Castlevania Season 4 Review: It's Finally Over

Castlevania Season 4 Review: It's Finally Over

Perhaps the next season will be all about Pachinko machines.

pocru by pocru on May 23, 2021 @ 01:55 AM (Staff Bios)
One thing I couldn’t help but notice watching the fourth and final season of Castlevania is that no one speaks.

I mean, sure, the main characters speak — and the supporting cast speaks. But every other character in the show, every background character, bit part, and nameless villager — none of them have voices. They point, they make expressions, they release generic screams as they’re cut down in masses occasionally… but they never say anything. If a character wasn’t getting significant screen time, Netflix just didn’t hire anyone to voice them.


It wouldn’t be hard for me to transition that observation into a broader observation about the Castlevania anime at large. I could say that this reflects how the show has well-developed characters running around an empty, poorly-developed world that doesn’t exist outside providing set pieces for them to interact with. I could say that this reflects the show’s hollow and meaningless efforts to create “shades of grey” in its conflict, as it always fails to say anything meaningful about the different sides that battle over stakes that are very frequently told, not shown. I could even point to it as a way of illustrating how badly the show does of actually putting care into the stakes it tries to set for it heroes: how am I supposed to care about our heroes efforts to “protect the people” when the people don’t really exist?

But I think that kind of critique would be doing Castlevania a service it never really earns. By the end of the fourth season, Castlevania has managed to claw its way up from “campy stupid fun” to “campy fun”, but it’s never been as intellectually deep or emotionally satisfying as the showrunner clearly intended it to be, and if it can’t bother to invest much actual thought into creating a world, I don’t see why I need to invest much actual thought into critiquing or analyzing it.

To wit, the fourth season of the Castlevania show once again follows four protagonists: Issac, the guy who controls an army of demons for largely unknowable ends, Hector, his former mate who’s trying to resurrect Dracula after being badly tricked into being a slave of 4 girl-power vampire queens, Simon and Sypha, monster hunters who just kind of exist now, and Alucard, who got burned on his first threesome and now has a hard time trusting people except he gets over it very quickly.

If you were thinking that the final season would wrap up these four plot threads by converging them in one epic climactic chapter, you’d be wrong: Hector and Issac reunite and have themselves something like a finale, and the original trio reunite at the final battle, but the four separate stories never really merge in any interesting way. Which is fine — not every series needs to follow conventional literary tradition, but it is stilightly… dissatisfying. Particularly with Hector and Issac, which seem to have ended their respective arcs with a mutual shrug and a “we’re done now”.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Spoiler alert from here on out, of course.

The story begins with Simon and Sypha wandering around, killing stuff, and generally being aimless. After several skirmishes (the fight scenes in this show remain unmatched), the plot falls in their lap when a mysterious soldier informs them that the royal family of the town that was destroyed in the first season live on in an “underground court”, and that they may need Simon and Sypha’s help. For what it’s worth, both of them seem perfectly aware that the plot was just “falling in their lap”, and they both kind of agree to resist merely being dragged along by the strings of fate and actually start being proactive for once.

Meanwhile, Alucard is chilling in his castle, moping as usual, with a few extra dead things impaled outside his home. Now, at the end of the last season, we saw him get betrayed by people he loved and cared about, so one would assume those scars would still be fresh in his mind. They’re not. Because as soon as a horse and a dead guy reach his castle with a note asking him to help a besieged town, he pretty much just shrugs off his trauma and decides to go.


As for Hector and Issac? Hector is just kind of… around. Trying to make his hammer. And Issac is rebuilding the town he destroyed at the end of the last season so people can move back there. The logic for this very abrupt change of heart was that he enjoyed killing the old wizard that turned it into a craphole in the first place because it felt like he was doing some good in the world. So he might as well just keep riding those good vibes.

Oh, and the girl boss vampire is also there. All of season 3 was dedicated to her and her sisters deciding to set up a vampire empire. The first time we see them in season 4, her sisters have decided the plan is too hard, and Camelia, the girl boss, has decided “no it’s not — in fact, let’s take over the whole dang world”.

...and then Issac invades their castle with his army of night creatures, kills Camelia, and that whole thing just sort of… resolves itself. The lesbians get away to be soldiers of fortune, Hector negotiates the safety of the vampire girl who enslaved him because nobody knew that Stockholm Syndrome was a thing in the middle ages, and… yep. That’s it. We’re done. We get a pretty cool episode-long invasion and their involvement in the story is over. Just like that.


