Carmilla and Mattie were exquisite—magical, mischievous and quite the dark, sexy, alluring duo.
Despite the predictable plot, Annie Briggs will surely be playing the Dean next season, right? (Oh. My. God!!)
Whilst I thought Laura's personality got stuck in reverse this season, Elise Bauman--especially in Negovanlis' reduced role--was more than exceptional. I really hope I see more of these two in the future. Their performances remain utterly unchallenged.
The social media engagement of 'Carmilla' is rather unrivalled. The character accounts are excellent.
Laura Hollis. I wanted to root for Laura (especially when it's the always charming Bauman) but she wasn't naive; she was childish.
I still can't believe I'll say this but there wasn't enough Carmilla on 'Carmilla'.
The conflict this season felt a bit off. I'm not sure I still get what the big bad was. The Dean in Perry, yes. Vordernberg, yes. But they kind of just snapped a scroll in half and the dude died...
Season two of ‘Carmilla’ is jam-packed—and it’s both a good and bad thing.
We’re very quickly introduced to a new set of characters—a large group, considering the size of the production. Aaron Chartrand returns as the mild-mannered JP. Ian D. Clark is the blatantly villainous Baron Vordernberg, Constantly arguing are rivals Mel (Nicole Stamp) and Theo (Shannon Kook), members of the Summer and Zeta societies. Lastly there’s Sophia Walker as Mattie. Smug, smouldering, powerful and charismatically dangerous, she’s the new Chair of the Silas Board. She’s swaggeringly unapologetic, and it’s delightful.
We pick up with the gang holed up in a fancy mansion Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) ‘finds’. Things happen quickly. Perry (Annie Briggs) is possessed by the Dean. Vordernberg hits the jackpot when Laura’s (Elise Bauman) genuinely so naive as to help him get rid of Mattie—and realises a little too late he kind of hates all vampires and wants them all dead. Laura and Carmilla’s romance is short-lived. Everything is very ‘blink and you’ll miss it’.
But it’s the social media engagement that was most impressive. Just weeks before the episodes were due to drop, the characters’ accounts were active as if to tell a story. It’d lead to why they were at the mansion. It’s a clever way to whet everyone’s appetites whilst remaining relevant. Carmilla’s is particularly fun to read. Rather brilliantly, she only follows one person: Laura.
Season two didn’t feel quite like season one’s ‘Carmilla’…and frankly, season one felt more like how the show should be. Here’s why.
Where was Carmilla?
By far, the most compelling character of this webseries is Natasha Negovanlis’ entrancing Carmilla. Elise Bauman’s Laura gives Natasha Negovanlis a good run for her money, but Negovanlis just has—we apologise for this phrase—’The X Factor‘. Negovanlis is one of the few who actually acts in the background, when not in main view of the camera (except perhaps Briggs, Bauman and Walker) instead of standing still. And her background acting is noticeable because Carmilla spends a lot of season two in the background.
Admittedly, it became more and more frustrating. Initially, we had a welcome display of Negovanlis’ insatiable chemistry with Bauman—and the duo excelled whenever paired. Another significant scene partner was Sophia Walker, whose Mattie brought out the devilish best in Carmilla. The episode in which they gleefully went on their blood/killing spree was fantastic and the pair make fantastic sisters.
Focus on the secondary characters is necessary to build their stories, yes. But why didn’t we get anything in season one? It remained very successful. You cannot just build at the expense of the main characters; the main draw for most viewers. Undeniably, the characters (and their actors) must be popular. Annie Briggs for one must stay. But why was there such heavy focus on external, forced plots that never really came to satisfying fruition whilst ignoring the selling point of ‘Carmilla’?
Laura’s stubbornness and devotion to helping others is what makes her Laura Hollis–but that was last season. This season, she was childish and it alienated two people. Carmilla, and us.
Laura is quite the altruist…selectively. But it’s what makes her human and ultimately endearing to us. Laura Hollis has always seen it as her moral duty somewhat to look out for the dangers Silas university students face.
It frustrates Carmilla, who just wants Laura. Time and time again, Laura recognises this but does not rectify her actions because she believes she is right. By the time their fallout comes, it’s inevitable. Though it could’ve been avoided, their break-up is gorgeously done by Bauman and Negovanlis. It’s tenderly sad; as is their conversation when Carmilla acknowledges, post-break-up, that Laura still prioritises the school over her. It’s genuinely great acting. Bauman and Negovanlis (especially when together) rarely disappoint, though their chemistry from that sizzling champagne/kidnapping episode in season one to the ease of their kisses now has skyrocketed. It’s Laura’s character that is the disappointment.
