Warning: contains spoilers for A Discovery of Witches seasons one and two.
A Discovery of Witches began as a Romeo and Juliet-ish romance about the forbidden love between a witch and a vampire in a world where magical creatures were segregated by a centuries-old covenant. It was the story of Diana, a scientist and witch whose extraordinary magic had been hidden from her by parents trying to protect her from the power-hungry Peter Knox, who sought to make it his own. In season one, Diana learned who she was and whom she loved – Matthew de Clermont, the son of a powerful vampire family with a historical prejudice against witches.
In season two, the pair time-walked back to Matthew’s old life in Elizabethan England where Diana completed her witch training and learned of her prophesied role in the future of magical creatures. In the 16th century, Matthew battled past demons (literally, in the case of Kit Marlowe) and the secret of his vampire mother’s Ysabeau’s diseased bloodline was revealed.
As season three approaches, the story has outgrown Diana and Matthew’s transgressive love. The fantasy now stages a wider fight between bigotry and acceptance, between division and unity. On one side are the traditionalists like Knox, who wants to eliminate the vampires and needs the Book of Life (or Ashmole 782, a magical text containing the secret of vampire creation, which Matthew and Diana travelled back in time to find, hoping to find a reason for and fix the present day dwindling power of magical creatures) to do it. On the other side are reformers like Marcus, Sophie and Nathaniel, a vampire and two daemons whose infant daughter Margaret is a witch. Now too, that Matthew and Diana are finally married and mated, there’s Diana’s pregnancy as another symbol of union between the species.
Let’s revisit season two’s major developments in preparation for the third and final season, which starts on Friday the 7th of January 2022 on Sky Max in the UK, and on Saturday the 8th of January on Sundance Now in the US.
Matthew the Shadow
Matthew’s return to his life as Master Roydon in Elizabethan England was emotionally complicated. While Diana was essentially a tourist in the past, and retained her own mind and modern values while there, Matthew struggled to reconcile with the man he once was – a violent tool of the state who tortured Catholics and witches in the Tower of London as Queen Elizabeth’s “Shadow”. He bucked against the obeisance he was supposed to pay vampire priest Father Hubbard – the ruler of London’s magical underground – and was frustrated by the murderous jealousy his besotted friend Kit Marlowe showed for Mistress Roydon.
Most difficult of all for Matthew was being back in a time where his father Philippe was still alive. On a visit to Sept-Tours, Matthew met with his father and confronted his pain, confessing to Diana that he had been forced to mercy-kill Philippe after rescuing him from Nazi torture in the 1940s. Philippe was initially suspicious of Diana, but welcomed her as a de Clermont with a blood vow at her and Matthew’s wedding after he realised that Ysabeau had accepted her in the future. Matthew also reunited with his trusty Scottish nephew Gallowglass, a loyal friend who readily accepted Diana as family and helped the pair on their journey.
De Clermont Blood Rage
Philippe’s mercy-killing wasn’t Matthew’s only confession to Diana in the 16th century. There, she learned the reason that he hadn’t allowed them to fully ‘mate’. Matthew suffered from vampire disease Blood Rage (inherited from Ysabeau and popularly believed to have died out), which caused him to violently lose control. If mated to Diana, his protective instincts would turn him into a dangerous animal around any perceived threat to her. Diana used her characteristic wisdom and powerful magic to calm Matthew and reach the man inside the monster.
The Blood Rage plot continued to modern day Oxford, where a vampire serial killer infected with Blood Rage was on a murderous rampage. Domenico realised that the killer must be a descendant of the de Clermont family, and plotted to use the information to dethrone Ysabeau and remove the de Clermonts from vampiric power, making Gerbert the new leader in exchange for control of Venice. At the end of season two, the identity of Oxford’s Blood Rage serial killer was yet to be revealed, but we know that he broke into an auction house and stole Elizabethan miniature portraits of Diana and Matthew.
