Get Up To Speed
A Discovery Of Witches started its second season on AMC yesterday and here’s some info to help viewers get up to speed on what happened in season one…
Who Is Diana Bishop in A Discovery of Witches?
Diana Bishop, played by Teresa Palmer, is a historian and visiting research fellow at Oxford, studying 17th century alchemy. She’s also a witch, one of the three supernatural races that live in the shadows of human society along with vampires and daemons. But Diana has always been uncomfortable with her magic, finding the whole concept difficult to embrace after her parents’ murder for being witches. Diana distances herself from the community of fellow witches, and instead dedicates her life to understanding the scientific aspect of magic through the history of alchemy.
Diana spends most of her time in Oxford’s Bodleian Library committed to her research, until the day she checks out a mysterious manuscript, Ashmole 782, that changes her life — and the lives of all witches, vampires, and daemons. Her discovery puts her on a collision course with a powerful vampire, Matthew Clairmont.
Who Is Matthew Clairmont in A Discovery of Witches?
Matthew Clairmont, played by Matthew Goode, is a millenia-old vampire from the revered de Clermont clan of vampires. At the beginning of Season 1, he works with two other vampires, Dr. Miriam Shephard (Aiysha Hart) and Marcus Whitmore (Edward Bluemel), as a geneticist and professor of biochemistry at Oxford, working to study the creature genome. He wants to explain the origins of the creatures and discover why the creatures are dying out. Witch magic has become less potent over centuries; vampires struggle to sire new progeny; daemon suicides are on the rise. He believes the Book of Life, or Ashmole 782, has the answers he’s looking for.
In his quest for the Book of Life, he seeks out Diana, who has become the target of other creatures who think she possesses the secrets of the Ashmole 782 manuscript. Despite the long-centuries ire between witches, vampires, and daemons, Matthew and Diana decide to put the prejudices between their species aside and work together to find the Book of Life.
What Is “The Book of Life,” or Ashmole 782, in A Discovery of Witches?
In Season 1 of A Discovery of Witches, The Book of Life, or Ashmole 782, is a centuries-old manuscript by Elias Ashmole, a 17th century antiquarian, astrologer and alchemist. When Diana summons the book from the depths of the Bodleian Library for her research, she sees that at least three pages have been cut out. As Diana reads through the manuscript, the words of the book magically lift from the page and cover her hands. When she slams her hands on the page in fear, the words return to the page and the book burns her with a sigil. Diana returns the book in a flurry and rushes out of the library, where she brushes past a man who looks just like her deceased father.
It is later revealed in Season 1 that Diana read two inscriptions in the book, one in original ink, by Ashmole, and another in pencil: “In two parts, the first, anatomical, the second, psychological.” This second inscription is by Diana’s father.
Matthew immediately senses the emergence of the manuscript. He has been searching for Ashmole 782 for centuries, believing it to be “The Book of Life” that could help explain the origins of vampires, witches, and daemons. Matthew suspects the book could help explain vampire evolution, and also outline their destruction. The vampires fear the witches could use the information to destroy them. The witches want the book to reclaim the full breadth of their magic and to remove the vampires from their seat of power. But the Book is still a mystery, and the Congregation will stop at nothing to uncover its secrets.
What Is the Congregation in A Discovery of Witches?
The Congregation is a council of nine creatures — three witches, three vampires, and three daemons — who have formed a tenuous partnership to navigate their species’ survival in a world dominated by humans. The meeting place of the Congregation is on an island in Venice, hidden from humans, with chambers for each of the creatures that are barred from the others. Despite their appearance of amicability in public, the creatures carry a deep hatred for each other. Still, they meet with some frequency to discuss important events to the creatures, hold trials and dole out punishments, and strictly uphold the Covenant: that there will be no inter-species relationships between the creatures.
The current powerful players on the Congregation that we know of in Season 1 are witches Peter Knox (Owen Teale) and Satu Jarvinen (Malin Buska); vampires Gerbert D’Aurillac (Trever Eve), Domenico Michele (Gregg Chillin) and Matthew’s brother, Baldwin de Clermont (Trystan Gravelle); and daemon Agatha Wilson (Tanya Moodie).
Peter Knox is a powerful witch in the Congregation. He knew Diana’s mother in their youth and uses his knowledge of her mother’s past to try to woo Diana to his side in the fight for the Book of Life. Knox is convinced the Book of Life contains information about the witches’ first spells, including a spell that created the vampires. He believes that the Book could explain how to destroy the vampires completely.
