It’s that time again! We’re close to the premiere of the second season so I figured I would do a quick run down of what I am excited for and what I’m watching for! I’m gonna break down a couple things from the trailers we’ve seen, the Witchmas reveals, and then places and people from the book I am looking forward to seeing. (After I wrote this I realised I left out what I am perhaps most excited for: Phoebe Taylor, the universe’s own art historian! I’m sure I’ll gush about her plenty through the season to make up for it…)
Spoilers for those who have not read the books!
I don’t think anyone can say that we have not been spoiled with trailers and sneak peaks, but it’s the First Look Trailer that really has me most excited. It’s below.
So what is it about this trailer in particular? Here are my top three things:
1. The Manuscripts!
We get our first look at Ashmole 782 in 1590! Anyone who has been following this blog (or knows me) will know that the manuscripts are what drew me to the All Souls universe and what keeps me here (other than the amazing fandom and brilliant Dr. Harkness herself!). The portrayal of manuscripts on screen and in the books is amazing and really gets at the heart of questions of materiality and making and use that many manuscript scholars have. I won’t go into much detail on these ideas here because I have covered some of it here and here, and am sure to come back to it once we get to them properly in the season.
From the 16th century cover with Rudolf and the Holy Roman Empire’s eagle to the glimpse of the folios in the trailer, I cannot wait to explore just what Ashmole 782 is doing in Prague. How production frames it in Rudolf’s wunderkammer, moreover, will be interesting, too. I imagine it’ll pick up on some of the theme of collecting (from Hamish to Matthew to the witches) that was hinted at in last season.
2. Weaver’s Cords!
I know there was pushback last season on the webbing instead of colourful ribbons that bound Diana’s magic, but combined with the hints of light, it looks like we’re in for a treat with Diana’s weavings this season!
The glimpse of the swirling clear cords around Diana and the London Conventicle in the trailer are gorgeous. The idea that there are these magical fibres all around and these are what are twisted into the magic captures the essence of the cords in a way that connects to the visual changes of Season 1 and, I think (hope?) will further some of the ideas of magic and light that we saw at the end of last season.
3. The Temple at Sept Tours
This is something that, despite my training, I always pictured in a very schematic, unformed way when I read the books, but seeing it on screen it just felt right.
And knowing that I will hear Philippe chanting? Perfection.
The Graeco-Roman temple with the volute capitals and the three figures clouded in the mist is a gorgeous image on its own. But, knowing the tension between Philippe and Diana’s paganism and Matthew’s Catholicism, the glimpse we get just screams the importance of place to the de Clermonts. Last season we saw Matthew’s church (and I hope we see the 16th century version of it, with, umm, fewer out of time parts) and learned a lot of his story in it. I’m hoping for a parallel with Philippe and the temple. Even if we don’t get that, we do get to see Philippe in an architectural setting that harkens back to his mysterious origins as the human inspiration for Herakles/Hercules. Thus, it appears the production’s subtle hints at a creature’s origins through the use of specific cultural artefacts (Satuu and the drum, Peter and the petrosphere) will continue this season with the new characters!
Throughout December, the team gave us so many good behind-the-scenes glimpses! In some instances, they went further than the trailer in teasing what is to come – if you recognised the significance of the image in question. Picking just three was hard…
1. The Costumes
Elizabethan and Tudor dress is so layered; literally in terms of the undergarments and figuratively in meaning and details. Seeing this come to life in Dr. Harkness’s commentary and the BTS shots of costumes in progress is pure magic for any art historian or historian.
We just don’t have that many examples of historic textiles or other bits (totally technical term) of dress, whether actual dress, undergarments, shoes, or any other thing we can loosely put under the umbrella of clothing. A lot of it, as Dr. Harkness alludes to in her tweet above, is research guesswork. And – as we know production did – looking at extant portraits. (And yes, the National Portrait Gallery in London is a perfect place for this. You can explore that gallery here.) It’s also looking at recreations. Sure, these are for a TV show and not explicitly experimental archaeology, but there is something experimental in it that allows historians and art historians to see the past with our own eyes – to see how fabrics might move on a person, and to see how that can impact the way the person moves.
And, knowing that the fabrics actually come to life in the book in one scene in particular? Well, production has brought the past to life in many ways just here.
2. The Locations
Okay, you caught me. I really meant London, 1590.
If you were in Cardiff for (or streaming online) the 2019 All Souls Con, you got a few of these glimpses then, with production chatting about how they were bringing London to life. (You can still watch it on All Souls Con’s YouTube channel here.) But actually seeing the cast and crew on set is something else. Imagining how this will translate onto the screen and help bring the All Souls world to life just makes me giddy.
