A Discovery of Witches (Season 2)
If you know me well enough, you will know why my rating dropped from the first season to the second. If you don’t, well the answer is I broke my promise and I read the books, halfway into the second season. At the end of Season 1, we see that Matthew (Matthew Goode) and Diana (Teresa Palmer) have realised that Diana’s powers are too strong and the kind of teacher that can help her control her magic, does not exist in their times (quite literally). So they do the most natural thing that any student who can’t find a teacher would do. Travel through time and go to the past, I mean. So that is exactly what they do. The two star-crossed lovers travel to 1590 England, to hide in time, while Diana learns to control her powers. In the meanwhile, their families continue to live in the present time, trying to do damage control.
And that is where the story starts diverging from the books. Not that it was an essentially bad decision. Seeing how the books were more focused on the past events and only came back to the present when the family members had to handle an change in the history kind of an emergency. The show, however, is more realistic in this aspect. And this is probably where I will tell you that the show dealt with it better. The transitions between the past and future were seamless. And the insecurities of the characters were explored in much detail, making it a more humanised retelling of the events.
In the past, we see Diana and Matthew go about their day to day lives while Matthew tries to slip back into his past self. We are introduced to several well-known historical figures (my only disappointment was that there was no William Shakespeare). However, balancing on a thin line of “Creature” politics, Diana’s magic continues to flourish.
I would like to add here, while the subject matter of the books and the show deal with what is considered by many as “occult”, it is highly commendable of the author Deborah Harkness to have dealt with it with so much sensibility, almost a scientific precision. It is equally commendable of the makers of the show who kept true to the spirit of the books and while deviating from the books here and there, did not bungle it up in any way.
The show kept smoothly transitioning from one period to the other. From London, France and Bohemia in the 1590s, to present day France, Venice and Oxford, there is no moment in the show where you will want to press that fast forward button or skip parts. the story keeps moving and transitioning. However, this is where my complaint rises. The ten episodes were not nearly enough to cover all the ground of the second book, I feel. There were many places that had I not read the book, I would have thought were perfect. However, that wasn’t the case, and towards the later half of Season 2, I felt that something was missing, something could have been done to make it better.
Nevertheless, you deserve to know why I felt the way I did when I reached the second half of Season 2. Because I just had to go ahead and break my “read the books after the final season” resolve. In my defense (not that there is much of one), the covers were too tempting for me to resist (excuses, excuses!). But I would still recommend this show for a binge session if you are into fantasy shows with a dash of science, history and occult with a heaping of complicated family relationships and some nasty villains, parading as noblemen (and women, maybe). I would not spoil it for you but I do ask of you to give this one a chance. With the third and final season arriving in 2022, I am going to re-watch the first two seasons, real soon. And, just in case, you are interested in picking up a new fantasy series, the All Souls trilogy is a great pick (just saying)!