Isaac’s Journey: Reclaiming Agency, Growth & Forgiveness

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Castlevania ending - Isaac

This article contains spoilers for Castlevania Season 4

The fourth and final season of Netflix’s Castlevania premiered this month. The Powerhouse Animation production based on Konami’s action-adventure gothic horror video game franchise delivered a perfect ending to the hit anime-inspired series as it brought the story and character arcs full circle. And, one of the most satisfying arcs in Castlevania belongs to Isaac. Introduced in the Castlevania Season 2, Isaac was one of Dracula’s two human generals and Forgemasters in his army. Prior to joining Dracula’s court, Isaac was brutally abused by a former master. He holds a grudge against mankind due to the people attempting to harm him throughout his lifetime.

Including a group of bandit magicians who wanted to sell his body parts and whom Dracula rescued him from. Afterward he joins Dracula on his revenge campaign against mankind. Isaac, as a loyal, steadfast follower only sought to bring Dracula’s goals to fruition. Even if those goals involved the entire annihilation of humanity. Over the course of Castlevania, Isaac undergoes a transformative journey. Following the events of Season Two, in Season Three he seeks revenge on the ones who betrayed Dracula and sets out to build his army of night creatures along the way. Driven by hatred and vengeance, his sole purpose becomes only to kill those who wronged Dracula and to continue his mission to end mankind.

The Isaac, we were first introduced is drastically different from who we see in Season Four. While his journey was initially hell-bent on revenge, it also took him through an immense amount of growth, forgiveness, and obtaining his own agency. Part of that can be attributed to people he met and battles he fought along the way, which resulted in rethinking his plan, from one of destruction to building a better future.

One of the most impactful moments in Season Four for Isaac comes about in a discussion where he says, “You can use a hammer to build a house or crack a skull”. The discussion is between one of his more intelligent night creatures regarding how Isaac chooses to recognize that they are not tools, but as independent beings that can do more than what they were originally intended for.

On a deeper level, the line also applies to Isaac too. He recognizes that for much of his life he was content with being the knife that others used. However, now he finds himself feeling more like the hand than the knife. Isaac realizes that he can choose to not be a tool for others. And that he also can do more than what he originally intended to set out to do. We see this when Isaac is called upon by Varney, a vampire that served in Dracula’s Court, to join help him revive Dracula from Hell to continue the extinction of humanity. Isaac turns down Varney’s offer to join forces, in favor of prioritizing his own unfinished work first. When Varney asks if Isaac’s work is more important than Dracula’s work, Isaac responds and says it is to him.

This is another striking moment for Isaac’s character arc, because for someone who was quite possibly the most loyal of Dracula’s court to turn down an opportunity to revive him means something.  At one point Isaac was willing to give up his mortal life to save Dracula’s immortal one. “To save your genius, your knowledge, and your will? Without question. I am just a Forgemaster. Yours is the wisdom of ages”, Isaac said when Dracula questioned his reasoning. And now, here he is prioritizing his own work and purposes over an opportunity to bring Dracula back.

These exchanges are just a few great examples of how far Isaac has grown throughout the series. Here was a man that at one point in his life, had so much hatred for humanity, that he could care less if all of mankind was destroyed. He saw himself as a tool to bring about Dracula’s will. And now, here is the same man, who has grown and found his own agency in the world.

As much as Isaac’s character arc is about agency and growth, it is also about forgiveness. In Season Four when Isaac arrives at Styria to enact his revenge and plan of conquest he finally comes face to face with Hector. Surprisingly, instead of killing Hector, he forgives him. Isaac recognizes that Hector, much like himself, had no agency and was used a tool by others. Additionally, Isaac understands that he and Hector were just admirers of Dracula’s work who got caught up in something bigger than themselves.

During their exchange, Isaac tells Hector he has had time to think everything over and how has even been talking to other people. All the while he squeezes a lime into hi cup of water. A callback to the conversation he had with the Captain in Season Three who imparted wisdom on Isaac to not live someone else’s story but to live his own. Now he encourages Hector to so the same thing. To move forward and live for the future. Instead of riding to Dracula’s aid to revive him, he encourages Hector to live his own life and to do what he wants with his life.

Lastly, something that I really appreciate about Isaac’s character arc is that it allows there to be a duality to his growth and forgiveness. While Isaac is conversing with one of his night creatures, the creature comments on Isaac is changing, but revenge still inside of him. Later when he is alone Isaac reflects on the creature’s words and how he has changed. “And happily I can create futures and end yours at the same time”, Isaac states in regards to the evil wizard he killed previously. The statement is powerful because even though Isaac acknowledges the changes in himself,  that does not mean he has given up carrying out his vengeance on the people who rightfully deserve it.

Isaac’s journey was just one part of Castlevania’s story, but it is in my opinion one of, if not the most, striking and impactful character arcs in the entire series. Isaac started off as a man who hated humanity for how it mistreated him all of his life. He was content with being a tool in someone else’s plan. He was hell-bent on exacting revenge at any cost. However in the end he changed for the better. And as he changed his plans evolved from destruction to creating a better future. He found his own agency and realized that he could be and do more for the world than what he first thought he was intended to do.

 Castlevania Season 4 is streaming exclusively on Netflix.