On Thursday, the web series Carmilla returned for its third and final season with a 17-episode drop that left fans first binge-watching, then binge-giffing and finally binge-theorizing as they wait the two week gap until the second set of episodes. This gives us a lot of content to recap.
However, with Carmilla’s stylistic choice of a one camera set-up that means most of the action happens off screen, the Carmilla series is well acquainted with the frequent recaps given in-series by its characters. So, we decided to honor this format with a recap that would hopefully make Laura Hollis herself proud.
So, dear readers.
Welcome back to Silas University where at the end of season two Laura (Elise Bauman) is in a numb state of shock after murdering Vordenberg (Ian Clark), Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) is uncharacteristically cheerful, LaF (Kaitlyn Alexander) is talking to a sentient library, Perry (Annie Briggs) is possessed by the Dean, Danny (Sharon Belle) is not dead, Kirsch (Matt O'Connor)is a blood slurpee, JP (Aaron Chartrand) is just gone, Theo (Shannon Kook) is the worst, Mel (Nicole Stamp) is Mel and Mattie (Sophia Walker) is undead for the second time.
Also the Dean is opening the gates, to hell and Hollstein is still broken up.
Got it? Great.
Episode One - I Know What You Didn’t Do Last Summer
We open, dear readers, in the sentient Silas University library where Laura, Carmilla and LaF have spent the last two months coping from their trauma in slightly different ways. Laura has gone for a state of almost manic denial about their circumstances, seemingly setting up camp in the library for good and teaching her viewers how to survive on a diet of truly atrocious vending machine food.
You know it’s not good when even Laura Hollis is craving a salad.
Carmilla and LaFontaine, on the other hand, have buried themselves in research. The usually apathetic Carmilla is now hell-bent on murdering her malicious mother while LaF is playing with a mischievous sentient library. Most prominently to the plot, they’re figuring out how to work a magical door that can open anywhere from active volcanoes to a cyberpunk dystopia.
So that’s where they’re at. Two months and they’ve figured out a door and Laura’s learned to knit. Well done team.
The episode kicks into gear when the Dean in Perry’s body publishes a ‘Silas wide newscast’ and the penny finally drops for our trio that the Dean has been in Perry since the end of season one/early season two. LaF is devastated at themselves for not noticing. Laura reverts back to blank and numb. Although we do get some particularly fantastic swears out of Carmilla. A+
Not to mention, this starts the ongoing theme of psychoanalyzing each other as Carmilla accuses LaF of being to focused on suppressing their season one kidnapping drama by frankensteining JP into a dead vampire’s body.
You really have to wonder how many times Carmilla has taken Psych 101.
While Laura and LaF wonder if Perry could be alive inside of her body, Carmilla focuses on the Dean’s other message - she’s hunting down our library trio and it will not be pleasant when she finds them. Carmilla, in her new gung-ho role, is bringing the fight to her. It’s Laura who has taken the sideline approach. After sacrificing everything from her morals to her dead friends, Laura wants to hunker down and just stay safe.
While this role reversal is interesting, there’s something so sad about seeing a Laura Hollis who has stopped trying, but of course this is Silas, so even when Laura tries to rebury herself in learning to play the Harry Potter theme song on water glasses, she can’t catch a break.
The water turns to blood. All of it.
Episode Two - Bad Blood
Carmilla is thrilled about this water to blood development. Hey, free food. Who wouldn’t be thrilled?
Unfortunately this blood isn’t normal blood, it’s ultra-dead, 3,000-year-old blood whose taste leaves our vampire wanting to scrub her tongue. Laura is already accusing the temperamental library of messing with them but the new Carmilla/LaF brOTP is going biblical.
Water to blood means that the Dean has opened another gate. That makes three so far.
The brOTP gets down to researching. Laura binges seasons one and two of Sherlock. However, the world just won’t leave Laura Hollis alone and she promptly gets punched in the face by a pair of magically-appearing glasses. Carmilla leaps over to save her.
Vampire. Sweetie. Your feelings are showing.
Carmilla puts the glasses on and BOOM, runes around the magical library door. What mystical message could they have?
