Castlevania on Netflix really needs more episodes, but we’ll wait


Netflix’s adaptation of Castlevania only has four 20 to 25 minute episodes, which isn’t enough for a proper binge watch, but it still has its good points.

Before I get into the real discussion of the actual Netflix series, Castlevania, I would like to make my mea culpa about guessing that Simon Belmont would be the main character, since he’s the best-known by virtue of being in the first game. It’s Trevor Belmont instead, because this is all taking place in the late 1400s.

In case you’ve never come across Castlevania in your pop culture experiences, the games are generally, at the end of everything, about beating up and/or killing Dracula, at least until the next time he brings himself back to life. And the Netflix adaptation is no different.

But, oddly enough, yours truly ended up liking Dracula about as much as I liked Trevor, albeit for different reasons. Dracula actually has some empathetic cache in these four episodes, mostly because his bringing his castle up from the ground and sending a demonic army through Wallachia is in revenge for killing his wife.

I say some because the entire release consists of four episodes, each clocking in at under half an hour. This means that you could, if you liked, watch the entire series so far in about the time it’d take you to watch a movie like Okja.

And Castlevania suffers because of that. There’s not a lot of time to let the plot really unfold or even breathe. The first episode has three separate time jumps, from 1455, to 1475, to 1476. It feels like the showrunners decided they needed to compress what could be a decent-sized narrative into less than two hours and also make sure that it looks good. It also means that the season ends on the kind of note that might mark more of a mid-season finale if this were a slightly longer show.

Make no mistake: the atmospheric design of Castlevania is good. It’s pretty, although pretty seems like the wrong word when describing the castle of a vampire erupting from underground. Frankly, it almost looks like the budget mostly went to that and the opening credits.

That means that occasionally, characters will look a bit off-model. Trevor gets the most of this, but Sypha Belnades also has her moments where she looks … not quite herself. This seems to mostly improve by episode 4.

Speaking of Trevor, he has an entire arc about accepting his responsibility as a Belmont compressed into two episodes. I’m not sure if that’s better than dragging it out for more screentime, but it is noticeable. Other than that, he’s actually a pretty funny hero.

He just happens to often be funny at inappropriate times. Sometimes, Castlevania really can’t decide what kind of tone it wants to have. There’s all kinds of swearing (thank you, TV-MA rating), there are animated entrails (disturbingly well-animated), and then there’s Trevor making noises about his breakfast before his character development. This could play extremely straight and seriously if it wanted to, but the humor instead leaves things a touch too uneven.

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Yet, here I am, annoyed that I can’t watch more Castlevania. It’s gory, it has vampires, it has a powerful female character, and when it’s on, it’s gorgeous. This one’s for fans of the games, but if you’re still mourning something like Penny Dreadful or want something a little more brutal than Supernatural tends to be, Castlevania will hit that sweet spot.