The following review contains spoilers for Castlevania season 3, episode 10, “Abandon All Hope.”
When the credits began to roll for “Abandon All Hope,” the finale to Castlevania season 3, I was of two minds about it. On one hand, a lot of strong groundwork has been laid for future seasons that I’m sure will take full advantage of all of the moral and political developments that took place over the past 10 episodes. On the other hand, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Castlevania’s third season wasted a lot of its time on plot threads and moments that really didn’t amount to much. It was good, but it could have been better.
Let’s start with what did work. While we reached the climax for both Hector’s (Theo James) and Isaac’s (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) plotlines last episode, the events of Lindenfeld and Alucard’s (Jame Callis) stories were still ongoing. In Lindenfeld, Trevor (Richard Armitage), Sypha (Alejandra Reynosa), and Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) all began to fight the massive night creature while the Infinite Corridor was tearing a hole through reality. Like I suspected, Dracula (Graham McTavish) was not revived, thwarting Sala’s (Navid Negahban) plans. Sala did escape, but not before stabbing the Judge (Jason Isaacs) after he gave Sala directions to an apple tree to save himself.
The fight was well-executed and had all of the gore and violence I would expect from Castlevania, crescendoing into Trevor unleashing a flurry of whips on the creature. It was the most thrilling fight scene of the season, though that was a low bar to reach given the lack of action this season. Regardless, the ending leaves a lot more questions than answers.
Saint Germain was able to repurpose the Infinite Corridor from focusing on Hell to wherever his mysterious comrade is. For all of the buildup that he got throughout the season, the resolution that he got felt very anticlimactic. He went into the portal, thanked Trevor and Sypha, and vanished. We won’t know his compatriot’s identity until either next season or possibly when Adi Shankar’s next show premieres. It’s strange that what felt like an essential part of the show in the middle of the season ended up being so inconsequential to the grander scale.
It was a very dour ending all around though in Lindenfeld. Sala died in a trap at the apple tree, the Judge died trying to fight Sala, Sypha’s joyful enthusiasm was dowsed after failing to save anyone in Lindenfeld and discovering that the Judge was secretly killing people, like the child from earlier in the season, in order to keep his town orderly. Castlevania has been a dark show, but the ending to everything that happened in Lindenfeld felt bleak. There was no winning, no heroes saving the day. Everyone suffered some kind of emotional or physical scarring that day, save for Saint Germain.
While it may sound like I’m not a fan of that decision, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, it is an incredibly nihilistic way for that arc to end, but it really struck home and conveyed how cruel the world these characters live in is. Sypha was declaring for most of the season how she loved to be an adventurer, but now that she’s seen the reality of what that life is like, she’s traumatized. Trevor is used to it, but seeing Sypha’s innocence shatter like that will fundamentally change her character in a way that I’m excited to see.
But while the events in Lindenfeld were wonderful in a depressing sort of way, I can’t say that the other plotlines left me as satisfied. I may have loved every chance we got to spend with Isaac, from having deep personal conversations with other humans to musing the nature of good and evil with night creatures, but he didn’t really evolve as a character over the course of the season. He started with an army of night creatures trying to hunt down Hector and Carmilla (Jaime Murray), and he ended the season with an army of night creatures still trying to hunt down Hector and Carmilla. His overarching Castlevania story felt stagnant, and we haven’t seen if any of those discussions with humans or monsters has changed him as a character.
Hector fared a bit better, watching him become yet another tool in a vampire’s war against humans. While his contract with Dracula was consensual, if foolish, his forced contract with Lenore (Jessica Brown Findlay) is far worse in his eyes. Yes, he will get free rein of the vampire sisters’ castle and live a comfortable life, but he’s now their slave and is nothing more to Lenore than a pet. It’s not a surprise to see Lenore’s full motives reveal themselves, and it’s equally not surprising to see Hector fall for such an easy lie. The man is doomed to serve, only this time he can see that he’s no more than just a tool for them.
And then we have Alucard. I almost feel bad for the man not just because of what he went through this season and the position that he was put in at the end of the season, but because his scenes were always the worst. Sumi (Rila Fukushima) and Taka (Toru Uchikado) could have had interesting motivations revealed for why they tried to kill Alucard. It wasn’t from a deep-seeded hatred of all vampires, but rather that they didn’t trust him. Taka mentioned for a second that they wanted to use the castle’s teleportation capabilities to build their own empire, but that’s about as far as we got with learning their true motivations.
Was it a good idea to have Alucard kill them and take after his deceased father by staking them in front of the castle? Debatable, but the real issue is that nothing in their storyline felt natural. Sumi and Taka were not good characters, and they gave Alucard almost nothing to work with all season. Seeing them staked out in front of Alucard’s castle was a haunting sight to be sure, but it definitely wasn’t justified and felt more like Warren Ellis was trying to push the character into a weird position to use in later seasons.
That’s what season 3 felt like at the end of the day, a stopgap. It wasn’t going to start and finish the next big conflict for our heroes, being more focused on building up new characters and cementing future plotlines. Whether or not the Infinite Corridor will return in later seasons is irrelevant here. Future seasons will most assuredly center on Carmilla’s army and how Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard will approach it after everything they’ve gone through here. Some of the characters’ development was worthwhile. Some of it wasn’t. Some of the characters are in interesting new places for the next season while some have barely advanced at all. Some of the new characters feel like worthy additions to the cast while the vast majority of them were either killed off or ejected themselves from the main plot. It’s imbalanced, plain and simple.
I enjoyed Castlevania season 3 on the whole, though I’m not sure it’s better than season 2. What worked in “Abandon All Hope,” and the entire season for that matter, worked really well, but there were far more uneven storytelling issues than there should have been. Here’s hoping that the show will learn from its mistakes by having a tighter focus and more justifiable character interactions next season.