In the hyper-active modern era of entertainment, saying something is a ‘slow burn’, meaning it takes time to build to its active thrust, seems like it should be a death sentence. Why do I have to wait for the demon-slaying, the gigantic space battles, or the pivotal scene where the main character tells the love of his life that he’s leaving to go on some suicidal mission?
After all, I’ve got Snapchatting, Instagramming, or, hell, three other jobs I’m working on and there’s no time for this crap. I’ve got 30 minutes to cram in my day’s entertainment value, and I better get it.
Castlevania, Netflix’s gory gothic broodfest, mocks your intentions with Dracula’s sinister scowl. The first season, with a breezy quartet of episodes, comes after you with nigh-unstoppable action, drawing you into its world where, frankly, everything is constantly dying or doing the killing. Growing up in this universe would be the most horrifying thing – vampires, night beasts, wyverns and more are all liable to rip you to shreds if you so much as step outside your house.
Season 2, though, takes the fact that you’re already in after mainlining its hyperkinetic brother and decides to take it slow. Like a new relationship – Castlevania takes a hard turn towards the serious, the (relatively – it’s still vampires and insane magic, after all) deep, and, most importantly, makes a great effort to get you to care about the characters whipsawing through the demons.
There are two parts to a good slow burn, in my opinion:
- The dangling threat of something terrible
- A world we want to spent time in
Castlevania makes no secret of Dracula’s grand plan to annihilate the human race, and the threat that the vampire lord might actually do it serves as the prize at the end of the parade of episodes – if we can make it through, we’ll see whether good ol’ Vlad can pull it off. That Dracula himself is such a compelling, broody character makes this an even more interesting question – when was the last time you wondered whether a supervillain would actually commit to their plan if given the opportunity to do it?
It’s the second part, though, that makes the season work. Castlevania‘s chorus of strange vampires, mystical magicks, and bickering characters make for an entrancing way to spend the 25-28 minute episodes, which make for great side-snacks while making dinner, doing a workout, or dealing with cats that refuse to let you cut their nails.
Every episode brims with tension, even while they steadily build towards the climax. The stakes in every scene aren’t world-ending, but they are fascinating, and the backstories to what could have been one-note plot characters are fleshed out in fantastical, fascinating ways. By the time the climactic battles come, we know everyone taking part, we understand why, and we care about both the winners and losers.
In other words, it’s good stuff, and well worth a watch if you’re into vampires that don’t sparkle.