A Discovery of Witches Season 2 Episode 2 Recap: In Which Diana Tries Again

Disc of Witches S2Ep2 Diana Passes Test

In season 2 episode 2 of A Discovery of Witches, Diana finds the powerful witch who’s meant to teach her how to use her unique magic. With Kit’s assistance, Matthew attempts to navigate the treacherous political waters of the day while convincing everyone he’s Matthew Royden, but not becoming lost in his old persona. As old enemies surface, the strain of keeping up with his own difficulties in addition to monitoring Diana’s progress shows.

Recap

We begin with a check in at present day Sept-Tours. Sarah is worrying about whether or not Diana and Matthew arrived safely in the past, whether their coven can be trusted not to betray them to Peter Knox and anything else she can come up with. Em is countering Sarah’s fears with facts and trying to divine some useful information from the Ashmole 782 page Diana’s father sent her by way of the Bishop house in season 1.

Downstairs, Marthe prepares a family dinner for the four of them, but Ysabeau isn’t sure she’s ready for that kind of closeness. Marthe tells her that since Matthew has evolved past his hatred of witches, they need to make an effort to do the same.

In a dungeon in 1590 London, William Cecil interrogates and tortures a new prisoner, the witch Thomas Caldwell (Louis Maskell).

Back in the present day, Satu returns to the cabin in Finland where we met her at the beginning of season 1. An old woman who Satu calls Mummo (Grandma) is already there, working on a weaving. She can sense that Satu’s time away from home was difficult and tells her that it was that way for others in her family as well. Satu accuses Mummo of teaching her everything but the truth about who she is. Mummo tells her that she raised her in isolation and withheld the truth to protect Satu. Satu says that she’s ready understand the truth. Mummo says, “Then stay. Become the weaver you were born to be.”

Whoa. This is a giant bombshell. Last season Meridiana referred to Satu as a weaver, but she’d been in thrall to the vampire Gerbert for centuries and was out of her mind, so I wasn’t sure if she was mistaken. Satu is very powerful, so it’s not a complete shock that she’s a weaver, but this hasn’t even been revealed in the books yet.

Now we just need the show to explain what a weaver is. 😉 All in good time, my pretties.

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Back to 1590. As Francoise helps her dress for the day, Diana laments that even in a city full of witches she’s still having trouble finding the right teacher. Francoise wraps Diana in her 40th layer of clothing and assures her charge that Matthew will come through for her. But Diana has realized that Matthew is actually part of the problem. “It should be a matter between witches, Francoise. We need to do things differently. Find someone willing to help me. They can’t be coerced or bribed.”

Matthew, Walter and Henry agree that Diana should meet local alchemist Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (Amanda Hale), to ask whether she knows of any witches. Diana is a bit nervous about meeting Mary, one of the historical alchemists she admires from her research, since meeting Christopher Marlowe went so badly. Matthew assures her that this will be a completely different experience.

It definitely is. Mary is a lovely, outgoing, straightforward person who welcomes them into her laboratory. She quickly takes to Diana and asks her to become her lab assistant. Diana’s magic goes haywire and brings an embroidered snake from Mary’s shoe alive. Once Diana gets hold of the snake and a servant removes it, Matthew uses the incident as an opening to bring up why they’ve really come to visit.

Mary tells them that she doesn’t know any witches. In fact, though she’s always known what Matthew is, she thought it was understood that they pretended his vampiric condition is a myth. She’d prefer to continue that way. Though she can’t help them find a witch, her offer of friendship toward Diana still stands. Diana happily accepts.

Mary cautions Diana that she shouldn’t let anyone know her true identity. The witch hunts in Scotland are making things especially tense for witches in England.

Awkward. The 1590 version of Matthew just got done instigating those witch hunts and the 2021 version just got done insisting to Diana that they wouldn’t affect her at all. Mary Sidney is already worth her weight in gold, just for the non judgmental female support and common sense advice she offers Diana. Mary was one of the best parts of the book. I’m glad to see Amanda Hale doing her justice here.

Matthew meets with his spymaster/torture boss, William Cecil. The queen is happy with the results of his visit to Scotland. However, Matthew failed to mention that one of the witches who King James has arrested is the leader of the Scottish covens, Agnes Sampson.

