It wasn’t supposed to be good.
Instead, it’s great, and I’m late to the party.
Many people I know have been saying how great it is, but they’ve oversold and overhyped things before, so I took it with a grain of salt.
And most video-game-based movies and TV shows are not good, and vice-versa.
So I started watching Castlevania reluctantly, expecting the hype to be overblown.
But it’s not! Before the title screen in the first episode, you’re hooked!
Let me set the scene…
Dracula, alone in his castle, receives an unexpected guest — Lisa, a headstrong woman seeking forbidden knowledge in order to become a doctor and aid the weak and helpless throughout the land.
Dracula mistakes her for another would-be witch trying to fool the peasants, to which Lisa scoffs, saying everybody else already does that, but she believes in science, not superstition.
He sneaks up behind her, whispering in her ear, seductively asking what she has to “trade” for access to his knowledge. Lisa pulls away from him and says perhaps she could help him relearn some manners.
Dracula warms to her, and takes her into his laboratory. Lisa is awed at what she sees inside.
“They won’t be peasants anymore if you teach them. They won’t live such short, scared lives if they have real medicine. They won’t be superstitious if they learn how the world really works,” says Lisa.
With a slight laugh, Dracula says, “Why should I do that??”
“To make the world better,” replies Lisa as a matter of fact. (If Castlevania was set in 2017, Lisa would have added a “Duh!” at the end — it’s set in 15th century Wallachia, a town in Romania.)
She adds, “Start with me, and I’ll start with you.”
Do you see what’s happening here???
First, it doesn’t get more ‘white, male oligarch’ than Dracula.
Second, Lisa values science above superstition and ignorance, and isn’t afraid to walk right up to the door of the most powerful man in the world, and ask for the keys to his secrets in the name of the greater good — when he tries to grab-her-by-the-…neck, she calls him rude and says she’ll help him relearn how to be a better human being!
Dracula reforms. He falls in love with Lisa. They marry.
Fast-forward twenty years, and a corrupt bishop has Lisa burned at the stake as a witch.
This is all before the title screen!
So, there’s the setup, and the plot develops over the four episodes in the first season, and centers around ensuring Dracula doesn’t wipe out humanity in a vengeful rage.
But then there’s the underlying narrative.
Feminism…religious ignorance…science deniers…oppression…war…
Even Big Data is a subject: without giving anything important away, there is a certain group of people who place great value on speaking and saying things to each other and remembering what was said, passing it down through generations, rather than writing it down for posterity. (It’s a commentary on our bureaucracy- and social media-driven culture, and how we feel compelled to document everything.)
But the biggest narrative is that of oligarchs in power suppressing the populace by withholding knowledge and information, and using violence to extinguish any would-be agents of change, of progress.
As the fire engulfs Lisa, the mayor of Wallachia approaches the bishop, revealing that he too has dabbled in some minor science studies from time to time — but just studies; he assures the bishop he would never think to actually practice such things.
The bishop looks at the mayor sternly and says, “The Archbishop would prefer that life in Wallachia be kept simple, Mayor,” as Lisa screams in agony.
The show is a referendum on the rich and powerful’s attempt to keep the world in the dark, to keep wisdom from people lest they use it to make their lives better, to make the world better.
And it’s a referendum on religious ignorance.
Both are relevant now, and you can finish the whole season in less than two hours…
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Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates
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