To fill up all that lost space, we instead follow Saint Germain, the fellow who Sypha and Simon helped out in the last season. Having reached the Infinite Corridors, he’s unable to manipulate the passageway between dimensions due to a lack of power, and thus, he can’t reach the woman he’s been trying to find — who also lacks a voice, I should throw out there. Instead, he finds an alchemist, who says “geez, all you have to do is a lot of murder, bring back Dracular, and then you can somehow control the Infinite Corridor”. Saint Germain says “no”, she says “yes”, and then he’s like “alright you make a good point let’s get genocidal.”

And as fate would have it, the village he’s decided to murderize is the very same one that Alucard has come to protect.

Anyway, Alucard arrives at the village and saves the day, and he meets a sassy woman who doesn’t even try to not be a love interest. He promises to protect the village, a bunch of refugees show up, and then Saint Germain is like “ah crap what if we all hid in your castle instead of trying to protect this lil’ old village”. Alucard, who previously showed some hesitancy in allowing people to explore the dangerous, arcane nooks and crannies of his father’s cursed estate, decides that having a couple dozen strangers running around couldn’t hurt, so he agrees to the plan. They’re immediately attacked.

Sypha and Simon offer some peasants advice about hygiene, kill one (1) night creature, and then their mysterious soldier friend is like “yep you’re trustworthy now let’s visit the underground court”. They show up, learn that the royal family is dead, and their soldier friend is insane. They’re immediately attacked. They fight them off, unsurprisingly, then follow one of the bad guys through a magical mirror to Alucard, so the three of them can work together for one last hurrah. They fight off the vampires and the night creatures, then rush up to Saint Germain, who’s finalizing his ritual to bring back Dracula in the body of a man and a woman.

Then — surprise — we find out that the bad guy who escaped through the mirror was actually Death the whole time (a neat little nod to the games), who was pulling the strings to get Dracula resurrected only because Dracula was, like, really good at killing stuff. And by putting him in a hemaphoric body, Dracula would go insane and be even better at killing stuff. His plan briefly works, except it doesn’t even kind of, because while it took a whole episode of non-stop fighting to kill Dracula the first time, this time the heroes kill him in his new body after like 5 seconds.

The castle explodes. Belmont and Death are on one platform, separated by an extremely closeable gap from Alucard and Sylva, who decide to not bother and try to reach him so he can have his cinematic 1 on 1 fight with death itself. It’s pretty one-sided until the very last moment, when Belmont decides to whip death but, like, mean it this time. Then, a stab with a deus ex machina knife that was previously introduced but never really explained, and our old pal Simon kills himself to kill death. Incredibly subtle.


Series over, right? Wrong. One more episode to go. Because Netflix must have figured we were so gosh darn attached to these characters we just had to know what becomes of them.
  • Hector doesn’t try very hard to stop his psychological and sexual abuser from killing herself, even though it seems very reasonable she could have escaped Issac’s “cage” fairly easily.
  • Alucard lets the villagers stick around, and to the surprise of literally everyone, is implied to get together with the village leader lady.
  • Sypha’s pregnant, Simon’s not dead thanks to Saint Germain, and they’re going to help build Alucard’s town.
  • Dracula and his wife are alive for some reason now, which both of them admit makes no sense either. I don’t care.
And that’s the show.

In the end, I was left feeling… ambivalent. While the show certainly delivered fight scenes and the occasional banger on the OST, it ultimately felt too scattershot, too… aimless. It didn’t have the kind of satisfactory ending you find in morality tales, since good people suffered and people who really didn’t deserve happy endings got them anyway, even if the show seems to say it’s okay to commit a few genocides when you’re pouting over a dead wife. At the same time, the ending lacked any complexity or nuance to actually say anything: there is no real point or message, just a bunch of people who did a bunch of stuff, kind of saved the day, and now get mysterious, presumably happy futures to look forward to.

The show just kind of… existed. It entertained with flashing lights and witty banter and vanished into the night, with no trace or impact from its arrival to leave you thinking about it after it ended… or wanting for more. Not half as bad as it could have been, but not half as smart as it thought it was.

Just there. Emoting and moving — but never saying anything.


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