The queen fears that torturing the leader of the Scottish witches may turn the English witches against her. Matthew says that all witches look and smell alike to him, so he didn’t notice that he’d rounded up a celebrity. Cecil acknowledges that Matthew’s disdain for witches is well known. Matthews says he thought the aid that English witches gave the queen would help with their political situation. Cecil says that, “No one is above suspicion.”

Cecil turns to the reason for their meeting. Local witch Thomas Caldwell made threats against the crown under interrogation. Cecil orders Matthew to question Caldwell and extract a full confession by any means necessary. They need to know what the witches are plotting. Matthew has no choice but to carry out Cecil’s orders.

That sounds disturbingly like the beginning of a witch hunt. Though there weren’t witch hunts during this time period in the original timeline, Matthew and Diana could accidentally instigate one while they are in the past.

After he leaves Cecil, Matthew is cornered by messengers from Father Hubbard, the vampire who runs most of creature society in London. Hubbard has heard about Diana and demands an introduction, tonight, at his place. When Matthew gets home, he sends for Kit before he tells Diana anything.

Kit is the equivalent of Matthew’s 1590s work wife.

Matthew explains to Diana that Andrew Hubbard (Paul Rhys) was a priest who cared for the sick when the bubonic plague hit London in its first and deadliest wave in 1348. When Hubbard got sick, he climbed into a grave he’d dug for himself and waited for God. Before long, he climbed out again as a vampire and began preaching the gospel of divine resurrection. Since no vampire ever took credit for turning him, many of the creatures of London believe that it was God who brought him back. Since then, he’s gathered and controlled a flock of the lost souls of the city.

Kit joins them while Matthew explains. Matthew tells Diana that she mustn’t let Hubbard taste her blood under any circumstances. He normally tastes each creature as part of his adoption ritual, which reveals the content of their souls, another way of saying he learns their memories and secrets.

In the Discovery of Witches universe, blood taken directly from a living creature carries memories within the life force it also holds. This power doesn’t seem to be retained in stored blood, though I could be remembering that wrong.

Diana asks why Matthew didn’t tell her about Hubbard. Matthew doesn’t actually answer the question. He says that the de Clermonts and Hubbard have a non aggression treaty. Diana realizes that as a witch, she falls outside of it. Kit tries to help Matthew out with Diana and suggests that as a timewalker, Matthew needs to work harder to remember the details of 1590.

I suspect that as Matthew’s wife and mate, Diana should be covered by the treaty, but there are complications that haven’t been revealed yet. Matthew doesn’t want to reveal those complications to Diana, so he’s trying to avoid revealing much about creature society to her, the same way he didn’t tell her about the Congregation and the Covenant in S1.

Kit is walking a fine line between the two of them to keep Matthew from getting caught by Diana but also to keep them all from getting in trouble with outside enemies, including the Queen. In the book, Kit was much more of an antagonist to Diana, while Matthew’s other friends had larger roles. I’m really okay with more Kit. Except…

Where is Gallowglass, anyway?

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Father Hubbard holds court in another dark, underground stone crypt lit by a few candles. Apparently, 1590s London was a visually gray, dimly lit place, kids. So much gorgeous period detail, and much of it so hard to see in the flickering shadows.

Diana and Matthew arrive at the end of an adoption ceremony. Father Hubbard tastes just a bit of blood, in order to know his new child’s heart. Once he’s assessed the contents of his follower’s heart, Hubbard promises his protection and sends the man to stand with the rest of the flock.

This system isn’t really as intrusive as Matthew and Kit make it out to be. Yes, Hubbard learns his flock’s secrets and gains potential manipulation material. But he’s also a former priest who used to hear confessions. In 1590 he manages the troubled supernatural souls of the city’s underground. Tasting their blood is a shortcut to understanding their individual issues, motivations and how he can best get through to each of them.

When dealing with a traumatized criminal underground made up of powerful creatures, a leader with a firm hand and a good understanding of how people tick isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Listen carefully to the descriptions of Philippe- he uses instinct rather than tasting blood, but his methods aren’t that different. And he deals with a different population. We’ve already seen how harsh Matthew can be when he manages creatures in the 21st century, even those he cares about.

When Diana and Matthew arrive, Hubbard races over to Diana at vampire speed in an attempt to bite her without Matthew’s permission. Matthew is faster, stopping Hubbard and threatening him. Hubbard notices the bite marks on Diana’s neck right away. He lets go of Diana and sends his followers away.

