This was an interlude of sorts, slotted after the second season and just before the upcoming third season, along with it being a prequel to understand what happened before the events of the first season. It's only twelve episodes, and because U by Kotex helps fund Carmilla, it is kind of also a sponsored short series in itself, with the premise of this season being around menstrual cycles. While product placement is often incredibly obvious and cringe-worthy, at least the Carmilla writers got it to work. Hey, with this universe anything is possible to work in depending on how well it's incorporated, and when there is an investigation about the disappearance of periods and frat boys turning into donkeys all to appease the a malevolent faerie queen accidentally released, it fits right into the bizarre.
Season Zero was a nice little treat after the emotional second season, especially after that finale. It gave us a chance to look at who Carmilla was before meeting Laura, along with seeing Perry and Mel before they became who they are within the series.
I think what's interesting is seeing the development of Perry's character. She wasn't always someone who dismissed magic and the abnormal, but someone who wanted to embrace it. She wanted to be considered special, to have adventures, she discovered Wicca and wanted to learn how to use magic. Very different from the Perry we've come to know. I think her transformation and change is interesting, but also depressing. She had such hope and optimism, she truly believed that such a magical world would be beautiful and wonderful, instead she got scared shitless from her experience with the faerie queen and especially after accidentally setting her loose without really realizing it at first, that she scared herself away from anything magic and weird. She wanted to forget it all happened and just be normal, she wanted nothing to do with it. A coping mechanism that, in hindsight, makes perfect sense when she is trying to find logical explanations for the weird things happening on campus.
And this reason why Perry disconnected herself with that world, is probably the same reason that got Lafontaine intrigued with it. And it's ironic since Perry had originally performed that spell to keep her friend at Silas University and prove that such things existed so they could have adventures together. Lafontaine now not only believes, but is incredibly adventurous and gets excited whenever there is something new and dangerous to be explored and examined. Perry, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with it and just wants her friend to be normal along with her, just like it was originally going to be before she performed the spell. Granted things do work out slightly, with them finally coming to terms with each other and Perry finally accepting the weirdness going on, but it's still sad seeing how she used to be versus how she changed just from that one unfortunate incident. But I liked that regardless of the outcome, she rejected the faerie's proposal to make her wishes come true because it would mean sacrificing her friend, who she had attempted to do all of this for. Even if it meant to be seen as someone special, she couldn't do it without her best friend.
It's also depressing because Perry once had this optimistic outlook on magic, as innocuously naive as it was, to look upon the other world with open arms, only to be possessed by the Dean much later. I hope that with the third season Perry somehow finds the courage and the willpower to overthrow the Dean from her body, possibly through magic that she had recently rejected.
And Mel, she started out as someone shy and nerdy, an introvert who wanted nothing more than to disappear in the shadows and not be noticed, but also wanted to prove herself to her uphold her family legacy at Silas University. She starts off very S1!Perry in a way, dismissing anything magic related, but as Season Zero goes on she becomes more on the same level of trying to figure things out, even encouraging Perry at the end and confronting the faerie queen. Though I wonder, since the faerie queen granted Mel her wish to fulfill her family legacy as a Summer, wouldn't the influence of that wish disappear once things returned back to normal? I'm not entirely certain how that works, but it gave us an insight to how Mel came to become the hardass she is in the second season.
Thematically, I liked how Season Zero was about the transformation of these characters, seeing them change from who they once were to who they've become now from their experiences. We already knew how Carmilla has been changing throughout her years as a vampire, but most definitely after meeting Laura, and here the faerie queen even predicts their meeting. But seeing the differences of Perry and Mel were so vital to understanding them as characters, and possibly some foreshadowing of what might be to come later in the third season. Also seeing Laura as she was being given her tour of the campus before enrolling was a nice touch, also witnessing the girl before she became who she is now and the difference she makes.
Some other thoughts:
++ As mentioned previously from my season two review, I am loving the different sets, particularly with what we're seeing so far with the library. I especially enjoyed the switching back and forth with the camera angles during the interrogation, and the zooming in whenever a character was emphasizing on something. I liked that it was implied that the Dean was watching the entire time, which was the point of the setup, so she could overlook how Carmilla was doing, which is kind of interesting with their relationship. I kind of want to see their relationship prior to everything that has happened, because I am intrigued with it. Overall, I do like how they've upgraded from just a single shot from a laptop webcam to other angles/cameras/locations.
++ The videotape and VCR was a really nice touch, very clever way of making it both a unique setup along with getting Laura and Carmilla to sit down and watch it like some movie date night. I know I've seen people complain that why would they still be using VHS tapes in 2012, but seriously, out of all the strange shit that happens this is the least to be concerned about.
++ Perry was using the Elder Wand from Harry Potter. Nice. But also fitting, if Perry's interest with everything Wiccan and magic came from her exposure to things like Harry Potter. Even her way of saying Latin spells was in the league of a dramatized "wingardium leviosa!"
++ Leather-clad Carmilla, with those red and purple streaks in her hair? ♥ ♥ ♥
++ It was nice seeing Kirsch again, seeing him during his frat boy dudebro stage, although he wasn't that bad in comparison to other dudebros. But him temporarily turning into a donkey was also quite fitting. Make an ass out of yourself, you literally become an ass, lol.
++ I definitely think Carmilla's wish was about love. Laura is someone who matches her, who challenges her, who actually gives a damn about her regardless of who and what she is and what's she's done. Carmilla may have felt love before, but there was always a risk that they could find out about her true nature, which is what happened with her last love. Laura and Carmilla meet their matches with each other.
++ I'm rather curious about Laura's characterization in this, since she seems to be taking everything she had been watching rather lightly, at least in comparison to what happened in the S2 finale where she was utterly devastated after everything that happened. I know some time must have passed since then that perhaps it sobered her up a little, got her spirit back somewhat, hence them adventuring around the library and Carmilla having to scold her to not touch things and to not venture here and there. I mean, Laura isn't fragile, she is able to bounce back given some time. Still, it's just strange going from her being down and depressed after losing and having to go into hiding in the library to being affectionately joking with Carmilla, making silly faces and voices. Though perhaps that is her coping mechanism. She is trying to make the best out of a shitty situation, holding onto the optimism and hope that there is.
Overall: I really enjoyed Season Zero, it was a lovely treat to have during hiatus. Last year we got a Christmas special, this year we get a special in-between season. I loved that we got to get to know the background of some characters along with a little mystery solving. I like these little treats the Carmilla crew give the fans, and I can't wait until the third season.