“Hello idiots." Well then.
Sent by someone in the past who could see the future and only identifies themselves with a bird sigil and the date 1874 (the year the university was built), the runes say that ‘the book of lives is the first talisman’.
LaF races off to research the bird sigil but Carmilla stops to ask Laura if she wants to join them. She declines; she has plans to redo the book nook.
The book nook will have to wait though because the Dean pops in for a little video chat.
Episode Three - Checkpoint
Family time has never seemed quite so threatening as Mama Dean and her darling daughter trade quips, Laura is strangely silent. However Theo (Shannon Kook), the Dean’s new right hand man, is quick to inform us that the Zetas are their muscles and are now strong members of Team Dean and the Corvae corporation.
Brushing him off, the Dean uncharacteristically offers Carmilla and Laura a truce. If they leave her alone and stop investigating, the Dean will let them be. This, finally, gets Laura’s attention. All our little Hollis wants these days is to be safe and the Dean is offering it on a silver platter.
Carmilla’s not as easily convinced. Currently, the Dean can’t get to them because of the library’s protection but Carmilla believes it’s only a matter of time before the Dean gets whatever she wants. This would leave her plenty of time to come after the intruders in the library.
The Dean signs off, leaving our two girls plenty of time to get their bicker on. At least Hollstein is finally talking?
Laura tries to convince Carmilla to take the truce, not because she believes the Dean, but to get them a little breathing room. Carmilla isn’t having it. This new, almost optimistic Carmilla actually sees the Dean’s offer as a good thing.
It means that they’re a threat. By Carmilla’s reasoning, the Dean wouldn’t be offering a truce if our library trio didn’t have the ability to cause her some damage.
In classic ‘Make Room for LaF’ fashion, Lafontaine comes bursting down the stairs with information on the mysterious bird symbol left with the runes. It’s the seal of one of the members of the Silas board who was recently murdered by Vordenberg, Ukuku of Eridu. She was an oracle which fits nicely with the prophetic and mysterious runes. Plus, as a member of the board her role was to keep control of the Dean.
We’re talking about the creepy owl lady for those who are already grappling with the Sumerian and it gets worse.
Laura makes one last plea for Carmilla to not break the Dean’s offer of a truce but Carmilla just says that the Dean won’t find out until Carmilla’s chopping off her head. She buries herself in old board minutes, complaining that ‘the text is moving.’ How does Laura respond to this development?
Just when you might worry the curious Hollis we love is gone forever, she creeps over to the mystery board Carmilla and LaF assembled and takes a peek. There we go, Hollis. Carmilla catches her, which sends Laura on a tailspin to deny any interest in the mystery, and Carmilla lets it go with a head shake and a smirk.
Of course, then everything falls apart.
The library starts shaking and the lights flicker as LaF burst back in, arms loaded with books, informing everyone that the library is being attacked. Looks like the Dean knows Carmilla didn’t take her deal.
What do you know? Laura was right.
Episode Four - Relative Positions
The library panic attack continues as our dynamic trio struggles to keep from falling over. Although it strikes me as a major safety hazard, LaF has the magical door and is narrating what rooms are showing up on the other side. Between the room full of knives, icy kingdom, and nuclear wasteland, there’s nothing in there that sounds like a good time.
While Laura prioritizes her distress of the breaking of her Hermione water glass over the library attack, she still finds time to accuse Carmilla of being the source of the attack for her continued prying. LaF is still fixated on the door and finds that the red room of knives keeps popping up.
As the one who understand the library the best, LaF decides this is a sign and throws on the magical glasses. Yup. Bird symbol again. Plus the ever charming mystical runes reading, “the book you need is in here, idiots.” Wow, this is the rudest yet most helpful oracle in all of mythology. Usually it’s all vague prophecies and incantations. This is straightforward.
Carmilla is ready to leap right into a tornado of knives but Laura, oddly the voice of reason, suggests that the library might just be looking to grind their bones into bread. As Carmilla is a vampire, she’s not particularly concerned. We almost get some kind of confession of concern from Laura but she changes tracks at the last second, drawing on her Buffy and Doctor Who knowledge to remind Carmilla that the book is just going to be the next step in a long line of dangerous quests.
