A Discovery of Witches: 2.03

A Discovery of Witches: 2.03

Three episodes in and it's clear that A Discovery of Witches has a pacing problem. While the first season took its time to build Diana and Matthew's story, there was so much gorgeous globe trotting and character building, that the lack of progression could be forgiven. But season two really needs to start moving the plot forward. The appeal of the trip back in time to 16th Century London is quickly losing its appeal.

By the time the credits rolled, I struggled to remember what had happened. Matthew had fallen out with Kit Marlowe, who in turn had come running to the ruthless Lord Burley. Diana had begun her training. Matthew and Diana searched for the book Ashmole 782 and had an audience with Queen Elizabeth. And some old memories were drudged up when Matthew received a summons from his father, courtesy of another random new character, a 'nephew' Gallowglass.

There were certainly entertaining scenes; the performances are superb, from energy of Amanda Hale's Mary Sidney to Sheila Hancock's Goody, while Barbara Marten followed in a long line of epic performances to deliver a commanding performance as Queen Elizabeth. I liked the banter of Steven Cree's Gallowglass and the energy he brought to the relationship with Matthew. Tom Hughes does moody well as Kit Marlowe. The past is filled with vibrant characters.

The issue I'm having is that, despite the best efforts of Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode, I'm finding Diana and Matthew just a little bit insipid. Diana is starting to getting some agency as he continues her training - though is creating a few threads really progress? Once again, we're told how powerful she is, with her ability to control all the elements, but it's all yet more build up for a battle that probably won't take place until next series. It was good to see Matthew and Diana together, after he largely abandoned her in the last two episodes; there was a weird parental vibe going on with their young ward, which seemed to come out of nowhere, but offered a softer side their relationship.

The scene with Queen Elizabeth really was the best moment in the entire episode. It didn't really offer much in the way of the narrative, even if Marten put in a good performance. It was more an obligatory in a long line of famous people to cameo on the show, with more famous names dropped into the conversation which, presumably, we'll see as the Matthew and Diana continue their travels. I think leaving London now for France is the best thing to happen, particularly as I'm most looking forward to meeting Matthew's father Phillipe.

Oh, and yet again, there were a couple of brief trips to the present day. I'm baffled by the weird narrative switches between the two time periods. With ninety five percent of the story centred around Matthew and Diana, there is not enough time to develop these new threads. Emily discovering a face in the smoke during a spell meant absolutely nothing, while the teaser of Domenico discovering a violent murder in Oxford was left bafflingly unexplained until the very final scene where he turned up in Venice to blackmail Gerbert D'Aurillac for control of the city.

The 'coming up' suggests we're going to see Emily and Domenico narratives get more focus, but right now they're so fleeting - like last week's Satu scene in Finland - they brought nothing to the episode. Surely, it would make more sense to have an episode set fully in the past followed by one in the present? I'm actually hoping we take a break from Matthew and Diana for an episode in order to give the other characters the time they deserve.

To read the review, it likely comes across that I disliked the episode. That isn't the case. Some strong performances from the guest cast, the stunning recreation of 1590's London and an intriguing long-term mystery are all compelling. But the central characters are becoming lost in the mix and the pace is all over the place. The first three episodes could have easily filled two; I'm beginning to wonder if the extended episode count is a bad thing.

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