“Critical Role” Campaign 3 is Gayer Than Ever

This review contains EXTREMELY GAY SPOILERS for Campaign 3 of Critical Role, proceed with caution.


Critical Role is no stranger to giving us that good, gay content, especially after Campaign 2 gifted us the magic of Beau and Yasha, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t beyond thrilled that Campaign 3 has already gifted us with a queer lady duo between two of the main player characters. Once we stopped screaming/sending each other fan art/running in gay circles about it, Nic and I (Valerie Anne) sat down to discuss the queer goings-on of the Bell’s Hells campaign. Specifically and especially Campaign 3, Episode 65 aka the one where Imogen and Laudna finally (finally!) kissed.

Nic: From the moment Campaign 3 started with Marisha and Laura alone at the table, Marisha embodying Laudna’s fun spookiness and Laura taking on Imogen’s sweet but anxious energy, I knew I was doomed. Best friends originally united through their trauma, both separate and shared, learning through each other that they’re worthy of love despite the entire world telling them otherwise?! It’s what shipping dreams are made of!!

Valerie: I have been waiting for this moment since I first started watching Critical Role. Almost immediately in Campaign 1, I started shipping Keyleth and Vex. I had no hopes of it becoming canon but I was okay with that anyway. Perhaps because of those residual Vexleth feelings, maybe because Tough Lady With A Secret Gooey Center + Bubbly Goofball With Secret Trauma is one of my favorite combinations, but I spent a good part of Campaign 2 shipping Beau and Jester, too. So when Laura and Marisha showed up in Campaign 3 with Laudna and Imogen already acting so relationshippy that it took me a few episodes to realize they thought they were just friends, it was too late, I was already a goner.

Nic: Oh I am right there with you on that favorite ‘ship combination. You asked me how I felt about Imodna becoming canon and I mean, I still can’t think about it without my Apple Watch telling me to slow my heart rate, so… But in all seriousness, I love a slow burn, not agonizingly slow, but slow enough where you get antsy every time those two characters are alone together or interacting because of the KISS KISS KISS potential. With Imogen and Laudna, we’ve gotten to see them together from episode 1, so as their relationship developed so did my crackshipping.

We’ve learned a bit about how they found each other, about Laudna growing up in Whitestone and becoming Vex’s proxy at the Sun Tree (there’s something so satisfying and hilarious about Laura romancing her prior PC’s doppelgänger), about Imogen’s history with the moon Ruidus and how it affected her relationship with her father after her mother left; we learned about so many things that led each of these women to believe they were broken and unworthy. Laudna’s mind has been overtaken by the spirit (??) of Delilah Briarwood and she worries how much of her is even her anymore. These two have been THROUGH it, but they’ve always been able to lean on each other when they start to lose themselves. They see each other in ways no one else does, so for me it felt like a matter of when, not if. But dammit I sure did not expect it to be as early as 65 episodes in!! So I’ll ask you, friend, how are you feeling about it??

Valerie: The way they look at each other, the way they’re always top of mind for each other. I wanted it so badly but I genuinely didn’t think it would happen. I clung onto hope that maybe someday, but I was buckled in and ready for a long, angsty ride. And one could argue that 65 four-hour-long episodes into a campaign IS a long time, but I was prepared for longer. We watched Beau making her way (pause for echo) through random women and moving past her crush on Jester into her feelings for Yasha until they finally got together for longer. And since both Marisha and Laura were both part of such monumental player character ships in the first two campaigns, I thought maybe Imogen and Laudna’s “best friendship” was their attempt to armor themselves against that.

And maybe that was the original plan, because this kiss did seem to take Marisha by surprise. But I think the separation made them both think about each other in a slightly different way. It’s one thing to play your character with an underlying motivation of protecting another character when they’re always by your side. When you’re forcibly separated, and you start to realize that getting back to her is your driving motivation, when you’re willing to risk psychic damage just to try to tell if she’s okay, when you feel yourself falling apart at the seams without her…I can see how both of them started to realize that this relationship was more important to them than they even realized.

Nic: Oof, I almost forgot about the literal psychic damage that Imogen took. I also think Imogen realized her feelings for Laudna were more romantic than friendship before Laudna did; it was always going to be her to make the first move. We saw it in her jealousy, we saw it in her care and attention to Laudna during combat, we heard it in the shaking of her voice when she thought Laudna lied to her. Not that Laudna didn’t have feelings! I mean, she literally said the words, “I DEEPLY love Imogen”, I just think she leaned a bit more heavily on “in a friend way” than Imogen did. Denial is powerful, lemme tell ya!

