Castlevania: Nocturne Season 1 Review


Castlevania: Nocturne Plays a Rondo of Blood

Starring: Edward Bluemel, Thuso Mbedu, Pixie Davies, Zahn McClarnon

Richter:I am Richter Belmont, last descendant of the Belmont Clan, and I. Kill. Vampires! [decapitates an aristocrat] Who’s fucking next?!”

Castlevania: Nocturne “Horror Rising From the Earth” (Season 1, Episode 4)

Netflix can always count on Castlevania for increased popularity. It ran for four seasons that were almost always entertaining. Now, like the Belmont family, Castlevania: Nocturne is here to carry on the tradition. Can the show live up to its legacy or is it game over? Let’s find out.

The Good

Castlevania Nocturne: Aria of Sorrow

Maria: “To hell with the natural order! No more kings. No more aristocrats. Vive la révolution!

“A Common Enemy Against Evil” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Centuries have passed since the original series. Castlevania: Nocturne takes place during the height of the French Revolution, with a vampiric aristocracy preying on citizens. A setting this volatile needs new heroes to defend it.

Richter is the direct descendant of previous main character Trevor Belmont He is skilled with whips, swords, and knives. Richter could cast magic spells until he saw a vampire kill his mother. He keeps everyone at arm’s length except for his adopted sister, Maria, and her mother, Tera.

Maria is an outspoken revolutionary who holds secret rallies. She bickers with Richter, but will rush to his defense in a fight. Maria can summon the Four Gods of Chinese mythology to fight on her behalf. Tera often joins fights, wielding elemental magic against demons and vampires.

Annette and Edouard complete the party. Annette is a blunt speaking escaped slave descended from African gods. She can now manipulate earth and stone and conjure metal weapons. Edouard, a biracial opera singer, spies on slave owners using performances as cover. He lacks offensive powers, but can see souls while singing implicitly magical music.

Harmony of Despair

Olrox:Little boy Belmont. I know that feeling. That pain. That hate. That burning, unendurable need for revenge.”

“A Common Enemy Against Evil” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Many monsters roamed 18th century France. Inhuman, bloodsucking fiends who preyed upon powerless victims. Also, some vampires. 

A secret coalition of vampire aristocrats ruled Machecoul, partying each night with oceans of blood. A cult formed around them, prophesying a vampire messiah who would bring eternal night. They served as rank-and-file threats, joined by an allied necromancer’s summoned demons.

Drolta leads the cult, serving as an emissary for her mistress, Erzsebet Bathory. She is seductive, sadistic, and manipulative. Drolta is supported by the Comte de Vaublanc, a vampiric slaver who fled Haiti to escape Annette and Edouard.

A wild card arrives in the form of Aztec vampire Olrox. He murdered Richter’s mother and has promised to eventually kill him. Olrox is good-natured and sardonic when not dealing with dangerous opponents. He travels to France to investigate the cult and fulfill his own agenda.

Castlevania Nocturne: Lament of Innocence

[Maria is burying a dead summon]
Edouard: So, part of you has died, [turns to Tera] like part of you did with your sister. Ill sing for them both.”

“Horror Beyond Nightmares” (Season 1, Episode 2)

Castlevania: Nocturne upgrades the serviceable, but forgettable scores from previous seasons. Even its aptly named subtitle references moody music.

The villains strut their stuff to subdued instrumentals, like Chateau Vampires, Work of the Devil, and Eclipse. The heroes have more vibrant songs, such as Viva La Revolution, Reborn, and Sunrise, Sunset. Richter gets an orchestral remix of Divine Bloodlines, his theme from the video games.

Edouard sings through the season. He specializes in mournful arias, including Dido’s Lament, Mozart’s Requiem, and Lamento Della Ninfa. Sad opera music is a surprisingly perfect contrast for fraught, high-energy battles. The best song has Hamilton’s Sydney Harcourt and Lindsey Stirling join forces to perform I’m Free”, which is sadly relegated to the soundtrack instead of appearing in the show.

The Bad

Nocturne in the Moonlight

Erzsebet:My sister the Moon burns brightly tonight. She’s very excited, of course. Soon we will force our father, Amun-Ra, the Sun, down on his knees to grovel in the mud for mercy. But there will be no fucking mercy. I will cut off his head and suck out his brains and spit them into the dust.

“Guilty Men to be Judged” (Season 1, Episode 6)

Castlevania: Nocturne inherited a major problem from the first series. Dracula is retired, meaning he can longer be the villain as he was in the game. The showrunners created a new villain, for better or worse, but mostly worse.

Erzsebet Bathory is the vampire messiah. She spent decades torturing and feeding on young women for fun. She has the cult’s adoration and presents herself as a wise leader. A connection to the Egyptian pantheon reinforces Erzsebet’s regime, but visible cracks show beneath the surface.

Erzsebet is an idle, boring Big Bad. She lacks the sympathetic melodrama of Dracula or Varney’s vainglorious comedy from season four. She makes constant, rambling speeches about godhood, eternal night, and ruling forever.

Long ago, Erzsebet absorbed power from the Egyptian god Sekhmet. This makes her very powerful, but also boring as she sleepwalks through the party’s best attacks. The divine connection confuses her identity. Is Erzsebet a vampire appropriating a god’s name and power? A goddess of war inhabiting the vampire’s body? Some sort of reincarnation blending the two? The show can’t seem to decide.

A bland personality and nebulous power make Erzsebet an awful villain. She comes across as a wall to be climbed instead of an all-powerful vampire god.

The Verdict

Castlevania Nocturne hit the ground running. The heroes and villains stand proudly alongside the old guard, with the exception of the Big Bad. The music is killer, and the show is worth your time.

Image: Castlevania: Nocturne S1 (L to R) Thuso Mbedu as Annette, Sydney James Harcourt as Edouard, Pixie Davies as Maria Renard, Edward Bluemel as Richter Belmont in Castlevania: Nocturne S1. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

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