Netflix Review – Castlevania Seasons 1 & 2 (Spoiler-Free on Season 2)

Yesterday, The Adventure Zone podcast did a Halloween special which had a reference to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that I just couldn’t stop laughing at, even though it was so straightforward. But, either way, I decided to do a bonus review of Castlevania in their honor.

Netflix decided to take a shot at every other studio out there by adapting a video game and, despite all of the past history of adapting video games to a narrative (Phoenix Wright notwithstanding), did it really well. Admittedly, the history of adapting video games to television (particularly cartoon series) is much stronger than to the big screen, but those were mostly aimed towards children. This is very much aimed towards people who played the original Castlevania games on the NES, all of whom are now adults.

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Or, if you’re like me, on the SNES.

SUMMARY

Vlad Tepes Dracula (Graham McTavish) is… You f*cking know who Dracula is. Well, he’s out there Dracking it up when he is visited by a young woman named Lisa (Emily Swallow) who wishes to be a doctor and believes that Dracula would be the person who would know the most about human medicine, as he has collected books for centuries on every subject and read them all. Not only is she correct, surprisingly, but her resolve towards science and medicine takes Dracula off-guard and he ends up falling in love with her and marrying her. She tries to teach him of the positive traits of humanity and he begins to soften.

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A surprisingly solid relationship for a vampire and a snack.

Unfortunately, twenty-ish years later, Lisa is accused of being a witch (because she’s a doctor and a woman) and is burned at the stake. This leads Dracula to declare that he will spend one year creating an army of the damned, after which he will kill everyone in Wallachia, the kingdom that murdered her. The phrase “Y’all done f*cked up now” comes to mind. Sure enough, one year later, he kills everyone in the town in a gruesome fashion and declares war on humanity. All the noble houses get blamed, including a house known as Belmont.

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When this is how the guy tells you you’re screwed, YOU ARE SCREWED.

A few months later, Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), the last of a line of monster hunters, is broke and drunk in a city that is besieged by the forces of darkness every night. The clergy (who started this whole mess) have used this as an opportunity to take power in the area, claiming to be the only force capable of repelling the evil, and blame a group of traveling magic users called the Speakers for Dracula’s assault. Trevor saves some of the Speakers and is told by the Elder (Tony Amendola) that there is a “sleeping soldier” beneath the city who may help save them. The Elder’s granddaughter already sought the soldier but has not returned. Trevor goes below the city and finds a cyclops guarding a crypt. Trevor slays the monster, which releases one of his petrified victims, the Elder’s granddaughter Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso). The pair continue and eventually discover the sleeping soldier is none other than Dracula’s half-human son, Adrian Tepes or “Alucard” (James Callis), who was wounded fighting his father a year prior. The three join forces to stop Dracula’s army from wiping out humanity.

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Cosplayers are getting aroused at this photo.

END SUMMARY

If I just watched Season 1 of this show, I’d say it was only kind of good. The first season has some great character designs, good action sequences, decent dialogue at some points, and the Bishop (Matt Frewer) is one of the most deeply despicable characters on film, overshadowing Dracula as an antagonist. However, the show doesn’t really hit its stride until Season 2, when you start to have Dracula’s War Council interacting and Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard bantering. All of the dialogue suddenly gets sharper and better, mostly because of all of the conflicting philosophies and backstories.

The show is, so far, an adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, something that was a great decision. It’s the first game chronologically, except for Castlevania: Lament of Innocence which doesn’t have Dracula in it, and was the first one to have multiple characters, giving the writers more to work with. I was surprised that they cut out the character of Grant Danasty, the pirate from the game, but maybe he’ll come back later. Still, even without him, we’re not short on great characters on either the hero or villain sides. As with most good series, most of the characters aren’t morally black and white, they’re all fairly flawed and driven by their own wants and histories. For example, two of Dracula’s Generals, Hector and Isaac (Theo James and Adetokumboh M’Cormack), are humans who have decided to side against humanity because of their personal histories, and Isaac’s backstory in particular will just hit you right in the heart.

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Man, this game cover was awesome in the 80s.

The animation style is a tribute to one of the most popular games in the series, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which gives it a strong anime influence, but still with a lot of gothic European character designs. The fight scenes look like elaborate video game cut-scenes, which is exactly what they should look like. The combat involving Alucard is particularly impressive, because his fighting style is literally impossible to do in reality.

