This A Discovery of Witches review contains spoilers.
Monsieur de Clermont, we’ve been expecting you! Admittedly, we weren’t expecting you to show up, sniff your son, detect that he hadn’t yet banged his girlfriend, shit stir about it and then offer her the keys to your bread cupboard, but it’s always good to leave people guessing.
The reputation of Philippe de Clermont very much precedes him in A Discovery of Witches. He’s a superstar in this world, the vampire who established the Knights of Lazarus and the Congregation, and the patriarch of France’s ruling vamp family. Meeting him was like meeting Lady Gaga, and then quickly realising that Lady Gaga is a shady, manipulative stirrer who’ll stand back and watch a woman violated without raising a finger to help. (She isn’t of course. The real Gaga would have fought that memory-invading witch tooth and claw).
A Discovery of Witches is reliably vigilant about not making Diana a damsel in distress who needs rescuing by her super-powered boyfriend, so it was her own instinctual power that dealt with her attacker. Diana’s emphatic “I. Said. No.” as the sword did its work underlined the violation of what was happening and what it stood for. This show has also been reliably vigilant about not using sexual assault as a cheap plot tactic/clichéd female character development – disappointingly rare in the genre of historical drama as season two essentially is now – while still finding a way to stage the power dynamics of such an attack.
This trip back in time hasn’t wasted the opportunity to comment on 16th century gender politics. From the Queen’s astrologer looking right through Diana in episode three, to Mary Sidney bemoaning the narrowness of (even a wealthy) woman’s world, to riding side-saddle, to Philippe trying to palm those keys off on Diana, season two has been saying its piece. Teresa Palmer does an excellent line in looking like she’s just about to melt the face of the next person who assumes that Diana’s a weakling airhead, before remembering when and where she is. Not that it stops her from standing up for herself.
Diana saving herself doesn’t mean that Matthew won’t have something to say about his father manipulating a witch into forcibly extracting her memories. Philippe’s betrayal is yet another cupful of complication to toss into that bubbling cauldron of grief, pain and resentment that Matthew feels for Philippe, every facet of which Matthew Goode has – to use a technical term – acted the balls off. Since it was raised, the prospect of being reunited with his father has cast a pall over Matthew, and now we know it’s not just the Nazi torture responsible.
It always had seemed a bit… unofficial, the moment when Diana and Matthew supposedly mated for life – less a rite than a formality. If you recall, Matthew had left Sept-Tours on an emergency trip to Oxford to investigate a break-in at his lab. Upon his return, he swept up the hill where Diana greeted him on the cobblestones. With Ysabeau watching from the window, they pressed together their palms and Matthew declared “From this moment, we will always be one. Diana, I love you.” Job done. No fireworks or witch-glow, no flower-strewn ancient traditions or blessings. There have been dates in branches of Nando’s with more ceremony. Certainly with more sex.
Because it turns out that Diana and Matthew, despite being consenting, committed adults with the raging horn for each other, haven’t actually done it. They’ve bundled, sure. They’ve bundled big time. And he’s bowed down before her… queen. But like scientific education in the anti-vax community, penetration has not occurred.
Matthew has his (as-yet-undisclosed) reasons. What’s puzzling is that Diana waited until now to press him on them. Yes, they’ve been busy with spies and sprouting tree-hands and adopting street urchins, but surely there was time for a bunk up in an Elizabethan ruff cupboard before now. Why hasn’t it – don’t pardon this pun, it doesn’t deserve it – come up?
Now that her unmated status has been brought to Diana’s attention, we can be sure that she’ll get to the er, bottom of it. My guess? Matthew’s blood rage means that he can’t trust his libido to not transform a sexual partner into a pile of mixed berry jam should he ever seal the deal. That, or he’s self-conscious about his 1500-year-old penis.
Speaking of the family bloodline, London welcomed another de Clermont in the form of Matthew’s hedonist sister Louisa. She’s trouble, is the headline, a sort of horny cat in a dress who spent the episode purring and rubbing up against Kit Marlowe as if he were a scratching post, which personality-wise, he more or less is. Good line about finding mornings objectionable though, that’s one to print on a coffee mug.