PLUS! The details. Never to be outdone, production always gives us such subtle details to help tell the story. And its this details, I maintain, that will always set this production apart because the capture the materiality and essence of the story. Here, it’s a witches mark carved into a beam. And it’s a mark clearly inspired by extant marks.
(Side note: I’m also excited to see more of Matthew as Matthew Roydon in London! The trailers make it appear as if we will get a fuller picture of him navigating his old life. Knowing how much the extra points of view added to the first season, I am looking forward to seeing how Matthew’s extras might enhance the narrative.)
And bonus for laughs: I love this sign from Sept Tours. Partly because I think someone channelled their inner Ysabeau.
3. This. Necklace!
“Before I could protest, he draped it over my head and settled it on my shoulders. I looked down and saw a green ouroboros hanging from a circle of red crosses, thickly encrusted with emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and pearls. […] I lifted the ouroboros so that I could study the enameling. It wasn’t an ouroboros, exactly, because it had feet. It looked more like a lizard or a salamander than a snake. A bloody red cross emerged from the lizard’s flayed back. Most important, the tail was not held in the creature’s mouth but wrapped around the lizard’s throat, strangling it…” —Shadow of Night, Chapter 31.
I’ll pick back up on the symbolism of all of this when we see it (hopefully see it?) in this season because it is a pivotal moment and I have a feeling in context we as the audience are in for a treat. But for now, if you look at this 1432/23 portrait of Oswald von Wolkenstein , you can see the badge of the Order of the Dragon. While this is a bit before our travels in the All Souls universe, you can see the inspiration for the emblem that we know in the schematic of the dragon strangling itself, creating an ouroboros.
The Book: Scenes & Themes
There’s so much in Shadow of Night that I would love to see: a particular location, a favourite character, and a key theme.
For all of the talk about London and Blackfriars, there has been comparatively little for Prague. Sure, we have the teases of things that are related to Prague, as the above necklace demonstrates, but we haven’t seen the key parts of it. We do, however, know who is playing Emperor Rudolf: Mike Jibson. Hamilton fans amongst us: rejoice! Jibson played King George in the original London cast. And trust me when I say he was amazing. I can’t wait to see him play Rudolf and bring to life the emperor who is patron of alchemists and a, umm, “fan” of Diana Roydon.
And I am really, really hoping that we see the Bosch altarpiece Matthew takes with them to Prague as an offering of sorts to get into the Emperor’s good graces. The Bosch drawing below fits the description of the altarpiece’s exterior panels:
A wizened tree shimmering in the moonlight spanned the two front panels. A tiny wolf crouched in its roots, and an owl perched in the upper branches. Both animals gazed at the viewer knowingly. A dozen other eyes shone out from the dark ground around the tree, disembodied and staring. Behind the dead oak, a stand of deceptively normal trees with pale trunks and iridescent green branches shed more light on the scene. “Only when I took a closer look did I see the ears growing out of them, as though they were listening to the sounds of the night.” – Shadow of Night, Chapter 27
Like a lot of fans, I was instantly enamoured with Gallowglass; the more I’ve learned about him from the stories and Dr. Harkness’s tidbits (teasers, really) has only cemented my love for him. Connected to Iona and the Outer Hebrides (The World of All Souls identifies Lewis specifically as important to his early human life), the Norse-Gael Viking-esque character is a personal favourite, partly because he represents something of the Early Medieval in the series for me (which is my area of expertise so I’m admittedly partial).
Steven Cree as Gallowglass is sure to be a delight. His humour is very much in the Gallowglass spirit. I can’t wait to see what hints of Gallowglass’s origins they give him. Will it be the runes? On his tattoos? A bit of stone from the Outer Hebrides?
3. Inclusion & Acceptance
One of the things that became increasingly evident in the first season of the adaptation is that production is not shying away from the books’ key theme of acceptance despite individual differences. If anything, they have accentuated it through the addition of extra scenes that explore different character’s opinions and interpretations of the evens unfolding. For example, Agatha was a champion of this early in the Congregation scenes and Hamish reminded Matthew of his disadvantages as a daemon in creature society. If anything Shadow of Night furthers this conversation in the books and takes it in different directions with the introduction of characters like Henry Percy, Kit Marlowe, and the ultimate bad guy in the All Souls universe, Benjamin Fuchs.
What gives me hope more than anything that this going to continue is the casting of Adam Sklar as Henry Percy. Sklar has made a few comments about what it means to be playing a partially deaf character as a deaf person (see below for one example). In many ways, this casting proves that the All Souls universe isn’t just stories about acceptance and representation, but about making sure that acceptance and representation are the default in our entertainment and the world we inhabit.
What are you looking forward to?
Tell me in a comment or drop me a note on Twitter at @StephenieEloise!
(And if there’s anything you want me to cover this season, let me know! I’m going to try to get some of my favourite art pieces from the book up on the blog in time for their on screen debuts!)