Overall, I hope that they keep this series going. There are so many more interesting stories that can be told in the Castlevania universe. They’ve set up several more at the end of Season 2, and Dracula literally always comes back in the games, so they can reuse him as much as they need.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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Reader Request: Resumes and Jamiroquai’s Dad (My Brother, My Brother, and Me)

So, most of the people who remember when radio shows first started getting adapted to television are probably dead by now, but we have the next best thing: People getting TV adaptations of their podcasts! But, unlike scripted radio shows that translated pretty naturally to television, most podcasts are just two or three people talking at each other, usually spontaneously, that have been edited to sound more coherent. Prior to this entry, I think the only adaptations I’d seen were either documentaries or semi-educational, not particularly talk-based. So, this was a very different experience. Not necessarily better or worse, just… different. It’s like watching a round-table news show, except that it’s funny, everyone knows it’s a little ridiculous, and no one is yelling about what Jesus would want to pay in taxes.

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I enjoyed the heck out of Lore, which is another podcast adaptation.

I knew of Griffin McElroy before this show started, since he’s the founder of Polygon, the gaming arm of Vox media and his name sounds like he should be a linebacker. I didn’t know anything about either of his brothers, Justin and Travis McElroy, but upon first glance I immediately know that Travis is the superior brother, because he has the beard of a Viking that died from an overworked pelvis. The fact that he has the exact tattoo I was going to get (Hylian Crest to cover a port scar) and that the opening to his profile is “Travis has killed before, and he will kill again” confirms this.

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Mancrush achieved.

The premise of the podcast, and therefore the TV show, is that the three brothers humorously answer questions that are either submitted to them by the audience or that they found on Yahoo! Answers. The main difference is that they actually have to do things in the TV show versus the podcast where they generally just have to describe doing things. They also appear to be drunk or high for most of it, but I’m beginning to believe that’s just their natural state. Not that they’re drunk or high all the time, just that a law enforcement officer would think it from their appearance. I’m sure most of you have at least one acquaintance who’s like that.

Update: Nope, pretty sure they’re really f*ckin’ high. Which works, because I am pretty drunk. And moderately handsome sober.

This is the second episode and was the one requested. I watched the first to get a feel for the series, but I didn’t feel the need to review it. It has clowns in it, and I can only stand so many clowns. “So many” being one, if it’s dying. Let’s do this.

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From Left to Right: Justin, Travis, Griffin

SUMMARY

The show starts with the disclaimer:

The McElroy brothers are not experts and their advice should never be followed. They’re just 3 brothers that created a podcast, and they’ve returned to their hometown to tape a TV show. Also, this show isn’t for kids, which I only mention so all you babies out there know how cool you are for watching. What’s up, you cool baby?

It then uses a song by “The Long Winters” as the theme, which I definitely approve of. Apparently, it’s the same theme from the podcast. Since John Roderick from the band hosts a podcast I listen to, Omnibus with him and Ken Jennings, this is even more fitting to me.

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I’m giving a lot of free promotion in this post. I’d be a very bad prostitute.

The brothers introduce themselves, reminding me once again that Travis is the best, by the way he calls himself the “Middlest” brother. I can only assume he’s just finished woodworking and preparing Lattes for an Indie Rock group, given the state of his glorious beard. They falsely introduce the show as Shark Tank, with Justin and Travis listening to Griffin’s great idea: Pornography for birds.

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Fortunately, we’re spared any details when they decide to go to the question they’ll be answering for the episode: Is it okay to lie on a resumé if you know you can do everything demanded of you?

Now, this is actually a pretty old question with a lot of arguments on both sides. None of those arguments will be made here, in favor of some wacky hijinks. Right up front, they declare that resumés are just bullshit and recount old jobs they’ve had and lost. It turns out that one of Griffin’s former employers, who fired him, is Justin’s father-in-law. Griffin says that they’d absolutely hire him back now, so Justin calls him and they all three pledge to interview for the job that Griffin lost.

Now, Justin and Travis decide to wear “business” clothes, which are fairly normal outfits. Griffin complains that he has no business clothes, so they tell him they have an outfit for him, which ends up being… well, I’m just putting the picture below, no reason to describe it.

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But no monocle. No wonder he was fired.

The three decide to “pad their resumes” by taking extremely temporary jobs, about 30 minutes each, ranging from sweeper boy to cupcake decorator to decorative bow designer. Oddly, while most of their employers say they were terrible, one of them says she would hire Travis. Again, he is the best.