Matthew’s descendant Marcus – who also carried the Blood Rage disease but did not suffer from its symptoms – finally learned of his condition, which had been kept secret from him. Centuries ago, Matthew had acted as an assassin to protect his family’s reputation and stop Blood Rage from re-emerging, and secretly culled Marcus’ ‘children’. Marcus was granted control of the Knights of Lazarus (an organisation started by Philippe), and fell in love with a human named Phoebe, who knows he is a vampire and travelled with him to his ancestral home of Sept-Tours.
Weaving the Ten Knots
After Diana broke her parents’ protective spellbinding in season one, she discovered her prodigious but untamed elemental powers. Like Satu – thought to be Diana’s dark counterpart in an ancient prophecy about a powerful witch who will change the destiny of magical creatures – Diana sought to learn more about her powers, and found a teacher in Goody Alsop, the most powerful witch in Elizabethan England. With the help of the Goody Alsop and the Gathering (which included Susanne, the witch ancestor of modern-day daemon Sophie), Diana mastered the ten knots and learned that she, like her father before her, was a weaver – a rare witch not only able to perform existing spells, but also to conjure new ones.
Diana’s magic came into its own on her journey through Europe to find the Book of Life. At Sept-Tours, she used it to murder a witch that Matthew’s father Philippe had sicced on her to forcibly invade her memories. Then she conjured fire to contain Matthew, who was suffering the effects of Blood Rage. In Bohemia, she conjured spells to repel the odious occultist Rudolf II and retrieve Ashmole 782, which she learned was an evil object made from the skin and hair of magical creatures. In London, Diana used magic to protect herself from Kit Marlowe and Matthew’s hedonist vampire sister Louisa, who planned to kill her (and would die soon themselves). In so doing, she revealed her familiar, a firedrake named Corra who protects Diana in times of great need. Before she returned to the modern day, Diana had a terrible vision of a Rowan tree – a portal between worlds – twisted with death and torment.
In Elizabethan London, Matthew and Diana took in a homeless orphan child named Jack who’d tried to pick their pockets in the street. They gave him a home and treated him as a son, giving custody of him to the noble Percy household to raise when they returned to modern day. They gave Jack miniature portraits of themselves, to remember them by. Fearing for Jack’s safety, Diana made a secret bargain with vampire Father Hubbard to protect the boy, without telling Matthew what she’d done.
The Book of Life
Matthew and Diana’s journey eventually led them to Bohemia, where they discovered Edward Kelley imprisoned in the court of Rudolf II and driven mad by the Book of Life. Kelley had taken the book from Queen Elizabeth’s astronomer Dr Dee, and wanted to use it to find the secret of longevity. Kelley was later greeted by a mysterious vampire known as Benjamin Fuchs, who introduced himself to Diana in Bohemia, and who was later revealed to have sired Father Hubbard.
When Diana and Matthew discovered Kelley and took the book, Kelley tore out three pages, and one of each was then given to each magical species for safe-keeping. Diana’s father Stephen received the witch page in the modern day, and used his time-spinning power to travel back to the Elizabethan era to find the rest of the book. That’s where Diana met him, having not seen him since she was seven years old, when her parents were killed. Even in possession of the book, Diana couldn’t read it, and decided to return it to Dr Dee so that she would be able to find it again in the 21st century.
Peter Knox, High Magic and the Tragedy of Aunt Em
Peter Knox learned of the existence of baby Margaret – the witch born to daemon parents Nathaniel and Sophie – and promised her grandmother Agatha that the child would soon be taken away to be raised by her own species. He then went to Sept-Tours, where Diana’s aunts and the others were staying for protection against him, in search of the witch page of the Book of Life.
At Sept-Tours, Aunt Emily feared for Diana’s safety, and so broke a solemn promise to Sarah to try to protect their niece. Em experimented with dangerous high magic to communicate with Diana’s dead mother Rebecca. It left her vulnerable to attack by Knox, who killed Emily in the grounds outside Sept-Tours and attacked Marcus. Before she died, Em magically hid the page of the Book he sought, and promised that Diana would unite all creatures against his bigotry and avenge her. The season ended as Diana and Matthew travelled back to Sept-Tours to face the devastation wrought by Knox, now married, and bringing with them new life.
A Discovery of Witches season 3 starts on Friday January 7th on Sky Max, and Saturday January 8th on Sundance Now.