Whether you are watching Season 1 – “A Discovery of Witches” for the first time, or re-watching to prepare for the second season premiering on Sat., January 9, 2021, here is a quick summary for each episode--not meant to be a complete account. Watch the show on Shudder or Sundance Now for free until January 18, 2021. In the U.S., subscribing to AMC+ provides four networks in one bundle that includes those two mentioned as well as AMC and IFC Films. If you enjoy reading this, please leave a comment here or on Instagram @thataddamsgirl.
Each episode summarized gets a rating based on this rating system: Sensuous, Ravenous, Heart-racing, Bewitching, Charming
Episode 1: Initially, this author thought that her Shudder subscription wasn’t getting enough use and searched on one slow day what other series was on this app. Finding “A Discovery of Witches,” and having never heard of it, investigating the trailer and the short description, I skeptically worried that it could be some CW-network of a young adult, formulaic, vampire show. Yes, this author has a significant history with having watched the earliest films and read the first books written on the subject of vampires. It was an adjustment to throw out everything I had previously seen about vampires, witches, and daemons. There’s no rule that these characters always have to be derivative of their legendary traits. Once you get past the difference in mythology, it is quite acceptable that vampires prefer red wine, don’t need fangs to drink blood, or don't have to remain indoors during daylight. The creatures have adapted to blend in with humans.
The TV series is based on Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy
and season one covers the first book, A Discovery of Witches
. In fact, the author is in attendance at the talk at the beginning seated on the left from the perspective of the speaker.
Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) is a historian with a specialty in alchemy and is preparing to write about a book at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, which she called up that’s magical perhaps protected by a spell. Ashmole 782 aka The Book of Life hasn’t been retrievable for several hundred years, yet, somehow it appears for Diana. It triggers a wave of energy with sounds of whispers and unusual elements such as text leaving the page and visible under layers of the paper. There are penciled lines added at the beginning, and there are pages obviously sliced out of the book. Most significantly, the energy released sends signals to the vampires in the vicinity of and their blood reacts to this book being retrieved. We learn quickly that she actually a powerful witch, having been denied full access to her magic (more in episode 6).
One of those vampires is Matthew Clairmont played by Matthew Goode who is perfectly cast in the lead role of the vampire. Contrary to typical mythology, he's is praying in a Catholic church when we first see him. Matthew Clairmont is appropriately extra pale, English, moody, intellectually driven; possesses agility, strength, and can move with incredible speed. Also, as the story explains, vampires are no longer able to successfully sire another vampire. Deborah Harkness’s description of this character, in the third book, is that he has a “hooded expression caused by the lowering of his eyelids.”
What else is attractive? The costumes for Matthew consist of a fitted blue suit, button-down gray or Aegean/steel/stone blue shirts, with fitted slacks or dark fitted jeans, and sometimes an outer long coat or jacket. He doesn’t dress like a biochemist/geneticist. He fits the description of a spy as he keeps a watchful eye on his favorite witch. The quality of the voice is it is deep, quieter in some scenes, which draws the viewer into him. The way he talks to his sires, Miriam Shepherd (Aiysha Hart) and Marcus Whitmore (Edward Bluemel) is often more familiar in tone than when he speaks with Diana, or even his mother (whom we meet in episode four). Observe how Matthew is keen on looking into the eyes of everyone he addresses, often more intensely with Diana than anyone else. He seldom blinks and only takes a deep breath as a matter of emphasis. Otherwise, he is perfectly still in moments he’s speaking the carefully chosen words.
Diana Bishop’s friend Gillian Chamberlain (Louise Brealey) sadly is still grading undergraduate essays. She comes off as a genuine friend to Diana, but her own self-interest is at play in revealing to other witches how she witnessed Diana’s powers in calling up Ashmole 782. Gillian appears to be the type of person who follows the whims and wishes of those who are a bad influence on her. Peter Knox (Owen Teale), for example, has little abilities as a witch and uses others like Gillian as a means to an end.
