This A Discovery of Witches review contains spoilers.
A Discovery of Witches Episode 6
This review comes from Den of Geek UK.
There are two types of power in A Discovery of Witches.
There’s political power, held by the Congregation. They make and enforce the rules by which all creatures – vampires, witches and demons – live. Then there’s magical power, and that’s been waning for generations. Diana Bishop has it, but she can’t unlock it. It’s inside her. It has to come out somehow, some time. That time is coming.
Episode six makes a great job of concentrating on this, and the fact that if you can’t or won’t use your power you’re not able to stand against those who will. At the start of the episode Diana (Teresa Palmer) has been kidnapped and flown away to a ruined castle by another witch who still has power; Satu (Malin Buska) is a really menacing figure throughout this episode, and she has no qualms about first trying to lie to get her answers, and then to torture. She levitates Diana, rotates her, then brands her and even attempts to cut her open to see her magical powers. And while this goes in we’re all waiting – waiting for Diana’s magic to spring to life and save her.
A Discovery of Witches is really a coming-of-age story – the classic tale of recognizing your own potential and acting upon it. There have to be trials and tribulations before the heroine can emerge from her chrysalis and spread her own wings, and I was really pleased to find this episode embracing that idea fully. Diana’s vampire lover Matthew was, of course, on the way to save her (flying in with his helicopter with his brother like a two-man crack team) but she also had to free herself – from captivity, and from her inability to use her magic. By the end of the episode it looked like both had been achieved.
So we were given lots of magic, lots of action, and lots of one of my favorite elements: the head in the box. Head vampire Gerbert (Trevor Eve) arrived at the ruined castle with the prophesying head of a captured witch, kept that way for centuries, in tow. Her suffering was immense; left alone with Satu, she begged for release. Satu took her away and burned her, and it was a fascinating and moving element of this episode, but I got the feeling that this was merely skimming the surface of a story that needed more detail. Could it be this was given some depth in the books, by Deborah Harkness, that there simply wasn’t time to go into here?
The same could be said of a different power struggle; Matthew’s brother Baldwin tried to take the newly rescued Diana back to the Congregation with him, but Matthew summoned up an old commitment to the order of The Knights of Lazarus to compel Baldwin not to act. Will we find out more about this later? Right now it feels sketchy at best.
Perhaps a lack of time to really investigate all aspects of the book was always going to be a problem, and focusing on keeping things moving along does feel like a good decision at this point in the series, with all these power structures coming together. The raised eyebrows and potent stares of the vampires and witches are still lots of fun, but I find myself more and more interested in the quieter thread of the demons. Sophie Norman (Aisling Loftus) is keeping things real with her small statuette, passed down through her family. She feels certain the statuette belongs to Diana although they’ve never met. Her worry for her unborn baby vied with her certainty that she needed to tell her mother in law, Congregation member Agatha (Tanya Moodie), the truth about her own personal history. Being a demon born of witches makes Sophie everything that the Congregation hates, but Agatha promised to defend her and the baby as family. It was a well played, touching scene.
But back to Diana’s blossoming power, and the intriguing hint of a change to her personality that came along with it. Back in Matthew’s beautiful French castle, she looked at the damage done to her body and a strange expression passed over her face; she was aware that something had changed inside too, and that she had grown stronger. She told Matthew not to take revenge on Satu because she intended to deal with her personally. The further we progress into this series, the more I’ve been enjoying Teresa Palmer’s performance, which is growing to show another aspect of power: the more you have, the more it changes you.
If this stays true then by the end of the series, only two episodes away, Diana should be a very different woman to the one who started on this journey. A showdown with Satu is definitely something for us to look forward to, along with other action and magic-packed events, I hope. My concern is that one or two (or more) elements might well get skimmed over as we head towards resolution, but I’d take a little bit of confusion over a lot of slow explanation any day. A Discovery of Witches continues to be at its best not when people talk, but when they do.