Castlevania (Season 4)

by | May 16, 2021 | 0 comments

Season four of the adult animated series had a high bar to clear, but it does so with style

Netflix is producing so much content nowadays, that it is becoming harder not only to keep up with all their releases, but just the good ones as well. As such the adult animated series Castlevania (2017-2021) has largely fallen between the cracks and has only achieved a cult following from those familiar with the video game source material. But to relegate this series to a cult hit would be a gross injustice, as it is one of the best fantasy projects in recent years.

Season four is the most recent and final entry in Castlevania, and finds our scattered characters building up for their grand finale. Alucard (James Callis) is still struggling to differentiate his vampire and human identities, Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) are hunting down dark forces with a suspicion that an attempted resurrection of Dracula may be in the works, while Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) is preparing his army from Hell to take on the ambitions of the four vampire sisters, headed by Carmilla (Jaime Murray). 

Castlevania has established itself to be the definitive great video game adaptation, taking up from its source material which started as an arcade game in the 1980s. The series has built up its reputation of being ruthless with its dark subject matter, and incredibly adept at crafting multiple narrative threads and royal/political drama. It has bettered what other fantasy series faltered in, such as Game of Thrones (2011-2019), and is laying groundwork for how future fantasy series should forge on boldly, such as The Witcher (2019-). Season three left viewers with high anticipation as to the rising tides and powers that would have to inevitably clash within these next ten episodes. Such high expectations doomed Game of Thrones, which wasn’t able to withstand the pressure, but Castlevania season four is more than up to the task, bringing about an incredibly wholesome and satisfying finale.

Series creator Warren Ellis, has managed to take hold of a balance between the dark lore and action that is demanded of this adaptation, with some sensational character work and paused reflective moments. Ellis is able to thread the needle between the horror elements he wants to put out in a vampire story, while also providing some surprising wise-cracking humor to break tense moments. The result is the ultimate adaptation of medieval gothic horror that we’ve been expecting from any number of vampire/horror films through the decades. By not being held back in what he could explore or show, Ellis is able to provide bold storytelling that rewards viewers and brings justice to character arcs. 

Ellis’ focus in the season finale is largely on Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard, who were the series’ heroes from season one. This largely relegates the parallel plot of Hector and Carmilla, which is resolved with satisfying action, but seems incredibly rushed to a conclusion. This certainly gives off the feeling of writers that were forced to rush some conclusions that they had set up to be carried out in multiple more seasons. The latter half of the season is dedicated to the more mystical and intriguing subject of Dracula’s resurrection, and Ellis doesn’t disappoint in providing the series’ signature gory action and stupendous yet terrifying creature designs. At some points many of the battles can seem to be dragged out a sequence too long, yet the series has earned enough bandwidth after spending quiet character moments throughout past seasons.

The hand drawn animation continues to be up-to-par and the voice work is equally impressive. There are new additions of mysterious yet satisfying characters, with Malcolm McDowell as a particular standout, and Bill Nighy as Count Saint Germain is always a pleasure to hear. Yet the more mainstream performances from Armitage and Reynoso should not be taken lightly, as they are able to encapsulate an essence of blockbuster cool that adds to the series’ appeal and aura.

Castlevania had a large task to undertake with tying up all its ambitious threads, and while some may have been rushed, the core elements are dealt with in a crowd-pleasing and upstanding way. The action is deliciously choreographed, the horror elements are spookily maintained, and the narrative is epically resolved. Many more fantasy series should take a leaf out of Castlevania’s book and learn how to quit while you’re ahead.

  • OVERALL SERIES RATING 84% 84%

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