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Castlevania’s Isaac Is a Fantastic Example of How Fantasy Should Elevate Morally Complex Black Characters

"I'm going to live."

Adetokumboh M'Cormack voiced Isaac in Castlevania

Other than Carmilla, my favorite character from Netflix’s Castlevania was Isaac, voiced by Adetokumboh M’Cormack. Since his introduction in season two, the character has surpassed my expectations for what a Black, Muslim, male character is allowed to do in such a big fantasy series.

**Spoilers for all of Castlevania.**

When we first meet Isaac in Castlevania, he is a Forgemaster and general in Dracula’s war council to end humanity. While Dracula tells the others that he simply wants to cull humanity, it is only Isaac who he trusts enough to tell that the plan is all-out elimination of the human race—a prospect Isaac doesn’t oppose due to his dramatic experiences.

Isaac was abused by his former master and throughout his lifetime became embittered by all he had experienced. He ended up meeting Dracula when he saved Isaac from magicians who wanted to kill him and sell his body parts. That kindness cemented loyalty in Isaac towards Dracula that made him an invaluable part of Dracula’s team.

I was concerned about Isaac at the beginning. His loyalty to Dracula and his self-harming were things that interested me, but I was concerned that he was going to be another Black man in fantasy who was only there to help a white man, or vampire, in his journey. That all changed when, during the attack on Dracula’s castle, the vampire saved Isaac.

“No such thing as love in this world” is something Isaac says in season two, and yet his being saved by Dracula was an act of love between them.

Isaac was sent to the desert where he was harassed by bandits who he subsequently killed and turned into Night Creators. Thus began his journey for revenge against Carmilla and Hector for betraying Dracula.

During season three, Isaac spends the majority of the season traveling back to Europe, and along the journey, he meets three people who help emotionally change him during the journey.

First, a collector (Navid Negahban), who offers him a mirror with magical properties. Rather than ask for payment, the man gives him the mirror as a gift: “I have a feeling you haven’t received many gifts in your life, and it pleases me to improve that balance. Also, I fully expect to go to hell one day, and that would be a situation where I would be glad to be owed a favor by a Forgemaster.”

Isaac later meets a Captain (Lance Reddick), who offers him access to his ship and safe travel to Genoa, because the Captain is bored and sees Isaac as interesting. The two men speak on their journey, and Isaac reveals he’s Sufi, and that he wants to take up Dracula’s cause and kill all the people in the world.

The Captain, rather than judging Isaac, asks him: Why would he live out Dracula’s story when he can tell his own? He also points out that while people suck in general, they are also capable of kindness, and that by eliminating humanity, he’ll also destroy what makes it beautiful. He encourages Isaac to lead and educate people to make them better: “If you don’t have your own story, you become part of someone else’s.”

What I loved about these two moments is that both the Collector and the Captain are men of color—men of color that show kindness to Isaac and help him on his own journey to self-identity.

Once he reaches Europe, Isaac meets a former Foremaster, named Miranda (Barbara Steele), living in a mountain pass. She tells Isaac that a powerful magician was living in a city beyond in the mountains and that he mentally enslaved an entire town. She was unable to stop the action, but prompts Isaac into freeing them and using them as the remainder of his Night Creature army. As Isaac leaves to do just that, she tells him, “There are worse things in the world than vampires in Styria, Isaac. There are worse things … than betrayal.”

Army complete and finding an even larger mirror that will allow him to transport to Styria quickly, Isaac goes and meets up with Hector, who has been abused and manipulated since they last met. Hector expects that Isaac is there for revenge and to kill Hector, but he isn’t.

He is there for Carmilla. Not for Dracula, but because Isaac wants to build a world, and Carmilla and her ambitions can’t be part of it. Carmilla takes her own life when she realizes he could defeat her, leaving Isaac triumphant.

Hector and Isaac talk, and Isaac explains that “revenge is for children” and that Hector was not at fault for what happened. He was manipulated and therefore not responsible. What matters is what they can do now for themselves and for their future.

Then Isaac delivers this banger of a monologue:

“I have recently begun to consider the future… which has been a novelty for me, because I never really thought I had one. This is how they get us, Hector. They convince us that there is no future. There’s only an eternal now… and the best we can do is survive until dawn and then do it all again. That’s no way to live. And I’ve discovered, to some surprise… that I am interested in living. I am interested in building a way to live. And I think I will start here. I have come to wonder that perhaps Dracula did not run things well. Even before his wife died. He lived in one long night, and never the future. I think perhaps he earned his rest… and that we should not disturb it. I will instead build something new on all these old bones. Something where people can live for a future. I’m going to live. “

Castlevania has characters of all races and ethnicities on the show, and there isn’t much done to explain their existence. We hear different accents, see different skin tones, and have an exceptional cast of diverse voice actors. Isaac was the biggest surprise for me in Castlevania because he got to go through this amazing character story, with trauma, with a huge bloody trail behind him, but it never stopped focusing on his humanity. It never belittled him, and it allowed him to be his own man.

I am so thrilled by the character of Isaac, and I love that the last scene of him is of him smiling, feeling optimistic about living and having a future.

(image: Netflix)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.