The brothers then visit the office of the town mayor, Steve Williams, to ask him to be allowed to be the mayor of the town so they can put it on their resumes. All three are made Mayor for a minute, which they attempt to use to put hits on their enemies and pass such resolutions as “the state bird is abolished” and “the sister city is the moon.”

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The three join their father, Clint, a radio DJ, to get another job on their resume. Justin attempts to DJ for a minute and gets nothing right, including naming Tim McGraw “McGruff,” which, let’s be honest, would be a great duet. They could sing “Live Like You Were Dying (In Jail).”

They go to the Chief of Police to ask for a similar arrangement to the one with the Mayor, but he declines, until they ask to be the chiefs of “Safetytown” the fake roadway they use to teach driver’s ed. They divide it into three zones. Travis names his “New Duckburg” and populates it with fake Vikings because, again, he’s the best. And, to be clear, I wrote the Viking thing at the beginning before seeing this, so I feel so vindicated right now. His wife, Teresa, is there also.

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Life is like a hurricane, here in New Duckburg. Axes, Vikings, Open vests, it’s a Duck-blur.

Griffin names his portion “Chilladelphia,” and brings his wife, Rachel, and his friend Emily. He’s happy because he’s monopolized all of the “resources” in Safetytown, by claiming the water fountain, the bathrooms, and the fake gas station containing go-karts.

Justin, remembering that the episode is about getting a job from his father-in-law, names his town “Chad Pennington,” after his father-in-law’s favorite football player. He’s populated it with his in-laws.

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Travis’s Vikings quickly start raiding the other towns, mostly “Chilladelphia,” taking cars and batteries, resulting in a go-kart chase and some other shenanigans until, apparently, the police force them to stop filming due to their behavior. I don’t know if it’s real, but they say it’s not a bit and they seem serious. Either way, it ends the Safetytown segment.

It cuts back to the main set, where they go over their resumes, giving such tips as “write it on fly paper and stick it to the boss” and “put in a coupon.” Griffin then puts his resume on a scrolling LED board, which is one of the funniest sequences in the episode, including his resume skill entry “Oh Shit, this thing does other colors.”

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They go into the final interview with Justin’s father-in-law Tommy Smirl. First, Justin brings in a resume hand-written on butcher’s paper rolls and basically threatens to stop feeding his family. Travis comes in, sticks his resume on Tommy, and states that he is not at all qualified, then fails the test when Tommy offers him a beer. Griffin bribes Tommy with $6. Tommy calls in Griffin’s former supervisor Dwight, who mentions that Griffin, on his first week of employment, asked for a paid vacation to go to Bonnaroo. He leaves the electronic resume in the room as “part of the bribe” as he slinks off. None of them get the job, because the system is broken, clearly.

The three relax in a hot tub, fully clothed, while they try to remember the original question. They answer it with “people will give you any job you want if you bring a film crew.” As of this writing, I’m trying to find a new job, so this might be good advice.

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END SUMMARY

Well, it’s definitely different. It feels like a combination of scripted and unscripted, because that’s what it is. The guys aren’t that used to being on television, which is kind of obvious by the way they slightly avoid the cameras more than most TV hosts. Still, being brothers, they have a natural relatability to each other which carries through to the audience. They aren’t the funniest hosts I’ve ever seen, but they seem more real, which gives the show an earnestness even though it’s a farce.

The premise of the episode is pretty much perfect. Everyone has had to deal with resumé issues, and this just provides a fun parody of all the ridiculous ways people exaggerate it. I think the Safetytown sequence is probably the best, because pretending to be lords of tiny communities is pretty much what these guys were made for. Sad that they had to cut it short. Also, I may actually steal Griffin’s sexual-innuendo filled resumé, as I, too, am horny for teamwork.

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Or Justin’s, which has “Can Run 2 Miles Per Diem.”

I enjoyed this show. It’s not gonna win any awards, but I love the idea of just taking a prompt and running with it. It’s kind of like a Q&A Jackass. The point isn’t that they’re going to answer it, it’s just seeing the weird stream-of-consciousness stuff that they come up with going off of the idea.

I’m probably going to prefer their D&D Podcast “The Adventure Zone,” if I ever get around to listening to it, because watching drunk people try to roleplay is usually hilarious and watching families play games is usually hilarious, so this should be some sort of exponential hilarity. The show’s on VRV and you can sign up for a free trial to avoid paying for it (VRV’s not paying for me, I don’t care if you get free content from them).

Also, Travis is the best.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.