Streaming as part of Sundance NOW / SHUDDER in the US and Canada this supernatural romance based on the All Souls Trilogy of books written by Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches looks to fill the void left by Twilight with a title that does not seem worthy of either service.
Both Sundance NOW and Shudder offer amazing exclusives to US and Canadian audiences, little undiscovered gems that should sell the services on merit alone. Titles like The Little Drummer Girl, Jonestown Terror in The Jungle, Summer of 84, Jordskott. I know because I worked on their social media for a teeny tiny bit... shhhhh. The catalogue of both services offers great documentaries, features and dramatic series... A Discovery Of Witches while glossy doesn't really hold up to the standard I as a user of both services am used to.
So let's get in to it...
Brilliant historian Diana Bishop is a witch denying her own heritage. But when she unexpectedly calls up an ancient, bewitched manuscript from Oxford’s Bodleian library, one that was thought by the creatures to be lost and could answer the mysteries of their existence, she finds herself thrown into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of the enigmatic geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont. Matthew is driven to solve the looming threat of the creatures’ decline and extinction, but their unlikely alliance to find the book before it falls into the wrong hands – and their deepening relationship – threatens to violate age-old taboos and shake the fragile peace that exists between the species.
A Discovery of Witches is basically Twilight. You have your various factions who all seem to live in peace, Vampires, Demons, Witches, etc but in fact there's a book which everyone wants and one inexperienced witch who happens to look like she's stepped out of the promo shoot for Fyre Festival has the means to find it.
This witch who wants nothing to do with the hierarchy that tore her family apart is forced in to a fight for her life where she falls in love with a handsome gent played my Matthew Goode (The Hatton Garden Job), he also likes to snack on the blood of mortals and witches from time to time. The story itself plays out as you would expect, there are no surprises here and some of the dialogue can be so jarring, it's ridiculous. These are vampires talking about how long they've lived and they throw in every cliché history reference known to man, I think the only table Matthew (Matthew Goode) hasn't sat at is the one where the last supper took place.
This feels like it's a series that's been made for the Twilight generation that have now grown up but the content they've been served is paint by numbers fifty shades style romance that has no substance. There's no links between Diana (Teresa Palmer - Check her out in horror LIGHTS OUT or THE BERLIN SYNDROME) and Matthew, they're literally thrown together with a tether that seems strong but all that's really holding them together is attraction but is it? Matthew's blocky Americanised version of being what he is... British, is jarring and does not appear to be genuine. Yes his character has blood sucking impulse control issues but the performance wasn't one of fear or restraint it was just... blocky. Props to the shot of him in his undies though. (Female directors turning the tables)
A Discovery of Witches is predictable and slow. There's a shed load of supporting characters but our focus is on this love story which is boring. The whole fate of vampire and witch kind lies in Diana's power and her past but we're stuck with this dull plodding focus on what it would be like to be whisked away by this mysterious being who kinda spills the beans rather quickly leaving little to the imagination.
Teresa Palmer is great but whilst being the main character here, she literally doesn't have much to do but fawn and look a little threatened. There's one cool moment featuring a bow and arrow (of sorts) where she looks kick ass but the source material gives her little to play with and little for the audience to cling on to. She's fantastic in LIGHT'S OUT and THE BERLIN SYNDROME, she literally goes on the same journey in all these roles but plays With Diana, that road leads to a dead end.
Even the season cliffhanger leaves you asking "is that it?" in a sarcastic way. There's a void here and it lasts for eight episodes.