A Discovery of Witches: 1.02

The second episode of A Discovery of Witches immediately broadens the landscape of this supernatural world. It opens in Venice where Elarica Johnson's seductive vampire Juliette lures an unsuspecting tourist off the main walkways into the dark, secluded pathways between the tall narrow buildings of the city teasing sex before feeding on him until he is bled dry.

This raises the suspicions of Gregg Chillin's detective Dominico Michele, whose investigation leads him to confront Juliette's father, the ranking vampire aristocrat Gerbert D'Aurillac Trevor Eve). I presume Dominico was a vampire too, though there Venetian-based scenes are few between and disconnected from the main storyline. The exception of course is the moment Gerbert savagely feeds on his daughter to get answers, the visions of her bloodlust revealing her sexual past with main vampire Matthew Clairmont. Her brazen attack sees her lockd in a cell by a father.

I'm intrigued to see where this goes; these vampires feels more dangerous than Matthew's group and the gothic, haunting streets of Venice provide a nice compliment to equally gothic Oxford. But it is also a very slow burn, setting up pieces to (I presume) be revealed later down the line.

Elsewhere, we started to learn a bit more about Michael (Matthew Goode) and the vampire lore of A Discovery of Witches in general. Vampire have superhuman speed - the ability to pursue the stag on the Scottish highlands for sport delved deeper into the animal instincts of vampires as he sought to rid himself of Diana Bishop's scent. He is very old; not only did he know Darwin and take great interest in his famous The Origin of the Speeches (in an effort to understand supernatural evolution too), he may have been around for the fall of Carthage.

Diana (Teresa Palmer) searching Matthew out opened her and the audience up to a much more intelligent, scientific basis for the supernatural, researching DNA stands of witches, vampires and demons from across time (it may involve a bit of grave robbing) to understand the real hook of the series; magic is dying. It is certainly and intriguing idea, not original perhaps but well executed. Vampires being unable to sire, witches unable to create spells and perhaps most worrying, demons are going insane. I can't wait to see an example of that on the show.

So it really seems that the mysterious book that Diana retrieved in the Bodleian Library in the first episode - the  Ashmole 782 - is the key to solving everything. It apparent contains the first spells and for Matthew it is the cure to solving the loss of magic. For Owen Teale's high-ranking witch Peter Knox it is something far more dangerous; the tool by which vampires can be eliminated. It's interesting that vampires, at least Matthew's group, are the noble good guys here.

One of the things I am most enjoying about A Discovery of Witches is the sense of rich past and mythology teased in these opening two episodes. We don't really know much more than magic is failing and vampires and witches hate each other (I don't know where demons fit in yet), but the show has created a rich an interesting world that has me intrigued to find out more. Peter is one of those mysterious aspects; he claimed to know Diana's mother and, through speaking to one of her aunts, Diana soon learns that her now dead parents distrusted him. He certainly seems to be presented as the core villain of the show right now; accompanied by the very dangerous Scandinavian witch Satu Järvinen (Malin Buska), he is the biggest threat to Diana. I liked the irony that his actions in trying to get her to obtain the book would lead her to search out Matthew.

I'm looking forward to things starting to happen over the coming episodes; there has been a terrific set up and Palmer and Goode are leads, giving Diana her humility and Matthew a noble but engaging intensity. It certainly felt as if he was much better developed this week. Though I have to admit Diana being 'the chosen one' in terms of untapped powers is nothing original. So far, A Discovery of Witches has been a bit of a slow burn admittedly; could the plot of both episodes have been condensed into one? Absolutely and yet with a wonderful sense of world building I'm enjoyed every moment so far.

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