A Discovery of Witches review – hide sex and blood! The polite vampires are here! | Television

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Dry january? Austere New Year? If this part of the timeline is about replacing indulgence and joy with a cold task, it’s fitting that she sees the return of A Discovery of Witches (Sky Max / Now), TV’s most conservative supernatural saga. Pour an herbal tea, don a cardigan that doesn’t sparkle and return to a world where mythical beings, freed from time, death or physical laws, use this epic freedom to argue with irritation.

It is the fantastic spectacle which treats the blood, the lust and the grotesque as missteps to be carefully avoided. It’s not funny, sexy, or scary, not because he fails at these things, but because he refuses to attempt them. He also doesn’t think fantasy should be a gateway to anywhere. On the surface it’s about witches, demons, and vampires, but look for a subtext, look for the soul of creation, and it’s about … no it’s still just witches, of demons and vampires.

It’s mostly about acting in a specific mode, familiar to a million earthly land dramas that air at 9 p.m. on wet Tuesday nights, which is: annoyed. Annoyed. Positively eliminated. A little stressed. Many, many lines are delivered in threatening whispers as the speaker inspects the middle distance or, in times of confrontation (“No one is faultless – not even YOU!”), Through weakly clenched teeth. The main ox sits between a gang of compassionate W, D, and V led by the show’s romantic protagonists – the eternal vampire Matthew (Matthew Goode) and his increasingly powerful witch wife Diana (Teresa Palmer) – and the Congregation. , a reactionary council dominated by Gerbert d’Aurillac, a cunning and smug vampire.

More and more powerful… Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop in A Discovery of Witches. Photograph: Des Willie / Sky UK

Gerbert is played by Trevor Eve, who is well acquainted with a drama that takes itself too seriously and is here in its element, often having fun with line readings by inserting a… colossal pause where the viewer, and indeed the recognizable English idiom, least expect… this. His sidekick in the pursuit of mild evil: Owen Teale as senior wizard Peter Knox, disgruntled and rude as a resentful divorcee. Even arch villains are less impressive monsters than slightly boring idiots.

Anyway, where are we as a third – to some extent culminating – and the final season begins? We’re around a long oak table in a luxurious French chateau retreat, and while the characters in this series seem like they could just own a vacation home there, there are dark matters to discuss. It’s the HQ of vampire matriarch Ysabeau (Lindsay Duncan), where the three creature types have come together to prepare their response to a rare and shocking murder at the end of season two. Millennia of passive-aggressive drug translation are about to come to a head.

Key to the ultimate story resolution will be Diana’s quest to find the lost pages of the Book of Life, a mystical tome containing secrets that only she may be able to unlock. This strand might not be very cohesive as it rolls up – it’s a magical book that fixes things and tells people things when the narrative demands it – but it prompts the Diana’s last push towards self-actualization. There’s a satisfying sharpness to the way someone who started out as a blushing newcomer gradually becomes the strongest player in the game.

The impending denouement also forces Matthew to atone for the carnage he has committed over the centuries, this being the disastrous consequence of “blood rage” – basically a catastrophic loss of manners, which is a big deal in this. show. It has pursued him and his family, and may be linked to a spate of murders in present-day Oxford. But there is a problem. The one that’s been hampering A Discovery of Witches since Season 1 Episode One: Matthew Goode plays this undead beast as cut and inert, you can’t buy him as having sparked mayhem. He’s aristocratic, but not in the classic vampire mold, meaning a parasitic outcast who envies humans in sentiment, fallible while his pale influence hovers half-seen over countless blind generations. It’s hard to imagine Matthew having a strong opinion anyway.

Matthew, however, wants to quell his clan’s bloodlust by harnessing genetics, a bizarre concession to reality that ultimately leads to a confrontation: Diana breaks into the Congregation’s premises and asks to speak to the Director. Here, A Discovery of Witches finally finds its meaning: witches, demons and vampires must give up their rivalries, cross paths, live in tolerant harmony and forget all this eternal bloody war nonsense. Which is just as good, as no one seemed to mind this in the first place.


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