Castlevania season 4 review: A visceral farewell to a series that never quite lived up to its own potential
It's "fangs" for the memories as the animated series departs Netflix – at least for now.
Netflix is unfurling its wings one last time, as Castlevania bows out with its final season. While it seems like only yesterday we met the foul-mouthed Trevor Belmont, kind-hearted Sypha, and troubled Alucard, Castlevania promises to crack open the crypt and use season four to round off an epic saga of love, lust, and loss.
Following the cliffhanger ending of season three, the forces of Carmilla are ready to rid the world of humans, Isaac questions his loyalties to the vampire world, and Alucard seems to be following in his father’s footsteps. Much like Symphony of the Night, Rondo of Blood, Curse of Darkness, and pretty much any Castlevania game you can name, season four focuses on a tireless mission to resurrect Dracula. As someone rightly says, 'This is about Dracula, isn’t it?'.
At its core, Castlevania season four evolves from just being about Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) and Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso). After living Sypha’s life of “adventures and victories”, things descend into the bloody world of Belmont. The bickering duo works together like a vampire-hunting Bonnie and Clyde, with the final season debuting a Belmont-esque Sypha that even swears. There’s also plenty for the pale-skinned Alucard, who is at his most dangerous and shows the toll of what being Dracula’s son really means. Daddy dearest is never far away, and as the various armies of the dead close in, there’s a real sense Alucard could be lost to Vlad’s legacy.
Looking at the bigger picture of Castlevania’s last hurrah, the real highlight is Jaime Murray’s performance as Carmilla. Not since Buffy butted heads with Drusilla has a vampire villainess been so enigmatic and interesting. Well, maybe a certain Lady Dimitrescu. Carmilla’s reflection that she and her sisters were left to die because they were women - while posing that Dracula was just a “stupid, old, man” - puts a female-first perspective on the classic tale of vamps. Critics of season three lamented that such a great character was locked away in Styria with the Council of Sisters, and unfortunately, it’s much the same in season four. Thankfully, Carmilla finally breaks free from this fortress of solitude in episode six and leaps into action with bloodlust (literally) in her eyes. It’s a showdown for the ages between two of the major factions, and gives the story a much-needed kick up the backside.
Newcomers fall short of eccentric additions like Godbrand (RIP) and Saint Germain, but still, help the story tick along. In particular, viewers should listen out for the legendary Malcolm McDowell as Varney, who is much than just a Hackney Vampire. Elsewhere, hats off to Marsha Thomason’s Greta, who simply wants to find somewhere free of these monsters and madmen. With Trevor and Sypha doing their own thing, Greta is Alucard’s right-hand woman and makes this trio a quartet. Other positives include the plethora of creative monsters. The troupe face off against everything from Zelda-inspired skeletons to Silent Hill spiders. It’s a shame that there’s a sense we’ve only scratched the surface of what this world of ghouls has to offer.
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Perhaps the biggest problem with Castlevania season four piggybacks over from season three. With the Castlevania cast left scattered around the globe, it takes far too long to bring them together. In particular, there are more long-winded speeches from Isaac (Adetokumboh M'Cormack) that don’t land when it comes to his ending. After the surprise twist of a fan-favourite becoming the de facto villain, the gloves are off and the “stakes” are raised. Even though it takes a while to get there, Alucard finally emerges as Castlevania’s MVP and gets to sink his teeth into the source material. Unfortunately, it means Trevor and Sypha are largely resigned to being supporting characters. The spiralling narratives don't come together in time, meaning the final episodes feel rushed.
Taking a cue from the now-stagnant game series, Castlevania goes with a rinse and repeat formula of heroes holing up in some godforsaken town, ridding it of monsters, and moving onto the next with a trail of destruction in their wake. Everything is a little too signposted, with things limping toward an endgame that thankfully fires in all cylinders. Things improve massively in the final furlong, and considering Carmilla’s big battle is one of the show’s best, it’s just about worth it. If this wasn’t enough, there’s an even bigger showdown in episode nine that is a glorious shower of blood and guts that looks like it’s been pulled directly from a Castlevania game. It's a symphony of the macabre that becomes one of the most beautiful things we've seen on Netflix.
On the whole, Castlevania season four is a visceral farewell to a series that never quite lives up to its own potential. Of course, fans know this isn’t the end. With Netflix promising another show in the complicated lore, it’ll be interesting to see which battered and beaten Belmonts will be tooling up for the apocalypse next time. Still, Castlevania is a comedic romp through the end of days that offers chuckles and carnage in equal measure. While not perfect, the final season serves as a love letter to Konami’s games and the series Warren Ellis has worked on since 2017. Now that the sun has risen and the Night Creatures are down for a nap, all there’s left to say is, “fangs” for the memories.