Black and white version of Laura and Marisha posing as Imogen and Laudna

When I say “all witches are gay” I do also mean warlocks and sorcerers.

Something that struck me is the effect of the circlet on Imogen and Laudna’s communication. Imogen has always been able to read Laudna’s thoughts until now, and while she’s relieved to be without the constant din of voices in her head, she agonizingly said multiple times that she couldn’t hear Laudna anymore. You could tell how distraught she was to not know what Laudna was thinking or feeling, so Laudna told her to just ask. So when Imogen immediately asks Laudna if she can kiss her because she can’t tell if it’s alright anymore, after I stopped screaming, I realized that means that at some point Imogen heard Laudna express feelings of wanting to kiss Imogen in her head, and didn’t want to assume those feelings were still there.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME, LAURA BAFTA BAILEY?! And honestly, I don’t even know if Laudna was aware of those thoughts on some level. In fact, there was a moment after they kissed when Laudna started to talk about how much she cared about Imogen, and to me it was giving Sam Smith “Not in That Way” vibes, and it looked like Imogen thought the same thing I did, until we both gave a sigh of relief when Laudna said “I kiss her again.”

Valerie: Maybe it was reuniting that made them realize they wanted to be as together as possible. Maybe it was seeing them return with new bonds to new people. Laudna hearing about a threesome and thinking for a heartbeat Imogen might have been involved (something Imogen was VERY quick to clarify she wasn’t part of). Imogen seeing Laudna hug a beautiful, plucky wizard and maybe realizing that the tightness in her chest, the pang of jealousy, was just a little more than your normal friendship feelings.

It’s how I first realized I was definitely queer when I was 13. It was a question that had been bobbing around in my brain for a few years, but it hit with with terrifying clarity one night on our class trip to Washington DC when I was looking for my best friend at a party and someone pointed to where she was and when I looked she was slow dancing with some boy from another school. The jolt I felt, how hot my face got, I knew in that moment it wasn’t logical, it wasn’t just “my best friend ditched me” feelings, it was “oh I think I want to be the one dancing with her” feelings. So maybe that’s what happened to Imogen. Maybe Laudna never even considered it until Imogen asked, but I agree with you — something about the way Imogen said “I can’t tell if it’s alright anymore” makes me think they’ve both at least wondered about it before.

Nic: We got our romcom moment and I will never stop being emotional about “can I kiss you?”.

Valerie: Gods, look at Laura’s body language. The question spills out of her like it’s been pressing against the door for weeks desperate to get out. Just when I thought the Fearne/Deanna/Chet threesome (and subsequent Fearne/Deanna flirting) was going to be the queerest it got for the ladies for a hot minute! (No disrespect to the gender fluid robot twosome of FCG and Frida. They’re also very cute, it just happened a lot faster and didn’t wrap its fist around my heart like Laudna and Imogen have.)

Laura and Marisha have been playing these two perfectly. Even if they didn’t know this was where the relationship was going, it doesn’t matter, it was a natural progression nonetheless. The way they always move to each other, think of each other. When they fought on the airship about the rock, I felt my own heart breaking about it. It was so real and tense and the kind of deeply emotional, quiet fighting only best friends can do.

Nic: One of my favorite things about watching Laura and Marisha is how they both physically become the character they’re playing. You can quite literally see the moments when they shift from Laura and Marisha to Imogen and Laudna. In the previous episode, the rest of Bell’s Hells were recounting their sexual exploits from their side adventure and IMMEDIATELY without a second thought, Laura/Imogen looks at Marisha/Laudna and reassures her with the “not me though.” And earlier in the campaign when Erika Ishii’s guest character, Yu, tried to ask Laudna out on a date, Laura Bailey became the physical embodiment of the moment you described with your 13 year old self realizing she wanted to be the one dancing with your best friend. Her body tensed and though her words said there’s nothing romantic between her and Laudna, her face said, “fuck, I’m in love.”

Valerie: The face acting on those two, I swear. I can’t take my eyes off of them when they’re in a scene, even if they’re not talking.

Everyone else literally recoils when they see Laudna, they see someone odd, someone different. But not Imogen. Imogen sees a loyal and powerful friend. Imogen sees someone who is strong enough to fight back her literal and metaphorical demons to still be bright and smiley most of the time. Imogen sees spooky beautiful. And you touched on this already but the same goes the other way around. Imogen was essentially cast out of her home (and away from her horses!!) because she was different, too weird, too dangerous. But Laudna just sees a woman who is so in tune with other people’s emotions it hurts her, someone who didn’t ask for the cards she’s been dealt but has been using her powers for good. Someone who would go to hell and back for her. Like they said on the show, they’re each other’s anchors, and they make each other better. Their broken pieces fit together and make them stronger for it.

