Weekly coverage of A Discovery of Witches continues as Diana finally meets Matthew’s father, Philippe.
Let’s bitch it out…
After bidding Gallowglass (Steven Cree) goodbye on the beach, Matthew (Matthew Goode) and Diana (Teresa Palmer) begin a long, arduous journey on horseback across the french countryside to visit Philippe de Clermont (James Purefoy), Matthew’s domineering father.
Following a chilly welcome by the patriarch, Diana and Philippe exchange a series of passive aggressive quips as they feel each other out. Unexpectedly Philippe drives a wedge between the lovers when he confirms that they have not consummated their relationship fully, prompting Diana to angrily throw Matthew out of her chambers.
In the episode’s closing moments, a male witch named Champien who can read minds arrives at the castle, claiming he has been summoned by a “great power”. It barely takes him a moment to spot the marks on Diana’s neck and wrists. Misunderstanding why Matthew fed on her, Champien calls Diana a traitor and attempts to suck out all of her memories, forcing her to kill him in self defense.
Obviously the most significant character is the one that A Discovery of Witches has been teasing since the beginning of the season: Philippe. I’ll confess that I was hoping that Purefoy would play the character differently than his usual growly charismatic self, but he’s very much playing this on autopilot, which is a tad disappointing.
Still, as a character Philippe certainly lives up to his reputation as a right proper bastard. He clearly delights in tormenting Matthew and Diana, especially driving a wedge between them with regard to their sex lives. It’s not an insignificant point considering that this episode features only the second sex scene of the season (the first is way back in 2.01 when they first arrived in 1590 London).
The other character of note is, of course, Matthew’s other teased relative, Louisa (Elaine Cassidy). I love the lack of subtlety about what a bad girl Louisa is! She’s introduced sucking a man dry outside of the pub, then she tries to make out with Kit (Tom Hughes), then she takes him shooting in the middle of the night.
Naturally this culminates in another murder. Louisa is so delightfully bad and Cassidy is playing her like an amalgamation of Drusilla and Darla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s an infusion of danger and spunkiness, which is great considering Kit is acting like such a sad sack right now, moping around in love with Matthew.
- Another quick shout out because she earns it: Cassidy is having *so* much fun with this role and it’s a real pleasure to watch. Considering how dour and gloomy the Matthew and Diana scenes are, everything involving Louisa gives the episode a lift.
- While the long journey is valuable for showcasing how the battle between the Protestant and Catholics results in violence (the incident with the burning house), as well as reinforcing how Matthew looks out for Diana, it’s also a little…boring? The pacing of this episode isn’t great in part because by the time the lovers arrive at the Chateau, it almost feels like the episode is winding down. While there is some important information contained in the first half, the pacing would have been better served getting them to Philippe faster.
- The reveal that the pair have never truly consummated their relationship is a pretty stunning revelation. Looking ahead, the fact that they’re not truly bonded is sure to be a sore point; it also calls into question when different characters knew. Is this why Philippe’s aide Pierre and Gallowglass both confided in Diana that she must not let anything come between her and Matthew?
- The most stunning sequence is also the one that earned this episode its content warning: the attempted (mind) rape of Diana by Monsieur Champien. It’s a deeply triggering scene (if only because it’s yet another instance of a woman being physically and sexually assaulted for the purpose of the narrative), but as an action sequence, it’s hugely cathartic watching Diana summon Matthew’s sword and stab Champien in the gut.
A Discovery of Witches airs weekly on Fridays on Sky One (UK) and Saturdays on Sundance Now and Shudder (in North America).