Then he tells Matthew that he barely tolerates Matthews presence in his city as it is. Consorting with the witch was an outrageous insult. If Matthew fed from Diana without her consent, he’ll be put to death. If Diana fed him willingly, she’ll be banished from England. However, Hubbard is willing to protect her if she becomes part of his family.

Matthew, predictably, refuses to provide an explanation or allow Hubbard to taste Diana’s blood, which leaves them in a dangerous stand-off.

Diana steps forward: “I fed Matthew willingly, Father… Matthew was dying. I forced him to take my blood in order to save his life.”

Hubbard: “He did so unwillingly?”

Diana: “It was my decision. And I would make it again.”

Hubbard: “Yes. God accepts your act of mercy. But know this- nothing happens in London without my blessing. God is watching you both.”

And by God, he means himself and his minions, obviously, who were chosen by God to act as His agents on Earth. Paul Rhys nails his performance as Father Hubbard, with just the right combination of madness, devotion, danger and intensity. He’s a cult leader, but what Philippe understands that Matthew doesn’t is that he provides a vital service. Someone is going to lead the underbelly of London’s creatures. They could do far worse than Hubbard.

This was a great moment for Diana as well. She read Hubbard correctly and disobeyed Matthew, solving a problem he couldn’t solve. She told the truth and Hubbard saw the light and honesty within her, even without tasting her blood. Her trusted her, whereas he wouldn’t have believed Matthew if he’d said the same thing. Diana is a great witch as much because of her brave, steadfast, honest nature as because of her magical abilities. This is where she begins to earn that reputation among the creatures of 1590 London. Standing up to Hubbard and Matthew took courage. So did saving a dying vampire. That’s not lost on Hubbard.

Once they’re back outside, Matthew tells Diana her actions with Hubbard were reckless, but brilliant. Then he kisses her.

Kit finds Matthew in church, praying. He suggests they go out and have some fun, to help Matthew remember his 1590s alter ego’s less serious side.

Once again, Kit steps in to point out that the Matthew we’ve gotten to know isn’t the real Matthew. 21st century Matthew keeps himself under rigid control so that he doesn’t hurt anyone or get hurt again, but he’s repressing large parts of his personality in the process. That repression hurts him and those around him in the long run, as his family relationships wither while he retreats into coldness and formality. He’s let down some of his guard with Diana, but he’s still holding back. For instance, this is his only chance to introduce her to his beloved father, Philippe. Why wouldn’t he want to take advantage of that opportunity?

Diana and Francoise run into Susanna again while they’re out shopping. Diana pleads with Susanna to come back and test her again, this time as an invited guest, without any vampires present. Susnanna agrees.

Disc of Witches S2Ep2 Matt & Kit Agree to Have FunDisc of Witches S2Ep2 Susanna Tests Diana Again

Dianna sits at the table. Susanna places an egg in front of her and asks her to “Get the contents of this egg into that bowl without using your hands.” Diana isn’t sure how to do that and wants to try a different spell, but Susanna says if her power is too weak, they can’t help her.

Diana reminds herself that, “Magic is desire made real.” She focuses her intention on the egg and it floats a foot or so above the table, then glows. When it returns to the table, a baby chick hatches. Susanna tells Diana that she’ll speak to Goody Alsop, England’s most powerful witch.

It’s as if Diana has taken the life force she drew from the bowl of fruit the day before and sent it into the chick, speeding up its gestation period.

Kit and Matthew’s idea of fun turns out to be playing poker in a tavern. Kit wins not only the shirt off his opponent’s back, but also the earring from his ear, which he promptly hands over to Matthew. 1590 Matthew always wore a stunning bit of jewelry along with having a manly beard and the lack of both has been tough for Kit to cope with. Now that Matthew’s stubble is starting to grow in, with the addition of the earring he looks more like himself.

Outside the tavern, they run into Cecil’s man, Peckam (Tom Lewis), who’s been sent to tell Matthew to hurry up his interrogation of the witch Thomas Caldwell. Kit and Matthew continue drinking on Matthew’s private balcony, where the playwright questions the vampire about the future. Matthew is cagey with his answers, but he admits that in the Future, he hasn’t written poetry in more than 70 years and he reads about science but not philosophy.

Kit: “So what questions press you?”

