A Discovery of Witches Season 2 – Spoiler review

More than a year after the first season ended, the second season of A Discovery of Witches (ADOW) returned – much to my enjoyment. I binged through the entirety of the new season in one weekend and then watched it a couple more times for good measure.

And now, with weekly airing coming to a conclusion in the UK this past Friday (and elsewhere soon enough), I thought it an apt time to share my thoughts on the season with a review, so here it is.


SPOILER WARNING

To allow me to properly express what I thought about S2 I will be getting into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t finished watching it, I strongly advise you hold back on reading this until you have.

There are also minor spoilers ahead relating to casting and characters that will appear in S3. These spoilers don’t go beyond any information you won’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the casting announcements.

You have officially been warned.


Developing characters

Character development is perhaps my favourite part of watching any narrative progress and S2 of ADOW had plenty of examples of this, with several characters showing new or different sides of themselves and growing from there as they dealt with the obstacles that S2 presented.

One character whose development quite prominently featured in S2 was none other than the leading man, Matthew de Clermont (played by Matthew Goode). 

In S1 of ADOW, Matthew came across as though he had relatively good control of his urges and violent nature, barring a couple of incidents involving Diana in some way that appeared to be the exception rather than the norm. In S2, we see a very different Matthew. 

Matthew attacks Kit for talking about Diana (S2E01, Credit: A Discovery of Witches/GIPHY)

Matthew in S2 is quicker to aggression, more overprotective, and a little bit paranoid, behaviours likely triggered by the circumstances – including being in new (old) surroundings amongst spies and other enemies while with Diana – that ultimately bring his blood rage closer to the surface. Blood rage being a vampire disease that causes loss of control and violent impulses.

Matthew’s blood rage, and his battle with his demons throughout S2, was interesting for more than one reason. Most directly, it made for several absorbing moments in which Matthew is very believably consumed by his anger, his expression harsh and his growls animalistic, occasionally accompanied by the make-up to enhance the effect.

However, what I most enjoyed about this new side of Matthew in S2 was seeing how it played a part in helping Diana (Teresa Palmer) and Matthew’s relationship to evolve. 

Throughout S2, Matthew is pushed by circumstance, Diana, and others to let go of his past and the fears it’s instilled in him so that he can allow himself to more fully be with Diana and to trust himself with her. 

Diana stops Matthew from leaving because they’re still talking (S2E07, Credit: A Discovery of Witches/GIPHY)

In that way, Diana’s own S2 transformation plays an important part in Matthew’s development. In S2, much more than in S1, she is fierce when she stands up to Matthew. She doesn’t back down and she doesn’t let him run away. So rather than being the woman watching Matthew flee and crying in the rain, Diana is the bold and powerful witch that will start a fire just to finish an argument with her husband. 

As someone who very much enjoys a strong female character, it was thrilling to see this change in Diana and to see her fight to make her relationship with Matthew work and work well.

By the end of S2, after experiencing some growing pains, Diana and Matthew are a much more stable and unified partnership. They are each powerful creatures, and both have strong characters, but it appears that they find themselves on the steadier ground as a couple than they were previously, which was lovely to see. I look forward to seeing this new relationship strength pay-off in S3.

Also showing the darker side of himself this season was Baldwin (played by Trystan Gravelle). Unlike his brother Matthew, Baldwin travels further into the darkness during S2 rather than away. 

Baldwin served as an accomplice to Diana and Matthew in their defiance against the Congregation but this was only really out of his duty as a Knight of Lazarus ordered to comply by Matthew, then Grand Master of the Knights. In S2, Baldwin is much less amenable even in the face of the authority posed by the new Grand Master, Matthew’s son Marcus.

In my opinion, Baldwin’s newfound rebellious streak is a direct consequence of the close call he had in S1 – ie almost being beheaded for helping Diana and Matthew. Rather than continue to follow he wants to be able to lead, which he could as Grand Master, and hopefully avoid similar close calls in future. However, I also accept that, as Ysabeau stated, Baldwin wanted to feel closer to his father Philippe by gaining the role. This likely just adds to the slight of a younger, less experienced vampire being granted the position instead.