Bauman is not to blame here. She does a fantastic job of maintaining Laura’s likeability—a difficult task this season. Her so-called altruism is often just foolishness. Laura’s world-view is still black-and-white, after everything—and that’s the most frustrating thing. The character that should’ve made the most progression, the most growth—remained stock-still.
As predictable as the Vordenberg and Perry twists were, it was the sheer lack of Laura and Carmilla’s relationship that’s baffling.
The few scenes Carmilla and Laura did get together post-break-up were excellent. It’s not really about wanting to see the duo together. It’s that, from a story-telling perspective, why spend an entire season to build a relationship to tear it apart in a few episodes? And the only purpose it served was to deliver some angst like any other show. However, we had to give Bauman and Negovanlis a section, simply because of the bewitching way Natasha Negovanlis delivered this:
Carmilla: She isn’t mine. You are. To annoy or not; to love or not; to save…or not.
It’s so beautifully done. You needn’t ‘ship’ the duo to know they are the fire of the show. Negovanlis in particular is enchanting in the way she embodies Carmilla. There’s a dreamy drawl to her voice, ageless wisdom encased in a youthful mouth that wants to kiss Laura… who wants to save the world instead. The episode in which Carmilla tells Laura how they’d hypothetically run away, Bauman stares as if Carmilla’s her world. Negovanlis says her dialogue with hefty yet restrained want. The camera is further away, as if we are peeking into an intensely private moment. It’s completely silent.They are electric. It’s the best scene of the season.
As per Joseph Sheridan le Fanu’s famous novella: “You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.”
Season two wasn’t very convincing of that. But Bauman and Negovanlis’ content? Absolutely.
The new setting looks gorgeous. The old house gives it a very different feel, though the nostalgic in me misses the simple dorm room. Thus, the old ‘Carmilla’.
The idea of moving the setting, whilst keeping the vlog format, worked. The new setting allowed for a wider view given we had so many new characters. Plus, it just looked so much nicer. However, often the blocking wasn’t great and we couldn’t see all of the characters. Again, there was a noticeable lack of acting in the background. Exceptions would be Bauman, Walker and Briggs.
Negovanlis deserves perhaps a separate paragraph because she is quite brilliant at it. If you watch carefully, perhaps on mute, you can see exactly how she feels. It’s in her posture, her face, her eyes. Negovanlis is an absolute natural—and gosh, it’s a darn good job she is Carmilla. Hopefully, she will get an expanded role in season three.
The goal of season two seems quite clear: expansion, some world-building and plot cleverness. However, what ‘Carmilla’ excelled at was its intimacy and charm. It doesn’t need a huge array of plot devices that weren’t all answered. It needs more of Negovanlis. You can’t bench her. You would think that is an obvious solution.
We need Carmilla in ‘Carmilla’.
Final Verdict: ‘Carmilla’ had an ambitious script and goals this season, but ultimately they fell flat and threads were left unresolved—or resolved too quickly. Yet there is still this underlying, irresistible charm.
‘Carmilla’ really tried this season. Jordan Hall’s usually simple but effective script was jumbled and all over the place. Some of the jokes seemed misplaced—and it just didn’t work.
There are very simple reasons as to why not. Firstly, there seems to be a fear of making serious, impactful decisions on the show. They killed Mattie, but then they didn’t. They killed Danny, but then they didn’t. They didn’t know what to do with Perry (Annie Briggs is brilliant—but really, what was her purpose?) so they stuck the Dean in her. These things are noticeable, and sometimes it feels as if the writing team don’t want to just do what they tease they will. It will work a few times. Carmilla’s sacrifice in the season one finale is a prime example—it had huge emotional consequence for Laura, and finally a romantic denouement for ‘Hollstein’. But overdoing it won’t fool anyone.
The biggie was that there just wasn’t enough Carmilla. It’s ludicrous to say it on a show called ‘Carmilla’ but why have her take such a passive role? Why waste Negovanlis’ talent when she is arguably the best in the cast?
Despite all of that—and the fact that Laura should’ve been really unlikeable—Bauman held the show together. Negovanlis did when she was given the opportunity; Sophia Walker was an excellent addition too. But the plot seemed so forced and farcical that it’s lucky ‘Carmilla’ has such a good cast. It goes especially for Laura and Carmilla. Without Bauman, Laura would be a rambling, annoying mess; Bauman is sweet, nervous and genuine. Without Negovanlis, Carmilla would be a clichéd, dark hero of the night; Negovanlis is sensual and irresistible. A juxtaposition of old and young; apathetic and loving; selfish and selfless. Together the duo make up Cinderella’s shoe. And that is what worked this season.
CARMILLA, in its third season, is free to watch on YouTube.
Season Two Verdict: ‘Carmilla’ [YouTube]