The following review contains spoilers for Castlevania season 3, episode 8, “What the Night Brings.”
Looking back on my past coverage for Castlevania, I noticed that when an episode is focused on addressing only three of the four main subplots, the episode is usually stronger for it. Keeping up on four separate storylines in the span of 20-25 minutes damages the overall pacing, so Castlevania usually benefits from taking things slow. There’s been far less action this season than in previous ones, so it’s even more important that the show is structured in a way that’s entertaining to watch rather than always being in your face. However, “What the Night Brings” keeps things focused on only three plots, yet it still doesn’t work due to a very choppy pattern of scenes that stops momentum from building.
We start off “What the Night Brings” catching up on the political machinations of Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her sisters, who have been absent for a majority of the season since the premiere. From there, we spend no more than two minutes with Sumi (Rila Fukushima) and Taka (Toru Uchikado), eight in Lindenfeld split equally between events in the priory and an interrogation with Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynosa), another two with Sumi and Taka and now Alucard (James Callis), three with Hector (Theo James) and Lenore (Jessica Brown Findlay), and conclude with a brief return to Lindenfeld to set up the finale. There are six separate transitions in one 22-minute episode, and it’s just too much juggling.
There’s a ton of setup being made for Carmilla’s plan to create a vampire feeding pen, but as it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s not going to factor into this season, it just comes across as unnecessary padding. We’ve also already established that the monks are trying to revive Dracula and their ritual is nearing completion, so did we really need another episode just to drive that home? I know that I’ve been watching Castlevania episode by episode instead of binging it in one sitting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people got bored by this episode spinning its wheels.
Although, one thing does happen in “What the Night Brings,” and it’s one of the most infuriating and laziest narrative decisions that could have been made: Sumi and Taka explain all of Alucard’s (James Callis) characterization for this season. We see the two of them walking back from the Belmont Vault having an open conversation about why Alucard is the way he is, how he’s punishing himself for his actions last season, and how he’s a hurt soul seeking companionship. We saw that displayed wonderfully in the season premiere, but now we have to be told that by two characters who have hardly any personality themselves. It breaks the basic rule of “show, don’t tell.”
I know that Warren Ellis’ work is an acquired taste and not for everyone. He’s crass, but his characters are always well-written and develop naturally and in logical ways. However, it feels like “What the Night Brings” is Ellis phoning it in. He repeats information that we already know and most of Castlevania’s signature sense of humor is replaced with unfunny remarks or sequences that feel like bad improv.
When Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) discovers the still living night creature at the bottom of the priory, it’s a horrifying sight that brings home just how dangerous these monks are. We’ve seen night creatures before, but they don’t look nearly as intimidating as what’s lurking in the depths with its rainbow eyes and massive frame impaled on a cross. Unfortunately, as Germain escapes and runs into Sala (Navid Negahban), his stalling feels like something we would get out of a bad sitcom, not Castlevania.
The stage was set last episode for epic conflicts in Lindenfeld and with Isaac’s (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) army attacking the sorcerer’s brainwashed forces, but there wasn’t any real advancement here. Sumi and Taka are starting to believe that Alucard is hiding things from them, but it’s only touched upon for a split second before we cut to Hector. To be fair, it’s been a few episodes since we last saw him, so his presence in “What the Night Brings” was warranted. He’s clearly developing feelings for Lenore, and she’s just as clearly manipulating him, dropping occasional compliments his way and giving him incrementally better amenities.
Hector is very much still stuck in a dungeon. He may be able to read books about vampirism and have social contact with Lenore, but he can’t even leave his cell without having a leash put on him. Lenore tries to pull the wool over his eyes frequently, calling him pretty, kissing him, and admitting that her sisters are evil and she wants what’s best for Hector. It’s almost tragic how obvious Lenore’s tricks are and how Hector is able to buy into them.
It’s a nice scene, but it doesn’t change the fact that the rest of “What the Night Brings” feels sloppy in comparison. If it isn’t the choppy pacing, it’s the writing and misguided humor dragging down engagement. However, now that Sala has begun his ritual to bring Dracula back to life, it’s finally time for action. No more excuses, just carnage, violence, and possibly some loving between Hector and Lenore.