Weekly coverage of A Discovery of Witches continues as Diana makes some big moves while Matthew makes no one happy.
Let’s bitch it out…
Missed a Review? Episode 2.01
Aside from brief interludes with Aunts Em (Valarie Pettiford) and Sarah (Alex Kingston) hanging out at Ysabeau (Lindsay Duncan)’s castle and Satu (Malin Buska) visiting her mother in Finland, this is another Matthew (Matthew Goode) and Diana (Teresa Palmer) heavy episode.
Matthew is primarily caught in a war of wills. William Cecil (Adrian Rawlins) demands that Matthew extract a confession from prisoner Tom Caldwell (Louis Maskell) at any price. Meanwhile, new character Father Andrew Hubbard (Paul Rhys), the head vampire of London, believes Caldwell is innocent and asks Matthew to save him. It’s a real damned if you do, damned if you don’t; so Matthew finds a solution that appeases neither side by simply killing Caldwell.
Diana thankfully has more to do this week than last. After successfully nailing her second audition for Marjorie Cooper (Amy McAllister), Diana is presented to the most powerful witch in England: Goody Aslop (Sheila Hancock), who identifies her as a weaver, a rare kind of witch. Oh yeah, and Diana may also be a prophesied witch who will change everything.
I’ll admit that I’m finding Diana’s storyline far more compelling at the moment. This is, in part, because so much of Matthew’s narrative is reactionary: he flits from meeting to meeting, trying to balance his responsibilities to two factions seeking diametrically opposed outcomes. It should be meaty conflict, but because A Discovery of Witches is painting the politics of the times in such broad strokes, the stakes aren’t always as clear or substantive as they should be.
Still, the looming threat that Father Hubbard will involve Matthew’s heretofore unseen father, Philippe, is tantalizing. I’m very excited to see James Purefoy (when he inevitably shows up).
On the flip side, Diana seems to have more agency this week. While Matthew is off getting into trouble, Diana is actively seeking out Marjorie and making strides in the witch community. It doesn’t hurt that Diana’s scenes feature magic and therefore special effects. The introduction of a coven of witches is tantalizing: who are these women, what are their lives like, etc. It also doesn’t hurt that Hancock is wonderful in the role so you crave more time with Aslop.
- It’s telling that Matthew chooses to trust Kit Marlowe (Tom Hughes)’ advice on how best to handle the situation with Cecil and Hubbard. This makes sense given that Kit is of the time and therefore has a better understanding of the politics, but Matthew is also deliberately not involving Diana in these decisions that impacts them both.
- Considering what happened the last time Diana was asked to perform magic under pressure, seeing her manipulate the egg was a dicey moment. Thankfully it doesn’t explode or turn into something awful; she just produces a super-cute chick.
- While I appreciate the check-ins with the modern characters, it’s hard not to feel like both of them are insubstantial and could be cut. I’m confident that keeping track of these characters will pay off in future episodes, but for now, these brief moments don’t feel essential.
A Discovery of Witches airs weekly on Fridays on Sky One (UK) and Saturdays on Sundance and Shudder (in North America).