As an adaptation of one of the most popular action RPG franchises, Netflix’s Castlevania series hit the ball out of the park with refreshing, relatable characterization. The morally gray characters blurred the line between the conventional binary of good and evil, an aspect that made iconic characters like Dracula, Alucard, Trevor, and Sypha not only relatable but also kept their core essence intact, which resulted in a surge in the franchise’s fanbase at the same time. Even side characters like Isaac and Hector from the original series were given distinctive personalities and character arcs, the likes of which can rarely be seen in other adaptations of similar kinds.
Respecting the legacy of the original series, the spin-off Castlevania: Nocturne presents an interesting set of characters in its first season. Being set in the transitional period of the late 18th century, the series draws inspiration from the then-global political atmosphere and social hierarchy to present a compelling narrative—one so good that viewers can’t help but feel conflicted while choosing a side between murderous creatures of darkness and human monster hunters. We will discuss the many shades of the proverbial color displayed in the characterization of most of the key players in Castlevania: Nocturne, as well as speculate on the route of their respective character arcs.
Belmont Legacy: Richter And Juste
The mainstay vampire hunter clan of the Castlevania franchise has its prime representative in the series in Richter Belmont, whose progression from a scared little kid to master vampire hunter and protector of humankind was one of the highlights of the series. As descendants of Sypha the Speaker, both Julia and her son Richter inherited magical abilities and element manipulation powers, which, in the case of Richter, waned away when fear overshadowed his self-confidence—at the exact moment when he had to watch the harrowing death of his mother at a young age. Fighting through the pain, Richter grew up in Machecoul at his aunt Tera’s place and took up the family tradition of vampire hunting anyway, relying on the classic Belmont heirloom whip and dagger. Richter bottles up his emotions inside himself and creates a barrier around him, never letting the guard down, irrespective of the situation. But he got the shock of his lifetime when, fighting Drolta Tzuentes and her vampire horde at the abbey dungeon, he once again faced Olrox, the vampire who killed his mother. The devastating trauma of the past engulfs Richter, and he runs out of the dungeon, abandoning his comrades.
It isn’t until he that he has a chance encounter with his grandfather, Juste, that he gains a sense of closure, after learning that a member of his clan is still surviving. Talking with Juste and learning that the pain of losing someone close to him shocked him as well, Richter is finally able to let his emotional holds go and break down. He gets the final push when Bethory’s vampire horde attacks him and Juste, a cornered Richter reminds himself of his purpose as a Belmont; despite knowing the futility of the never-ending battle against evil, he chooses to persist. Facing his fear head-on, Richter activates his speaker powers once again and decimates the vampire horde with relative ease. Richter’s role in the following seasons will be of significant importance, hopefully mimicking his ancestor Trevor Belmont’s arc in Castlevania.
Annette Upholds Her Cultural Heritage
Speaking of facing one’s fear, Annette, the magician, shows the strength of spirit in the face of the greatest odds, and her journey from being a former slave on the sugar plantation on the island of Saint-Domingue to becoming a master sorcerer is nothing short of extraordinary. Growing up, Annette’s mother was her whole world, and was taken away from her as the cruel vampire slave owner Vaublanc mercilessly killed her for practicing her religious beliefs. Annette tried to flee multiple times, with all her attempts resulting in failure. However, Vaublanc couldn’t diminish her spirit; added to that, she had inherited mystical powers as a descendant of the gods Ogun and Orunmila. Finally, as her powers start growing, Annette is able to flee from the plantation and ends up in the opera singer Edouard’s refuge, where he protects her and takes her to the Maroons, an insurgency group formed by escaped slaves.
Reconnecting with her cultural roots—the much-neglected heritage of African iconographies—Annette starts honing her skills as a mage with the help of her mentor, Cecile. Later, she helps the Maroons plunder and destroy the outposts of the colonial scums on the island, along with the plantation, and frees it from the tyranny of the oppressive forces—human or otherwise. Later, adhering to Cecile’s instructions about finding Richter Belmont, she travels to France with Edouard, who by now has become her closest friend and is held in great regard by Maria Renard for her past struggles. As fate takes a cruel turn at the same time, Edouard falls prey to the bourgeois vampires, Richter flees after his PTSD triggers, and Annette keeps up the struggle against Bethory’s forces. She even manages to corner Vaublanc and kill him, but remains troubled by anticipating the overall worsening situation during Bethory’s rise to power, which prompts her to access the spirit world for guidance.
