This Castlevania review contains spoilers.
It may not seem like it during the first five plodding episodes of Castlevania season 4, but this is meant to be our last trip with Trevor, Sypha, Alucard, Saint Germain, Carmilla, Hector, and Isaac. After years of vampire wars and plots for world domination, the many sides fighting to decide the fate of the planet finally reach the endgame. Yes, the final season of the best video game adaptation ever made suffers from many of the same pacing issues as past seasons. Fortunately, the show sticks the landing overall.
Although there are some standout action sequences in the top half, as lovable duo Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) get on with the monster hunting after stopping Dracula’s resurrection in Lindenfeld, season 4 really drags out of the gate, spending way too much time setting up its action-packed second half. Long, philosophical conversations that rarely pertain to the plot go nowhere and often feel like filler. Character detours and lighter comedic moments would feel more permissible if the show didn’t also have to wrap up all of its storylines before a final crescendo in episode 9, but the time feels largely wasted here.
While Trevor and Sypha get the most material this season, their storyline feels like a retread of past adventures. The duo arrive in a new place under siege by hungry vampires and it’s up to them to save the helpless humans. That the city in question is directly tied to Dracula and Lisa Tepes only makes the setting slightly more interesting.
The attacks are led by a new villain named Varney, a hacky vampire who fights in Dracula’s name but really just wants the respect of his bloodthirsty cohorts. The legendary Malcolm McDowell voices the character, and he does a fine job bringing Varney’s…colorful, expletive-heavy vocabulary to life. While Varney hardly seems like a threat at first — a has-been fighting an old war that’s already left him behind — his mission to resurrect Dracula does lead to one of the show’s best twists. But I won’t spoil that here.
Season 4 adds quite a few new characters to the mix. Ratko (Titus Welliver) and Dragan (Matthew Waterson) are fierce vampire soldiers who pose a real challenge for our heroes but mostly exist to trigger fight sequences. Zamfir (Toks Olagundoye), like Varney, is holding the line of a war that’s come and gone, and makes for a somewhat interesting third in Trevor and Sypha’s battle with the vampires.
But the standout newcomer is Greta (Marsha Thompson), who is on a mission to lead her people to safety after monsters destroy their village. She’s a fierce fighter but also cunning and warm, and the one character who’s already thinking about the future. While Trevor, Sypha, Alucard, and Carmilla are still stuck fighting Dracula’s wars, Greta wants to find somewhere new, a place to rebuild and start a new life.
It makes sense then that her best scenes are opposite Alucard (James Callis), who’s largely given up on living, exiling himself in his father’s castle. Season 3 kind of sidelined Alucard, giving him a storyline that didn’t seem to go anywhere captivating until its bloody end, but the fourth season more than makes up for that. While season 3 teased a dark turn for Alucard that would bring him closer to his father’s legacy, season 4 mostly lets all that go, turning the dhampir into the action hero he was always meant to be. Here we see him with sword and shield in hand, cutting his way through tons of creatures and monsters — and the bestiary feels massive this season, with quite a few nods to the video games — as he’s given new purpose. Ultimately, Alucard, a hero cursed by a name and a castle, gets the ending he deserves.
The show also closes the book on Carmilla, Hector, and Isaac. Even when stuck in her castle with nothing to do, Carmilla (Jaime Murray) remains one of the best characters in this series. Carmilla fans annoyed with the fact that the show locked her away in her castle for the entirety of season 3 won’t find much solace here. In fact, the first half of season 4 barely spends time with the character at all. But Castlevania redeems itself in episode 6, which features the best battle sequence of the entire show. It may be one of best fight scenes in animation history! A storm of swords, blood, and guts drenches the screen in red, and at the center is Carmilla with her bloodshot eyes, blade in hand.
Despite drawing plans to take over the world of man once and for all, she suddenly finds herself in the middle Isaac’s (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) quest for revenge, but Carmilla is such a great character that she easily outshines everyone else on the screen. That said, Isaac and Hector do enjoy some of the better writing this season. For Isaac, nothing can really top his epic fight with Legion last season, but he does end up in a satisfying place. Hector (Theo James) too gets one final shot at redemption, and were there more seasons coming, I’d be interested to see what happens to him next.
But by the final two episodes, it all comes back to our main trio of heroes. Yes, Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard are reunited for one last battle against the vampires and it’s worth the wait. In the spirit of the video games, episode 9 plays out like a final boss fight, and it’s an absolute showcase for Castlevania‘s excellent animations. The artists who worked on this series can’t be lauded enough for how well they’ve been able to translate the world of the video games to anime.
There are definitely a few hiccups, but Castlevania season 4 does right by these characters, giving them satisfying ends while also leaving the door slightly cracked for future stories. Don’t get your hopes up, but like Saint Germain (Bill Nighy) and his Infinite Corridor, you never know what might be around the corner for these characters.
Castlevania season 4 is out now on Netflix.