Satu Jarvinen is an elemental witch of immense raw power. Knox finds her isolated on the edges of society in Scandinavia, where he enlists her in his endeavor to find out more about Diana and the Book of Life. Satu quickly develops her own fascination with Diana and Diana’s buried power. In the Witches’ Archives at the Congregation, she looks for clues about the truth of Diana’s magic. When her research threatens Knox’s agenda, he assaults her in the Archives with his power. Satu doesn’t hesitate to form an alliance with the sinister vampire Gerbert, or use powerful dark magic, if it means getting closer to the truth of Diana’s power.
What Is Sept-Tours in A Discovery of Witches?
Sept-Tours is Matthew’s ancestral home in France, a sprawling estate with seven towers. Matthew’s mother, Ysabeau de Clermont (Lindsay Duncan), resides at the estate alone with Marthe (Sorcha Cusack), the estate’s vampire housekeeper. Ysabeau is a powerful and respected figure among the creatures, and when Diana is in danger from witches and vampires alike, Matthew knows the witches will not follow them there. Ysabeau is a known “witch killer,” wiping out whole covens after her husband, Matthew’s vampire father, Philippe, was killed by witches in World War II. She has held a grudge against witches ever since, but warms up to Diana during her stay at Sept-Tours. Ysabeau ultimately commits to protecting Diana, and even claims Diana as her daughter, when Matthew declares his love for Diana and the couple come under threat of the Congregation.
How Does Diana Unlock Her Powers in Season 1?
Over the course of Season 1, Diana has shown that she’s able to call upon her powers in moments of need. And after opening the Ashmole 782 manuscript and meeting Matthew, her powers take on a new — if uncontrolled — dimension. When Peter Knox accosts her in the Bodleian Library, Diana unwittingly calls upon the ancient magic of Witch Wind to repel him. After Matthew leaves her heartbroken at Sept-Tours, torrents of Witch Water pour down from the sky as rain.
In Episode 6, Satu kidnaps and tortures Diana at the ruins of Gerbert’s hidden castle, La Pierre. Satu casts a painful “opening spell” on Diana with dark magic to unlock the secrets of Diana’s power, which backfires on Satu as well, who drastically loses her own power following her attack. Satu throws Diana in a deep, inescapable well (partly to keep her away from Gerbert, who also cannot reach Diana in the well). Matthew comes to rescue Diana from the ruins with Baldwin, but only Diana is able to free herself from the deep, unscalable pit by finally harnessing the ability to control her magic and flying upwards to Matthew.
Safely back at Sept-Tours, Diana learns that she had been spellbound as a child. Upon returning to Madison to question her aunts, Sarah Bishop (Alex Kingston) and Emily Mather (Valerie Pettiford), Em reveals that Diana had been spellbound by her parents to protect her from Knox, who was obsessed with the growth of Diana’s power. Still, Diana doesn’t take the news lightly. “I was half myself for years, and you didn’t say a thing,” she says, angry at her aunts.
The magic of the family’s “haunted house” shows Diana the truth — literally — by broadcasting to Diana, Matthew, Sarah, and Em the night that Peter Knox came to test Diana’s magic, and exactly how her parents spellbound her power. “One day, if she really needs it, she’ll find it again,” her father, Stephen, assures her mother, Rebecca, in the memory. Diana surmises that the binding ritual was meant to be broken in a moment of great need — and somehow, her parents knew, with Matthew’s love.
Diana has access to her power for the first time, but she doesn’t know how to use it. Sarah and Em try to teach her spells, but Diana’s power works in mysterious ways — and she doesn’t have time to be a good student. After learning of Diana’s newly unlocked power, Peter Knox is on the hunt for Diana’s magic again.
What Is the Prophecy in A Discovery of Witches?
Meridiana is an ancient witch that Gerbert has kept in his thrall for centuries as a decapitated head. She frequently recites a prophecy: “Beware the witch with the blood of the lion and the wolf, for with it she shall destroy the children of the night.” Meridiana says there are two witches involved in the prophecy, one light and one dark. Viewers may assume Diana is the light witch and Satu the dark, but for now, this is unconfirmed.
When Satu flees from Gerbert’s ruined castle after kidnapping Diana, she takes possession of Meridiana. Satu frees Meridiana from Gerbert’s thrall and releases her into death. As she fades away, Meridiana calls Satu, “Weaver.”
When Satu returns to Knox after the ordeal, she reveals to Knox a prophecy foretelling the end of the vampire race that she learned from Meridiana, which includes Diana. The witches are determined to separate Diana from Matthew to secure their place at the top of the creature hierarchy — and to destroy the vampires.
Separately, in the stories her mother used to tell her as a child, there was a key character called the Shadow Prince. “The Shadow Prince that lived between sunset and moonrise,” recalls Em to Diana early in the season. It’s implied that Diana’s parents foretold of Diana’s relationship with Matthew in a hidden prophecy of their own.
What are the Knights of Lazarus in A Discovery of Witches?
