Thursday, May 6, 2021

Review: Season 2 of ‘A Discovery of Witches’ Is a Magically Alluring Delight

The second season of the fantasy drama A Discovery of Witches has arrived, and it’s bursting at the seams with another round of episodes full of magic, enchanting characters, beautiful sets and scenery, and a splendid romance.

A Discovery of Witches is based on the All Souls trilogy by author Deborah Harkness. In the first season, we met our main characters — the witch Diana Bishop and the vampire Matthew Clairmont. Portrayed by Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode, respectively, the two had electric on-screen chemistry that translated quite beautifully from the pages on which their characters were first born. Watching their uneasy alliance transform into a whirlwind romance was one of the aspects that made the show so compelling to begin with.

Courtesy of Sky One.

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Season 2 ventures into new territory for the show. Picking up moments after the season 1 finale, it follows Diana and Matthew as they arrive in London in the year 1590. Meanwhile, their friends and family back in the present day are left to keep the Congregation at bay, amongst other things.

One of the strengths of A Discovery of Witches has always been its production value. As viewers are immersed in a lovely and magical story, they’re also treated to beautiful sets and filming locations. The show previously managed this feat quite seamlessly, even as the story danced across a multitude of locations like England, France, Italy, and the United States. The second season took on a new challenge, though, in maintaining the same aesthetics while the story migrated over 400 years into the past. This was ultimately a success; the version of Elizabethan London (and other surrounding areas) constructed for season 2 was bewitching, to say the least. There are also touch points of familiarity threaded throughout as the season jumps back and forth between present day and the 16th century, which serve as a reverent reminder of the ways in which the world sometimes changes (and yet other times stays the same) as centuries pass by.

Paired with the delightful costume design, it was quite easy for viewers to quickly dive right into the year 1590 alongside Matthew and Diana. The clothing that both of them were outfitted with was an integral factor in helping to sell the fact — for viewers — that they’re no longer in the 21st century. It’s important to recognize the work put in by the costume department for season 2, because they really managed to capture the essence of both characters with Diana’s regal dresses (and her fondness for the ability to wear pants when needed) and Matthew’s dapper leather attire. Not to mention, those responsible for the costumes were also responsible for outfitting an entire team of secondary characters and background actors as well, all of which looked exceptional.

Courtesy of Sky One.

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In addition to Matthew and Diana, the first season of A Discovery of Witches contained a multitude of intriguing characters. Leading up to season 2, fans of the book series wondered how the script would address the fact that Shadow of Night is set entirely in the past. With Harkness on board, a present day storyline was written and ran simultaneously alongside Matthew and Diana’s adventures in 1590. This was an excellent choice on behalf of the team behind the show; it recognizes the inherent value and talent of the supporting cast and the important part that they all play in rounding out the full story. It’s easy for television shows and films within this particular genre to miss the mark with the cast sometimes, because a story like this can be unforgiving if a character is not believable or if we as viewers cannot find a way to connect to them. However, with A Discovery of Witches, this show is a unique gem in that the cast is truly spectacular up and down. Though Palmer and Goode are absolutely fabulous leads, we’re equally invested in the lives of the other characters as well — thanks to the actors that are playing them.

Courtesy of Sky One.

The strength of the cast multiplied exponentially in season 2. In addition to being given the opportunity to keep up with the other characters in the present day, we were also introduced to an intriguing assortment of new additions from the 16th century. There are so many characters to sing praise for, like Sheila Hancock’s warm and wise Goody Alsop and James Purefoy’s brilliant and ageless Philippe de Clermont. However, there are two actors that truly stole the show this time around with a hypnotizing magnetism that came across in each and every scene they were in. The first is Tom Hughes, who portrayed the daemon Christopher “Kit” Marlowe. Without giving too much away, Kit has many complicated feelings and carries out quite a few controversial actions this season. Hughes ties in the troubled and unstable brilliance daemons are known for to create a character that, quite frankly, you just can’t look away from. Then, there’s the one and only Steven Cree, who was cast as Matthew’s nephew Gallowglass. Cree’s easy and comfortable rapport with both Palmer and Goode came across magnificently on screen; it felt like he had been a part of the show all along.

Overall, season 2 of A Discovery of Witches was a superb continuation of a captivating and beguiling series. The cast and crew’s dedication to all aspects of the show and the story shines through clearly, and has left us eagerly looking forward to what’s still to come in season 3.

The entirety of season 2 of A Discovery of Witches is now streaming on Now TV and Sky TV for fans in the UK and some parts of Europe. Viewers in North America can catch new episodes weekly on Saturdays via ShudderAMC+, or Sundance Now. Tune in for our weekly recaps of each episode!

Lindsey
Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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