If you thought television was done with vampires, demons, and witches, think again. A Discovery Of Witches, which just premiered on Sky One and Now TV (in the U.K.), promises to bring the supernatural creatures back to the forefront of pop-culture with decent performances and some truly breathtaking visuals.
Based on the best-selling series of books by Deborah Harkness, A Discovery Of Witches introduces Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) as Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch and historian who finds herself in the centre of a feud between vampires, witches and demons when she discovers a long-lost manuscript, which could reveal how the various species were created. News of the manuscript quickly gets out, leading to multiple supernatural beings, including Matthew Goode’s charming vampire Matthew Clairemont, to take a particular interest in Diana.
In its opening episode, A Discovery Of Witches shows a lot of promise. Perhaps the most notable strength of the show is its visual style. The episode boasts some breathtaking scenery (the series is based in Oxford), which grabs your attention in the opening seconds as Goode’s mysterious vampire stares seductively over the river Isis, just in time for the fog to roll slowly across the screen.
The performances are another highlight, with both Palmer and Goode delivering compelling performances, despite some horrendously cheesy dialogue. Palmer does a great job as the shows lead, although Goode is the obvious standout. The actor perfectly balances the dark and scary side of the character with the charming side, making Matthew Clairemont your next vampire crush. While the “will-they-won’t-they” element of the series will turn a lot of viewers away (thanks, Twilight), the core relationship between Diana and Matthew will undoubtedly be what brings viewers back for more. The episode focuses heavily on introducing its two leads, but we also meet a few supporting characters (most notably Owen Teale’s Peter Knox), who promise to bring a dark and exciting dynamic to future episodes.
As with any show that is rooted in the supernatural, A Discovery Of Witches takes the time to introduce the different species and give us a taste of what these creatures are capable of. We get a few small glimpses of Diana’s powers throughout the episode, and a surprisingly gruesome scene between one of the supporting characters and his dying friend shows us what to expect from the vampires in this world. We know that demons will appear at some point in the season, but they are nowhere to be seen in the premiere.
Other than the somewhat hammy dialogue, the only thing stopping A Discovery Of Witches from being the next big thing is its inability to differentiate itself from other shows/films in the genre. It might be too early to judge, but after one episode the series has failed to display a unique identity, which could help viewers forget Twilight for at least an hour
The first episode of A Discovery Of Witches shows great potential and is strengthened by stellar performances and some stunning visuals. Hopefully, with more time, the series will be able to create its own identity and distance itself from Twilight and other titles within the genre. For now, I’m excited to see what the future holds.