After casually pounding our hearts into little tiny pieces during Act I, Carmilla series is back to casually stick all those pieces in a blender and make sure they’re thoroughly desiccated during Act II. The second of three total acts, the series was kind enough to drop seven episodes for nearly an hour-long binge of content.
They left us on a cliffhanger at the end of Act I. After trying to summon the death goddess Ereshkigal to help them fight the Dean and find the third talisman, the library trio has been patiently waiting for something to happen. So naturally something had to happen just as the first act closed out - Matska Belmonde poofed onto the screen.
Episode 18 - The Heart of the Matter
A whispered “Mattie” falls from Carmilla lips as she stares at her supposedly dead sister. Carmilla and Laura both have the same question, how is Mattie here? Turns out, it’s not that simple. While Mattis is in there somewhere, she’s speaking as the voice for Ereshkigal, Queen of the Dead herself, and the souls of all the dead are lurking somewhere inside her.
Even 18-year old Mircalla Karnstein who was murdered at a ball before she could find her first friend.
As if Carmilla’s backstory needed to be more tragic. Ouch.
Carmilla just leans away as Laura tries to work out why Mattie, voice of the dead, is even here. Apparently, Laura Hollis actually is good at summoning and Mattie/Ereshkigal is here because they called her. They’re just not particularly good at binding circles so she’s free to walk about. That just leaves the question of why did Ereshkigal choose Mattie as her messenger?
I like this death goddess already.
Mattie, however, seems less thrilled with her new role as she flickers in and out like the near-ghost she now is. Carmilla finally pipes up with a realization that Mattie was the one who took the locket and Laura immediately asks for her to give it back. Ereshkigal refuses. She’s not so sure about Laura yet. After all, she’s not particularly thrilled that Laura tried to summon her or that Hollstein is keeping something that ‘isn’t theirs’.
Still, Laura of the ‘tiny broken heart’ pushes on and says that there must be something they can do. Ereshkigal seems pretty keen on getting Laura’s death but neither Laura or Carmilla are on board with that plan. Laura proposes a deal.
Mattie counters a wager. If Laura wins then she gets the necklace but if Laura loses then her soul belongs to Ereshkigal. As challenger, Laura would get to choose the game.
“Laura. No.” says Carmilla alongside every viewer.
So what game does Laura play the Death Goddess against for her soul? The traditional chess?
Scrabble. Of course.
As Carmilla hovers anxiously nearby, Ereshkigal proves surprisingly good at scrabble after claiming to have crashed a scrabble party or two in her day. However, she’s got nothing on Laura who whips out the word ‘quixotry’ for 365 points, the locket, the win, and another dose of irony.
Ereshkigal is less than pleased with her loss and tries to convince Laura to go double or nothing. She proposes a much older game that was once played on the steps of ziggurats with a price ‘much closer to your heart’. When Carmilla realizes that Laura is actually listening, her eyes go wide with disbelief.
Carmilla says no.
Laura says maybe.
Carmilla says no.
Laura says fine. No.
Gambling her life twice in one night is a little much, even for Laura. So Hollstein successfully obtains the third talisman and starts looking for the fourth. Mattie is incensed that they haven’t already figured it out.
The liar’s heart. A human heart given to the convent. A Silas board member.
Laura is quick to reach the conclusion. The only human on the board was Vordenberg. And Laura killed him.
Oh shnick shnack.
Episode 19 - Coping Strategies
Mattie, who apparently has not been paying attention, finally looks ready to rip Laura’s spine out for this announcement. While Carmilla jumps to Laura’s defense, Mattie quickly points out that Laura let the Dean play her and then killed the only person who could have stopped the hell-on-earth apocalypse. She also reminds Laura that she’s the girl who got Mattie killed in the first place.
For a moment, Laura sinks back into her Act I sad self but then she turns to Mattie and says, “I’m sorry.”
Mattie tries to give a snippy one liner but quickly fades out and back into existence. Then we get a truly sad look into what Mattie has become. She calls herself the shape of ‘a hand in puddle’, barely there. Carmilla expresses hope that maybe they can find a way to bring Mattie back for good and all Mattie can say is that she hopes so. It’s nicer in the real world with faces and voices.
The underworld is filled with nothing but Mattie’s long list of regrets.
She then adds that Carmilla’s regrets are waiting for her too.
Matska Belmonde. Hoping. Who would have thought? Carmilla echoes Laura with a simple, “I’m sorry.” Then Mattie poofs away before the sisters can really talk.
Keeping with the melancholy feel, we cut to Laura who is again asking the camera if she’s really the one to fix any of these problems. Her dad steps in the room to give her an answer she wasn’t expecting.
No-one knows how to fix the world, whether they’re nineteen or even older.
Then we get a gift we’ve never gotten from the show before, Laura’s backstory. In a scene full of nothing but emotion, Papa Hollis describes a time when Laura was six and they’d been in a car crash. With both of his legs broken and smoke pouring in the windows, Papa Hollis tried to get Laura to leave the car. She refused. Laura just kept crying and rolled down all the car windows to let the smoke out. She saved her father’s life at the possible expense of her own.
It’s that trait that scared Papa Hollis more than any other. Laura’s willingness to sacrifice herself.
Even as he recognizes that he can’t lock Laura away anymore, her helping others instinct is what makes him want to do so. We get a teary father-daughter hug full of sniffles and back rubs. When they break apart, Papa Hollis has a new plan. He’s going to do what he always should have done. Instead of lock her away, he’s going to help her.