Towards the end of episode one, the obvious danger is Matthew’s pursuit of Diana for the book and he is intoxicated by her witch’s scent so much that he is about to lose control. He will not let go of her jacket she dropped as she is warned to leave the area and not run because he’s a predator and she’s his prey at that moment.
Here is where Teresa Palmer portrays Diana as a confident, bold, and unwavering woman who can stand on her own against someone threatening in physical stature. She's fascinated and does not fear Matthew. It's this kind of scene that intrigues the curious viewer to go immediately to the next episode.
Episode 2: We meet Hamish (Greg McHugh), glamorously outfitted in the attire of modern-day pantaloons aka cropped pants and maroon knee high sox. Hamish is Matthew Clairmont’s confidant. Matthew enters the mansion admitting he’s craving the witch Diana Bishop. Notable moments w/Hamish: Hamish and Matthew’s chess game in which Hamish wins and says, “There is more to the game than protecting the queen.” Hamish mentions Eleanor and Cecilia in Matthew’s past.
Diana has to contend with witches Satu (Malin Buska), Gillian, and Peter Knox nagging that she retrieve the book, Ashmole 782.
Clever are the scenes juxtaposing Knox pursuing Diana, and Matthew pursuing a gorgeous deer. Witches can telepathically speak to other witches.
Juliette Durand (Elarica Johnson) and Gerbert D'Aurillac (Trevor Eve) are both vampires: we learn that vampires get images when they drink from another person or vampire. Gerbert trained Juliette to have a fixation on getting Matthew Clairmont to fall in love with her solely for Gerbert who is trying to infiltrate the de Clermont family and acquire more power as a vampire.
Diana goes to the only person on the campus whom she can turn to for advice. But Matthew, having just fed to curb his cravings, seems a little shocked and unbalanced upon seeing her.
We learn Matthew can smell adrenalin and he’s barely in control of attacking her when he asks her to calm down. He also can hear her heart.
|GIF collage by Wednesday|
Matthew gets possessive when he introduces Diana to Whitmore and he breathes in Diana’s scent, "AB negative!"
Matthew’s senses are triggered like he realizes something about Diana at the end of the episode and Diana’s reaction is that she’s seemingly taken with his charm and her senses are reacting to his gesture.
|(sniff) He lent her his coat and she will leave her yummy scent on it when she ever returns it.|
Episode 3: There’s a chronology of events bringing Diana’s troubles to a head in which Matthew has to intervene to keep her safe. The witches are against Diana and Matthew becoming too close. Matthew sees that the Bodleian Library is full of creatures waiting for Diana to call up the book again. He waits for her to leave her rooms and invites her to spend the day with him at his house in Woodstock, a place near Oxford.
Gillian confronts Diana before she can leave with Matthew; gets into her face about associating with a vampire, which annoys Diana because she trusted Gillian as a friend. The backstabbing in Gillian reporting Diana’s powers to Peter Knox is an ultimate betrayal.
Upon arrival at Matthew’s house, she observes a painting of a woman whom Matthew reveals as his sister Louisa de Clermont. He tells her he became a vampire in the year 537 A.D. She invites him to dinner the next night. Matthew arrives just in time to get rid of the witch, Peter Knox, who continues to harass Diana about her being too friendly with a vampire.
Diana tells her aunt Sarah Bishop (Alex Kingston) and her partner Emily Mather (Valarie Pettiford) that she’s safe with Matthew and she’s meeting him for dinner. The face Emily makes about this plan is so priceless. Of course, following the meal, emotions quickly escalate as he describes her smell:
|GIF created by Wednesday|
Watch at how intense, yet full of self-control Matthew is while Diana presses him for details; she asks how would she taste?
Knox delivers her horrific pics of her parents after they were murdered. Matthew finds Diana not at home while she takes off to confront Gillian and sees Knox at Gillian’s. Matthew had seen the photos and detects Knox’s scent. Diana is off to the library to try to get the book and settle the matters.
