A Discovery of Witches: 2.06

A Discovery of Witches: 2.06

Finally an episode that really makes the most of Matthew and Diana's journey back into the past. While still not reaching the same heights of the present day narrative, the latest episode of A Discovery of Witches managed to get the balance right. The whole host of characters from Matthew's past, a multitude of historical figures and a deeply rich recreation of Elizabethan London have been gorgeously recreated, but often at the expense of Matthew and Diana as a couple. Diana herself, has largely felt reactive to what his happening and Matthew's storyline has been overly complicated, with little or no explanation of what is happening. The occasional flits to the present day, outside of episode four, have been random too.

Episode six gets the balance right. Matthew and Diana are the real focus, not monarchs and playwrights, scheming lords and vampire bishops that have adorned season two so far. The secrets around the Clairmont bloodline were laid bare, Diana accepting Matthew's 'curse' and standing by him; for the first time this season, it really felt as if she was taking charge of her destiny, rather than following Matthew or bowing to the demands of others. Giving Diana some agency is a great thing and she had a lot of presence in this episode.

Coming home to Philippe Clairmont really brought to life a whole host of 'daddy issues' for Matthew. Having his curse used as a weapon at his father's behest, becoming an assassin against all their enemies, really shows how ruthless the elder Clairmont is. But that anger came with deep regret, Matthew revealing to Diana how Philippe was tortured in Nazi death camps by witches loyal to the regime, and how he killed his father to free him of his torment. It was a harrowing homecoming for Matthew on every level.

Of course, there is more to Philippe as his ruthless attempt to force the bloodlust in his son revealed. Almost immediately, he switched from villain to something nobler; revealing the truth to Diana after recognising the 'worthiness' of her as Matthew's mate. There was plenty of patriarchal oppression at play here, that the episode almost got away with, given the time setting and Diana's agency in making her own decisions about her relationship with Matthew.

The sudden turn of events into becoming happy families felt a little contrived though. By the episode's end, Matthew and Diana had married at Philippe's blessing and Diana even seemed on close terms with her new father in law. Sometimes A Discovery of Witches has a bad habit of dragging out a storyline; here it felt rushed at breakneck speed. At the same time, I appreciate the momentum of events. By the end Matthew and Diana were on the path to Bohemia and their search for The Book of Life.

Despite the very quick switch in focus, the emotional journey of the characters felt earned. Matthew had repaired some of his relationship with his father and was closer to Diana than ever. Even the jumps back to the present worked, focusing on the doomed romance between Philippe and Ysabeau. The scene where she uncovered his final message on the book was lovely, with James Purefoy and Lindsay Duncan selling every moment.

With a good central focus and stronger character work, the sixth episode of A Discovery of Witches was one of season two's best. I'm still not convinced that Matthew and Diana are the strongest characters in the show, but the attention paid to their relationship helped develop them as a couple and made Diana less of a passive character. I hope the rest of the season builds on the good work laid here.

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