He and Bob the giant are going to go rally the troops. He’s going to try and find police, fire fighters, armies and anything else he can find to come help her. After all, Laura shouldn’t have to do this alone. Reaching into this backpack, he pulls out his ‘secret project’ and hands Laura a tiny black blob with a big button and tells her to use it in case of emergencies. Only on the low settings.
Oh look. A future plot device.
He also hands her a large bag full of bear spray and gives her tearful advice to ‘aim for the eyes’, holding onto Laura’s shoulders like he doesn’t want to let them go.
But he does.
He turns to Carmilla who is lurking near the back and shakes her hand, telling her to look after Laura and getting a shaky “Yes, sir.” in return.
Then with a knock on the magical door, he’s gone. Laura holds it together for a moment but collapses in a chair to cry. Bear spray in her arms.
After giving Laura some time, we cut to Carmilla returning with the Tardis mug in hand. She hands it to Laura and checks in on how she’s doing. This leads to a larger conversation.
Carmilla has a few concerns about Laura’s deal with the death goddess.
Laura just wants to talk about Rube-Goldberg competitions.
With a fond smile at her attempt to change the topic, Carmilla tells Laura that Laura can’t keep risking her life. She says that Carmilla does it and then refuses to accept Carmilla saying that it’s different. Laura is tired of hearing that she’s too young and innocent to do things, leaving Carmilla practically laughing at Laura’s new attempt to be old and world-wise.
Laura says she has newfound skills in navigating moral grey areas and being mature with her relationships.
Sure, Laura. Your lusty sexual undertones for your ex is the epitome of good relationship management.
Carmilla thinks the same and calls Laura on it. With the biggest smile of amusement, Carmilla listens to Laura try and rationalize her ‘slips’ with Carmilla. For a moment, Laura almost caves and kisses Carmilla again but reels back at the last moment like a child who remembers that they’re not allowed to have the cookie.
This leaves Carmilla biting her lip and forcing herself to wait.
She doesn’t wait long. Carmilla only has to look at Laura at little too long before Hollstein is lip-locked once again and this time it’s Carmilla pinning Laura to the desk.
Laura never was good at staying away from cookies.
When we end with another shot of Laura disheveled from ‘technical difficulties’, she doesn’t even look regretful.
Episode 20 - Circular Logic
Once again we open on Laura apologizing for her most recent Carmilla-related slip-up. The whole friends with an ex thing isn’t exactly working out for our cub reporter. However, she’s back to focusing on The Dean Problem and with the fourth talisman literally no longer beating, they’re back to the drawing board. In another wonderful montage scene, it’s clear each member of our team has very different ideas.
Carmilla goes first. With visual drawing that appear to be done by an artistic six year old bearing a set of markers, she suggests that they throw the Dean in the library’s room of knives, poison her, and set her on fire.
This aggressive intervention tactic isn’t taken well by LaF, who wants Perry to remain intact. They suggest a shock collar. Demonstrating its use, they end up shocking themselves several times before whipping it off and giving an attempt at a smile.
Setting yourself on fire wasn’t enough LaF?
Laura’s idea features the long awaited return of the sock puppets wherein she suggests talking to the Dean about her feelings and suggesting she do something to relax. Somehow, the Dean doesn’t seem like the yoga type.
With no consensus as to what plan to take, JP pops up on the screen and asks Laura to get LaF and Carmilla. Our disembodied librarian has a new plan and some fresh intel.
JP informs them that the Dean is about to open the fifth gate and that she’ll be weak after she does so. This should give Team Library the chance to perform a radical exorcism.
Carmilla is suspicious. LaF is elated. Laura is practical.
After all, how are they supposed to hold the Dean if it doesn’t work? LaF suggests they use the protection circle that they tried to make for Mattie and when Carmilla reminds them that it didn’t work last time, JP pipes up with some arrangements for a stronger binding spell.
LaF wants to go for it. Carmilla says no way.
The brOTP is bickering and Laura is left looking like the sad small child watching from the background. So Laura leaves just as Carmilla and LaF start veering into ridiculous territory. When she returns, LaF is gone and Carmilla is lounging with her feet up on the desk. Laura hands her a mug because that’s apparently Hollstein’s thing now.
As it turns out, the brOTP didn’t come to any sort of conclusion beyond LaF stormed out and accused Carmilla of being a ‘hormone controlled idiot who only cares about one thing in the universe.’
*Insert pointed look at Laura here*
I can see where they’re coming from.
Laura uses this as a totally natural segway to turn the chat right back to our starcrossed lovers and their ongoing ‘slips’. Finally dropping the ‘just friends’ speeches to the relief of my continually rolling eyes, Laura admits that the slips keep happening and they both seem to be enjoying them.
The smug look on Laura’s face when Carmilla confirms her enjoyment of their ‘activities’ is everything.
So Laura suggests altering the arrangement to something a little more ‘enjoyable’.
I think the phrase you’re looking for is ‘friends with benefits’. The conversation almost takes a turn into awkward feelings but Laura leaps away from that cliff with a promise to ‘keep it casual’. Carmilla seems to have no problem with this arrangement as Laura moves back in to weave her fingers through Carmilla’s hair.
In fact, she asks what would happen if she wanted to have some fun right then and there.
With a quick movement, Laura ends up sitting in Carmilla’s lap and all the shippers are treated to their next Hollstein kiss of the season. Just when we start worrying if the desk is structurally up to it’s third round of ‘technical difficulties’, it’s back to the plot.
MAKE ROOM FOR LAF.
LaFontaine bursts into the room shouting at Hollstein to make a circle. The quickest moment of ‘ew’ flashes across their face as they catch Hollstein sucking face but that vanishes as they readjust what they have hanging over their shoulder like a sack of evil potatoes.
LaF’s kidnapped the Dean.