‘A Discovery Of Witches’: Season 2 Blu-Ray Review – Sophomore Season Is A Major Shakeup For The Magical Drama

Fans of supernatural romance were given a treat upon the debut of A Discovery of Witches in late 2018. The series based on the All Souls Trilogy from author Deborah Harkness could be described in a number of ways including a more adult-leaning Harry Potter. Although in all honesty it feels as if it has more in common with the hit Starz show Outlander, especially after viewing this most recent sophomore season. The show follows Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer), a London historian and reluctant witch, and Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), a sexy vampire geneticist, as the pair try to combat the encroaching forces of evil while trying to evade the forbidden love (the best kind?) between witches and vampires. The debut season finale found the two “timewalking” back to 1590 in search of the mythical Book Of Life, which could not only unlock Diana’s untapped powers but may be the key to saving the dying magical species of the world. This sophomore season tackles the material in the second book, Shadow of the Night, which shakes up the show in major ways. 

The early episodes of season two focus heavily on Elizabethan London, and as with any good time travel story the rule established early on is simply that the immortal Matthew should not interact with his past “present” self. Thankfully, the old-era Matthew was off in Scotland doing some business for the Catholic Church so “present day” Matthew is able to slip into the time period without too many hiccups. More of an issue is Diana and her seeming inability to convince anyone she is from the time period. One of the most engrossing elements of the first season was the sparks that flew between our two leads with aching glances for days. This second season stumbles in this regard, choosing instead to spin its wheels somewhat with bickering and repetitive scenes. Matthew is very concerned about Diana facing any number of dangers in this time period, and Diana is confident in her abilities to take care of herself. Initial concern is to be expected, but these back-and-forths get tiresome when all you want is for them to do something worthwhile. 

There are times when the season does not struggle as much with trying to balance the romance with historical narrative. The season gets more intriguing on both fronts as it goes along, but much of the story this go-around concerns both the past and the present. Ysabeau de Clermont (Lindsay Duncan) works well in the protector role over Diana’s wiccan aunts Sarah (Alex Kingston) and Em (Valarie Pettiford) against the persistent Gerbert d’Aurillac (Trevor Eve) along with Peter Knox (Owen Teale), and Satu Järvinen (Malin Buska). Diana is also at her most interesting when she meets up with Goody Alsop (Sheila Hancock), a “weaver” who helps Diana in both the practical and personal side of her journey. Other points throughout the season seem overstuffed with side quests that lack the sense of wonder that you need from a series such as this one. You can have dark elements to your plot without sacrificing the fun. 

Certain additions to the season are very welcome, including Philippe de Clermont (a delightful James Purefoy), Matthew’s stepfather and husband to Ysabeau. Not only does his embodiment make certain characters confront the past, but he also conjures up some heat with his wife that rivals the main duo. While the season can be a bit unwieldy, overall it is still pretty compelling with many surprises up its sleeves. Some last-minute developments will leave you excited to see where the forthcoming third season takes us next. Diana and Matthew are our main reasons for watching the show and this season did not satisfy in the romance department, but there is reason to believe this will change quite soon. A Discovery of Witches improves on its visual splendor in its sophomore outing even when it shows shortcomings in the narrative. The show remains better than many and is worth continuing for those who enjoyed the first season. 

Video Quality

A Discovery Of Witches: The Complete Second Season arrives on Blu-Ray with a gorgeous AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.00:1. One of the first things you will notice is that skin tones appear very natural across the entire cast. There are thankfully no egregious instances of aliasing or compression artifacts detectable here. The color palette still runs on the cooler side with plenty of visually darker moments throughout the season, but there are instances of bright exterior shots in the present day. There are some magical instances of beautiful colors popping off the screen. Black levels are appropriately deep and give way to a nice amount of detail in shadows. The bright whites do not fall victim to any blooming in this presentation. The levels of detail this presentation is able to eek out is quite striking, as all of the subtle details in the production design are easily identifiable. Some of the CGI does not provide as much detail as the practical work, but it does not present as a major issue. The Blu-Ray is quite stunning as it brings a meticulously crafted series to life in a gorgeous manner.

Audio Quality

This Blu-Ray comes with an incredibly active DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that creates a truly enveloping world. Dialogue always comes through crisp and clear without being stepped on by the powerful score or any sound effects. Action sequences and more kinetic moments are given the appropriate power in the mix with a forceful showing in the low end. Ambient sounds are also precisely placed in the rear channels. The magical effects provide the greatest level of immersion throughout the series. Special consideration should be paid to the series music from Rob Lane. His work perfectly sets the tone for the story, and it creates a nicely enveloping sound that draws you further into the show. The audio presentation here is fantastic on all levels.

Special Features

  • The Story of A Discovery Of Witches: A nearly seven-minute featurette in which Palmer, Goode and various others give you an overview of the first season and discuss some of the developments in this newest season. 
  • Can Love Survive?: A five-minute featurette which focuses on the romantic angle of the series that fans love so much. These insights are provided from some of the same interviews as the previous supplement. 
  • Creating Elizabethan London: A six-minute featurette at the incredible production design employed in this sophomore season. 


Final Thoughts

The second season of A Discovery of Witches does not conjure the same sparks between our core couple, but the narrative detour into the past reveals many interesting details that flesh out this world quite nicely. The attention to detail and production design allow this one to be one of the most visually stunning series around, but there could be some improvement when it comes to juggling the narrative threads throughout the season. RLJE Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray featuring a pretty great A/V presentation and a couple of special features. If you are a fan of the show, this set should not let you down. Recommended 

A Discovery Of Witches: The Complete Second Season is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: RLJE Films has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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