Welcome to Castlevania, an utterly delightful universe in which salt and holy water kill demons, spiteful peasants pick bar fights with their downtrodden liege lords, and plague-like blood and guts rain down upon godless clergymen who dare speak Dracula’s name in vain. Popcorn, anyone?
Based on Konami’s Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Season 1 of Netflix and Adi Shankar's animated series garnered critical success and legions of new fans. While staying true to the core values of the beloved 1989 video game, Castlevania finds a way to step things up a notch and add some deeper layers to the classic story so familiar to lifelong fans.
With Castlevania, the audience immediately gets a taste of a more humanized Dracula: a man of science painted as a victim in such a way that it’s almost difficult to cheer on the heroes who seek to defeat him. The show explores complicated themes, questioning certain moralities around sins of omission and examining the age-old battle between science and religion. Pair this type of thoughtful writing with beautiful animation and action-packed fight sequences, and what results is a fun, well-crafted series filled with bloody, monster-slaying goodness. Sign me up!
With Season 2 premiering October 26, there's no better time to look back on Season 1 and embark upon the extraordinarily daunting quest of ranking every single episode of the series.
What’s that you say? There are only four episodes? Oh, right... well, let’s rank ‘em anyway.
Episode 2, "Necropolis"
Let's start by getting one thing straight: the worst episode of Castlevania is still pretty darn good, but in the cutthroat world of listicles, someone has to be last (sorry "Necropolis").
This is the first episode in which we get a true introduction to our hero Trevor Belmont, voiced by Richard Armitage (yup, he's Thorin Oakenshield, everyone). He's a ruggedly handsome, devil-may-care exile keeping the family business of monster hunting alive — oh, and he's really good at beating the crap out of people with his trusty whip.
This dude's no Buffy, but we get the sense he can slay himself a mean vampire. We also meet the Speakers, a highly intelligent band of nomads who collect knowledge and, on occasion, practice magic, which makes them less than popular with the Church.
At the end of the day, this episode is a lot of set up. Sure, Trevor has some fun in a bar fight and maims a few corrupt monks, but there’s a reason "Necropolis" ranks last on this list: it's just not as exciting compared to the rest of the series.
Episode 1, "Witchbottle"
The first episode of Castlevania almost acts as a prequel to the entire series, and it sets up some really interesting ideas.
The Dracula to which we're initially introduced is not quite a bloodthirsty demon, but rather a scientist so knowledgeable he beat Benjamin Franklin to discovering electricity by at least 300 years. His wife, Lisa, studies medicine under him in a genuine effort to make the world better, but things take a wrong turn when the Church ultimately burns her at the stake for being in possession of "witch's things" (all of which can be found in a high school chemistry class). And thus we have the impetus for Dracula's wrath.
"Witchbottle" almost draws Dracula as a god over the people of Wallachia; he has the scientific knowledge to help them, but he also has the supernatural power to unleash an earthly hell upon them. Ironically, it is the actions of the Church that compel him to do the latter, and these are the things that make Castlevania more than just a show about kicking some demon butt.
Episode 3, "Labyrinth"
If watching Trevor Belmont's fight with the cyclops every night before I go to bed is wrong, then I don't want to be right.
From start to finish, this episode really delivers on the fun, action sequence front. "Labyrinth" also starts to give us a nice look at Trevor as an honorable hero; a refreshing contrast to the careless — yet talented — louse we've followed up to this point. His newfound willingness to defend a group of people clearly unworthy of his efforts shows the impact the Speakers have made upon him and serves as a nice "growing up" moment for our seemingly compassionless protagonist.
Trevor means business now, and things are heating up.
Episode 4, "Monument"
"Monument" takes the cake as the best episode of Castlevania (to date) because it just has so many satisfying moments.
It’s awesome to see Trevor really step up and command these peasants in a battle against some of Hell's finest demons; it's a battle they have no business winning, and their small victory reminds the viewer that Dracula and his forces are not invincible. On top of that, the corrupt priest that keeps popping up to cause trouble gets absolutely gutted by the common folk, including a particularly satisfying pitchfork to the neck. Sypha Belnades shows off some badass magic, and Trevor's pre-alliance fight with Dracula's son, Alucard, is pretty fun to boot (how long is that guy's sword, by the way?).
The crowning moment of this episode, however, is when the Bishop of Gresit, the man responsible for burning Dracula's wife at the stake, is told — by a demon inside his own church — that his life's work makes God puke. Whoa.
Imagine being a priest and getting a high-horse lecture from a literal demon from Hell?
Put a bow on Season 1; we don't need anything else.