Television

A Discovery of Witches – E02 Review & Breakdown

 

Our first introduction to the episode is set in the mesmerising city of Venice, where we witness Juliette Durand sipping espresso by the waterside when she sees a white man walking toward a woman as she calls ‘Mathieu’ – which obviously, at least phonetically (as far as we know) resembles the name Mathew. For anyone who’s at least read the first book, the person featured and the following actions aren’t difficult to understand – but to the first-time viewer, we can at least garner that she has a predisposition towards dark-haired Caucasian men… named Mathew. After luring this Frenchman ‘Mathieu’ off to fulfil some primal urges she then feeds on him. Leaving us to puzzle exactly what relationship she has to one of the charming, but elusive protagonists we’ve met so far.

GIF made by Mia for TGON

We have our first introduction to Hamish Osbourne, a daemon and long-time friend of Mathews (a friendship that somehow prospered throughout the centuries, despite the fraught relations between creatures) after some chiding from Mathew about his redecorations, he asks what had prompted the last-minute and unplanned visit. Matthews response “I came up here to get away… from a witch” elicits a physical response from Hamish, and the uncanny feeling created for the viewers alone tells them that what has just been said holds some significance, even before we understand what exactly this tense moment means.

Hamish “When you say.. get away. Do you mean…?”

Matthew “I’m craving her.”

Regardless of acquired-knowledge of this specific world of creatures within the world of A Discovery of Witches, it is not difficult to divine that this involves a physiological craving for this witches (Diana’s) blood. One that he plans on avoiding or suppressing. The fact that this scene is immediately followed by another of Diana’s dreamscape’s holds some weight. We get another false start in the form of Diana once again ‘waking’ within her dreams, with tarantulas eerily creeping over her table in her direction. Again finding her hands wrapped up or bound in thick spiderwebs – panicking as something unseen is making its way up to her under her duvet – momentarily seeing an unusually large arachnid, before waking up (in the real-world.)

There’s a sense of precognition and mirroring technique used in these few minutes as one moment you have Diana’s hand wrapped up in thick spiderwebs, the next, after she wakes and finds her burn aching, begins to wrap it up in a gauze-like cloth. Mirroring the webs that were surrounding it moments ago in the dream. [Analysis: We have to presume that this is potentially a foreboding, or something within Diana’s subconscious that is reiterating in her dreams, in metaphor and physical manifestations – a message that is trying to make its way into her living consciousness?] The series utilizes mirroring technique and a branch of juxtaposition, repeatedly reinforcing ideas in our head as we witness the activities. The aesthetics used and symbolism in the show is something that is continually and consistently impressive.

GIF made by Mia for TGON

The episode also shows us Matthew’s hunting technique, and his preference, animal rather than human; in this instance, stag. This episode interests the analytical spectator within the viewer as not only do we have clear plot progression and excellent cinematography, but we also have intricate and measured patterns throughout the scenes. Again, in line with the mirroring technique we discussed in the previous paragraph, we now have it on a slightly larger scale. After witnessing Matthews approach to hunting, stalking his prey for hours at a time until the opportune moment presents itself and he finishes things smoothly. The viewer is presented with a jumping between two scenes, the stag hunting and Diana being tracked down by a seemingly innocent man – who assimilates himself into conversation with her by casually mentioning he knew her parents well. After having lulled the stag into a calm tranquil moment, Matthew strikes. This we effectively witness again, only with different characters. Diana and Mr. Peter Knox. Whilst walking towards the refectory he regales her with tales of her mother, lulling her into a state of calm and comfort… sitting down to afternoon “tea for two”…before striking.

“Because if this book is what I think it is. It contains the witches first spells. It could tell us how we created vampires. Vampires have used their brute power and longevity to gain far too much control but. If we created them… we could uncreate them.”

Happily this goes down about as well as a lead balloon with our ever-endearing Diana who immediately rebuke’s Knox and removes herself from his company, avoiding the fate of the stag.

GIF made by Mia for TGON

We witness some more speculation about the elusive Ashmole 782 manuscript – of course it now seems that each of the species thinks it’s something entirely different than the other. In the previous episode we’re told the initial problems that the species are having which results in them slowly dying out: “Vampire’s are finding it more difficult to sire, Witches are losing their powers and Daemons are becoming highly prone to madness.” This episode delves a little further into the problems the species are facing, whilst enlightening the viewers as to their desires in regard to the infamous book.

The witches thinking it was the first spell book of their species (& that it contains the information or spells that were involved in their ‘creating’ the vampires) The Vampires desire it because they think it contains early creature history, potentially enabling them to solve the current problems of their species (Repeated failed attempts to sire new vampires; although it’s worth noting that Matthew at least is actually interested in benefitting all three species, not solely his own). His friend Hamish informs us his interests lie in aiding the daemon population which has also run into trouble: “Daemon suicides are on the rise, as are mental health problems and homelessness.”  Throughout his discussions with Hamish we also learn that Matthew has had previous relationships with warmbloods that… didn’t end especially well. As he’s leaving Hamish warns Matthew to stay away from Diana, as he’s never talked about a woman the way he does her & that he’ll never forgive himself if he hurts her.

Sadly, no matter how impressive Matthews restraint might have been, after Knox’s threats, she seeks him out. After showing her his laboratory and explaining the work that they’re doing he walks her back through the grounds to her room. There was one discussion (subtle social commentary) that took place within this episode that particularly intrigued me. Discussing his research showing that creatures are dying out Diana comments “But we aren’t going to go extinct tomorrow, there are still plenty of creatures in the world.” To which Matthew responds “I have a different sense of time to you. When humans talk about climate change, that’s exactly the argument they use. ‘Oh, the polar ice caps will take so many years to melt. Who cares?’ Gradually, eventually, they’ll come to see that all the magic has seeped out of the world.” Given the current unimaginable destruction that humans are wreaking on the planet – this is unarguably a quite well-reasoned commentary on the world’s collective apathy toward environmental issues. Another example of how series that are supernatural in genre, are actually commenting on and challenging societal problems. Second episode is coming out strong, we’re hoping this excellence continues, until next week.

GIF made by Mia for TGON

QUESTIONS/ WONDERINGS

– From a preliminary knowledge about the series – it is difficult not to analyze the title of the show itself. The way it’s worded is marvellously ambiguous. Is it simply referring to a discovery of the species that is witches – as in humans finding out that witches actually exist in their world?

-Or does it mean something that witches themselves discovered? Potentially long ago – and has since been lost again, and is waiting to be rediscovered?

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