Castlevania's animated bid on Netflix has certainly been paying off. Season Three continues where season two left off, with our characters all diverging on separate paths rather than remaining anchored towards the singular narrative of Dracula's war on humanity. Dracula was the storytelling nexus of which everyone's arcs, be they Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard's, or Isaac, Hector, Carmilla, and the other Vampire Generals, but since his passing, Season Three has become a sort of 'filler season' in which our characters go on more individualistic adventures. Does this formula provide a welcome step forward in the series' narrative progression? Or does it fall short and end up stagnating what was once an engaging story of supernatural horrors, politics, and drunk guys with whips slaying vampires?
The show lends focus to five primary characters and their respective arcs: Trevor and Sypha uncovering a conspiracy to resurrect Dracula brewing in the town of Lindenfeld, Alucard training a sibling-pair from Japan whom desire to become elite Vampire-Slayers, Isaac as he builds his army for the quest of vengeance and finishing Dracula's mission of exterminating the human race, and finally Hector, now imprisoned in Styria as Carmilla and her siblings attempt to make him submissive to their plans of conquering all of Eastern Europe.
Unlike Seasons One and Two, in which the character arcs were all closely tied with Dracula and his genocidal quest for vengeance, each character's journey seems more closely tied and tailored to their personalities specifically. And that's an especially good thing when you realize how much development this show laid for all the major players in the episodes beforehand. Hector, the Forgemaster manchild who simply joined Dracula because society rejected him for his macabre experiments, becomes matured and hardened (albeit unwillingly) during his time imprisoned in Carmilla's castle. Speaking of Carmilla, while she was already established as a badass warlord who got things done in Season Two, in Season Three this ideal is elevated, and in fact, I'd dare to say Carmilla is a strong female character, in this case an antagonist, done right. Despite her strategic genius, combat prowess, and dedication to seeing her kingdom rise and become prosperous, she isn't flawless, remaining irritable, sometimes even being shortsighted with her planning. I mean, when you plan on conquering half a continent with an army that only the person you've abused and manipulated for months can produce, well... it'll obviously raise some questions. Carmilla's siblings also steal the show, as they don't simply follow their sister's bidding without question. Striga and Morana enjoy a developed relationship that isn't special because they're two women, but rather it's enjoyable to watch because they're believable, enjoyable characters. Then, we have Lenore, the youngest sister of Styria, and the one who ultimately enraptures Hector into Carmilla's schemes.
Alucard's arc doesn't have that much screentime, in all fairness, but we still gain a general overview of what his time since Trevor and Sypha have embarked for parts unknown looked like. He meets Sumi and Taka, two escapees from the castle of a Japanese vampire called Cho, whom we were given brief snapshots of in Season Two. She isn't exactly important here, but rather their purpose in arriving to Alucard's castle, that being a desire to become Vampire-Slayers, a request to which Alucard obliges. Over the arc's progression, Sumi and Taka grow more belligerent regarding Alucard, eventually believing he is withholding secrets from them. The tragedy of this arc probably comes after their attempted murder of Dracula's son, which he survives via the usage of his magic sword, killing Sumi and Taka in the process. By season's end, we can witness a definitive character shift from the more enlightened, accepting person Alucard was developing to become, anchoring to become like his father in terms of merciless cruelty, staking the bodies of his slain would-be assassins as warnings to all trespassers of his property, that a new Tyrant Vampire King was in power.
Arguably, Isaac's journey was the funnest to watch. His complex philosophy of being both a devout Servant of God, yet also using his powers of restoring spirits damned to Hell onto new mortal coils to build an army to finish his Lord Dracula's mission could've been bungled badly. We could've been given a messy contradiction of a character that solely existed to add the factor of an edgy, murderous antagonist to raise stakes for the narrative. Luckily, Isaac's erratic hatred of humanity is rooted in deep-seated resentment of his own species, an idea that is toyed with throughout the Season. As Isaac builds his legion of Night-Creatures from the bodies of slain enemies and bystanders alike, he encounters several intriguing characters, such as a jovial salesman he meets in a Tunisian port-city, a charismatic Sailor Captain that nearly lifts Isaac from his intended bloodlust of claiming every single human life, and another Forgemaster, an elderly woman that tasks him on the final mission of this Season, defeating a tyrannical Magician with ambitious dreams of a City-State. Seeing Isaac pondering his life after achieving his vengeance on Hector and Carmilla for their betrayal of Dracula was honestly quite enjoyable, he seemed more compelling than the show's protagonists at times. Once again, Castlevania is able to create intriguing villains whose motives or mere screen presence is enough to make one's skin crawl or deeply think about the ideals, however corrupted and warped, they represent.
Of course, Trevor and Sypha, our two heavy-hitters, also embark on their own adventure throughout the series, becoming enraptured in the unassuming pitstop village of Lindenfield and its current infestation of Christian priests turned Dracula-worshipers and their apocalyptic plan to restore their deity back to the land of the living. Fun! Sypha and Trevor's relationship growing and being displayed as this comedic 'buddy cop' type journey is honestly adorable if anything, but this arc also makes sure to balance their jovial interactions with the grim reality of the Lindenfeld arc. They meet yet another slamming new character, Saint Germain, who ends up being in the town for a particular item of mystical power the cultists are in possession of. Caring little for their mission to return Dracula, he instead seeks the one he loves from the endless dimensions that permeate Castlevania's Multiverse, hinting that there's far more than the medieval world of horror and death we've grown accustomed to over the seasons. Ultimately, the heroics of Trevor and Sypha end up spiraling horribly wrong, as most of Lindenfeld and her citizens are destroyed in the dark ritual the cultists initiate in their bid to restore Dracula (which fails anyway, thankfully), their ally in the Judge of Lindenfeld is revealed to be a rather uncouth man (child-murderer, if you cared to know), and their overall buddy-cop feel has turned into more of a morose, regretful attitude.
In the end, Castlevania Season 3 bears few flaws, instead building upon the storylines and characters its previous two seasons have well-established. Through a superb animation style and crafted character development, this is proving one animated adaptation that does its original franchise great justice! I highly recommend this, watch it whenever you can!