Matthew: “The same ones that always have, to know why I’m here.”

Kit: “And the future hasn’t answered?”

Matthew: “I doubt if it ever will.”

Kit asks if his own work is still read, but Matthew refuses to say anything that will give his friend hints about his own future or legacy. Matthew tells him that knowing the future is the path to madness, but Kit replies that maddening visions are part of who he is.

Matthew reiterates his position: “No man should ever know their fate.”

Matthew is really ruminating on the mistakes of his own past in this conversation. Of course he doesn’t want to reveal Kit’s untimely death 3 years later, but as far as we know, this is the only time that Matthew has ever known his own or anyone else’s fate in advance. Matthew is a deeply unhappy man who seemed to be coping tolerably well in life 400 years ago.

Since that time, something caused Matthew to shut down his love of fun, art, philosophy and life in general. An interest in understanding the world and his place in it became an obsession with finding the Book of Life and understanding the origins of creatures. This shut down seems to have happened gradually, so that it’s not as noticeable to the vampires who went through the process with him. Or maybe Ysabeau, Marcus and Marthe have also shut down.

Matthew leaves for the Tower to question Caldwell. Kit advises him not to go easy on his prisoner just because he has sympathy for witches in the 21st century.

That night, Diana finds Matthew in his office, reading. She lets him know that Jack, the young pickpocket from last week, is settling in. Then she notices an infamous book, the Malleus Maleficarum, on his desk and asks why Matthew has it. Matthew tells her that he’s reading previous testimonies made by Thomas Caldwell, a London witch. Diana is angry that Caldwell was questioned using the Malleus Maleficarum, a cruel book published in Germany in 1486, which was used as a manual of sorts for the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries that contains brutal torture methods used to make innocent people give false confessions rather than legitimate interrogation techniques.

Matthew remains unemotional about the whole thing, as if he just wants to get through the task at hand. He explains to Diana that Caldwell made treasonous confessions under duress. Now the queen is concerned that England’s witches are plotting against her. When Diana worries that the queen will go after more witches, he tells her that there won’t be witch hunts in the region for 20 years.

He refuses to consider that history could change with their presence. Diana points out that the societal pressures that lead to witch hunts already exist in 1590: the population is growing, while there have been several bad harvests in a row. People are struggling to survive. Matthew is sure they’ll have gone back to the future before it becomes a problem and asks her again to leave so he can finish his reading. On her way out, she tells him she found a teacher.

Well played, Diana. He can’t ask her a lot of questions about the teacher right now, then get all controlling about the situation like you know he wants to, when he’s just desperately driven her from the room because he’s such a busy and important man and at the same time insisted that the witches both aren’t dangerous and aren’t in danger.

You just know Diana learned this skill when she was a teenager and Aunt Sarah would get all overprotective everytime she wanted to go anywhere or try something new.

When they arrive at Goody Alsop’s house the next day, Susanna tells Matthew to stay outside, but of course he refuses. Once Diana is in front of her, Goody Alsop (Sheila Hancock) raises her hands to look at her magic more clearly. Diana flinches back, afraid her new teacher will use Satu’s methods. Goody Alsop promises it shouldn’t hurt.

Goody Alsop tells Diana that she’s waited a long time for her arrival. The signs and portents foretold her arrival at this time. Goody Alsop, Agnes Sampson and Diana are the last three of their kind. Diana is a weaver, a maker of spells. Diana is confused, because she’s terrible with spellwork. Goody Alsop explains that Diana needs to create her own spells.

Matthew comes over to stand behind Goody Alsop, looming over her threateningly and rudely forcing her to turn to look at him- he’s once again trying to take control of the room. He says that though he’s heard stories of powerful witches like she describes, he’s very old and he’s never met one.

Yes, I can’t imagine why the most powerful, rare and important witches would perpetually hide from Matthew, the witch hunting favorite son of a powerful witch-hating vampire family. And from all vampires, for that matter. It’s so weird. Someone should have asked Meridiana why before Satu set her free. But, oh wait- didn’t they just tell us that Matthew Royden got one of the only two weavers who are native to that time period, Agnes Sampson, arrested a few days ago? So maybe he has met one. And she’ll soon be killed because of him.

