By Dave B.
In Carnival Row (Amazon Prime) the homeland of the Fae has been a battleground for human empires seeking to exploit its untapped wealth. When one faction finally wins the war, the Fae are ruthlessly exploited and many are forced to flee their home for an uncertain future in The Burgue, the Fae’s nominal ally during the war. In The Burgue, two former lovers, Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) and Philo Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) are caught up in a web of intrigue and murder as they try to navigate through each other’s vastly different worlds.
Let’s start with the negatives: Carnival Row has a TON of moving pieces. The creators cram a lot of story into eight, hour-long episodes. There’s just a large amount of stuff going on in every episode, with multiple storylines interacting in various (occasionally unnecessary) ways. Further, the show’s ultimate mystery is fairly weak and nowhere near mysterious enough. Looked at in isolation, Carnival Row’s plot is average, at best.
Fortunately, there is a lot to love about Carnival Row, so its plot does not have to be viewed in isolation. For starters, it possesses some of the best, most in-depth world-building that I’ve seen in years. Helped by the fact that The Burgue is based upon Victorian England, the world of Carnival Row feels extremely real. The discrimination and hostility that the Fae face are well captured in gruesome (but only occasionally gory) detail. And Carnival Row is simply beautiful in a grimy, 19th century kind of way. Being able to make people with functional wings seem even remotely real is quite an accomplishment. Most importantly, most of the characters are interesting and extremely well-acted. I have to give an extra special kudos to Delevingne, who can make her eyes go from forlorn to murderous in an instant. She’s fantastic in this show.
In short, while not perfect, Carnival Row is great and extremely easy to binge-watch. I highly recommend this show to viewers of all types, but particularly those who enjoy alternate histories or historical fiction (although Carnival Row is neither, it has the feel of both). This show is a must-see and I can almost guarantee that you’ll like it. Personally, I’m ridiculously excited to see the second season and I think you will be too.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.