This A Discovery of Witches Review contains spoilers.
A Discovery of Witches Episode 5
This review comes from Den of Geek UK.
You can’t beat a television moment that comes out of nowhere, and episode five of A Discovery of Witches managed to surprise me twice by going to deeper, darker places than I’d imagined it was up for.
Vampires are dangerous and fascinating creatures, and this series has captured our attraction to them – I’m thinking of Diana asking Matthew what her blood would taste like, for instance – without really managing to put across the peril. They have been suave, intelligent and sexy without looking like killers. But in episode five, for a moment, it looked like Matthew might be a killer after all, thanks to a strong performance by Matthew Goode.
Investigating the break-in at his laboratory in Oxford, he smelled out the presence of witches, particularly Diana’s shifty friend Gillian (Louise Brealey). When he tracked down Gillian to a deserted back street of Oxford with shopping in hand, he didn’t just confront her. He bit her, drank her blood, and even looked like he was viciously enjoying her weak struggles to escape him. Finally Matthew looked dangerous, and I spent a few minutes really believing that he’d killed her. Where would the series go next if it was prepared to go that far? Things suddenly seemed very interesting indeed.
After the advertisements we found out that Gillian was not dead, and had managed to crawl away from the encounter to report back to her superiors about Matthew’s attack, stirring up whole new levels of trouble. Even if the writers didn’t go quite as far as I might have preferred, they did give us a moment to see Matthew in an entirely new, and welcome, light during an episode that concentrated on giving us a sympathetic back story for him instead.
Diana learned, through his mother Ysabeau, of his past. He had been an architect back in his human years, with a wife and child who died of a fever; his attempt to commit suicide had led Ysabeau to bite him in order to give him continuing life, of a sort. This section was a bit of an info-dump but at least it was delivered by Lindsay Duncan, who brought all sorts of emotions to it with her wonderfully watchful expressions. And we had the added bonus of a new location to enjoy – a bell tower that Matthew had built, which was a stunning building in the small French village where the De Clermonts abide.
The second moment of surprise came from an object that made a brief appearance in an earlier episode. This was a welcome return to the head of a witch, cut off and kept in a cupboard by head vampire Gerbert D’Aurillac (Trevor Eve) in order to predict the future for him. He fed it a little of his own blood and demanded answers from it, and the scene was macabre and unsettling. The revelation of two witches, one dark, one light, being involved in the foreseen destruction of the vampires was an interesting development, just as the power-hungry witch Satu arrived on Gerbert’s Venetian doorstep to negotiate directly with him, ignoring the orders of her own superior. Satu is played with plenty of menace by Malin Buska; her scenes are always focused and enjoyable.
So Satu is the dark witch and Diana is the light witch, both powerful, both involved in machinations that they don’t fully understand. And it seems that Diana, in particular, will never be given the opportunity to understand because nobody tells her much that’s not directly out of the past. A good lesson about how the Congregation and their rules work would really come in handy, and I can’t help but feel that Matthew should really have told her about biting Gillian before deciding they were going to be together forever. Ah well. No doubt this will all come out in the open eventually, leading to heartfelt scenes of anger and then reconciliation.
More enjoyable than the love angle in this episode, for me, were the demons who had moved on from trying to organize a chatroom to meeting up for a meal out. They sat around a table in a restaurant and talked about what it was like to be a creature in a human world; a lot of them expressed discontent with the behaviour of the witches and vampires, which gave a fresh perspective on this magical world. The demons are caught in the middle of powerful forces fighting a cold war; I’m looking forward to finding out whether they’ll choose a side, or learn to stand up for themselves in the future.
But, for now, we end this episode focused on Diana’s sudden kidnapping after her one night of love with Matthew. There are creatures that want her questioned, possibly tortured, in order to get to that damned elusive book Ashmole 782, and something more besides to do with her power and her genetics. With vampires and witches choosing sides, it looks like this cold war is about to warm up. Hopefully that’ll mean more danger, and more dark surprises all round.