A while back, we were lucky enough to come across the first season of Carmilla.
We were enchanted by it and decided to spread the word. We’re good like that. We got in about halfway through the first season and we became addicted, loving every frame of it. And why wouldn’t we? Clever script, excellent casting, a clever way of storytelling that focused on relationships more than action, picking and choosing what physical conflicts to show on screen and highlighting the aftermath of each.
But you know all this. You’ve seen the first season, right? If not, you can watch the whole of it right here:
The second season kicks off a week today, and you better be sure we’ll be watching it. The first season is something we frequently rewatch because there’s always something new to notice, and their online presence hosts one of the greatest cultures presently online. So buckle up, creampuffs, and let’s get into the guts of this thing and figure out why it works.
Carmilla was the original vampire novel. It was published about thirty years before Dracula and told pretty much the same story, but was largely ignored for featuring female leads, a strong lesbian text, and being published in the Victorian Era. Thankfully, we’ve come aways since then, and the book has found a modern cult following. You can download a free copy of it here.
The modern retelling takes place in the modern era at a placed called Silas University that sounds like a place I’d like to attend. Between the Alchemy Club, the Summer Society, and the Library, this sounds like the greatest school this side of Miskatonic U. The entirety of the first season takes place in the dorm of the main character, Laura, where we see the planning and aftermath of most major events, and a handful of those events as they play out.
It’s a clever storytelling device that allows them to highlight the emotional impact of every conflict, and becomes a part of how the story unfolds. There’s a cleverness to this script that is matched only by the cruelty of the forces of play, and it becomes a gutwrenching experience as every single character has their conflict, their change and growth.
No one on this show is static. Everyone evolves. Everything falls apart. It’s one of the things that makes the show so rewatchable, going back and just following a single character go through their particular journey. From the horrible trauma of the title character to the weighty heroism of the lead, from the slow acceptance of reality of Perry to the heartbreaking courage of LaFontaine. Each character is perfectly cast and given moments to which to shine.
Thematically, the show is just as strong. Different characters explore different concepts, from loyalty and betrayal to unrequited love and the thin veneer of normalcy we use to keep our sanity intact in a largely chaotic universe. It builds to a satisfying non-ending that ties into that same chaos, all while walking a fine line between horror and comedy.
And, again, that line is possible largely because of the stellar cast. Everybody nails their parts, and it’s worth going back and watching each character go through this strange tale. There’s subtlety and nuance in each performance, layers that stand up to multiple rewatchings. It’s one of those rare shows that you really can pick apart and gets better with each subsequent viewing – something that their fanbase will be happy to talk to you about. At length.
Carmilla has one of the most fanatical online followings of the modern era. They’ve cultivated this fanbase, making them as much a part of the experience of watching the show by engaging them on every possible level. The fanbase has responded to this ongoing conversation by investing more of their time into the culture surrounding the show, and it has become an evolving culture that explores every aspect of theme and character. It’s one of the most fascinating things to be a part of, and it’s impressive as hell considering that it’s been around for less than a year.
The fanbase has produced parodies, fanfic, art, university posters, inside jokes, and the makers of Carmilla have fed the fire with role reversals featuring the leads and interviews that go into the depth and making of the show itself. The official twitters of the characters and actors are an absolute joy and have continued the special brand of madness that Carmilla offers in the off-season.
Go ahead. Watch this show. Join the rest of us creampuffs in counting down the days til the second season. In Queen Elsie we trust.