All his anger, and disappointment, and fear combine to make a Baldwin that is not only less loyal, but also plain mean; mean enough to refer to his (step) mother’s blood verminous.

I can’t say I was happy to see these changes in Baldwin, because it means that the “good guys” – ie Diana and Matthew along with their friends, family, and allies – now stand divided. It was also disappointing considering that Baldwin was starting to grow on me.

However, I have to admit that there is something quite captivating about the new darkness in Baldwin. Moreover, I’m interested to see how this darker Baldwin continues to develop in S3 and which side he ultimately picks.

Whatever road the character takes in the next season, hopefully, Baldwin’s overall arc isn’t impacted by the recasting of the actor from Trystan Gravelle to Peter McDonald.

Because S2 is the first in which we start to really get to know him, I can’t close this discussion without delving into Marcus (Edward Bluemel). In S1, we get a basic understanding of Marcus; he’s Matthew’s son, he’s young and could be considered impulsive, and from his early friendship with Nathan we also see that he’s an open-minded and freethinker. 

Marcus on being made Grand Master: “Matthew didn’t give me a choice. It is what it is.” (S2E04, Credit: A Discovery of Witches/GIPHY)

S2 reveals a little more. We learn a little more about his past, and through his struggle with his new role as Grand Master, I think it’s also made evident that Marcus isn’t really sure of himself, his importance to the family, or even his life as a vampire. His misgivings and musing are inevitably tied to his struggle, as well as the realisation about his family’s blood rage secret, but I nevertheless think that his thought patterns are telling.

Ultimately, Marcus ends up accepting his new responsibility and it was interesting seeing the journey he took to get there, including through his conversations with Nathan (Daniel Ezra). Nathan and Marcus’s friendship was one that I was invested in from the beginning as they were both characters I liked. Nathan for his determination for a better future, and Marcus for his laid-back nature.

Given that I like him, it was also somewhat nice to see Marcus get a love interest in S2, though I can’t say I’m as invested in his relationship as I am in Diana and Matthew’s. In fact, when it comes to Marcus, what I’m most interested in seeing moving forward is how he wields his new power, and how his position of authority impacts his relationship with his father. These are just a couple of additional reasons for my looking forward to S3.

In just ten episodes

A lot happens in S2.

Back in the 1590–91 storyline, as they set out to, Diana and Matthew find Diana a magic teacher and she begins to learn how to properly control her abilities, and they search for and find Ashmole 782. Additionally, they adopt a child and meet each other’s fathers. They do this while having to navigate the intricacies of royal courts and the challenges posed by both friends and enemies, with the whole endeavour requiring travel between three countries.

In the present day, the other Bishops and de Clermont’s, and their friends and allies, just try to stay below the radar. Unfortunately, a string of blood rage murders, the arrival of Nathan and Sophie’s baby, and Emily’s self-appointed mission to understand Diana’s connection to Ashmole 782 make it difficult for them to do so.

All this happens across just ten episodes.

Given the amount of time available, with so much story to convey, it is perhaps inevitable that some aspects of S2 felt rushed or underdeveloped.

One S2 plot point that I thought was particularly noticeable in this regard was Jack’s introduction and adoption.

We first meet Jack (Joshua Pickering) when he tries to snatch Diana’s purse. In the following scene, we see that Diana and Matthew have invited him inside and there they feed him and try to coax information out of him. The next time we see Jack he is living with the family with no explanation as to why Diana and Matthew took it upon themselves to take the boy in.

Then, following this relatively random introduction, little time is dedicated to establishing Jack’s connection to Diana and Matthew. This is especially so early on before Diana and Matthew leave for France, which is significant as it’s before they leave that Diana and Matthew gift Jack with portraits of themselves.

