Carnival Row (Season 1, 2019)
Creators: Travis Beacham & Rene Echevarria
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, Tamzin Merchant, David Gyasi, Simon McBurney, Andrew Gower, Karla Crome, Arty Froushan, Indira Varma, Jared Harris, Jamie Harris, Alice Krige, Maeve Dermody
A human detective and a fairy rekindle a dangerous affair in a Victorian fantasy world, where the city’s uneasy peace collapses when a string of murders reveals an unimaginable monster. – IMDB
I still remember the first time I saw the trailer pop up for Carnival Row and I thought that this was right up my alley. Dark fantasy settings are usually my jam. Adding that I haven’t seen Cara Delevingne in a whole lot of movies and Orlando Bloom doesn’t ring a bell to me other than Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean, I thought they looked pretty good in the roles.
With all that said, Carnival Row is pretty good especially with the setting. Plus it builds a decent foundation for its characters, giving them enough backstory to understand them but also enough mystery to want to learn more about them and this world. The first 2-3 episodes is more of a foundation building so feels a little slower to get into but the whole parallel is done pretty well and the atmosphere plus the whole world-building is pretty fascinating especially when it comes to how its a pretty much a world of humans and creatures. The creatures have some variety and isn’t just about the faes. Not to mention, the creature designs which is mostly an appearance difference from facial features or body part difference to humans is done pretty well. It feels like its only a quick glimpse into this world as there is pretty much only a few types of creatures introduced throughout the show’s 8 episodes however enough to grasp the different creatures that could come into play. The effects are done really well. The werewolf segment wasn’t too long but that transformation was done well even if its probably one of the fastest transformations that I’ve seen, much like the fauns which have a fantastic design. For a show revolving a lot around the faeries, the animation on those wings looks really good. All the above are things I do love since it helps with being more immersed into the world which is often the first step to enjoying these series.
Carnival Row has a few plot lines in terms of the relationships and humans versus creatures conflicts which creates the divide and perhaps their bond, whichever applies. On that level, its not completely unique from other ones but executed fairly well. It has to do with having a cast that does work here especially when it comes to some of the humans who have a lot of hate and how they choose to act on it. Of course, there are also love relationships. The central one between the main leads, Vignette (Cara Delevingne) and Rycroft (Orlando Bloom) who struggle through their love, hate and lies. The secondary one is more about a change in views towards creatures as the characters of elite and proud Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) face their faun neighbor Agreus (David Gyasi), as it starts as an alliance to each win from the situation on a social level but ends up being a different result. These characters are strengthened by these connections.
With that said, the chemistry between Vignette and Rycroft is pretty good. They go through a lot of the change but the emotional struggle between them when they meet again goes the length of the season. It shows their change and the effects that the human and creature relationship could bring on a lot more problems for both of them. But then, there’s always a little more to the situation and that brings out the mystery elements about who is involved in the murders going on. The mystery is executed incredibly well. The progression of clues and discovery makes it so intriguing as answers bring on more questions and the big mystery really being who is behind all this with a master plan and the purpose/motive of all of it.
Overall, the mystery side of the story does stand out a lot more. The balance between that and the relationship between Vignette and Rycroft works out pretty well to give the show enough foundation to build on for future seasons but keeping things relatively simple as well to make it intriguing to learn about this world gradually through the other plot lines by introducing a general idea of all of the moving parts in this world from the humans and different creatures to the political structure to the hidden societies to the main characters and their back stories before pushing it to a rather good turning point as a big finale to build up for a second season.