Carnival Row is a new fantasy series starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevinge. All episodes now available on Amazon Prime.
Episodes viewed: S1X03 ‘Kingdoms of the Moon” & S1X04 ‘The Joining of Unlike Things”
Episode 3 performed the perfect switch – a flashback to Philo during the war seven years past.
Narratively, I feel it was the right time to take the trip back. The first two episodes carefully set up The Burgue and hinted at the history of this world, and at the secrets between Philo and Vignette.
This episode is epic in scale and crams a lot of world building, and character development into its 60-minute duration.
The location filming is fantastic, with the huge snow-covered landscapes filmed at the atmospheric Prachov Rocks in the Czech Republic. The show maintains its style of creating little mysteries, dropping you into the middle of the action. The opening shows The Burgue soldiers in the desolate landscape of Tirnanoc – the land of the Fae.
The soundtrack is great at the opening, with an ominous constant throb as Philo and his captain are given access to this cliff-top sanctuary. And as the two men stare at the severe-looking matriarch of the village, the camera tilts up to reveal the source of that ominous throb – it’s the beating wings of all of the Fae hovering above them.
A WORLD AWAY
Space is important here, for the rocks and canyons where the Fae fly up and down, and across, are a world away from the claustrophobia of Carnival Row. Now we have seen the Fae in their own homeland, we can appreciate their dissatisfaction with The Burgue.
The episode reveals how Vignette and Philo met, their relationship slowly layered, folding in some surprises about their characters, and broadening the canvas of the narrative. Vignette looks after the Fae library, which holds the long history of the realm.
Philo’s relationship with his buddy Darius is also explored, and we meet Vignette’s friend Tourmaline (before she joins the brothel in Carnival Row), a friend whose advice has a profound impact on the story.
We also meet The Pact soldiers on two occasions, and both are striking for different reasons. The second appearance is visually impressive and explosive – and shatters everyone’s world.
Quote of the episode:
“It’s like the wolf is what you were all along, underneath it all, and the bite was just permission to stop pretending”
Episode 4 starts slowly and moves between a range of characters and stories. After the focussed storytelling in the previous episode, this takes a bit of getting used to.
However, plenty happens in “The Joining of Unlike Things” that promises much for the rest of the series.
A gruesome murder at the beginning seems to confirm Philo’s fears that a monstrous evil resides under the streets, and he visits a local witch to investigate the possibility that a creature made from corpses is possible.
“Careful inspector – Scepticism may keep you sane, but it won’t necessarily keep you alive”
The title of the episode echoes through Vignette sinking deeper into the underworld crime group The Raven and across town, we see the resolution of the kidnapping of Breakspear’s son, betraying the corruption and betrayal in that family.
While these action and mystery beats play out, we see glimpses of the other conflicts in society, one being the tension between politician Longerbane and his “mixed race” daughter who wants to go to college despite the dominant patriarchy. We also see the beginning of an alliance between Imogen and Agreus, the faun who starts the episode arriving through the servant’s entrance but finishes by being received through the front door.
Like many fantasies, the stories can reflect many contemporary issues, and so far, CARNIVAL ROW has touched upon racism, class inequality, sexism, poverty, distrust of neighbours, growth in crime, imperialism, immigration and the corruption of power. Yet so far, these themes not heavy handed but seamlessly woven into the storyline.
As before, each episode reveals and resolves much, while dropping a few new revelations that keep you watching. Jonah Breakspear’s face when he hears the clickety-clack of those footsteps is one of those moments where you really want to see what happens next.
The episode leaves Vignette in a darker place (following a thrilling struggle) and Philo trying to start afresh. We’re at the half-way point in the series already and the many storylines get better and better.
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