A Discovery of Witches season 3 spoiler-free review: Fangs for the memories
Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer wave goodbye to their star-crossed lovers in this emotional final series.
The third series of A Discovery of Witches comes as something of a mixed blessing for its many, famously dedicated fans.
While this time, they haven’t had to wait over two years between series (thanks to planned and unplanned delays, courtesy of cast pregnancy and COVID), the scant 12-month wait since series two may not have been enough time to prepare them for the end – because this, sadly, is the final series of the Deborah Harkness adaptation.
Accordingly, there’s a lot to get through – and not a lot of time to get through it. This is the shortest series yet (down from 10 episodes last year to seven) but it still has to resolve all the ongoing plot threads, deliver closure to its large, ever-expanding cast and match up with fans’ impressions of Harkness’ original books. That it manages to do this as well as it does is testament to the cast and crew, who filmed relentlessly through the pandemic (and had to get a little inventive in getting South Wales to sub in for various overseas locales) to deliver this final series.
If you’ve not seen the series before… well, if you haven’t, I’m not sure this would be the place to start. But just for a recap: the series is largely concerned with the relationship between vampire Matthew (Matthew Goode) and witch Diana (Teresa Palmer), a union banned by the Congregation of supernatural creatures, many of whom see this scandal as an opportunity to grab power.
In this series the pair are married and Diana is pregnant – with twins! – who will presumably be some new manner of creature never seen before. She has to protect her unborn children while hunting down the missing pages from The Book of Life, the magical text that she’s been chasing after since the series began, and which might hold the key to saving the dwindling powers of vampires, witches and daemons.
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Meanwhile, resident moustache-twirling villains Gerbert (a vampire), Peter Knox and Satu (witches) rally forces against Diana and Matthew, as the latter reunites with two troublesome vampire "children" and searches for a cure to the "blood rage" disease infecting his undead family.
That’s three paragraphs, and that barely scratches the surface. To be honest, A Discovery of Witches can get a little bogged down with all the political manoeuvring and lore, and earlier parts of this new series do drag on a little in this manner. At times, I wondered how a series about blood-sucking vampires and energy-blasting witches had ended up focusing so much attention on scenes that essentially boil down to supernatural admin, more exposition than exhumation.
Still, series three makes up for it by maintaining a strong grip on the emotional through-line of its characters. Alex Kingston’s Aunt Sarah makes for a convincing grieving widow, Steven Cree’s swashbuckling vampire Gallowglass has an endearing unrequited love subplot and whenever Diana and Matthew are dealing with their various children, the human drama is engrossing.
In a large cast, it’s difficult to pull out too many favourites, though it’s worth noting Edward Bluemel’s young bloodsucker Marcus as a particularly solid player, alongside newcomer Peter McDonald, who had the unenviable task of taking on the role of Matthew’s brother Baldwin after the character had been played by another actor (Trystan Gravelle) for two series.
Not everyone gets as much of a chance to shine, of course – Humans star Ivanno Jeremiah is slightly wasted as a human scientist, a lot of new vampires are introduced quickly and the peerless Lindsay Duncan should really have a lot more to do in this series than she does – but given the size of the ensemble this was probably inevitable.
Overall, this third and final series will deliver what fans have been waiting for. By the time the credits rolls there’ll be smiles on faces – and possibly a few tears – with all the loose ends neatly wrapped up and our heroes left in a fairly satisfying position.
Could there be spin-offs? It’s hard to say. If anyone’s heading that way it’s probably some of the B-team vampires like Gallowglass and Marcus, though presumably fans might have to wait for Deborah Harkness to pen a couple more novels before any story could continue.
With that in mind I think for now, we can definitely wave goodbye to the de Clermonts and A Discovery of Witches in general. So long – and fangs for the memories.