Until they’re dead and it doesn’t convince the brOTP.
So Laura finally says what we’ve been waiting for, “Please, Carm, I’ve lost too much. I can’t lose you too.”
Stake me now.
But Carmilla has grown-up over two seasons and is no longer the vampire who will cut herself down for the wishes and plans of her lady love, so she jumps into the swirling red knife room. Immediately, the attack on the library stops. The lights come on. The floor stops shaking.
But Carmilla is still gone.
Episode Five - Raiders of the Lost Heart
It’s been 36 minutes and Carmilla is still missing. Meanwhile, Laura is stress cleaning every available surface like it has personally offended her while LaF packs a bag to go after our vampire. After a brief attempt by LaF to get Laura to come with them to find Carmilla and a moment of panic from Laura that Carmilla is dead, Laf stops pulling their punches.
The show’s resident truth-seeker engages in the shows second bought of psycho-analysis and flat out tells Laura that she’s deliberately withdrawing and denying their reality as a reaction to her past failures. A fact that Laura doesn’t deny. Her only comment is to ask if LaF thinks she’s a coward. Which is ridiculous. As LaF says, Laura’s attacked a vampire with a spatula. She’s no coward.
She’s especially scared that she’s going to lose Carmilla after everything Laura gave up to save her and all of Laura’s ‘repressed, squishy feelings’. All our usually verbose reporter can find the words to say in return is, “my feelings aren’t squishy.”
Laura, cupcake. You’re in love. Please accept that soon.
With a further bout of truth-talking, LaF gives Laura one more chance to join them in finding Carmilla. They offer no judgement when she says she’s not ready. They just nod, put on their goggles and leap into the tornado of knives. Laura is left alone for four hours to scrub furniture and cast long looks at the door.
The brOTP returns and Laura jump hugs LaF. Then, she runs and hugs Carmilla. She lasts a few seconds before realizing that Carmilla is standing statue still and then Laura practically throws herself backwards to get off of her.
Cue the awkward stare.
One custom ordered, fanperson approved, awkward living with your ex-girlfriend moment later and Carmilla reveals that they have the book. While LaF claims that the room of knives was a test of their worthiness, Carmilla is just ready to complain about getting hit with blow darts in some less than ideal places. This quickly dissolves into a moment of flirty Hollstein banter.
LaF’s third wheel face breaks the moment just in time for the Dean’s latest Silas-wide communication. The Dean needs to fire her speech writer because with some extremely unsubtle references to our trio, she promises a chat on consequences.
Episode Six - Best Laid Plans
Chats with the Dean have yet to be a fun time. In an effort to teach Laura and Carmilla about the consequences of their defiance, the Dean rips the ‘tenure’ from Laura’s old journalism teacher Professor Cochrane. For those keeping track, Cochrane is actually a re-animated zombie and losing her tenure rips her soul out of her body.
This is Silas, folks.
A charred corpse proceeds to slide across the Dean’s desk and I’d like to thank the props department for my nightmares.
While Laura takes a moment to mourn, Carmilla is only further pushed to believe that they’re doing something to scare the Dean. However, as much as Laura would like to get away there’s little room in the library so by evening Laura is back making Harry Potter mason jars while LaF scans their mystery board and Carmilla is reading some of the prophecy from the Book of Lives that they recovered from the Evil Knife Room.
“And the great evening star fell, burning, to carve its path through the gates of Irgal. Eight pointed and for every point a watchman. For the dead, the ocean, the bones, and the great grass Plains. For every point a shackle closed, for the dead, the ocean, the bones, and the great grass plains.”
And so on and so forth.
Of course we can’t just have one prophecy! Not to mention that repetition is not quite enough literary device so we also get a rhyming set in Prophecy Number Two: “Four to make a circle, four to make a cage. The word, the blood, the chalice, and the liar’s heart presaged.”
While LaF and Carmilla make absolutely no headway, our tiny gay Laura is listening in with contemplation written all over her face. Unfortunately, Laura says nothing and LaF heads off.
