For example, who among us is truly a vampire? (Put your hand down, you.) Are there are demons in the room? And what is the exact number of legitimate, card-carrying, spell-practicing witches in any studio audience. Because these entities are slim-to-none, Fantasy – both in literature and film – have to kinda/sorta tweak these beings in such a way as to have them truly relevant; and this is often accomplished by casting good-looking young(ish) talent in top roles, crafting their various yarns with similar struggles, and relying on fandom to both find similarities in their lives and chat the show up at each and every opportunity.
That said, TV’s A Discovery Of Witches largely benefits from being broadcast at a time when televised Fantasy has never been more popular. Epic sagas like HBO’s Game Of Thrones, ABC’s Once Upon A Time, Netflix’s The Witcher, and even Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time pushed open the doors for the networks – conventional or streaming – to invest both time and money in them because audiences hungry for more showed up, continued to watch even through some respective narrative controversies, and – most likely – will be there tomorrow when an all-new franchise breaks some Nielsen ratings’ record. While Witches may not quite resemble the scope of the world-building and mythmaking done by its competitors, it still offers like-minded viewers the opportunity to escape our humdrum existence with a trip through the looking glass into a place of fanciful possibilities.
Now that the show has finished its run on television, I thought I’d take a look back at some of what came before: the good people at RLJE have provided me with an incredible copy of A Discovery Of Witches: The Complete Trilogy, so buckle up and prepare for me to cast a spell in your direction. Today, I review its third season premiere.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the episode’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Matthew and Diana return from Elizabethan London to find tragedy at Sept-Tours. Agatha challenges Knox in the Congregation. Diana learns she’s carrying twins.”
Season premieres can be tricky business, especially in today’s era of long-form storytelling.
Typically, the cast and crew are swinging open the doors from somewhat conflicting agendas. First, they may have to wrap up – or clarify – moments that ramped up the intensity with the previous season’s finale. Then, they need to both continue to build on those seminal events while introducing situations and circumstances that spell out a slightly new direction for these characters to explore.
So a fair amount of the episode does feel a bit routine, a bit obligatory. The moments play out perfectly fine – honestly, there wasn’t all that much excitement – but Diana and Matthew still rather quickly accepted the loss of a loved one and then went about the business of focusing their own investigation into their respective DNA. Why? Well, I found that business a bit unclear. It seems to be an extension of Matthew’s work into ‘Blood Rage’ – a condition which causes the property’s vampires to lose all control – and my assumption is that, yes, newly-introduced scientist Christopher Roberts (Ivanno Jeremiah) will figure prominently into this new research … but given that Diana’s pregnant with a set of twins might their upcoming birth figure into this project? Aren’t they not concerned about what madness their coupling might unleash on all of mankind?
In this respect, I thought Lisa Holdsworth’s script could’ve been a bit tighter. As a scribe, she invests well in some of the hour’s more emotional rewards – Matthew’s confrontation with family, Diana and Sarah Bishop (Alex Kingston) coping with a significant loss, etc. – but the harder plot developments just didn’t quite resonate as well as I think they could have. Hinting at eventual conflicts is great for subtext, but in an era when audiences are expecting paths to be clearly laid out – especially when payoffs are so far away with this long-form tale – a bit more specificity never hurts.
A Discovery Of Witches was produced by Bad Wolf and Sky Studios. DVD distribution (for this particular release is being coordinated by the good folks at RLJE Films. As for the technical specifications? Again, while I’m no trained video expert, and I thought the sights and sounds for this release were exceptional well done. No expense appears to have been spared in bringing this fantastical and imagery world to life on the small screen.
Though I’m not all that sure this particular hour of A Discovery Of Witches – its third (and final) season premiere – offers an easy stepping-on point for new viewers, I suspect those faithfully joining the saga in process will feel rewarded. The episode serves to reset the narrative, offering some reflection and reaction to the events of the second season’s finale as well as obviously charting out the trajectory for bringing these tensions to a head in what looks to be a potentially explosion conclusion. A new face or two are brought into the mix … but precisely who might survive the inevitable deadly kerfuffle is as yet a mystery. Stay tuned for more …
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at RLJE Films provided me with a complimentary copy of A Discovery Of Witches: The Complete Trilogy by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.