A Discovery of Witches Episode 3 Review

Whatever its frustrating fantasy cliches, A Discovery of Witches still manages to cast a spell.

This A Discovery of Witches review contains spoilers.

A Discovery of Witches Episode 3

This review comes from Den of Geek UK.

As usual, the first thing I notice about any episode of A Discovery of Witches is that the settings are just so beautiful. From Oxford to Venice via an English country house with magnificent sweeping lawn, it’s always easy on the eye in its large-scale establishing shots. Having said that, it also works some magic in detail at times, and in this episode it’s the turn of three small objects to hold our attention.

Firstly, we have Ashmole 782: it’s the book that everyone wants, and nobody can find. Not even Diana Bishop (played by Teresa Palmer), the witch who first summoned it from the stacks of the Bodleian, can manage to bring it up from the depths now. Just the thought of it is enough to send all the creatures – vampires, witches, and demons – into a frenzy.

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Secondly, there’s the very creepy future-predicting masked head that sits in the Venice palazzo of head vampire Gerbert D’Aurillac (played by Trevor Eve); when consulted it says, “Beware the witch with the blood of the lion and the wolf,” which is one of those mysterious gobbledygook things that strange, soothsayer-y objects say. Is it talking about Diana?

Thirdly, there’s a silver statuette that has been kept by a family of demons for generations; its current owner thinks that the time will come when the statuette will need to be given to someone. It’s all a bit vague to be honest, and the statue is underwhelming, but it’s the beginning of a whole new strand of story being woven into place and I’m glad to spend a bit of time with some demons who appear to be quietly living a conventional life in a small town while wishing they were allowed to communicate more freely with other demons using the internet. All they want, deep down, is a chatroom.

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Why is demon communication forbidden by the Congregation? The more we learn about them, the more of an administrative nightmare this shady organisation seems to be. The powerful and frightening witch Satu Järvinen (played by Malin Buska) travels to Venice to visit the halls of the Congregation, and she is shown a door to a central meeting chamber, then to the rooms that are allocated to witches (including tea and coffee making facilities).

She searches through old files to gather information on Diana, including photographs of her dead parents, but is interrupted by a vampire who has strolled in unchallenged; he takes the information, and reports back to Gerbert. Considering witches and vampires have been instructed to not talk to each other for centuries there’s a fair amount of well-timed dialogue going on between them.

Diana is in danger from lots of different directions. Witches hate her for talking to vampires, and some vampires hate her for having access to the book. We’re not yet certain where demons stand on the issue of Diana; no doubt that’s to come. But throughout this episode the focus is on the building tension between creatures with Diana at the centre of it all. She’s also at the centre of vampire Matthew Clairmont’s  interest, not only because of the book. He’s craving her, and after a candlelit dinner for two, it’s clear that she’s pretty interested in him too.

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I think Matthew Goode is doing a fine job in playing Clairmont; he has a way of turning his head and looking at people as if they’re objects too – sometimes boring and unimportant, and at other times beautiful and delicate, but still removed from him and his long life experience. Still, I wish he was getting more interesting dialogue to say; a lot of his lines simply serve to remind me of other romantic vampire stories. This series is obviously based on a number of different supernatural books and films and mainly I’m enjoying feeling that this is part of a well-loved genre, but I’m not sure the influence has to be quite so obvious at times.

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The way that Matthew and Diana’s relationship is beginning to play out is also familiar, which is a bit of a disappointment as earlier episodes didn’t necessarily suggest that the story would go down the route of portraying Matthew as an obsessive, controlling figure. By the end of this episode he’s immediately overruling Diana when she suggests maybe she should return to her Aunt’s house to find a safe place, and has already packed their bags. This decision to override her, and her immediate acquiescence to him, made the choice of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way over the closing credits a very strange one. I ended up frowning at the screen in annoyance, which is not a good way to leave an audience.

On the subject of music, though, there are very strong moments when magic is being used, in particular, with the feelings of power and danger being heightened by music that has, at times, reminded me a little of the great soundtrack to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), composed by Wojciech Kilar. See, there are even more things to be reminded of, most of which I love. And yet the things I like the best about A Discovery of Witches are exactly that – the discoveries. The need to find out more overrules my doubts about the dialogue and the romantic dynamic. I want to know more about the way the Congregation works, and the power that Diana is finding inside her. And more about the three objects that, as yet, remain mysterious to us all.