So Carmilla turns to Laura and says “Hey,” leaving just enough of a space that Hollstein shippers are reminded that we’ve been waiting since mid-season two for the moment when one of our girls says hey and the other responds in kind.
Not today, Creampuffs.
With the dim mood lighting, it can only be headed into emotional conversation territory. That’s exactly what we get. No fighting, just talking. Laura expresses her distress over the professor's death, she explains that she completely understands Carmilla’s matricidal urges, and she re-affirms how much they’ve lost because of Laura’s poor choices.
Danny. Mattie. Both dead.
This is the moment when viewers realize that Carmilla is wearing the smashed remains of Mattie’s locket around her neck. Which. Ouch.
Laura continues and finally tells Carmilla that all she’s trying to do is figure out who she’s supposed to be now that her life isn’t about good versus evil. She also acknowledges the irony that Laura has started holding back the minute Carmilla loses her apathy and starts charging forward. Carmilla just listens, saying nothing, and for the first time Laura waits for her response. Laura let’s the silence sit until Carmilla’s ready.
It’s worth the wait when Carmilla says, with Mattie’s locket in hand, “I’m not doing this punish you.”
The locket goes on the table as Laura acknowledges this. Then, in the typical Hollis fashion that we’ve sorely missed, completely explains the meaning of the prophecy as though it was obvious. All they have to do is get the four talismans and then they can cage the Dean. The book is the first talisman and is signified in the prophecy as ‘the word’. All they need is the ‘the blood, the chalice, and the liar’s heart presaged’ to cage the dean in a circle.
You’d think after 300 years that Carmilla wouldn’t need quite that long to catch up but once she’s on board, there’s a noticeable spark in her eyes as she races to the mystery board. Laura goes with her. They talk it over a little more before Carmilla sits back down, her face nothing but shock as a realization that they could actually do this hits her.
You can actually see something like hope, something like the idea of a future, on her face. She’s realized what caging the dean would mean. No more running. No more hiding.
To be free.
Laura paints the picture for her further. As Laura instinctively pulls up a chair to sit closer to Carmilla, she talks of the two of them going to Paris and getting a crappy apartment. They could read together and eat chocolate croissants. Laura is smiling, caught up in the memory, and Carmilla is smiling with her.
So when Carmilla’s face suddenly drops as she remembers their circumstances, all hearts break. Laura’s realization comes shortly after as she tries to backpedal by saying that Carmilla could do all those things alone. After all, Hollstein broke up. They’re not going anywhere together.
There is no ‘them’ to go to Paris.
Cue tears from your friendly neighborhood recapper as memories of a season two scene where Carmilla asks Laura to run away with her come to mind.
Just punch me in the nose, why don’t you?
With simultaneously the best and worst exit line, Carmilla backs away awkwardly to "go uh kill something". Leaving Laura to tell an empty room that while Carmilla can be free, Laura needs to be haunted by her mistakes forever.
And we’re not done yet.
Cut to darkness and a fuzzy camera with no-one on screen. With a dramatic black smoke POOF, Mattie is back and dressed in flowy funeral black. She says nothing but takes her old locket off the desk where Carmilla left it and smiles. There’s a sound in the background and Mattie poof teleports two meters to her left.
She really couldn’t have just walked that?
The world’s most oblivious Laura Hollis walks into the room, grabs a blanket, takes her Tardis mug, and walks out again. Mattie simply watches. Oddly, not murdering the girl who got her killed last season. Then Mattie poofs away.
And that’s the first six episodes.
A whole new mystery to solve. One talisman recovered. Three to go. Two prophecies. One magical door. Two mysterious oracle rune messages. One Tardis mug. Three Harry Potter mason jars. Three gates open. One emotional Hollstein conversation. Light bantering. Multiple awkward ex moments. Zero kisses.
Laura is still holding back but is moving back towards wrapping herself in the investigation. Carmilla is the most gung-ho we’ve ever seen her as she slinks about on her matricidal mission. LaF has added to their guilt complex with the whole Perry situation. Theo is the Dean’s new BFF henchman and Perry is still very possessed. Mattie is just being the lurkiest lurker to ever lurk.