When dealing with heady forces like time travel, it never hurts to have a plan and Diana (Teresa Palmer) and Matthew (Matthew Goode) seemed to have one when they ended last season by time-walking to Elizabethan London. A. Find the Book of Life and B. Find Diana a teacher so she can learn how to use her magic.
Now, no plan is going to be perfect and given the hoopla Diana and Matthew always seem to stir wherever they go, it was only a matter of time before they ran into some obstacles. Diana’s a witch and Matthew’s a vampire and never the two are supposed to date, but there’s needing to stray from the plan and choosing to, and the problem with Discovery of Witches season two is Diana and Matthew act like they have all the time in the world.
Never mind that the show brushes over where past Matthew is by saying he’s displaced (so there’s no need to worry about future Matthew running into him). Later in the season a character literally shows up to remind them that they should be taking time travel more seriously – that the whole idea is to not interfere or change the future – but Diana and Matthew never seem to think about the consequences. Far too many characters are introduced, at both their expense and the expense of the characters left behind in the present. Ysabeau (an always formidable Lindsay Duncan) and Diana’s aunts (Alex Kingston and Valerie Pettiford) make a terrific trio, but don’t have enough screentime, while there’s no reason Marcus (Edward Bluemel) should still be in the dark as to what it means that he’s been named grand master of the Knights of Lazarus.
Some of the characters, like Jack (Joshua Blue Pickering) could’ve been cut altogether. While he fulfills a similar function to Fergus (Romann Berrux) on Outlander, the difference is neither Diana or Matthew have any intention of staying in the past, so it’s a relationship that’s doomed from the start.
Gallowglass (Steven Cree), Matthew’s nephew, deserves better than to be treated like a glorified errand boy for most of his scenes, while demons remain the most neglected species on the series (despite Sophie (Aisling Loftus) and Nathan (Daniel Ezra) becoming the series’ new heart this year). All of the scenes with Diana’s teacher, Goody Alsop (a twinkling Sheila Hancock), are fantastic, yet it never feels like Diana has time for lessons, when they’re the whole reason she came to the past in the first place.
Diana and Matthew simply don’t have their eye on the prize, and then there’s Philippe (James Purefoy), Matthew’s stepfather, who they shouldn’t be seeing in the first place, but who we’re supposed to believe has this major change of heart worth forgiving. Maybe he could’ve gotten there eventually, but it feels like whiplash on the show.
There are a few characters who manage to pull through in the end. Queen Elizabeth (Barbara Marten) finally gets a moment to shine in episode nine (and her makeup, like all of the period details on the show, is well-researched and on point), but there’s too much going on, and as for the bonus features, they’re really more promotion for the series than behind the scenes featurettes. “Creating Elizabethan London” is the best of the three, but too short, and the other two are a recap and a teaser for the season that aren’t really necessary past disc one.
Discovery of Witches Season 2 is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now from Sundance Now.