REVIEW: CASTLEVANIA Season 4 is good, with a major caveat

REVIEW: CASTLEVANIA Season 4 is good, with a major caveat

Warning: This review contains minor spoilers for Castlevania Season 4.

Before any real discussion of Castlevania Season 4 gets underway, we must take a detour. See, Castlevania’s writer Warren Ellis had major sexual misconduct accusations come out against him just under a year ago. Before you watch what will likely be some of the final mainstream work of his career, I would encourage you to read the above-linked article by The Beat’s Editor-in-Chief, Heidi MacDonald. Because of Ellis’s misconduct, viewing and reviewing the final season of Castlevania is a weird situation to be in; once again, a work that is otherwise excellent becomes tainted with the malignant actions of one of its creators.

And Castlevania Season 4 is, unfortunately, excellent, and not easily dismissed. This is unfortunate because writing on the show clearly wrapped before all of this came out, leaving Ellis with all ten episodes and the writing credit for each. Warren Ellis, it would seem, is inseparable from Castlevania. Likely due to the strenuous process of animation, there was no way to boot him from the project and rewrite the entirety of Castlevania, and meet its premiere date on May 13, 2021. I certainly don’t fault anyone else on the production team for not attempting that — Netflix could have just canceled Castlevania mid-production and washed their hands of it. They did that with a few other shows that got shut down due to COVID, but those were live-action. Castlevania’s status as one of Netflix’s first original animated shows, and the fact that it’s animated, likely played a role in its survival.

Isaac is the badass in Castlevania s4Isaac is the badass in Castlevania s4
Isaac is a certified badass in the fourth season of Castlevania. Credit: Netflix

However, the writing’s the worst part of this season. Scenes go on too long, and there are moments where scenes could end earlier rather than later. There’s a lot of talking, and while there’s some wit, for the most part, it’s more philosophical than comedic. Castlevania has always been known for its unique blend of comedy, violence, and tragedy: here, it leans more into the tragedy and violence until the very end, where things get suddenly lighter.

This show has always been about tragedy turned hopeful, though, until things get bad again. But by the end of Castlevania Season 4, it becomes clear that if the show does continue in a new form, things will have to go really bad in order to reach the apex of the trauma and tragedy of the end of Castlevania Season 3. The characters are in good form, with Sypha’s increasing enhancement of her own powers being a particular highlight. Isaac learning how to have a heart is also lovely to see; he’s come so far!

The fights are still triumphant, the animation designs continue to be really unique and compelling, and the voice acting is as good as ever. Castlevania Season 4 meets the challenge of the first three seasons and concludes the series satisfactorily. It’s a fun show, as always, and it deserves attention, it’s just a pity you must run your own personal moral gambit to actually watch it. And it’s unfortunate that the excellent work by the various animation studios, production crew, and voice actors gets lost in the bad behavior of Ellis.

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