. So by the time that she appears to Hector late at night and seduces him, even the most doubtful viewer could be convinced that Lenore genuinely wants to run away with Hector and that she believes what her sisters are doing is wrong.
For a few moments, intercut with the other storylines, Lenore and Hector seem to be passionate but doomed lovers. And that’s when Lenore enacts the final step of her plan. The black and red slave ring she places on Hector’s finger mid-coitus is the betrayal we all kind of knew was coming but still shocked us none-the-less.
Now with Hector’s loyalty firmly placed in her hands, Lenore shows off her achievement to her sisters. She reveals that she had the vampire blacksmith magician forge a slave ring for Hector and she gives her sisters three to match hers. Now they can all control Hector. In exchange, Hector gets a nice house, he gets fineries, he gets a gilded cage.
Any delusions we might have about Lenore being soft should be gone by the end of this season. She’s manipulated Hector perfectly, never once viewing him as anything other than prey at worst and a pet at best. I’m not convinced the rings she gave her sisters are equal to hers either. It will be interesting to see how Lenore matches up to characters like Isaac and if she will ever turn on her sisters.
Trevor, Sypha, and Lindenfeld
If Isaac and Hector’s stories felt more narrative, the Lindenfeld story felt more inspired by video games. From the eccentricities of a character like Saint Germain, to the kaleidoscopic infinite corridor, to the Judge subplot, this subplot had the most going on while still doing its best to draw on the themes of the season as a whole.
As adventurers and monster hunters, Trevor and Sypha have been a relatively bright light in this season. Despite the weirdness of the priory, they have the most light-hearted moments. But, that all takes a turn for the worst as we barrel toward the finale.
The infinite corridor, described as a sort of bridge between planes, feels almost like the Bifrost, with its psychedelic colors and transportive nature. In Saint Germain’s dream we are treated to windows into other planes of existence and whew is it shocking. As a time traveler, Saint Germain explains that the infinite corridor takes you to places separated by space and time. In his dream, we see shots of giant mechs (references to Metal Gear?), of a golden pyramid, of an aboriginal man in front of Ayers Rock (perhaps Gateway from the X-Men universe?), and an image of an alien spacecraft (Alien/Prometheus vibes). These images that are so familiar to us, obviously look terrifyingly out of place in a show like Castlevania, which is what makes this fever-dream so great.
We learn in this dream where Saint Germain’s lithomancy stone came from as one of the windows shows a clockwork home with a shadow figure with long hair who throws him the shimmering, colorful stone. It’s clear to Sypha and Trevor that Saint Germain is a very lonely man for being so willing to trust the two of them so quickly, and it’s clear that this character has been wandering alone searching for that mysterious figure for a long time.
His knowledge of the occult helps him figure out that someone in the priory has been curious about the occult and performing a ritual on how to return people from hell. Of course, it eventually is revealed to likely be one of the monks or perhaps Prior Sala himself who found the ritual in the book. The missing pages likely taught the holy men how to carve the alchemical symbols on the walls in order to sacrifice the houses to the Visitor and open the corridor.
After finding the Visitor alive in the basement of the priory, Saint Germain gets Trevor, Sypha, the Judge, and the Judge’s troops to rally an attack on the priory. The Judge forces them to wait until night when all the citizens are home and safe, but this turns out to be a devastating mistake. At night, the group comes upon the priory, but it’s already too late. The ritual begins and suddenly the homes in town with the symbols of Saturn carved on the walls are engulfed in flames as the families inside are sacrificed to feed the Visitor. It turns out, the Visitor is one of the night creatures loyal to Isaac and was ordered here to help bring Dracula back from Hell.
Because opening the corridor takes “sacrificing some of your soul,” the plan now makes sense. The Visitor absorbs all of the souls in town to sacrifice to the portal and is able to break through and search for Dracula. Outside the Priory the Judge and our trio are fighting in full force with the monks as Trevor, Sypha, and Saint Germain enter into the Priory.
Witnessing the portal open to hell, beasts of all shapes and sizes pour out, forcing Trevor and Sypha to take them on as Saint Germain figures out how to close it. This is my favorite fight of the season. Sypha’s ability to control water and fire feels like a suped up version of fire and water bending. She’s sliding over ice one minute then propelling herself into the air with fire the next. Trevor takes on the Visitor with both his Belmont Morning Star and his classic leather whip in one of the best graphic battles I’ve ever seen. Nothing will ever top the combat art in this series.
As the portal opens like a window, we are taken through the different landscapes of hell and finally arrive at the burned ashes of Lisa Tepes’ home where she is embraced with Vlad. Realizing what this was all for, Saint Germain (finally) leaps into action and uses his stone to control the Visitor and open the doorway to the place that he wants to go. He jumps through as Trevor and Sypha defeat the demons. He tells them he’ll see them again before shutting the portal down.