Matthew’s father, Philippe de Clermont, established the Knights of Lazarus as a parallel organization at the same time that the Congregation was founded. The Knights are a “philanthropic” brotherhood of vampires whose mission is to “protect those who cannot protect themselves,” as Baldwin describes. In Season 1, Matthew is the grandmaster of the Knights of Lazarus, a title he inherited from his father after his death. Matthew uses his power as the grandmaster to command Baldwin, one of the Knights, to protect Diana from the Congregation as much as he is able. In the Season 1 Finale, Matthew relinquishes his place as the head of the Knights of Lazarus to his sired son, Marcus.
What Do We Know About Matthew’s Origins in Season 1?
Born around 500 A.D., Matthew was a stonemason and an architect in France, and he had a wife and son, Blanca and Lucas. When they died of fever around 537 A.D., Matthew built a church to honor them, and then fell from the top of the belltower, possibly to be with his family in death. But Ysabeau sired him as a vampire, and he was reborn into vampire life as her son, with Philippe as his father, and later, Baldwin as his brother. We also know that at some point prior to the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, Matthew sired Marcus as a vampire. Ysabaeu reveals to Diana that his early life as a vampire was ravenous, bloody, and full of rage. Matthew fears that he may revert to his old ways when he and Diana time-walk into the past.
What Is Time-Walking in A Discovery of Witches?
Em reveals to Matthew that Diana’s father, Stephen, was a time-walker, meaning he could move forward and backwards through time with his magic. In order to substantially time-walk, a witch needs three things from the time period they want to walk into. The further one goes back in time, the harder it is to return to the present. Diana and Matthew decide to escape the Congregation by time-walking into the past.
The family’s magic house releases one of the removed pages of the Book of Life to Diana, which depicts an illustration of a king and a queen, presumably torn from the book by Diana’s father. The queen is wearing Matthew’s insignia. Later, out of the chimney flies a witch’s poppet, with one of Ysabeau’s pearl earrings that she lost centuries before. From Sept-Tours in France, Hamish brings clothes and items from Matthew’s past, including a ring and a book belonging to Matthew’s old friend, Chris Marlowe. Finally, the daemon Sophie (daughter-in-law of Agatha, the head daemon on the Congregation) brings Diana her statue of the White Queen, which Matthew recognizes as a chess piece that he lost in a wager on All Souls’ night in 1590. With these items, Diana and Matthew have what they need to time-walk to 1590s London.
What Happens in the A Discovery of Witches Season 1 Finale?
Matthew’s former vampire lover, Juliette, who was created by Gerbert to be the object of Matthew’s desire in an attempt to manipulate him, comes to Madison to see if Matthew has indeed abandoned her for Diana. In her rage at discovering Matthew’s love for Diana, Juliette rips out Matthew’s throat and stomach. Diana conjures Witch Fire and immediately kills Juliette, but Matthew still lays dying. Diana calls upon the power of the Goddess to save Matthew, but is warned there “will be a price.” As part of the spell, Matthew drinks Diana’s blood and nearly kills her — but stops himself. Diana’s magic saves Matthew’s life.
Later, while Diana learns how to time-walk in Madison, Gerbert teams up with Knox at the Congregation to overthrow Baldwin, hoping to send the de Clermont’s into chaos and buy time to find Diana. Because Congregation rules dictate that a de Clermont must sit on the council, Gerbert plans to install Marcus as an easily manipulated member.
In Madison, Matthew’s daemon confidant Hamish (Greg McHugh) brings the daemons Sophie (Aisling Loftus) and Nathaniel (Daniel Ezra) to Madison to meet Diana. The very pregnant Sophie completes her family mission to deliver the figure of the White Queen to Diana. Sophie also reveals that she was born of witches, which is a revelation that cross-species children are possible. Sophie’s prophetic dreams have so far proven accurate, so when she dreams that the Congregation will come for her and her baby, Matthew suggests that she and Nathaniel stay at Sept-Tours with Sarah and Em for their protection. For presumably the first time, vampires, witches, and daemons will live under one roof.
Meanwhile, the Congregation convenes in Venice to interrogate Satu about her role in abducting Diana, but the tables quickly turn against Baldwin for protecting Matthew’s agenda. Working against the Congregation is deemed a treasonous offense to be punished “by beheading and fire.” The Congregation holds a vote to decide if Baldwin should be killed; Agatha and Domenico are among those who vote against, saving Baldwin’s life. But both Domenico and Agatha imply that Baldwin is now in their debt.
On the night of All Souls (Halloween), Gerbert, Peter Knox, and Satu arrive at the Madison house, just as Diana and Matthew prepare to time-walk into London in 1590. Did Diana successfully walk back through centuries? Will Matthew even be the same man when they arrive in Elizabethan London? Can Diana and Matthew’s love stand the test of time?