Weekly coverage of A Discovery of Witches continues as the show sets aside Matthew and Diana for an episode set entirely in the present day.
Plot: For the first time ever, Matthew (Matthew Goode) and Diana (Teresa Palmer) do not appear in an episode. Instead 2.03 focuses on Matthew’s vampire son, Marcus Whitmore (Edward Bluemel), who last season was made Grandmaster of the Knights – the secret society created by the DeClermont family 900 years ago to keep the world safe.
A large portion of the episode follows Marcus as he tracks down the miniature portraits of Matthew and Diana at an auction house. Here he meets – and courts – human Phoebe Taylor (Adelle Leonce), to whom he eventually reveals everything to, much to the displeasure of Ysabeau (Lindsay Duncan).
Meanwhile the vampire infected with Blood Rage continues to leave bodies around Oxford, including at the auction house where a security guard is killed and the miniatures stolen. Vampire Congregation member Domenico (Gregg Chillin), Gerbert d’Aurillac (Trevor Eve) and Matthew’s brother Baldwin (Trystan Gravelle) all try to leverage current events as the evidence mounts against the DeClermont family, threatening their extinction.
Spending so much time with Marcus is a definite change of pace as the narrative shifts to present day. In some ways the political machinations of the various Congregation members mirrors the conflict that Matthew was dealing with back in 1590, though the stakes feel relatively small until Ysabeau confides in Marcus just how much danger the family is in at episode’s end.
As the episode’s de facto lead, Bluemel does well: Marcus has always been a boyishly-handsome and charming rogue, and seeing him interact (read: flirt) with Phoebe is amusing. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that even a relatively young vampire such as Marcus would confide in Phoebe so quickly, however, or even let her stay in the night in a house with a pregnant Daemon and blood bags casually left in the fridge.
Leonce is likable enough as Phoebe, and she and Bluemel have good chemistry, but considering how many characters the series is already juggling, the creative decision by the writers to introduce a made-for-TV character is a bit mystifying. Leonce is a S2 regular, so we’ll be seeing plenty more of Phoebe, but for now, this is a slightly perplexing development.
- Over in France, Aunt Sarah Bishop (Alex Kingston) is still struggling to adapt to living under Ysabeau’s roof, which makes sense as the rules dramatically increase following Gerbert’s impromptu visit to threaten Ysabeau for hiding the witches.
- Aunt Emily Mather (Valarie Pettiford), meanwhile, disregards her wife’s wishes by continuing to refine her summoning spell. She can now nearly hear Diana’s mother Rebecca (Sophia Myles) so prepare for something ominous in the episodes to come.
- For the first time this season, we touch base with Daemon Congregation member Agatha Wilson (Tanya Moodie), her son Nathaniel (Daniel Ezra) and his pregnant witch wife Sophie Norman (Aisling Loftus). The tease that the baby has a slow birth rate and they will likely need to leave the safety of the house to go to the hospital is less foreshadowing that confirmation of where this will go.
- Quick shout out to director X for that great opening sequence. I’m a sucker for a scary stalking sequence, so even though the fate of the poor teen on the bike is pre-determined, the overhead bird’s eye shot is really effective at generating tension. This is the first real vampire attack we’ve seen this season (most of the action has centered around Diana’s magic or the bloody aftermath of these attacks) so it’s an exciting way to begin an episode.
Overall this is a fine, albeit slightly unspectacular episode. It’s valuable to keep up with the other players in the present and I prefer this format rather than introducing a brief scene or two amidst Matthew and Diana’s drama. At the same time, aside from moving a few players around the board and introducing Phoebe, it simply seems as though less happened in this episode? We’ll see how it all plays out as the season develops.
A Discovery of Witches airs weekly on Fridays on Sky One (UK) and Saturdays on Sundance Now and Shudder (in North America).