A Discovery of Witches (Episode 2.4) Review

The fourth episode of A Discovery of Witches’ sophomore season gives me the pleasure to say two things. The first is that the show is finally giving attention to the present day and the season one supporting cast. The second is that this is the best episode of this season–perhaps my favorite of the entire show thus far. Up until this point, there have only been snippets of the present day. However, this episode takes place entirely in the present, putting the dull past storyline out to pasture for now. 

At the end of the third episode, Diana and Matthew left a pair of miniature portraits to the orphan boy they took in. In the present, those portraits are now up for auction. Matthew’s son, Marcus, prepares to purchase them from the antiquities dealer. Meanwhile, a savage vampire appears on the streets of the city, viciously killing a pedestrian in broad daylight. The first ten minutes of episode 2.4 are more eventful than the previous three episodes combined. 

Centering an episode on Marcus is a good move on the part of the writers, as he was one of the best characters in the first season. Played by Edward Bluemel, Marcus oozes charm and charisma. His banter with Phoebe, a representative of the antiquities dealer, is effortless. It needs to be, as the focus here is on a budding relationship between the two. Marcus lays the charm on thick for Phoebe, it seems at first in an attempt to get the portraits in a quick and easy manner. However, when the portraits are stolen (presumably by the same vampire that’s killing people in a “blood rage”), he continues to court her.

“I’m hundreds of years old. You catalogue history. I’ve lived it.”

Meanwhile, Domenico is hot on the case of the rabid vampire, who he suspects is a De Clairmont. This puts him on a collision course with Marcus, who is looking for the thief of the portraits. When both of them realize they aren’t who they’re looking for, both find themselves back to square one. 

When Phoebe begins to question Marcus and his lifestyle, he tries to come clean and tell her he’s a vampire. As any sane human would probably do, Phoebe tells Marcus that he is crazy and she doesn’t want to see him again. Then, as if things couldn’t get any worse for him, Ysabeau de Clairmont reveals that blood rage was never cured. Marcus has the gene, and anyone he’s turned carries it as well. 

This is the first truly gripping episode of the season. It still doesn’t give much away, but it lays groundwork for a mystery in the present day that’s much more intriguing than the storyline of the past. Bluemel carries this episode squarely on his shoulders, and he rises to the occasion. He sells every bit of pressure Marcus has in leading the Knights of Lazarus in Matthew’s absence, while managing to be more charismatic than any of the characters we’ve been spending the last three episodes with. 

There are some real ramifications moving forward if the writers choose to follow through on these plot threads. The issue with this season is that, by splitting the narrative in two, the writers now have to come up with two compelling storylines. So far, they’ve only come up with one, and made the audience wait through three dull episodes for it. Hopefully, this is a turning point for the season. If more episodes like this arrive in the second half of the season, it may have been worth the wait.

A Discovery of Witches is streaming now on Shudder and Sundance Now, with new episodes every Saturday.

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