Nic: Great point! Quick, what’s your favorite non-kiss Imodna moment so far in the campaign?

Valerie: Ma’am? You want me to pick ONE moment?? These beautiful idiots have been my phone background for MONTHS NOW. You’ve said before but I’ll say it again, watching Laura Bailey and Marisha Ray act together, when they lock onto each other and Do A Scene, it’s impossible for me to tear my eyes away. I hold my breath, my heart beats faster. They do truly magnificent work. Like their fight about the broken rock gave me knots in my stomach but it was so beautiful to watch them, it felt so real. And as someone who has had to play-fight with friends during intense D&D sessions I know it can be hard to lose yourself in the character during moments like those but they do it so beautifully.

I know it’s kind of fucked up but one of my favorite moments was when Imogen went full Scarlet Witch on Otohan when they targeted Laudna because she was Imogen’s favorite. Of course, I say that in retrospect, now that I know Laudna is fine. I genuinely almost quit the campaign when I thought Laudna was gone-gone. The combination of being hurt by this character I had already grown attached to leaving and Imogen being without her other half was going to be too much. But instead it just led to delicious angst that has already paid off. What about you?

Nic: Yes! Scarlet!Imogen was one of my favorite things to watch. I’ll add two tiny moments that stick out in my mind. This might be cheating, but almost right before they had their fantasy supermarket makeout, Laudna asks Imogen where she’s going as the group splits to run errands and Imogen immediately says, “Wherever you’re going.” Because the thought of being away from Laudna again, no matter how short the amount of time, is too much for her to bear.

To piggyback off of what you said about the rock fight, this might be more Laura/Marisha than Imogen/Laudna, but when they finally got one-on-one time to talk about it, their relieved “Hi” in unison was so relatable to me. I think most of us know the feeling of friendship vibes being off and the anxiety of when the next conversation will be, so the fact that they were so in sync is just another example of, like you said, them locking onto each other.

I’m so curious to see how they play this going forward.

Marisha Ray, Ashley Johnson and Laura Bailey leaning on each other and smiling

Just three gals playing three queer ladies. (In fact, it’s possible this entire party is somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum? The only unconfirmed is Chet but he’s mentioned men being attractive enough for me to consider him at least a Kinsey 2.)

Nic: How do you think the rest of Bell’s Hells will react to Imodna canon?

Valerie: I have been wondering if/when they’ll tell the others or kiss in front of them. I mean the metagaming pigeon (and/or Pâté) will help I’m sure but the two of them could be holding hands while they walked or sharing rooms and the rest of the crew wouldn’t necessarily know anything has changed. Though I’m sure Sam won’t let it be long before he gets it out of one of them. I think they’ll be happy for them. I would guess Chet and Fearne would be like “wait were you two not already dating?” or something. Or maybe Fearne will be as absolutely hype as Ashley was when it happened. (I highly recommend going back and watching that scene again but watching everyone else besides Marisha and Laura’s reactions. It’s great.) What are your hopes and dreams for Imogen and Laudna as more-than-friends?

Nic: There are so many possibilities!! My dearest hope for them is that they get to be happy together for longer than a few episodes. Or at least, as happy as two people can be when they probably need to journey to the moon to maybe save the gods and face off with a hundreds year old powerful wizard and also Imogen’s mom?!

Valerie: I agree. And I mean what queer relationship DOESN’T involve the moon, religion and/or mommy issues.

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 548 articles for us.

Nic

Nic is a Senior Product Manager at a major Publisher and lives in Astoria, NY. She is way too attached to queer fictional characters and maintains that buying books and reading books are two very different hobbies. When she's not consuming every form of fiction, you can find her dropping it low on the dance floor. You can find Nic on twitter and instagram.

Nic has written 78 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. I’ve been in the “whether they’re genuinely very good (somewhat codependent) friends or there’s romance a-brewing I’ll be happy” camp from the beginning, and the way this came together was just perfect. It felt like a natural, organic progression from where they were before being separated and before Imogen got the circlet, and at the same time happened way earlier than I expected based on how slowly the romances in campaign 2 came together. (I think it’s very Them that they kissed, then had a really intense conversation where Laudna explained what happened with Bor’Dor, then kissed again, all in the bread aisle. Just feels right)

    (Also I think you’re right that everyone in this party is some flavor of queer. It’s marvelous)

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