We also learn that daemon Sophie Norman (Aisling Loftus) has a figurine of Diana and there begins a plotline that will play out significantly later.
We see a congregation meeting that puts everything out in the open about rules regarding interspecies relationships.
Gerbert tells Juliette to seek out Matthew.
Knox antagonizes Diana once more and we learn about her ability to call up witch wind. Matthew runs to help Diana and takes her back to her room. She sleeps for the rest of the day and he decides he’s going to take her to France, while telling his sired son Marcus, “I’ve never felt so protective over anyone.” The end is what hooks you into their relationship. If you are not melting into the floor by this episode’s end, then you probably are not alive.
Episode 4: We meet Matthew’s mother, Ysabeau (Lindsay Duncan) not his real mother, but the woman who sired him in 537 A.D. She despises witches, but it’s Matthew’s home, too. “She’ll be staying in my tower,” says Matthew as to where he can control and keep safe Diana. And we also meet Marthe (Sorcha Cusack) who can sense Diana's power, also a vampire, and has been with the de Clermont family for centuries.
The dance sequence is probably the best scene in season one as far as their chemistry and body language with each other. This episode displays the ingenuity in actors who shine best in experimenting with how to have fun with action.
When Matthew and Diana are taking a walk around the grounds, we see how much Matthew loves Diana and he admits that he is bewitched by her. From the end of episode 3 until this moment, they haven't kissed. The rush of music and the dark cover of the night heightens this romantic scene soon to be turned around with the arrival of a vampire.
Domenico (Gregg Chillin), a vampire, arrives at Sept Tours in France to bring Diana back to Venice, Italy on the orders of the congregation on the powers she’s using and her ability to call up the book. Matthew is revealed to be breaking the covenant which is the law that forbids interspecies from having a relationship. It is all about not upsetting the balance of power. Domenico threatens to kill them both and Ysabeau wants Matthew to turn her over to them so they both live. Matthew decides to not break the covenant, fear of exposing creatures to humans. He tries to scare Diana off and then learns he has to return to Oxford because someone broke into the lab. Diana pleads with him to tell her how he feels and to forget the congregation and the covenant. When he abandons her, she chases after him and we find a key new element to Diana’s powers. Witch water.
Episode 5: Juxtaposing Ysabeau hunting for her dinner, it being a red fox, red-headed Gillian is hunted down by Matthew for breaking into his lab and she is barely left alive. Her smell is all over his neck and he rubs his hand over that spot she touched later with some sense of regret as he phones Diana; tells her not to worry anymore about Knox or his lab.
Hamish meets Matthew at his rooms at Oxford.
Matthew: She loves me.
Hamish: And do you love her?
Matthew just looks at Hamish without answering, but the look is all he needed. Matthew had hoped that the Congregation wouldn’t care anymore about interspecies relationships because the law is so dated.
Hamish is a daemon and has a relationship with a human for which he says that the Covenant hasn’t stopped him. But it is different for a vampire and a witch. It’s, again, two powerful species of different kinds forming a relationship that can upset the power of all the rest of the creatures. He tells Hamish “she’s astonishingly powerful.” We’ve yet to understand the impact of the two species having children together. But then he says, as if he is a teenager again in love for the first time in 10 centuries, “She is clever and funny.” Hamish gets to the nut of the matter. Matthew reveals that she’s a historian and that he is her latest research subject. “If you love her, then don’t let anything get in your way,” says Hamish.
Meanwhile, Diana goes on a field trip in the village near Sept Tours and finds the church he built. Ysabeau tells a side of the story to Diana to help her understand who actually is Matthew and his history while being human. Diana also learns that Matthew is the Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Lazarus, a secret organization for vampires.
|collage created by Wednesday|
Running another analysis of Diana’s physical DNA, he discovers that her markers are like that of 11th-century witches. Powerful, indeed.