Given that these portraits are set to continue playing a role in the story in the present, I think that the reason for their existence should have been more believable. Without a better-established relationship between Diana and Matthew and Jack, this just didn’t feel like the case.

Diana, Jack, and Matthew stargazing in London (screenshot from S2E10)

As the season progressed further, and we saw more of Jack it did become more evident that he was a part of Diana and Matthew’s lives and that they cared for him – especially taking into consideration the montage of Diana and Matthew’s time in Elizabethan London before it comes to an end. That was enough for me to at least register their goodbye with Jack as sad, though I didn’t feel it as deeply as I would have liked.

Another relationship in S2 that I thought could have benefited from having some more time dedicated to it was Diana and Philippe’s.

Being Matthew’s father, Philippe (James Purefoy) arrived with the benefit of foreknowledge. Philippe was the patriarch of the de Clermont, an authoritative and strong leader, and an extremely well-connected and powerful man (vampire). And once we meet him it becomes clear how enigmatic he is. He is a man that orders his son to betray his own people (Catholics) but loves him enough to help him take important steps in his relationship with the woman he loves, even if he doesn’t completely agree with the pairing at first.

Furthermore, the character was very well played and wonderful to watch. I think I would have wanted to see more of him in any case because he was so enjoyable, but as the season stands I really would have liked to see more extensively the progress in his relationship with Diana during Diana and Matthew’s time in France.

When they first meet Diana and Philippe’s relationship is strained and antagonistic, but it is accompanied by a certain level of understanding. Throughout the two episodes in which Philippe is present, affection and mutual respect develop between the two.

While the two episodes offer scenes that give the impression of this progress, I think it would have been more satisfying to see this evolution in more than glimpses.

Similar to the case of Jack, the fact that we don’t get to see much of the relationship between the characters ultimately affects the emotional pact of their goodbye.

Philippe says goodbye to Diana (screenshot from S2E06)

Philippe’s parting from Diana (brilliantly acted by Purefoy) was likely so emotional for him due to multiple factors, including the knowledge of his death and that this will be the last time he will ever see his blood-sworn daughter/daughter-in-law. However, it would have been nice to have had the solid bond between the two to further enhance the emotional experience of seeing them part for the first and final time.

Regardless, the time spent in France was very enjoyable, in large part because of Philippe and the progress he encourages in Diana and Matthew’s relationship.

In addition to the above, there were a few other parts of S2 that went by a bit too quickly for my taste. No example comes to mind as rapidly as the speed with which Diana accepts that Ashmole 782 – the Book of Life – is made from people. People! Matthew reveals this to Diana with a certain amount of shock and horror, but Diana doesn’t really react, and then it’s not really brought up again. Possibly this is something the show will explore more extensively next season but I feel like the initial reaction was definitely lacking.

I dislike criticising aspects relating to the time when it comes to TV because the factors that limit it aren’t necessarily under the control of those that create a show. Nevertheless, such flaws can impact the overall integrity of a story and the examples I discussed above, along with a few others I didn’t, took me out of the story occasionally. And that warrants some acknowledgement.

Still, I did enjoy the season for the most part – which is undeniable considering that I’ve managed to watch it multiple times – and that’s what really counts in the end.

Top scenes/moments of season 2

Criticisms aside, with its action-filled and dramatic scenes, beautiful sets and scenery, cinematic shots, eye-catching visual effects, and interesting storylines, S2 of ADOW made for an exciting and attention-grabbing continuation of the show. I wanted a chance to celebrate some of what I thought was really great about the season, so I took some time to consider my most favourite scenes/moments. 

It was difficult to cut my list down so short but if I didn’t limit myself this list could go on for quite some time, so here’s my top five scenes/moments of S2:

5

“Four species dining together” (episode 10) – Similar to the gathering at the Bishop farmhouse last season, the present-day dinner scene in the finale episode captures the spirit of the show’s message. It shows a microcosm of the world the good guys hope to achieve, one in which people are free to associate and be with whom they please regardless of species. For that sentiment alone, I thought it deserved a top spot.

