Weekly coverage of A Discovery of Witches continues as the second season comes to a close.
Let’s bitch it out…
As Diana (Teresa Palmer) works to master her ninth knot under the tutelage of Goody Aslop (Sheila Hancock), another weaver arrives in 1591 London. It’s quickly revealed to be Diana’s father Stephen (David Newman), who warns Diana and Matthew (Matthew Goode) that their interference in the past has serious ramifications.
Still, Stephen becomes a helpful guiding force that aids Diana conquer the troublesome ninth knot. With that knowledge – and an awareness of the tenth knot – it is time to return to the present. This necessitates goodbyes to both Gallowglass (Steven Cree) and their adopted son Jack (Joshua Pickering); to secure the safety of the latter Diana secretly gives a drop of her blood to Andrew Hubbard (Paul Rhys).
In the present, the Daemons and baby Margaret, as well as Miriam (Aiysha Hart), Marcus (Edward Bluemel) and Phoebe (Adelle Leonce), congregate at Sept-Tours as Peter Knox (Owen Teale) plots an attack. He lures Aunt Emily (Valarie Pettiford) out to the woods where her overhears the spirit of Diana’s mother Rebecca (Sophia Myles) make a prophecy about Diana and Ashmole changing the world. He attacks Em, ultimately killing her, before knocking out Marcus and escaping, leaving Aunt Sarah (Alex Kingston) to cradle her dead lover’s body.
Alright, let’s get this out of the way: the series is obviously an adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ original source material, but it’s still incredibly disappointing that the single death this entire season is a queer woman of colour. There’s a long historical precedent that finds both POC and queers killed off (often first) in genre fare, particularly lesbian characters (see: the outcry over “Bury your gays”) so the continued violence perpetrated on marginalized communities in popular media is upsetting.
There will undoubtedly be significant ramifications for Aunt Em’s death, particularly her promise to Knox that Diana will avenge her, but all of the creative output doesn’t change the fact that this particularly storyline is tired and needs to be retired. Aunt Em deserved better.
- Also: what exactly was Ysabeau (Lindsay Duncan) doing that she couldn’t help Marcus and/or stop Knox herself?
- Remember back in 2.07, the Bohemia episode, when Benjamin Fuchs (Jacob Ifan) introduced himself to Diana as they waited for an audience with the Emperor? Well now we know why he’s a significant character: it turns out he’s Hubbard’s sire and he’s *very* interested in Diana.
- In the present day, Fuchs is also very interested in Domenico (Gregg Chillin), who runs afoul of the Blood Rage vampire and gets pretty nicely sliced up.
- Stephen and Diana deduce that it was Rabbi Loew from 2.07 who mailed the original page of Ashmole to Diana’s family, which is a nice callback for a character who deserved more screen time and attention.
- Other callbacks include Diana giving Susanna (Aisling Loftus) the figurine that her descendant Sophie gave Diana back in S1, thereby completing the circle.
- It’s good to see Satu (Malin Buska) back for the finale, but she appears in only one scene where she’s insulted by Peter Knox. Really?!
- If there was a key take-away of what the show is about and where it is heading in its final season, it’s the dinner scene, which involves all of the protagonists coming to agreement that the only way forward is to unite the four species. While it still seems a bit forced to give Phoebe such a pivotal role so quickly, her line about “moving forward together” nicely encapsulates the discussion (and also endears her to Ysabeau, who finally approves of Marcus’ choice of partner).
- Most of this season really revolved around themes of parenting and reconciliation. In addition to Matthew’s repairing his prickly relationship with Philippe and Queen Elizabeth I, his surrogate mother figure, Diana is reunited with her father, and Marcus works out his anger with Matthew. That’s all in addition to the actual baby drama, which saw both the birth of Margaret and Diana’s surprise pregnancy. In hindsight, it makes even more sense that the primary visual signifier of Diana’s work with Ashmole is the Tree of Life.
This is a more subdued finale than the more frantic final episode of S1. 2.10 is stretched thin setting up the conflict for the final season while wrapping up the events of 1590s London, which are presumably done with moving forward. The criticism that Harkness’ source material favours too many tangents remains applicable to S2, particularly some of the detours in the past, which don’t feel as relevant to the overall narrative.
Still, A Discovery of Witches S2 added greater depth to Matthew and Diana’s relationship, improved on the costuming and FX in leaps and bounds and escalated the battle of the species in anticipation of the final season. Overall, it’s a solid B.
A Discovery of Witches aired weekly on Fridays on Sky One (UK) and Saturdays on Sundance Now and Shudder (in North America). A third and final season has already been ordered.