The witch, Satu is seen going to seek out Gerbert in Venice. Gerbert opens the box where he has held captive the head of a masked witch, Meridiana (Chloe Dumas), and she utters a prophetic phrase, “Beware of the witch with the blood of the lion and the wolf, for with it she shall destroy the children of the night.”
Matthew and Diana are now one and he declares that he loves her. Ysabeau is in support of Matthew and Diana’s fight against the Congregation. Hearing this from Ysabeau is a moment in which she recognizes that she has to accept the reality of Matthew mating with Diana. “Mating” is the term used for when a vampire declares his love for someone.
Ysabeau to Marthe: You think lighting a fire and pouring some wine will help them?
Matthew to Diana: I need to talk to you about Oxford, Diana.
Diana to Matthew: I don’t want to hear about Oxford, Matthew.
Someone took the extra time to light candles in the corners of the bedroom of his tower which contains his canopy bed. Strategic old-world bundling going on with Matthew’s eye contact, the sensual hands-on manipulation, and all while Diana’s still dressed, and he is shirtless, turns into a thrilling intimate moment.
Diana: I don’t think that’s bundling.
Matthew: Well, it is in France.
And then she wakes to momentarily admire him, and obviously, he doesn’t feel her eyes watching him continue his deep sleep in the early dawn hours. Of course, she gets out of bed and goes for a jog around the castle leaving him to his slumber.
Episode 6: Does your vampire lover sleep in nothing but black boy cut briefs? Well, thank you to the costume dept., producers, editors, directors, and cinematographers as this image is never tired.
However, the episode truly begins with Satu and Gerbert attempting to open up Diana at an abandoned castle near the mountains south of Sept Tours. We continue to see how her aunt Sarah’s partner Emily scries her magic to detect the well-being of their niece Diana.
Satu is unrelenting in the torture to get Diana to reveal her secret powers. Throws her into an oubliette, essentially, a hole that no one human can get out of. Throughout the series, Diana has had spiritual visions of her parents Rebecca and Steven. While she’s trapped, they help her understand what has happened to her.
When Matthew wakes to the warmth of sunlight, he realizes Diana is missing, he frantically tries to detect her last known whereabouts. At this same time, his vampire brother Baldwin (Trystan Gravelle) arrives by helicopter and they fight like humans until Matthew bites him. Sarah and Emily help them figure out where she could be transported to and they rescue her. Diana compels herself to fly up towards the opening of the oubliette and her scars soon revealed that Satu branded her with Matthew’s insignia.
|Oooh, that Satu's such a bitchy witch! |
(The scar is depicting a star and a crescent moon)
Ysabeau and Matthew determine that Diana had her powers suppressed as a child – that she was spellbound.
In the end, it is decided it is safer for Matthew and Diana to travel to her aunt’s house in Madison, NY where it would be a bigger effort for the witches to track her down.
Matthew and Diana arrive at the house of her aunt Sarah and Emily, and it is haunted. But once the house adjusts to a new visitor, that being a vampire, it seems to accept them. Tabitha the cat meows in greeting Diana and Matthew.
The Congregation seems to focus still on Diana and her ability to retrieve the book. Baldwin perpetuates the idea that Satu has Diana and Knox confirms that there are two signatures of two different witches, not knowing that Satu actually has taken possession of the head of Meridiana.
Diana, Emily, and Sarah discuss her being spellbound. We have more flashbacks as insight as to what her parents, and also witches, Rebecca (Sophia Myles) and Steven (David Newman) had to do to protect Diana from Peter Knox. The spellbound her when she was seven years old. The story that they tell her is that she is wrapped in invisible ribbons to protect her from witches jealous of her power. They’re in her attic bedroom conducting a spell, and Rebecca, who is a seer, tells her a story of the magic ribbons and the Shadow Prince. This prince is Matthew. When Knox visits, he cannot sense she has any magical power because they spellbound her. Somehow her spell was tied to Diana’s need for Matthew.
