Netflix's "Castlevania" broke the video game adaption curse when it first premiered in 2017. By using what worked in the source material and jettisoning out elements that didn't, the show was able to tell a story that couldn't be done justice in the medium that it originated in.

Season 3 is the "Empire Strikes Back" of this series- the dark middle chapter where more complex themes are explored and the heroes are not the same at the end as they once. Though this season has its fair share of complex dialogue, raunchy humor, and stylish violence, it's unfortunately undermined by meandering subplots and uneven pacing.

What a horrible night to have a curse

The first two seasons had the benefit of a clear and tangible goal: kill Dracula. His death leads the heroes to part ways and the surviving villains to lick their wounds and plan their next attack. The subplots centered on Trevor, Sypha, Hector, and Isaac shine well with character driven scenes and interesting inter-personal conflicts, but it seems that Carmila and Alucard have been drawn the short stick this time.

Triumphant over the victory against Dracula, Sypha has convinced Trevor to join her in protecting Wallachia from monsters. Eventually, the two make it to a small town that seems to be filled with worshipers of Dracula. Trevor wants nothing more than to hightail it before trouble starts, but the ever optimistic Sypha can't turn down help to those in need.

What follows is a grim conspiracy that'll force Trevor and Sypha to confront a force that sinks to the depths of depravity. Their resolution and character arc was my favorite of this season as Sypha gets to know what it's like to see the world through Trevor's cynical eyes.

Carmilla stole the show last season with her Machiavellian schemes and dark sense of humor.

While Dracula was a superb antagonist during the two seasons, I was confident that she could take his place as the next big vampire baddie. Sadly, she and most of her sisters are criminally underutilized as they do almost nothing the entire season. Lenore is the sole exception as her subplot with Hector deals with differing ideologies and the art of diplomacy.

The sisters need Hector's forging skills to build their army, but Carmilla's betrayal and abuse has understandably made him uncooperative. Lenore aims to earn his loyalty while Hector tries to find some means of escape. It's the most verbose subplot of the season with little to no action, but lots of moral ambiguity and intrigue.

Bloodlines

Alucard is still dealing with the death of his father and isolation is starting to take its toll on him. It's then that two young warriors from Japan named Taka and Sumi approach him and ask him to train them in the art of vampire killing. The prospect of teaching a new generation of monster hunters and some long needed companionship convince Alucard to take them under his wing. Unfortunately, Taka and Sumi are as dull as dishwater and they simply lack the chemistry that Trevor and Sypha had with Alucard.

Though it's implied that they're not exactly as they seem, their lack of charisma and depth don't help an emotional payoff that feels rushed and unearned.

Lastly, Isaac and his army seek to exact their revenge on Hector for his betrayal and eventually create an army large enough to eradicate all the humans in the world. However, when he meets a sea captain who treats him with honor and respect, Isaac starts to find himself conflicted as to whether Dracula's cause was really as just and noble as he previously thought. Eradicating humanity would rid the world of human cruelty, but it would also rid it of human kindness as well.

Let us go out this evening for pleasure

The strength in this series has always been its characters, dialogue, and action.

Season 3 does not disappoint in this front. Standout performances include Bill Nighy as the sardonic and sly Saint Germain, Lance Reddick as the charming and world weary sea captain, and Jessica Brown Findlay as the sophisticated and cunning Lenore.

The first season gave us a taste of what a great "Castlevania" adaption could be with the second season delivering on that promise. The third season shows that there's still some life in this series with great character arcs and darker storytelling. While the pacing suffers a bit compared to the first few seasons, it seems clear that seeds are being planted that'll pay off later. The last scene in particular teases a sinister and clever subversion of the canon in the games. Despite some issues, I'm able to recommend "Castlevania" season 3.

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