It’s really hard to not include a criticism against organized religion, primarily Catholicism, when making any sort of iteration of the story of Dracula. The story is pretty much the same no matter how it’s done: the count, whether he’s still human or already a vampire, falls in love. In a tragic stroke of fate she is either killed or kills herself, leading Dracula to lose what little faith he had in humanity or God to completely diminish. In response he declares war on either, vowing to always be an enemy.
The first two episodes of Castlevania portrayed this as expected, taking stories that happen later in the timeline of the games to complete the lore early on. Back to my original point though; while these episodes did hint at the future theme of bashing organized religion, it is in these final two chapters that we really get to see just how far they intend to go with.
I am in no means a practicing Catholic, yet nor do I condemn those. For what it was, you could feel the hate coming from Dracula and his creatures. While not the best message to try and portray on such a widely watched series, it was at least incredibly effective at showing just how much power can be gained by being in a position of power that lets you influence what people think on spiritual level.
It is not until Symphony of the Night that we see how Dracula’s influence can corrupt in such a way. Yet, it is through the actions of the Bishop of Grejit that truly show us the dangers of not organized religion itself, but the danger of letting one man corrupt a message of faith so that he may control the masses. I think we can all see who the real enemy of this series was or at least of these few short episodes.
The third episode follows Trevor’s mission to get the Speakers to leave Grejit before the Bishops men massacre them. Since the Bishop is too afraid to admit that Dracula is real and that it was his direct burning of Lisa that incurred his wrath, he turned to fear mongering. When people are scared, they look for a scapegoat—for the Bishop it is the Speakers. Since he is the current head of the body politic, his fear becomes everyone’s fear, and on that end he has their souls weighing in the balance. The mission brings Trevor to the catacombs that the lost Speaker was exploring before her disappearance. As he follows her trail, he begins to notice things that came straight from the stories of Dracula’s Castle passed down to him by his forebearers.
After ending up deep enough into this maze of stone and pipes, he comes across stone statues of people, some dressed as knights and one suspiciously like a Speaker. Moments later the culprit arrives in the form of a stone gazing Cyclopes.
What I loved so much about this fight scene was that they pulled it straight from the video game. Of course, the video game’s boss battle was 2D and 8-bit, and consisted of repeatedly whipping the beast in the same fashion. The show makes it so much more exciting by making the fight cleverly choreographed, allowing Trevor to use both his sword and whip to dispatch the beast, sometimes even a combination of both.
By the end of the fight, the creature’s cursed victims are brought back to the flesh, as long as they weren’t missing and extremities, like one poor knight. Seems the missing Speaker was another character taken from Castlevania 3, Sypha! Though she was a male in the video, it hardly makes a difference in the series, and even better that they’re giving her way more of a role this time around. Fans of the game will know that she is a very powerful mage so her force will be reckoned with in the show, but also it is worth noting that her prestige in magic could be why the Speakers are so condemned by the church in Grejit.
After some passive-aggressive dialogue between the two, Trevor returns her to her Grandfather and makes sure they honor their part of the deal and to leave. They argue about the legend of the sleeping warrior *cough Alucard* as Trevor tries to convince them that that was indeed Dracula’s Castle. Not long after, Trevor is abducted by some of the Bishop’s men in order to have a meeting. Outnumbered, Trevor decides to go along with them. The meeting goes as one would expect given the Bishop’s mania and Trevor’s complete apathy. Apparently the Bishop is trying to save the city but Trevor is less convinced; the Bishop believes the people’s lack of faith is what brought this doom upon them.
The Bishop lets Trevor in on his plan, allowing him to leave the city unharmed while he massacres the Speakers in the name of God, and to show the people that he right. By this time it is obvious that the Bishop is intentionally aware that he controls the majority and will do anything to keep himself in that position of power. Couple this with his savior complex and we have the true makings of a monster. By the end of the conversation the Bishop implores him to take his offer and his family’s excommunication is something that could be reversed.