Satu confronts Knox and tells him that she knows his big secret that he killed Diana’s parents to try to find the power hidden in Diana. Satu figures out that Diana was spellbound and Peter Knox said that Rebecca could have led the Congregation and that Steven convinced Rebecca to run because Knox was envious of the power in them both, but mainly he was in love with Rebecca. Satu tells Peter that the prophecy about the end of the vampires has to do with Diana and that means that they have to get her away from Diana. They want to use her power to their advantage.
Matthew discovers a wooden box owned by Steven and its age and condition tells him that her father was a time walker. The formula is to have three objects that you take with you to travel back to the time period of those objects.
Juliette leaves Venice to hunt down Matthew. Domenico gives her some hints that he believes Diana is still with Matthew and where she could be staying. She and Gerbert attend Sunday mass in Venice, talk with Baldwin in church. Juliette abandons Gerbert and sets off to find Matthew because she no longer can obey him for his own self-interest – her longing for Matthew is relentless.
There’s a playful moment in the woods with Diana training with Matthew. He’s trying to help her sense where the danger is and she realizes that she can only use her instincts if she’s truly in danger and scrapes her hand. As a result, her antagonizing Matthew with the scent of her blood triggers him to treat her as prey and at that moment she flies into the air before he can capture her.
Strategic camera angles lead us to believe that Matthew and Diana took their romance up a notch. Speed and dexterity seem to factor in a lot plus a little less clothing, but probably still on a young adult level of fooling around. Cuddly Matthew tries to divulge his history with his former lovers and how he hurt them (in actuality he killed them both). Diana is convinced that she is too powerful for him to hurt her.
The next morning, Miriam and Marcus arrive for extra security and the house delivers through the wall one of the three extracted pages from the book. It is the picture of a wedding and it’s clear that it was set to be delivered by her father Steven from the writing on the envelope.
When Diana and Matthew are out by the barn training her to be able to sense danger, she mistakes a feeling that she’s close to a vampire as being close to Matthew and runs into Juliette in the barn.
Episode 8: Juliette is fiercely jealous of the witch’s power and attacks Matthew, making a fatal mistake. Diana uses witch fire and kills Juliette.
To save Matthew, Diana calls on the Goddess with, “Maiden, mother, crone, I call you Goddess. Help me! I will do anything to save him.”
“If I help you there will be a price,” and the voice of Goddess commands, “Give him life!”
Matthew searches his memories as he drinks from Diana’s carotid artery and stops drinking when he reaches the moment he recalls that he loves her. Marcus and Miriam as well as Sarah and Emily all witness this without any ability to intervene and protect Diana. She loses a lot of blood, but Marcus can transfuse blood to save her life.
Matthew puts forth the idea that they time walk to hide in time from the Congregation.
Cut to the chase, they meet Sophie who brings the figurine of the chess piece that Matthew lost in a bet with Christopher Marlowe; the figure of Diana the warrior. The house delivers a poppet with Ysabeau’s earring attached to it. And Matthew has Hamish deliver from Sept Tours the book of Dr. Faustus that Christopher Marlowe gave to Matthew. They have the three objects to time walk and escape from the Congregation to go back to 1590.
The Congregation wants to hang Baldwin for treason. A vote shows that he lives, but has little time to warn Matthew that the witch Satu and Peter Knox, as well as Gerbert, are on their way to NY to take Diana and Matthew back for trial.
Sarah and Emily are escaping to Sept Tours along with their cat Tabitha. Miriam and Marcus depart, but before doing so, Matthew appoints Marcus as the Grand Master of the Knights of Lazarus.
Matthew and Diana with the three items in hand time walk to 1590 just as the vampire Gerbert and the witches Satu and Peter Knox appear at the front door of the house. The episode ends season one with the viewer not sure if they escape.
Rating: Tied for Sensuous, Ravenous, Heart-racing
Watch the trailer for Season 2 here. Season 1 video recap here.