Goody Alsop isn’t afraid of him. She tells him that weavers are rare and frequently hunted, especially by other witches, so now they live in hiding. Diana wonders if Satu could tell she is a weaver. She tells Goody Alsop that her parents were killed by witches. The other weaver can tell by the remnants of the spellbinding that still cling to Diana that her father was a self taught weaver, even though weavers are rarely men. She assures Diana that the spell was done to protect her, out of love.

Diana asks Goody Alsop to teach her magic. Susanna says they must consult The Rede, the local council of witches. Matthew tries to forbid them to reveal Diana’s identity to so many people. Goody Alsop politely tells him to sit down, then tells him that the witches all already know she’s there. The Rede protects the witches’ interests. She won’t go against them. Matthew agrees that she should get their consent.

The London witches all sensed Diana’s presence, just as the vampires all sensed the minute Matthew came back to town. The witches were simply more polite about it. You’d think Matthew would have figured that part out, but he clearly doesn’t know as much about witches as he thinks he does. Remember in S1 when he taunted Diana in the library for not being an expert on vampires?

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The Rede meet in a large hall, where Diana stands in the center and makes her case, explaining that she was spellbound and orphaned as a child, cut off from her magic. She’s free now and needs a teacher. She leaves out the time travel part.

The leader has sympathy for Diana, but feels she should find another city to study in. Diana insists it has to be London. Susanna, who is definitely not Sophie, says that she also pities Diana, but her marriage to a vampire who’s one of the queen’s main torturers makes spending time with her too dangerous. The leader agrees, pointing out that even now, one of their own, Tom Caldwell, is being held by Diana’s husband.

Goody Alsop interrupts and says that Diana’s soul is as clear to her as her own. Susanna reminds them that Father Hubbard won’t approve of them working with a witch who’s chosen a vampire over other witches. Diana says that marrying Matthew wasn’t a rejection of other witches. Goody Alsop tells them that Diana is the witch from the prophecy. The leader asks her to prove it.

Diana: “I’m a time spinner. I have come from the future in order to seek out a special teacher. I’ve seen the Book of Life with my own eyes… I don’t understand how my magic is connected to it, or my purpose once I’ve come into my power. But I do know this- my relationship to my magic, to Matthew Royden, to the Book of Life are woven together. One cannot exclude the other.”

Without even realizing what she was doing, I think she turned these words into a spell.

Goody Alsop: “The long-awaited weaver is among us!”

Convinced, the local witches circle around Diana to welcome her into their coven. Each witch holds glowing hands out to Diana, sending energy to her. Without any effort on her part, Diana’s hands glow with returned energy. She looks at the other women in awe. This is the first time she’s truly understood what it means to be part of a coven.

The London witches call the Book of Life “the first grimoire”. A grimoire is a personal book of spells. Each type of creature has had their own take on what the book represents, but there seems to be agreement that witches wrote it and it represents the magic that created the three species. What’s in dispute is whether witches existed first and created the other two species or witches recorded a history of creation that exists outside of them. Witches, specifically weavers, could have made the other two species, or some of them could have intuitively understood the creation of the species because of how their own magic works.

Hubbard stops Matthew in the street to ask him to help one of his children who is the Queen’s prisoner, Tom Caldwell. Matthew not only refuses, he is unnecessarily nasty and dismissive of Hubbard. Hubbard mentions Matthew’s Catholic faith and Diana as low key threats. Then he goes straight for the threat he knows Matthew will respond to- Hubbard is prepared to send a message directly to Philippe asking him to intercede. Matthew tells him this issue has nothing to do with Philippe. Hubbard says, “Let us hope so.”

Matthew goes home and has a temper tantrum over the situation to Kit, who tries to give him advice, but he doesn’t know what happens in the future, so he doesn’t fully understand what Matthew is worked up about.

Honestly, neither do we, since we haven’t even met Philippe. We just know he dies in the 20th century. Matthew should have an easy time dealing with the past, since he knows his own history and the overall history of the period. Plus he can ask Diana for more details if need be. But instead, he’s unraveling more and more by the hour, with little unexpected provocation.

Hubbard wants Matthew to free Caldwell, but Cecil wants him to extract a confession from the witch, then execute him. Matthew can’t just go against the Queen’s wishes and free Caldwell. But if he further breaks Caldwell under torture, the witch may “confess” to crimes that will put all of London’s creatures in danger, including Diana. Kit agrees with Hubbard, that contacting Philippe is the best course of action, since Matthew’s father will have avenues of influence they haven’t even thought of. But Matthew won’t hear of it.

