Monday With Mildred: “A Discovery of Witches”

A Discovery of Witches tv season one poster

A Discovery of Witches

It seems that witches are in again, with a fairly big budget tv series and some books. In the Puritanical United States you never know what the message is going to be. We are famous for murdering a lot of people back in the day for being a witch. As they are paired with vampires and demons in this series, I’m thinking it’s still fear driving the narrative at its most basic level. 

In A Discovery of Witches, witch and world class historian Diana (Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge, Point Break) stumbles on an old book one day while in a gorgeous old library in England that burns a glyph in her hand and makes her goofy and dangerously unreliable magic suddenly efficient and dangerously capable. It’s a threat to the ancient political balance that has ruled vampires, witches and demons for a thousand years, and vampire Mathew (Matthew Goode, Imagine Me and You, Downton Abbey) is the first to notice what’s going on, and on meeting the witch decides she’s hot…he’s hot…let’s have the love affair of the millennium.

Okay, it’s a little more convoluted than that, but not by much. This show definitely suffers from the Anne Rice legacy of Whoa Is Me I Shall Be Young And Gorgeous Forever *sniff* syndrome. There is a hierarchy of paranormal creatures, with gorgeous and rich vampires on top, then ordinary looking witches and lastly not quite gorgeous demons. 

Besides Matthew, who plays Matthew with the same aw shucks boyish charm that I remembered with a definite side of dangerous monster, I couldn’t get behind any of the characters, really, except for Diana’s moms Sarah (Alex Kingston, ER, Doctor Who) and Em (Valarie Pettiford, The Blacklist) who are the sweetest gay couple I’ve seen in a while on tv. They were actually believable as witches as well, unlike Diana, who I did not believe as even an intelligent character right from the start when I wrote in my notes, “She goes to the library and requests several very old books and when she picks one up and runs her finger down the dusty front I ask myself, is she wondering why there’s dust on the cover of a book that was shelved upright?” This was my first hint that, nice as Diana seems she’s played by an actress who is wooden and does not convey the smarts that a famous historian should convey. All Diana’s emotions seem as muted as her magic, but are not rescued by a wondrous text at any point. I know some of this is the product of the writing which in season two finds Matthew, now Diana’s lover, as they have travelled back to 16th century London. He tells her to be sure and cover her neck to hide the bite marks in this both more backward and more perceptive to paranormal time. Immediately she dresses in an immodestly low cut dress that shows off her admittedly gorgeous neck.

I didn’t watch much of season two, mostly because of the mishmash of dramatic arcs that never spoke to me and were too drawn out to carry the continual promise of thrills and spills that the music and acting and trailers for the next episode dangled in front of me like a carrot in front of a mule. This was a continuation from season one, which moved slowly, inexorably forward with a ton of promise of excitement that only sometimes delivered. Season one also had the interesting aspect of being set in the modern era with a medieval air that I found at least interesting. They carried this off by often shooting in older parts of England and old French castles and old libraries. But season two, set hundreds of years before, suffered a lot from the time change because all the wide shots of London were obviously art work, there could be extremely little urban scenes outdoors which forced a lot of the action indoors, making the shots feel even more physically cramped than season one.

I have not read the books that this series is drawn from, so that might be a better source for this long tale that continues to feel as if it could be more. The biggest drawback for me was the creaky writing, followed by the underwhelming acting of the lead actress. It’s well shot and has some fun musical choices, but they needed a smart person in the room to write smart scripts for a show that should have been convoluted and full of fun corners. If you’re only in it for the romance, watch this. Matthew Goode is always a sweet hottie, but even the romance couldn’t pull this out for me.


CFR: In Addition: So several years ago, my husband looked for a book for a Christmas present for me. The book seller told him every one LOVED this book A Discovery of Witches. It was a best seller. Also it was Fantasy/Science Fiction so I would love it. I had seen the book in the bookstore and thought it looked good. So I happily started reading it. And I loathed it after the first 10 pages. The hero was described as a misogynist. Uh, why? How is that sexy? (Yes they solved that problem in the TV show which was very nice.)

So fast forward to a girls outing weekend of room service and TV watching and voila! I am watching the TV series A Discovery of Witches. I liked it – probably because my buddy loves it so much and was thrilled to be showing it to me.

Second, as for the TV show, like the book, I was surprised at how clueless the heroine was. I mean, she was raised by witches and how could she be so clueless? I guess I get tired of the “powerful witch being clueless and having to discover her power trope”. *RASPBERRY* Good grief that makes the character a child and robs her of her own identity and power. Why can’t a fully mature powerful witch find the big artifact?

While I was willing to believe that Diana and Matthew were in love. They have some fun chemistry. However I loathe romances because they are more about sexual attraction than falling in love. An adult woman whining to her aunt about how she can’t help who she loves is just, oh good grief. You are right – you can’t help how you FEEL, which is what love is an emotion. HOWEVER, you can help how you behave. (Want real romance? Watch Our Flag Means Death. Now THAT’S romance!)

So again my problem with romances, let’s make women act like children. The men are just well, good grief. Yes the two actors look good together but I just want to slap vampires and their whining and they are at the top of the food chain which means I’m not and I want to slap them. What a bunch of whiny bores.

Oh and I felt for the demons.

Still I thought the show was pretty and interesting and if I got to watch it again with my buddy, I would enjoy it because she loved it so much. Also I would watch it again just to enjoy the witches who enjoy being witches. Those lesbian aunts made the show for me.

If you like romances, you will love this.

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