Friday, January 08, 2021

A Discovery of Witches, Season 2

You remember from Ghostbusters how bad it is when cats and dogs are living together? It is even worse for vampires and witches. Nevertheless, vampire Matthew de Clairmont and Diana Bishop, an American witch, have fallen in love, but it is a romance forbidden by the terms of the uneasy truce governing vampires, witches, and demons, the weird kind. Yet, fate and a missing book of alchemy seemed to have conspired to bring them together. However, to stay together and escape their enemies, the two lovers had to jaunt back in time at the conclusion of season one. Getting back will take some doing in season two of A Discovery of Witches, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder and Sundance Now.

It is a bit awkward to hide out in during an era of literal witch hunts for a witch like Bishop. It just so happens, her beloved de Clairmont was one of the most ruthless witch-hunters. He was also a faithful French Catholic, but he loyally served Queen Elizabeth, doggedly persecuting his co-religionists. Such is vampire politics.

At least she is impressed to learn he is also known as the poet Matthew Roydon during this era. One of his great friends is Christopher Marlowe, a demon with a serious case of bro-jealousy. Understandably, it is a bit tricky for de Clairmont to remember what he exactly was doing four hundred years ago, but he will fake it as best he can, while Bishop seeks out the training to spellcast their way back to their proper time. After years of being “spellbound,” her powers have only just resurfaced, so she does not yet understand their full extent or how to properly control them.

This review is only based on the first four episodes of season two (out of seven), because time is limited for us mortals. Still, we feel safe in saying the general quality is consistent with the first season. Particularly notable are the depictions of historical figures, which are much more fully developed than mere gimmicks. Barbara Marten is a kick chewing the scenery as the Machiavellian Queen Elizabeth and Tom Hughes does some of the best work we have ever seen from him as the temperamental Marlowe. However, it seems rather a shame to have the great Lindsay Duncan sidelined for so long, as de Clairmont’s regal mother, Ysabeau.

Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer still generate a lot of romantic heat together, but all the tension season two tries to build around the contrast between new de Clairmont (who is really the older de Clairmont) and the old de Clairmont (his younger self) is already getting a bit melodramatic three episodes in. Can Bishop still trust him now that he is back in his old stomping grounds? Find out, as the world turns.

Discovery remains a very cinematic series. This time around, it takes the Anne Rice-esque elements of Deborah Harkness’s novels and adds a Diana Gabaldon dimension. This is definitely a higher grade of paranormal romance. Still recommended for fans of vampires and witchcraft fantasies, season two of A Discovery of Witches starts streaming tomorrow (1/9), on Shudder and Sundance Now.