Matthew: “No. If my father finds out about Diana then everything will come undone. Everything!”

Matthew Goode is almost literally chewing the scenery at this point. Matthew the vampire’s eyes bulge out of his head. It feels like a bit of an overreaction, when he’s been fine with killing Agnes Sampson, one of only two witches who are potential teachers for Diana. That seems like a much bigger loss to me, plus Cecil and the Queen were upset about it, too. But he hasn’t had a melt down and sent word to anyone in Scotland to save her at all costs, when his men could have replaced her with someone else at the last minute for the purpose of maintaining the historical record.

But maybe this is normal behavior for Matthew Royden, because Kit remains calm and seems like he’s working some daemon magic. As he speaks, his voice gradually lowers to a whisper.

Kit: “Take my counsel. Take my counsel. Dampen Cecil’s suspicions. Your prisoner will survive for how long? Two weeks? Three? Matthew Royden is never cruel for sport. But he is ruthlessly efficient. Do not impersonate Matthew Royden. Become him.”

Matthew immediately quiets when Kit begins this speech. As Kit continues, we’re shown Matthew striding through the dank tunnels that lead to Tom Caldwell’s cell. He tells Tom that Father Hubbard visited to plead his case. Then, with ruthless efficiency and vampire speed, Matthew snaps Tom Caldwell’s neck.

That night, Diana excitedly tells Matthew that The Rede has agreed to let Goody Alsop teach her. She senses from Matthew’s foul mood and that he was forced to kill Tom Caldwell. She understands that he killed Tom out of mercy. But Matthew needs to feel guilty and blaming himself isn’t enough. When Diana notes that Tom was innocent, Matthew blames her as well.

Matthew: “There was no way, no path where Tom survived and I could keep you safe.”

Diana: “He made no threat against me.”

Matthew: “Correct.”

Matthew takes out a quill and slams a piece of paper on his desk. Diana wisely walks away. He was trying to bait her into an argument by not giving her all of the facts. She’s already been the victim of assassination attempts and had to kill a vampire. Her parents were murdered. Matthew’s killed countless humans and witches. Diana isn’t innocent or stupid. She understands what the stakes are here.

She also didn’t get Tom Caldwell arrested or torture him into his confession. He wasn’t leaving prison alive after that, it was just a matter of time and who he took down with him. The way Matthew is pretending that he would have helped the witch if he didn’t need to protect Diana is ridiculous, based on everything they’ve told us about Matthew Royden and the fact that he would have been in Scotland anyway. Historically, one of Cecil’s other torturers must have killed him.

Father Hubbard holds a funeral for Thomas Caldwell. He blames Matthew for Caldwell’s death. The way Matthew treated Hubbard probably didn’t help. He sends a message directly to Philippe in France.

William Cecil calls Matthew in to explain why he snapped Caldwell’s neck instead of interrogating him. He questions Matthew’s loyalty to the Queen. Matthew says he lost his temper and will explain to the Queen. Cecil tells him the Queen doesn’t want to see him right now.

Instead, Matthew should think about what he’s done and the penalty for traitors.

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Commentary

We aren’t specifically told this, but Matthew and Diana adopted Jack the child pickpocket from last week. Viewers are supposed to get that from the nice clothes he’s wearing as he creepily lurks in the shadows of the Lodge this week in a “blink and you’ll miss it” shot and the comment Diana makes that he’s settling in. Why would creatures from the future adopt a child when they plan to leave in a few weeks? Good question. 

Marthe is one of the unsung heroes of the de Clermont family. I hope that someday, we get her story in one of the books. She provides quiet stability and common sense when the high ranking members of the family are ready to throw their weight around.

The book had a running gag about the difficulties obtaining appropriate shoes for Diana that I really miss. It also introduced Gallowglass earlier- I thought he’d be in this episode. 

The period clothing took a major step forward this week. Thank you for all of your hard work, Francoise (and the real life costume department). Just look at these fabrics. The clothing begins to help define the characters and even the atmosphere of the scenes.


