‘Carnival Row’ is a horrifying house of mirrors

Image from IMDb
Image from IMDb

Screenwriters Travis Beacham and René Echevarria of Pacific Rim and Star Trek : The Next Generation fame, brought the new TV show Carnival Row to Amazon Prime on August 30th. Carnival Row  is a fantasy brought to life by nothing other than brilliance. Told  through a story of war, romance, and a fight for equality, the viewers  follow the lives of mythical creatures and how their struggles relate to  our world today.

Carnival Row follows the story of Inspector Rycroft  Philostrate, otherwise known as Philo, as he solves the murder of  citizens in the Burge. To my surprise, a multitude of real-life issues  plague the created universe. The previews led me to believe I would  follow a murder mystery, but as it unfolded, it became a cross between a  murder mystery and the consequences of white male privilege. The  political message ultimately overshadowed the minuscule romantic moments  of the promised dangerous Victorian love affair.

The colorless carnival

Image from IMDb

Going into the show, I was hoping for a fantasy filled with color,  music, and most of all a happy ending. What I got was bloodshed and gore  like a Quentin Tarantino film, except without the humor. Instead of  getting and solving a case in the same episode, there was one case to  solve and eight episodes to find the killer. While I wasted away at  possibilities of who the killer could be, the romance between Philo and  Vignette Stonemoss created a conflict that I honestly couldn’t keep up  with. The two characters had the potential to be much bigger than what  Beacham and Echevarria displayed on the screen. I expected a love story  that could move mountains and right the wrongs of the world; instead, I  got a constant ebb and flow of affection and disgust. The first three  episodes seemed like a love story at first, but then “Some Dark God  Wakes,” “Aisling,” and “Kingdoms of the Moon” turned out to be nothing  more than extended exposition.

The bits and pieces we saw of passion, danger, and intuition not only  made the show come to life but also helped the viewers relate to the  characters as people. I am a huge fan of the number of powerful women  this show chose to incorporate. Hell hath no fury like Piety Breakspear,  Sophie Longerbane, and Imogen Spurnrose; these women were the  puppeteers of their own happiness. They saw the opportunity to take the  life they have always wanted; albeit, Piety and Sophie had questionable  intentions, there was power in their destruction. The little things  built up and created a sense of unity and a call to action. If you take  anything away from this show, know that the carnival is closer than you  think.

There’s nothing mythical about reality

Image from IMDb

The war between citizen and refugee weighs heavily on how the mystery  is played out. Showing the mistreatment and injustice being done to the  Fae people, any politically aware person could identify the  similarities in our war-ridden world today. Tensions are rising in the  Burge as humans and fae alike are being murdered. Our world is no  stranger to brutality, authoritarianism, and discrimination, we see it  every day- in foreign countries, in clubs, in schools, and even in our  own homes. When all our media is politically charged, Carnival Row,  which presented itself as ground-breaking series, ended up abiding by  the status quo. The controversy may have created an intriguing plot, but  it completely squandered the writer’s intentions. Post-release of the  show, in an interview with The Verge,  the writers shared their intentions. Liz Shannon Miller wrote, “they  were careful to ground the narrative as much as possible — even relying  on cop drama clichés from time to time to make sure audiences felt  comfortable with their new world.” Despite their intentions the show  never felt grounded; there was too much happening, too much up in the  air, every small victory that Philo had couldn’t be celebrated because  the problems were coming faster than the solutions. You cut off one  head, and two more grow in its place.

The show’s Instagram page even chose to post pictures that helped  create an idea of a fantasy world, focusing specifically on the mythical  characters and their somewhat scandalous occupations instead of what  their show was truly about. This show is about the harsh realities of  being a refugee. The account also insinuated that Philo and Vignette had  a torrid affair; in fact, out of the entire season, only “Kingdoms of  the Moon” was about their romance. Not to mention the worst part, there  wasn’t even a kiss at the end.  I, for one, am tired of the realistic  turn the film industry is making. Where was the fairy tale ending in  this fairy tale? The cinematography and special effects created the  potential for beauty but left me with a broken heart. It saddens me to  think what happened to these characters in the show, still happens  today. What I expected to be a thrilling romance ends up being a losing  battle between love and hate. What I was hoping to take me outside of  the world I knew, ended up being reality dressed up in a pair of fairy  wings. I hope the next claimed mythological fantasy is actually that: a  pure fantasy.

A revolving door of antagonists

Image from IMDb

As an avid reader and writer, my thought process is built on the  foundation that a good story revolves around a protagonist, antagonist,  and their conflict which in turn creates great entertainment. I was  prepared for a possibility of multiple protagonists but what I wasn’t  prepared for was the chaotic free-for-all supply of antagonists. Under  the pretenses of murder mysteries, in the beginning, every character was  a suspect; but instead of saving the city and getting the girl, we end  up finding more murderers. The season-ending opens up a plethora of  opportunities, insinuating a return for multiple seasons. The question  is: do we want them? Carnival Row was above average for six out  of the eight episodes; up until the last two episodes of the season, it  had me biting my nails in anticipation. Yet, after the closing moments,  I was left staring into the void wondering why I bothered in the first  place.

Images: IMDb

Featured Image: IMDb

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