Trevor goes back to the Speakers with the information, letting them know that a mob will be there for them before the next demon raid. A lengthy moral argument follows the Elder, Sypha and Trevor but by the end he does see their way, the role his family could truly inspire, and Trevor’s own demons and fears. Whether it is out of pity or responsibility Trevor is won to their plight. By sunset the entire city is ready with torches and pitchforks and we get some really fun one man army fight scenes. By the end of this intense battle, the end begins and the next demon raid begins.
The finale opens with the demon raid slaughtering the city as the Bishop is approached by a demon.
The implications of this meeting suggest that there is a third player using Dracula’s vengeance as a vessel for their own goals. This foreshadowing is definitely pointed at Dracula’s life-long ally, Death. I could be wrong of course, but as a fan of the game I think it is definitely a possibility. Either way we finally see the demise of the Bishop as they show just how powerful they are and just how powerless he is.
Trevor is still fighting off the mob until Sypha finally unleashes her own power. Trevor decides to face the Bishop’s men among the mob, condemning their actions against Lisa. It seems the mob finally has a change of heart and they turn on their overlords. Just as well the demons begin their slaughter and Trevor organizes what defense the town has to fight back against the demons employing both magic and holy weapons.
It’s pretty amazing to see the defense they mount and quite the amazing fight. Several of Trevor’s famous side weapons appear from all the Castelvania games. Sypha’s attacks are particularly fun to watch.
As the fight reaches its climax, the ground below Trevor and Sypha breaks and they fall deeper into the catacombs, farther than even Sypha got, before they appear in an ornate room with a lonely coffin. Surprise, surprise, it’s Alucard. Like the boss battle from the game itself, Trevor and the vampire prince go at it. Trevor is not convinced this vampire is the savior Sypha thinks he is, and Alucard only provokes him to fight.
The fight is full of impressive feats of athleticism and supernatural power from Alucard. His famous teleportation is also employed, the bane of every player of the game.
The fight is actually favored to Alucard as he seems to be toying with Trevor who is literally fighting at his top capacity. By the end of the battle though, it becomes a stalemate, and even Sypha second guesses Alucard’s role. Turns out Alucard was merely testing Trevor’s resolve; he speaks of an untold part of Spyha’s sleeping savior story, adding that only a vampire hunter and a magician could help him destroy Dracula once and for all. This slumber was from the wounds that his own father inflicted on him when he rose against Dracula’s maddened grief.
He reveals his identity to them as Adrien Tepes or as others know him, Alucard. The first season of the series ends with the trio of unlikely allies joining forces to put a stop to Dracula’s assault on Wallachia once and for all.
With the season’s close, it is important to remember what every gamer wanted to see from this series. While I mentioned initially that even though there were more than one type of audience watching, the most critical would be the viewers coming through as fans of the game. Me being one of them, I was pleasantly impressed by how great of an adaptation this was. The final two episodes expanded upon the excellent amount of world building done in such little time and doubled of the fighting and the shows religious implications.
The main criticism I have was this being so anti-religious in mentality, though in retrospect was merely the medium for sending the message that ultimate power truly corrupts. You give enough power to someone who can influence the minds of others and at that purposefully move them to his own cause: you have a true monster at hand.
I honestly can’t wait for the second season to expand upon this because I’m sure it won’t end with the Bishop’s deaths. I hope they keep to the promise of making it longer with more world building and definitely more action. This season was far too short and left a lot to be desired in terms of a bigger story. Obviously in the next season Dracula will make more of an appearance and hopefully some of his more famous minions. As for Alucard, we got just enough of him, even though it was very little, to be excited to see his role expanded upon.
They didn’t shy away from using lore from Symphony of the Night and that was great. My only hope is that they won’t use too much of it and that the series will at one point come to an adaptation of that classic.
Until we get season two though I hope you enjoyed the series and these reviews. If you want to something to do until the next season, you should check out my comic reviews and other things you may find interesting!
Random Observations and Scores
- The anti-religious implications might have come off as offensive but were a medium for carrying a greater message about power.
- The double amount of action in the latter two episodes was great and very well needed
- I thought the change of Spyha from male to female was a good touch and should be more expanded on in season 2
- Taking boss battle from the game and putting them into the show made me happy
- The demons could use some more variety
- Please let that be Death
- Again…how is this anything like Game of Thrones???
All images courtesy of Netflix and Konami Entertainment