Father Hubbard’s Role Among London’s Creatures

Father Hubbard and his flock bring up issues that are dealt with extensively in the books, but haven’t gotten as much play in the series yet: the painful loss of humanity that some creatures feel and what to do about mental illness and criminality in the supernatural world when it threatens to expose those who wish to blend in with human society. In season 1 we saw that Gerbert had used vampirism to enslave Juliette and Meridiana and to eventually dehumanize them and drive them insane. But we didn’t get the chance to explore what that meant for them as individuals with interior lives and needs of their own, separate from Gerbert’s control. We were only shown how Gerbert turned them into creatures who were a threat to Matthew, Diana and the safety of the creature world.

Though Matthew hates Father Hubbard, the vampire priest isn’t like Gerbert. Father Hubbard takes in damaged individuals and lost souls who would probably otherwise be killed or expose the creature world before long and gives them a community and a way to keep going. It’s not really all that different from the protection sometimes offered by the de Clermont clan and the Knights of Lazarus. It’s just not as well financed.

Juliette and Meridiana were beyond help, but they aren’t the only creatures whose minds or bodies are broken. Diana isn’t the only creature with powerful enemies. Father Hubbard’s first instinct was to protect her from Matthew, if he was coercing her into a relationship she didn’t want. Since Matthew is a known spy who tortures witches, Hubbard’s instinct would normally be the correct one in that time and place. The other creatures would be right to be wary of Diana for voluntarily consorting with him.

Hubbard uses religion, the currency available to him, to engender loyalty. But he is not the one helping the crown or the church with witch hunts that historically get thousands of witches killed- Matthew is. The de Clermonts look down on Father Hubbard as an opportunist who takes advantage of lost souls, yet they are remnants of the feudal system themselves who maintain that classist hierarchy and disdain witches well into the 21st century. Father Hubbard’s flock is open to all three types of creatures, while also maintaining the rules of the Congregation. Hubbard is not a perfect leader, but he is doing a difficult job in a dangerous world.

This is apparent by the end of the episode, when he confronts Matthew in an attempt to save the incarcerated witch, Thomas Caldwell. Throughout the episode, Matthew focuses on Caldwell’s fate, but not because he cares at all about the witch as a person. To him, Caldwell is a political pawn, someone who could ruin his and Diana’s chances of meeting their goals in this time period and a being who deserves to live only as an abstract consideration. In the end, Matthew kills him quickly, not out of mercy, as Diana believes, but so that Caldwell doesn’t have the chance to make another unfortunate confession and start a witch hunt that Diana might get caught up in.

Hubbard, on the other hand, shows concern for a member of his flock. We don’t know what his personal feelings for Caldwell are, but he’s taken on the priestly role of caring for these people as his congregation. That means providing rules, comfort and protection. He provides comfort through the rituals Matthew complains about, including Caldwell’s funeral. He creates rules that are meant to keep the peace between the different factions of creatures and the humans- Susanna brings up the fact that Diana has broken Hubbard’s, and the Congregation’s, rules by being in a relationship with Matthew.

Hubbard tries to protect Caldwell by negotiating with Matthew after he’s made concessions to Matthew and Diana’s situation. That should have given Hubbard a little bargaining power, but Matthew dismissed him instead, then, as far as Hubbard knows, killed Caldwell out of hand. So Caldwell appeals to Matthew’s superior in the creature world, Philippe, because Matthew isn’t respecting the rules of the Congregation or the Hubbard-de Clermont treaty. As a leader who’s trying to protect his flock from an entitled, out of control law enforcement officer, Hubbard’s move made sense.


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Character Analysis: Who Are Diana and Matthew in the 16th Century?

Picking up the snake at Mary Sidney’s house is an important character moment for Diana in an episode full of important character moments. By jumping in and acknowledging ownership of the snake, she tacitly reveals what she is to a human stranger, showing that she’s already decided to trust Mary Sidney. Now that she’s no longer spellbound, Diana shows growing confidence in her own judgement and growing skill in both practical magic (the snake) and intuitive magic. Diana also shows more of who she is as a person.

She isn’t a damsel in distress who waits for someone else to save her physically or to make excuses for her. She picks up the squirming reptile without hesitation, showing she’s not squeamish or afraid to get her hands dirty. Probably even more significantly, this episode shows that Diana thinks quickly in a crisis, an essential trait for a hero who lives in such dangerous times. For Mary, who has a collection of biological specimens and frequently sets her lab on fire, those would be valuable traits in a lab assistant.