And Trevor and Sypha, if you thought razing a town and almost unleashing hell was bad, by the way, the Judge you trusted this entire time? He’s a serial killer. Yep. I LOVED this subplot. It perfectly falls in line with the themes of loss of humanity and betrayal, as well as the corruption of law and figures in power. Sypha has been open and trusting this entire season, and she seems the most shaken by the truth of the Judge and his apple tree trap.
There is a whole other article I could get into about the Judge and his sick form of control over the city, but Sypha and Trevor realizing the truth might be the final devastating cherry on top. Would quiet little town they stumbled upon have been better or worse off if they had not come in like adventuring heroes?
It’s heartbreaking to see Trevor and Sypha work so hard this season to solve the mystery of Lindenfeld only for it to end in utter carnage and betrayal. The two leave Lindenfeld hardened and perhaps made worse by the experience.
Alucard, Sumi, and Taka
And, we have Alucard. To go from a pair of sweet little cloth dolls to impaled bodies is drastic but not necessarily unwarranted for Alucard’s story this season. Some have called it the weakest of the four stories, but I think that is merely because the other three stories had so much going on. There was no grand mystery or political intrigue or philosophical conversations with strangers.
Instead this was a story that spoke to the core of the season. One of the largest overall themes of Castlevania is the loss of humanity. This season also shed a light on loneliness and betrayal. We see these themes subtly in all four stories, but all three themes are overt in Alucard’s journey.
His loneliness has him lowering his guard to Sumi and Taka. Remember in season one, when Sypha and Trevor broke into his crypt? How on guard he was? It wasn’t the exact situation, but his meeting and getting to know those two paved the way for him to open his heart to more humans.
Alucard’s loneliness is loud and it weighs on him every day. He misses his friends, he misses his mother, he even misses his father. He is burdened by the guilt of having to kill his father and haunted by his choices. Sumi and Taka arrive like a lifeline thrown to him as he is drowning in loneliness. While training them and showing them the castle and the hold, he proudly claims that Trevor would be happy to see him training the next generation of monster hunters.
Unfortunately, this season teaches Alucard that being trusting and vulnerable will get you nowhere good. While he dreams of the next generation with hope, he misses all of the warning signs. Sumi and Taka are more interested in fixing the castle so that it can move again, they want to harness electricity as an explosive weapon, they want to learn magic and swordplay, and they believe Alucard is lying to them.
And so comes the betrayal. Some viewers will say that Sumi and Taka’s betrayal came out of nowhere. But that’s where the subtlety lies. Sumi and Taka have been nice to Alucard, but they haven’t lowered their guard. They know he is full of guilt, they know he is lonely, and they decide to take advantage of that. After all, they’ve never known a vampire to be kind or selfless. How do they know that the son of Dracula is any different from their violent and manipulative late master Cho?
The sex scene between the three of them is fraught with tension, because like Lenore and Hector’s sex scene, we know there is something very wrong. Not because it confirms Alucard as bisexual (probably the only good thing we got from this) but because it is very clearly a violation of trust and taking advantage of the emotional connection that Alucard is so desperate for. He openly welcomes Sumi and Taka into his bed, and when they bind him with silver, it is not only a knife in the back from two people he had poured his heart into, but it is a humiliation for the already emotionally battered Alucard.
Although it’s easy to blame Sumi and Taka (who are 100% not related) for where Alucard ends in the season, it’s just not that easy. By the time Alucard uses his magical sword to kill the two, he is simply hammering in the final nails to his own coffin of isolation. Alucard, who struggled with straddling two worlds as a vampire-human hybrid suffers a loss of his own humanity this season. He put his trust in the wrong people, and in return, he takes one step closer towards Dracula’s path.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that impaling Sumi and Taka means he is a lost cause but the events of the season have only solidified his loneliness. I am intrigued to see what will happen if he reunites with Trevor and Sypha.
This season was highly enjoyable. I think it might be my favorite of the three. Exploring each character’s story felt natural and I enjoyed that there were never attempts to force characters together. They walked their own path and by the time these characters come back together, they will be different people from when they last met.
While there have been some comments about the graphic nature of this season, especially with people being shocked at the sex, this is one reviewer who welcomes the new addition. Too often sex scenes are used as titillation and serve no real narrative purpose. I’d argue the same goes for action scenes. A good action scene will move the story along.
The sex of Castlevania not only directly supported the themes of the season, but played crucial narrative roles in character development. On top of that, none of it was violent or nonconsensual. Was it still disturbing and devastating? Yes. But I never felt uncomfortable or triggered like I do when a film or series tries to suggest rape.
Alucard welcomed Sumi and Taka into his bed, he found pleasure with them. The same can be said for Hector and Lenore. But It’s what that sex stands for and how it was used as a tool that ultimately made the scenes work.
I can’t wait to see what season four will bring. Currently, the series has not been renewed yet, but you can bet that in the future we’ll see more hordes of night beasts, more whips, and definitely the return of Dracula.