After the highly enjoyable seasons of Netflix’s Castlevania, the fandom was looking forward to what Castlevania: Nocturne would offer. Having watched the premiere season, while the show had it’s moments, I do feel that Castlevania: Nocturne rang a bit hollow when it came to certain writing decisions.
This review of Castlevania: Nocturne season one includes spoilers. Consider yourself warned!
Picking up hundreds of years after the events of Castlevania, the sequel series introduced us to a whole bunch of characters trying to fight deadly vampires during the French Revolution. It can be tough to bring new players to the table after benching the OG. But I have to say that the eight-episode-long first season of Castlevania: Nocturne did manage to make me root for Richter Belmont and his chosen family.
The first seven minutes of the debut episode did a lot to set the tone by having a very young Richter see the death of his mother at the hands of Aztec vampire Olrox. I liked how Richter’s trauma played a role in developing him as a young man. Seeing Richter meet Olrox years after that eventful night was handled well by the writers. You could plan on avenging the death of your loved one, but no one can prepare you for the flood of emotions you will feel when the time comes to actually face the major villain of your story. Having Richter run away like a scared little child from Olrox helped make Richter feel human.
Our lead needed to go through such a moment to process his trauma and come out stronger at the end to protect his chosen family from the current threat posed by Erzsebet Bathory (whom I will get to in a bit).
As for the rest of the heroes, we had Richter’s adoptive young sister Maria Renard. She’s a revolutionary who wanted to see France change for the better. While I liked her kind-heartedness when it came to reaching out to her father (even though he didn’t deserve it), I greatly enjoyed her powerset of being able to summon a variety of creatures to do her bidding.
Another major player was Annette, a young sorceress and ex-slave from the Caribbean. Her backstory allowed her to relate to the French Revolution. She’s quite capable and I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a fighter as the series continues. There also seemed to be a romantic spark between her and Richter.
While Annette’s monster-hunting partner Edouard getting caught and being transformed into a night creature was disheartening, it made narrative sense as Edouard was able to use his singing voice to entice a revolution amongst the night creatures. The entire thing linked to the show’s encompassing theme of standing up to slavery and oppression.
And though that’s an evergreen theme to explore, I do feel that the writing department fell short when it came to fleshing out certain characters, especially the villainous Erzsebet Bathory. Inspired by the real Bathory, the one in the show got reimagined as a vampire who was into torturing young girls and wanting to rule the world by snuffing out of the sun for eternal darkness.
I do feel the writers could have done something interesting with Bathory, considering her actual backstory. However, her entire “I am a God” personality fell flat for me. She’s got nothing else going on for her other than saying the same thing in different ways. She’s a cardboard cutout villain and that made me not take her seriously. The same held true for her subordinates. The villainous characters looked cool, but they were one-dimensional. I would have really liked to learn more about Bathory’s motivations and how she linked herself to Sekhmet.
The human Abbot Emmanuel was no different. He’s yet another example of a stereotypical religious extremist biting off more than they can chew while saying that everything they did was for the greater good. I, for once, want to see a sane religious person who doesn’t turn out to be a bad person.
Also, one can argue that reimagining actual human atrocities as the work of vampires and other supernatural beings kind of dilutes actual history in the long run. But that’s a whole other discussion.
Anyway, Castlevania: Nocturne did deliver on the action sequences. I liked how Richter used his family’s iconic weapons as well as a bunch of spells. And while Richter and his crew were young and a bit inexperienced, they did have the potential to become incredible fighters.
There’s also queer representation via Olrox’s complicated relationship with Mizrak, a knight serving under Abbot Emmanuel. And though Olrox seemed to not side with the heroes at the very end, I do feel he will return as things begin to grow worse.
Released on Netflix on September 28, 2023, the finale left the first season in a very interesting place. And despite some of my issues with the writing, I hope that this series returns for a second season.
What did you think of Castlevania: Nocturne? Are you looking forward to a second season?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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