We already knew from season/book 1 that Diana reacts quickly in a crisis, because she saved Matthew from Juliette. But her actions in that fight were almost completely instinctual and the situation was life or death. Sometimes it’s harder to act when the stakes aren’t so clear and outsiders are watching. In this episode, Diana had to both think and act in some fraught political situations, quickly weighing the consequences of what she did before making her move. With Hubbard, the witches’ coven, Mary and the snake and her invitation to Susanna, she showed her ability to turn a difficult situation around using her own talents.

The snake is a symbol of rebirth and knowledge, especially associated with healing and the Goddess. It may have been a sign sent from the Goddess (who Diana vowed to serve when Matthew was dying at the end of S1) that she wants Diana to spend time with Mary as part of her training in 1590.

Matthew apparently spends much of 1590 strolling importantly through ominous looking historical settings. He’s not necessarily on his way to or from anywhere. He just likes to be seen, so people can give him messages and start fights with him. And complement his hat or his cape or his knife, of course. He does cut a dashing figure with his hat at that jaunty angle. 😘

I’m teasing, of course. Diana needs Matthew to facilitate her cover story so she can safely work on her training. But Matthew seems to be spending as much or more time sorting himself out as he is working on the goals that brought them to 1590. The guy who was a stoic control freak in the 21st century is unraveling in the 16th century. It’s becoming clear that part of the reason for this trip is the need for Matthew to get over the hangups that he can repress in the modern world, but isn’t able to hide in the past.

That can’t be stated out loud in universe, because unlike Diana, Matthew doesn’t consciously think he needs to be fixed. Yet he’s the one who chose this place and time period. I love that Kit is following him through London, telling him he’s clearly lost his way in the future and reminding him what it feels like to be fully alive and in the moment.

In the church, Matthew tells Kit that he’s never sure whether God hears his prayers or not. 21st century Matthew hasn’t become an atheist who’s turned solely to science and away from spirituality. He’s become an agnostic who wonders if God has abandoned him. He still prays because he still believes in the possibility of something beyond the world that science, including his own research, has explained has so far. That in itself is a leap of faith.

He’s lost the sense of perspective and feeling of closeness to the divine that can make spirituality a comfort, if he ever had them. My sense is that his spirituality, like his life, has always been based on doing something, such as building his church or trying to find and understand the Book of Life. He’s never gotten over the loss of his first wife and child or finished wrestling with his own inner demons, so he’s been unable to find inner peace. That may be part of what Diana can eventually help him with. 

But his issues are larger than that. He’s chosen a time and is making mistakes that are forcing him toward certain people. Hubbard is a man of faith who’s never wavered, through plague, death, vampirism he didn’t choose, leadership of a difficult congregation and injustices toward the poor of London over centuries. Matthew says there’s nothing to admire about Hubbard, but the priest has endured and helped others to endure long lives that are much more difficult than Matthew’s. Deep down, Matthew might realize there’s something he could learn from Hubbard, even if they aren’t meant to be friends. He could start by shedding his classism.

I’ve already written about Kit’s role up in the recap. Much like Hamish in the present day, he sees Matthew clearly and won’t let him get away with lying to himself. I think Matthew might be keeping vital information from both Hamish and Kit that’s preventing them from understanding the depth of Matthew’s current situation.

Near the end of this episode, the two politically savvy creatures, Hubbard and Kit, told Matthew to send for Philippe to help him out of this jam. Matthew says he doesn’t want his father to know about meet Diana, so he chose to kill Tom Caldwell, the option that would get him in trouble with the Queen instead, but would also theoretically stop a witch hunt. As a result, Hubbard sent for Philippe anyway; Matthew hates himself even more; he’s taking it out on Diana; and both the creatures and humans of London are mad at him for rashly killing Caldwell.

This does not seem like sound decision making. This seems like irrational avoidance of Philippe at all costs. Matthew was practically feral after Hubbard threatened to contact Philippe if he didn’t help Caldwell. Then he did the thing most likely to prompt Hubbard to contact Philippe, instead of using his charm and influence to finesse the situation with the Queen and Hubbard. That starts to look like he desperately wants to see Philippe, but needs someone else to force him into it.

Disc of Witches S2Ep2 Matt Royden with Hubbard's Men

 Images courtesy of AMC/Sky One.

 

 

 

 

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