Penned 3 years ago. It will take about 8:2 to read.
It was 65°F in San Diego, CA with a clear sky. Jungle Boogie by Pinkfong was playing.
Hey everyone, it’s Chris, and welcome to the first episode of my series covering A discovery of Witches. I loved the books this show is based on, the “All Souls Trilogy”, so I have been eagerly awaiting this show to drop for months.
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This was a departure from the novels, in the best way I think. The beginning of the book is Diana getting the Ashmole manuscripts, including 782, and having a series of magical moments with it, While it gets us into the action and the main thrust and mcguffin of the story, it take a little while before you are let into the bigger world of the supernatural that exists in this universe.
Having Matthew open the show, waxing nostalgic at the state of the modern world, while he watches Diana rowing, beautifully sets up the world and the beginning of the intense relationship that is about to begin between them.
There are quite a few changes with her character, and the relationship between Gillian and Diana. In the novels Gillian is another American scholar, and is really not friendly with Diana, and vice versa.
I don’t want to say too much, given the show has just started, but in the novels, Gillian is not a nice person. Not nice at all. I like this version of the character better, given the part she plays in bringing the existence of Ashmole 782 to the attention of the congregation.
I really, really liked this. One of the things you have to be careful with when adapting a novel to the screen, is what you show and what you tell. Novels are a medium of tell, you describe the things that are happening, where as film is a medium of show. In the novels it is established that Diana is the first person in a very, very long time to be able to retrieve this specific volume, and we move on.
Having this scene, where we see 782 decide to be findable was brilliant, and went a long way to establishing the nature of the book, and the magic that is infused within it, in a wonderfully cinematic way.
This was a bit of a let down. In the novel there is a moment of standoff between Diana and the book, since from the moment she sees it, she can tell it has been magically enhanced in some way. She spends a it of time trying to decide what to do, reliving some of her past, as a way to filter the current events.
Although I greatly prefer this to what we see in the show, I acknowledge that this is a show, don’t tell moment, so we couldn’t have the exact same sequence of events as we saw in the book translated to th screen.
With that being said, it would have been a better moment for her character I think, if she discovers that the book is magical before she opens it, and then decides, just as she did in the novel, to treat it as a normal manuscript, ignoring the magical aspects of it, since she has cut off that part of her life.
Oh and the text appearing on Diana’s hands, the brand that appears on her hand and the entire magical community of Oxford feeling her open the book? New for the show, didn’t happen in the source material. Matthew finds out about Diana getting 782 be overhearing other witches talking about it. Also she didn’t bump into her father on the way out.
So the two moments that we see Diana doing magic in this episode are at the very outset of the episode, when she accidently “magics” her papers back together as they are being born away on the wind, and when she accidently calls the book from the top shelf in the library, resulting in it falling into the hands of Matthew, creating the opportunity for their first official meeting.
The first instance was new for the show, and the second was drastically altered from the novel. I have no feelings either way about the first moment, other than I don’t like that they are making Diana into this much of a mess with her magic. While what she told GIllian is true, she is terrible with magic, she has developed enough control to not just randomly shoot off magic.
Case in point, magiking the book from the top shelf. In the novels, Diana makes the decision to use magic to retrieve it, even, which I loved, making a mental accounting of how many times she was forced to use magic that month, which was 5 by the way, and performed the spell perfectly, even having the volume automatically open to the page she needed, was in settled into her hand.
In the novels Matthew is there and watches everything happen, which seems like a perfectly adequate way to introduce them given how the next moments go in the novels, especially when you have Diana tumbling into his waiting hands, as opposed to a book, as we see in the novels.
After this moment, things progress mostly the same between the show and the novels.
This was mostly the same as we find in the novels, with one massive exception. He searches Diana’s rooms while she is asleep in them. I really liked that approach better, since it allowed for a number of key things.
Firstly it shows the control that Matthew has. A vampire, hanging out in a beautiful witches room at night, without draining her like a capri sun is rather impressive.
Secondly we are afforded a glimpse into the real nature of Diana’s power. She literally glows from the massive untapped power within her, rising and falling in waves while she sleeps, surprising Matthew, as we learn it’s something he’s seen before, but not for a very, very long time.
And lastly we learn something about her work, and how amazing it is. Matthew, who has read all of her work, is surprised how well she captures the people she writes about, many of them he knew personally, since you know, vampire.
It sets up the question, why is she able to do that? Is it an unintentional use of her magic, or her brilliance as a writer and historian? Only time and the writers of the tv show will tell I’m afraid.
I didn’t really dig the way version of Marcus in the show, he seems… just wrong. In the novels he is an american, who was turned by Matthew around the time of the Revolutionary War, with blonde hair and blue eyes. While I don’t care about his hair and eye color, making him British just seems wrong. Hopefully they do a better job with his character as the series progresses.
Also, he doesn’t appear this early on in the novels, but I love that they are pushing and pulling moments and characters around this way, it makes for a much more dynamic story so there is that.
Although this is from the novels, it happens much differently, which I prefer. Diana is aware as the Library fills up with supernatural creatures, since they are all there for her, and when each of them look at a witch, they evoke a distinctive feeling. Another witches gaze is tingly, vampires are cold spots that identify where their eyes are focused, and daemons feel like a soft kiss on your neck.
So with this in mind, Diana is keenly aware of all the magical creatures in the room, and that they are all looking at her. One thing I really miss from the novels is that there is an attack on Diana by another, unidentified male witch, that is fended off by Matthew. Much to Diana’s displeasure. I really wish they would have included this moment in the show, because it goes a long way to reinforce Matthew’s warning later, that Diana is in trouble, and should act that way, which happens following this moment in the episode.
This does happen, sort of, in the novels, but happens after they go to Creature Yoga, much later in the story. Creature Yoga, by the way, is one of my favorite things from the novels. Essentially after the class, she leaves her sweater in his car. The car basically becomes super concentrated with Diana scent, which is apparently “honeysuckle and horehound” and smelling it drives him right to the edge of sanity with hunger.
He goes off to Scotland to deal with his close to overwhelming desire to got after Diana, by hunting deer at a lodge owned by one of his friends, who is a Daemon. Speaking of Daemson’s…
I know it’s only the first episode, but it’s weird and troubling that they have only introduced witches and vampires. The daemons are an important part of the story as well, and are pretty deeply involved in what’s going on, almost from the first page of the novels.
I am assuming that they will be introducing them in the next episode, with a character Matthew is going to visit in Scotland.