Parting is such sweet sorrow, especially when it comes to the final season of Netflix’s animated show Castlevania. Since 2017, the adaptation of Konami’s video game franchise has wowed audiences with not only its gorgeous animation and fight choreography but with its deeply sympathetic characters who, despite their motivations, are complex and likable; basically, everything about this show rules. So when a show is this good, it’s difficult to imagine that any ending could do the series justice. Yet, Powerhouse does just that and creates a pitch-perfect, ten-episode finale that encapsulates everything that is so amazing about the series.
Castlevania season four begins with the region of Wallachia in shambles and facing two major conflicts: Carmilla’s (Jamie Murray) plans for world domination and the resurrection of Dracula from the pits of hell. In her giant castle, Carmilla plots to take the world as her own as an act of revenge against the old men that have taken from her throughout her life as both a human and a vampire. This is not just a power-hungry female vampire thrown into the mix in the name of diversifying characters. Rather, Carmilla’s villainy is portrayed with nuance and complexity, making her more than a one-dimensional antagonist who the audience can’t wait to see get what’s coming to them. Instead, Carmilla is ambitious, funny, smart, and obviously very evil, but that’s what is so lovable about her. She is the definition of a bad bitch, which is only further proved by her final battle against Isaac, who wants to stop her conquest. As their swords clash in a blood-filled room, the fight literally brings viewers to the edges of their seats as two beloved characters do a deadly dance in an arena framed by night creatures.
Meanwhile, Trevor (Richard Armitage), Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), and Alucard (James Callis) are spread across Wallachia trying to fight off the persistent attacks of night creatures and other vampires to both protect humanity and discover how to stop the plot of bringing Dracula back from the dead. Trevor and Sypha spend their days fighting new beasts and protecting another village from the violent chaos enveloping the country. While the pair is shown nonstop fighting through the series, this season is different; they’re exhausted. As the weeks pass and they face a new threat, their bodies are shown breaking down as they are covered in bruises and barely healed scratches. They tell each other that they can’t keep doing this because their bodies are shattered. There is a vulnerability to both Trevor and Sypha that hasn’t been shown before. These are not just two heroes, but two human beings doing their damndest to save the world. But finally, Castlevania is grappling with what happens when even the heroes are too tired to lift their weapons against the forces of evil. Even Sypha’s own sophistication is shown fading as she curses and says the phrase “farting around,” much to Trevor’s amusement. These cheeky moments illustrate the small ways these characters have changed and been worn down by years of fighting.
Alucard (Dracula’s son) has spent weeks brooding in his father’s castle but is now being summoned to help a nearby town from sure destruction. Once donning a ruffled white shirt befitting Eastern European mobility, he now wears a shirt with such a low v-neck that it is barely considered a shirt. While providing some fan service and showing off those animated muscles, this design change also subtly reflects Alucard’s own detachment from humanity. Throughout the entire series, Alucard has struggled with his identity as a human or vampire. This culminates in season four as he’s faced with a decision to either break his solitude to save a group of humans or remain a vampiric hermit with no care about the world’s fate. He must finally face what he wants to be: a hero or a monster.
Castlevania is known for its stunning animation and fight choreography. Yet, somehow in this final season, Powerhouse is able to top their previous work to deliver the series’ most stunning and dramatic fight sequences. Rather than aiming for strict realism, the animation style gets more abstract, with flashes of light and rushes of colors representing moments in battle rather than meticulously designed character movements. This removal of minute details showcases confidence in the material, showing audiences that what matters more than seeing every flash of a sword or crack of the whip is the emotion these flashing images are able to evoke. The audience knows these characters and how they fight, so Powerhouse has nothing to prove in terms of Trevor, Sypha, or Alucard’s abilities. Rather, they take what the audience already knows to evolve their fight sequences into powerful emotional moments where the audience can feel a character’s desperation, resolve, or sadness.
On top of a more abstract and fluid animation style utilized for fight choreography, Castlevania surprisingly gets even gorier as bodies are devoured by night creatures and become bloody sacrifices. This is already a series known for its brutality, from the massacres of entire cities to burning people alive. But season four is even more ruthless to illustrate just how high the stakes are. This isn’t just about stopping one mad priest or putting an end to one devious plot, but about saving the world from either a mad vampire queen or Dracula himself. Every death of an innocent is a defeat as the human population in Wallachia is dwindling.
With so many beloved characters, having each achieve their own satisfying ending is no easy task. As seen time and time again, ending a TV series is an art few have perfected, and oftentimes characters are shafted in the face of rushed finales (here’s looking at you, Game of Thrones). But with Castlevania, the season’s two main narrative arcs are perfectly paced not to overstay their welcome while also providing satisfying conclusions for both our heroes and villains. Castlevania is a gorgeous show full of hot characters, stunning battles, nasty monsters, and a whole lot of wholesome friendship. Yes, the story involves a lot of blood, guts, and eldritch magic, but beneath it all, this is a show about love and friendship. Yes, that may sound cheesy, but truly, the love between Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard, as well as the love between Carmilla and her vampire sisters, are what propel the story forward and make it so engaging. These characters care for one another, so it is so easy for the audience to care for them. Powerhouse took that love and care both inside of the show and out and was able to craft a damn near-perfect ending to a series that has captured the hearts of Castlevania fans and novices alike.