This review contains A Discovery of Witches spoilers.
The moment Phoebe asked Marcus “Can you turn into a bat?” was the moment A Discovery of Witches’ newest couple won my heart. Possibly it happened slightly earlier when Phoebe replied to Marcus’ declaration that he was the Grand Master of the Knights of Lazarus with the words “And I’m Princess Leia”, but the bat thing cinched it.
In a series so weighted by ominous portent and fraught faces delivering either bloodthirsty threats or speeches prophesying the end of times, a bit of levity goes a long way. It’s the dollop of salted caramel ice cream on the side of the brownie of doom. Finally, somebody here is having fun!
It’s been a long time since those somebodies were Matthew and Diana, who have really been through the wringer in season two. When was the last time we saw those two smile? On that long-ago jaunt to St Paul’s maybe? Dancing the tango at Sept-Tours? (A scene that, thanks to time-walking, we now know to have been more cleverly complicated than it first appeared. Watch Matthew’s necktie.) Their wedding certainly wasn’t without strain, book-ended as it was by the bride committing murder and the groom’s blood rage turning him temporarily into the Tasmanian Devil.
Marcus and Phoebe are a welcome foil for Matthew and Diana. Both couples comprise a vampire and a hot nerd named after an ancient goddess, but tonally, they’re worlds apart. There’s a modern, youthful, rom-com vibe to the former, which makes them a refreshing breeze next to the latter’s ceaseless hurricane.
Thematically, this episode was all about youthful idealism versus the status quo. It was an awakening for Marcus, who went from the highly relatable young-person urge of wanting to just sack this whole Lazarus thing off and tell his family to do one, to realising that he had to take his place in creature society, in order to change it. If baby Margaret (what do you mean? It’s a fine name for a… 58-year-old lawn bowls club secretary) was to have a future, then Marcus and the others would have to build it.
The tricky thing about dismantling trenchant power structures in the vampire world is that the men in charge don’t really go in for retirement. Age cannot wither them, and to get them to shift their centuries-held views would take an army. Handily, Marcus has one of those in the form of the much-discussed but never-seen Knights of Lazarus. Please let us meet them before this season is out. Preferably summoned by a red telephone or by Marcus projecting the cover of New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies LP into the night sky.
A dab of real-world political subtext made its way into the episode with Marcus and Phoebe’s talk of humankind’s technological advancement but social retreat. Their talk of building walls, strengthening borders and fear of the Other referenced both Trump and Brexit. It opened the door to read more into the story of Margaret (look, she’ll probably grow into it), a biracial, binational child caught between two warring magical factions. The centuries-old conflict between witch, vampire and daemon are reflections of the ways our own societies are riven by mistrust of difference. Knox, Gerbert and Baldwin represent the old divisions, while Marcus, Nathaniel, Sophie, Matthew and Diana represent the possibility of a newly accepting future.
Luckily, not too long was given over to mulling the depressing state of the real world. Escapism should, ideally, be escapist and this episode offered that via Baldwin’s sexy baddy fight with Marcus, Emily and Sarah’s foray into high magic, and Diana’s portentous vision. The first threw more light on the de Clermont dynamic and on how thick and gloopy family resentments can become when they’re left to simmer for literally hundreds of years (“I don’t take orders from infants” Woof.). The second was a welcome return for the underused Alex Kingston and Valarie Pettiford, from who we always want more. And the third was… well, what was that?
Since she took possession of the Book of Life, it’s been coy with Diana, refusing to give up its secrets. Her dream showed her a rowan tree – a portal between worlds – but twisted with death and torment. Fresh from seeing the tortured Edward Kelley rage about the book screaming in his head, it’s hard not to think that Diana’s in danger. Plus ça change, mon coeur.