Annette seeking counsel from Cecile in the spirit world is a form of introspection that provides her with much-needed clarity. Even though Europe is rising with the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, they remain painfully oblivious to the plight of the colonized native people—people like Annette and her community—who get ostracized by the same Europeans who champion good morals fervently in their homeland. Cecile asks Annette to realize her true potential as the protector of the way of life of her community, which encompasses religion, belief systems, and a culture that are as old as the beginning of human civilization itself. Annette is able to calm herself after this, Richter returns in an empowered form after making amends with his past, and the vampire hunter team gets prepared to take on Bethory’s forces at the abbey. Although Annette fails to complete her task of pushing the Night Creature transformation machine through the portal of hell due to Bethory’s immense powers, her abilities will grow further in the next season, and it seems like her ancestral powers will play a major role in taking down Bethory.
Olrox And Edouard: Monsters With Soul
As the first episode began with the gruesome death of Julia Belmont at the hands of Aztec vampire Olrox, it almost seemed like he would be the big bad of the series. By the end of the first season, in true Castlevania fashion, Olrox was showcased as a rather troubled individual, a morally ambiguous, silent observer. As he later reveals to Mizrak, viewers learn that he murdered Julia to avenge the death of his former lover, a Mohican who fought with the American revolutionaries, but was later turned into a vampire by Olrox, who wanted to spend eternity with him. Like his Mohican lover, Olrox lost his homeland to the colonizers, which is perhaps the reason, unlike the bourgeois vampires who prey on the weak and poor, Olrox has developed a penchant for the blue blood. Bethory invites Olrox herself to be her guide to America, which will be the vampire god’s latest target after dominating Europe.
Initially siding with her, Olrox soon gets a hint about how vicious Bethory’s reign could be—even by vampire standards, that is—and decides to help the vampire hunters stop her by providing them with the mystical tome. Despite repeated goading by Richter, Olrox refuses to battle with him, sparing him as long as he is weaker than him, showing a sense of honor unheard among the ranks of the undead. Later, as he rescues Mizrak from Bethory’s vampires, it is revealed that Olrox has started growing feelings for him; unfortunately, Mizrak considers him to be a soulless monster till the very end. The inclusion of Olrox has added new dynamics to the series, which will develop thoroughly in the upcoming seasons. Olrox’s dragon form which he takes during his first appearence is a reminder of his Aztec origin.
Lastly, Castlevania: Nocturne cannot be appreciated enough without mentioning the tragedy of Edouard, whose transformation from an opera singer to a lost soul trapped in the body of a night creature is as heartbreaking as it is riveting. After rescuing Annette, he joined in the liberation struggle of Saint-Domingue and later agreed to assist her in the journey to France, abandoning his lover and his community for the greater good. Arriving at Machecoul, he was able to form a bond with the Renard family pretty quickly and console Maria for the death of her conjured bird through singing a melancholic tune.
The blue-eyed, mild-mannered, charming singer was never really cut out for battling undead creatures, and unfortunately, he was killed by them while escaping with his comrades. But a fate worse than death had awaited him, as he was turned into a Night creature by the abbot, and to make his condition even more miserable, Edouard retained all his human life memory and emotions with his rebirth. After he disobeys the command to engage in battle with humans, Edouard gets incarcerated and gets engulfed in despair, agony, regret, and sorrow. His tragic tunes haunt the streets of Machecoul, pull at viewers’ heartstrings as they seem sung by a soul lost in darkness, and truly add to the beauty of gothic adaptation in a unique way.
Later, Annette returns to rescue him during the raid on the abbey, but willing to reform fellow hapless Night creatures, Edouard decides to stay back. Castlevania: Nocturne Season 2 is likely to explore Edouard’s predicament in detail.