Weekly coverage of A Discovery of Witches continues as Diana and Matthew travel to Bohemia to meet with Emperor Rudolph II in the hopes of recovering the book of life.
Let’s bitch it out…
Newly married couple Matthew de Clermont (Matthew Goode) and Diana (Teresa Palmer) meet up with Gallowglass (Steven Cree) and their adopted son Jack (Joshua Pickering) at Rudolph (Michael Jibson)’s country refuge in the mountains of Bohemia.
Tensions almost immediately boil over as Rudolph takes an interest in Diana, much to Matthew’s jealous displeasure. As they seek to find the book of life amongst Rudolph’s extensive travelling collection, Diana befriends a jewish Rabbi (Anton Lesser) and Matthew discovers English scholar Edward Kelley (Tom Mothersdale) is being held captive.
Things come to a head when Diana finally gets close to the book of life and reveals the extent of her powers, prompting a speedy exit with the book mostly intact and in their possession.
The new character of note is Rudolph and it’s a bit of a mixed depiction. While Jibson does a fine job with the character, Rudolph is nowhere near charismatic or threatening enough to justify Matthew’s reaction. Rudolph comes across as a mix of a nice guy and a would-be suitor, but Jibson doesn’t hold a candle to Goode and it’s pretty obvious that Diana has no interest in the Emperor.
The result, unfortunately, saps the episode of most of its tension. While there is a sense of intrigue, the threat of violence doesn’t feel real or substantial enough to justify everyone’s reactions throughout. This is particularly true of Matthew, who behaves insufferably. A great deal of the episode is frustrating because his reactions seem disproportionate to what’s actually happening.
- There is, of course, one other character of note, though only readers of the novel would know his importance. There’s a young man who pays keen attention to Diana when she’s in line to meet Rudolph, Benjamin (Jacob Ifan). Keep an eye out for him in the future.
- The single best moment of the episode is the build-up to Matthew and Diana’s big confrontation. When she demands that he trust her to use her wiles to charm Rudolph in order to get what they need, Matthew goes full-blood rage on her. And it’s great – it’s pay-off after weeks of everyone talking up blood rage. Their confrontation also reaffirms just how powerful Diana has become and the FX is suitably impressive as she lights the room on fire around him.
- Speaking of cool FX, the apparition of the tree that leaps out of the book of life when Diana gets close continues to impress. This looks like a similar rendition to what happened when Diana discovered that she’s a weaver back in episode 202, but it still looks great.
- The whole falcon hunt sequence is such a dick measuring contest, you have to laugh. Rudolph’s bird vs Matthew’s bird…it’s just hilariously on the nose.
- A minor note is that Ashmole is apparently made out of the actual skin of all three of the series’ supernatural creatures, including vampires, witches and demons. Matthew dislikes this immensely, declaring it to be the book of death (rather than life).
- The episode ends with a bit of a whimper as Peter Knox (Owen Teale) examines the three pages Edward Kelley tore out of the book, which are now on display as part of Kelley’s private collection in the present. Judging from the previews, this combined with the miniature portraits of Matthew and Diana floating around are enough for Knox to identify when the missing lovers are. Aside from that, though, this brief present day scene feels a bit like an afterthought.
A Discovery of Witches airs weekly on Fridays on Sky One (UK) and Saturdays on Sundance Now and Shudder (in North America).