I have been on a continuous roll for the past four months, catching up with movies and TV series in my seemingly never-ending “To Watch List.” Which seems never to stop growing.
Carnival Row was a captivating delight to binge-watch. Episodes are roughly about an hour-long with only 8 episodes, so it was easy for me to power through the first season in a couple of sittings.
It is essentially a period drama within a fantasy world — set in a fictional city called The Burge, within a fictional timeline (7th century in their world). The Burge closely resembles 19th-century Victorian-era London.
We have Faeries or Fae creatures — They are mystical creatures whose homeland has been ravaged by war, forcing them to flee as refugees to the Burge. We also have Faun creatures, half-human, half-goat beings. Faun and Faeries live as refugees within the Carnival Row district of the Burge, which is commonly known as the “Row.”
There are many fantasy elements sprinkled throughout the series, most notably witchcraft and dark magic; still, this is not a high magical show or even a high fantasy show like, say, Penny Dreadful. But, there is a multi-genre feel to it.
One of the main characters in the series is a Fae called Vignette (Cara Delevigne); she arrives at the Burge fleeing her homeland. She has a complicated history with the other main character of the series, Philo (Orlando Bloom), a police inspector in the Burge, who has a soft spot for Faes.
Philo is tasked with investigating a string of gruesome murders…. Murders that humans are placing blame on the immigrant community that lives within the “Row.” Immigration, Racism, and xenophobia are central themes here.
There is a bit of slow pace and plenty of exposition in the first two episodes; however, by the third episode, things pick up. The third episode is essentially a flashback episode where we learn a little bit about the Fae myths. You get to see the Fairy temple where Philo and Vignette first met, and you get a better understanding of where the story is heading.
Orlando Bloom has found an excellent TV role here. I have been a fan of his work for a long time…. I am always recommending Kingdom of Heaven (2005); I think it is a highly underrated film and one of the best films made within the last 20 years, but make sure you watch the Director’s cut, it is one of Ridley Scott’s finest achievements as a filmmaker, and Bloom delivers one exceptional performance.
The whole show is obviously well put together; I can tell that the production value was pretty high. The sets and customs are excellent. I enjoyed the dialogue, and the casting is perfect. Jared Harris (Absalom) is always great in everything he is in, and he is great here also. I have been a fan of Simon McBurney (Runyon) for many years now, and I am static to see that he will be a series regular.
The character of Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) had the most compelling character arc in the entire first season. She starts as this upper-class snob, and over the course of the story, she evolves into a more progressive-minded person. Tamzin Merchant has a solid and charismatic screen presence—looking forward to seeing more of her character next season.
There is one pretty fantastic Faery sex scene that stands out from all the rest. The depiction of life at the Row was remarkable. It was grim and dark…. The crime syndicates running things, the street markets, the brothels, and the prostitution…. it showed all the undignified aspects of their everyday immigrant life.
Like I said before, Immigration is at the core of it all here. The show tackles Immigration, racism, and xenophobia in an unapologetic straightforward manner. They are using a fantasy format to expose a significant and relevant issue. The Burge is a place where regular humans hold all the power, and the mystical creatures are viewed as lesser beings, and this show forces you to look at racism through a fantasy lens. It reminds me of late 19th century to early 20th century New York City. And the peak of European Immigration and all the xenophobic and anti-immigrant climate of the era.
Carnival Row is a phenomenal show that surpassed my expectations; it was a fun and entertaining binging experience. And I am pleased to hear that it is getting a second season.
Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿
Carnival Row (Season 1). Streaming on Prime