4

Wedding dances (episode 6) – Despite not seeing Diana and Philippe together more often in the season, it was still sweet watching them dance together after Diana and Matthew’s wedding ceremony, and then Diana and Matthew after he took Philippe’s place. The beautiful costuming and music, as well as the well-placed use of slow motion, helped to make the scene that much better.

3

Diana ties the third weaver’s knot and unleashes a rowan tree (S2E03, Credit: A Discovery of Witches/GIPHY)

Diana’s ties the third knot (episode 3) – Of the several special effects which we see in S2, the Rowan tree is my favourite. It was not necessarily the most exciting but it was certainly the most beautiful, the tree iridescent in shades of red, gold, brown, and green. The shot of Diana looking up at her weaving, looking physically overwhelmed as a single tear rolls down her cheek didn’t hurt the scene one bit either.

2

Love across time (episode 6) – I may not have shed actual tears, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t extremely touched when I watched as Philippe wrote his final letter to Ysabeau cut together with scenes of Ysabeau reading it centuries in the future. It was beautiful seeing the long-since separated couple able to connect one last time in this way.

1

Diana puts an end to André Champier in (S2E05, Credit: A Discovery of Witches/GIPHY)

Diana meets André Champier (episode 5) – Diana has a few intense scenes in the season and, in my opinion, the most intense was her meeting with André Champier. Diana’s fear and pain were palpable as the creepy André very insistently forced his way into her mind, her agonised scream perfectly delivered, and her gaze as she watches him die wonderfully fierce. Even in the face of Diana’s suffering, I couldn’t look away for a moment, which is a testament to the scene.

And, because I can’t resist mentioning a few other great moments from the season, here are some honourable mentions: the dancing at Diana and Matthew’s wedding (episode 6); the opening of Ashmole 782 and all of the wonderful visuals that follow (episode 7); Diana roughing up Edward Kelley to get Ashmole 782, as Matthew and Gallowglass do some roughing up of their own in the background (episode 7); Matthew’s speech about her reign to Queen Elizabeth, primarily for the shot of the queen as he says “Gloriana” (episode 9); and absolutely any scene in which Matthew was wearing his hat tilted down just a bit, wearing his cape, swaggering through the streets of London. 

I really could go on, but I’ll leave it there. 

Impatiently awaiting season 3

Having binged S2 the weekend after Sky released it on demand, I have been bereft of new content for several weeks now. And, even as a rewatched it, since finishing the season the first time I have been very impatiently awaiting S3.  

With S3 being the final season of ADOW, it offers what will hopefully be a satisfying conclusion to the show. In addition to a final showdown between the Congregation and the good guys (possibly including a battle between the weavers), I look forward to seeing Diana fully realise her magical ability and to watching mysteries finally unfold. These include the culprit behind the blood rage killings, the secrets of Ashmole 782 and why it is connected to Diana, and the reason Benjamin Fuchs is so interested in “Matthew’s witch”. 

Excitingly – for me at least – with Diana pregnant by Matthew, there are also the reactions of others to this strange news to look forward to. The show will also hopefully take the time to explain how the pregnancy was possible. 

Furthermore, S3 offers the opportunity to finally see the prophecy introduced in S1 finally come to fruition. 

“Beware the witch with the blood of the lion and the wolf, for with it she will destroy the children of the night.”

There is so much left to pay off in S3, as S2 brought more questions than answers, and I really can’t wait to watch it all unfold.

Fingers crossed the wait to 2022, and S3, doesn’t end up feeling as long as it currently seems.


This post was very much an exercise in separating my book knowledge from my thoughts and opinions of the show, and I really hope that I was successful. But, to you ADOW trilogy readers out there, I hope to have a piece out on my thoughts of the season from the perspective of a book reader out soon. If that interests you, make sure to watch this space.

For now, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my review.

Don’t forget to like and comment with your thoughts on this post, and on S2.

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