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Sunday, September 8, 2019

TV Show Review: Carnival Row Season 1 (2019)

Carnival Row Season 1 (2019)
August 30, 2019
Season: 1, episodes: 8
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevingne, David Gyasi
Genres Drama, Fantasy, Suspense
With a serial killer loose on Carnival Row, and a government that turns a blind eye to the deaths of its lower class citizens, Rycroft Philostrate, a war-hardened investigator, is the only person willing to stop the murders and maintain the fragile peace. But when Vignette Stonemoss, a faerie refugee, turns up in the Burgue, she forces Philo to reckon with a past he's tried to forget.

The latest Amazon series has me all in a tizzy and I can’t wait to talk about it!

Carnival Row is a dark, gritty mix of fantasy, mystery, suspense, and romance that surprised me with the direction it took. The show follows faerie Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) and human detective Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate (Orlando Bloom), secret lovers who were parted years before and now find themselves face to face once again but this time with secrets, lies, and prejudice between them. The setting is a Victorian era inspired city called Burgue where creatures like Faun, Faeries, Centaurs, Werewolves, and Trow (aka trolls) have fled to in order to escape their war torn homelands. These unfortunate refugees have made their home in a section of Burgue known as The Row. Many of these creatures fled on refugee ships with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and in order to pay for their passage are now indentured servants working for the humans residents who can barely stand their presence and see them as little more than things. Adding to the tensions between the two factions are a series of grisly murders reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. On crack. That’s a lot to pack into 8 episodes and it shows.

I’m not going to lie, I was apprehensive about this show. I just knew people were going to compare it to Game of Thrones which isn’t fair, because there is only one Game of Thrones and it can’t be copied or replaced. So if the people behind Row are hoping to do that, my advice is to stop and instead try and carve out your own niche. The material is there, just do your own thing because as of right now the series wobbles a bit in its bid to find its footing and aside from a familiar face from Thrones (I see you Indira Varma), there isn’t a similarity between the two shows as much as a slightly weak attempt to mimic some of the ruthless political scheming Thrones was known for.
I also think that part of the problem is that it’s trying too hard to fit in so many themes into one season all at once. It’s chaotic at times and doesn’t give any one plot a chance to really shine. And in the first season the audience needs to connect with the characters and that’s also a bit of a problem. Out of all the characters, the only one that the show gives you a chance to connect with is Vignette. She’s a scrapper, a true survivor who knows when to fight and when to duck her head and live to fight another day.

The show needs to utilize all its characters but at the same time, it has to make the audience care about them and not overwhelm them with a revolving door of characters.

It would be easy to just make the show all about Philo and Vignette’s rocky reunion and rehashing their history but then Carnival Row wouldn’t have as much potential as it does and it wouldn’t be as interesting. Not every show has to have a romance front and center and thank goodness Row didn’t set itself up to become just another star-crossed lovers story, these characters have lives outside of their personal history and I liked that they’re shown as individuals on their own journeys. That said, I’m not really feeling the chemistry between the two characters, there’s something that’s missing and it’s not allowing me to believe in their romance past or present.

But where Carnival Row lacks in character build up it excels in its visuals. The backdrop of a steampunk like setting, complete with dark corners that could be a danger or salvation are fantastic. The amount of work put into the costumes, prosthetics, and CGI shouldn’t be overlooked. The show isn’t a complete dud but it does need to find its place and quickly. It’s been renewed for a second season so I hope the writers pay attention to what viewers are saying and that they stay away from pandering to a certain type of viewer if they want to have a solid story with multi-dimensional characters and a chance at longevity.

Rating: 3 ½ Sheep with Potential for Greatness

Adria Reyes

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