Currently on Amazon Prime is the first season of an original mystery and fantasy along CARNIVAL ROW.
Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) is a fae who has escaped from an attack on her homeland from the Pact. Finding her way to a ship, a storm then sinks it and she is the sole survivor. The ship belongs to Ezra Spurnrose (Andrew Gower) and seeing Vignette as an indentured servant on the ship expects her to now work in his home as a maid. Knowing she must survive in this new place, Vignette visits Carnival Row and finds Tourmaline (Karla Crome). They have so much to catch up on but the biggest surprise is discovering that the man she loves, Philo (Orlando Bloom) is actually alive. Living the past seven years believing he was dead, Vignette is shocked and angry.
Philo is investigating the recent attacks on what are known as fae-folk as a police inspector. Aisling is one of the fae that is murdered and Philo continues to follow the clues. Taking it step by step he talks to everyone involved with the victims only to come up against a man warning him that a creature he calls the “dark-god” is responsible. If that isn’t freaky enough, Vignette makes herself known to Philo and she does so with a vengeance. She doesn’t understand how he could have gone all this time letting her suffer thinking she had lost him and Philo has no answers for her.
Spurnrose lives in the richer part of town with his sister Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) and both are horrified to learn that their new neighbor Agreus (David Gyasi) is a faun which is unacceptable to them. It is considered ridiculous that a creature would try to make his way into society. When Spurnrose finally confides in Imogen that their finances aren’t what they should be, a deal is struck with Agreus – his backing for a new ship for introduction into high society. Imogen agrees to make that happen.
The Chancellor Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris) is trying to keep the peace in the city along with his wife Piety (Indira Varma) and son Jonah (Arty Froushan). He knows something is going on and advises them to steer clear of Carnival Row. That doesn’t stop Jonah from being kidnapped but they don’t know who is responsible.
It is finally revealed how Burguish soldier Philo met Vignette. Her village becomes a station for the soldiers are looking for the best location for keeping an eye out for the Pact while fixing the telegraph line. While out, Philo, Vignette and his friend Darius are attacked by wolves. When the Pact attack the village in a brutal way, Vignette is taken away but told that Philo has been killed.
Now, more people are being killed and it is becoming clear that what they have in common is knowing Philo. Vignette is trying to separate herself from him as her anger toward what has happened to her people outweighs any feelings she might have for him. To that effort Philo takes his landlady out for dinner and tries to begin something but he is still in a dark place.
The Chancellor believes that Longerbane (Ronan Vibert) is responsible for the kidnapping but after he meets with disaster, his daughter Sophie (Caroline Ford) steps in and Jonah is actually found. The young man believes he knows who is actually responsible for his capture but doesn’t want to call it out in case he is wrong. Seeing Sophie in chambers for the first time, he is captivated by her but mom Petrie isn’t as happy about it.
As more secrets are brought out in the open, Philo and Vignette realize that they must work together to find out what is killing those in Carnival Row. The landlady isn’t as happy and tells Philo’s officers a secret that she knows about him leading to his arrest for murder.
The relationship between Agreus and Imogen has her brother aggravated and wants it to stop. He understands that they may need his money but as others in town start offering to socialize with Agreus, he sees no need to keep up appearances for his sister. Chancellor Breakspear wants to help Philo and Vignette but doesn’t realize that he is about to have his life altered by a Puck, the last group that would ever be suspected.
The dominos are starting to fall and it is leading a showdown on Carnival Row that no one could have ever imagined!
Bloom as Philo has the look of a man tortured by his orphaned past, losing his love and seeing the worst of mankind in his role as an officer of the law. When Philo sees Vignette, he is reminded of so much of the past that it could interfere with what is happening right in front of him. Bloom has taken on such a dark character but it wouldn’t be the first time. In CARNIVAL ROW he has the added bonus of so many dark characters all around him and a story that is filled with twists that he fits right in.
Delevingne as Vignette is a fierce fae who isn’t about to put her people or their culture ahead of anything else, except for maybe love. Not a fan of Philo in the beginning, she begins to realize that he doesn’t mean her or the fae any harm. When she thinks him gone, it breaks her heart but not her spirit. She can easily take care of herself but once on Carnival Row, Vignette realizes that her anger at Philo is far down the list of what it takes to survive. Delevinge is quite perfect for this role in that she has the fae look and makes the role her very own and I love that about this character.
Gower as Spurnrose is absolutely yucky from top to bottom of his character and this actor plays it dripping with distain. That’s what makes it such a fantastic role! I can’t stand Spurnrose yet I also can’t wait to see how he’s going to make me dislike him even more and Gower doesn’t disappoint. Merchant as Imogen is as stuck up as one would expect from a woman of her time and station. She doesn’t care about anything or anyone but herself and her finery and yet it takes a Puck to make her see past all of that.
Gyasi as Agreus is a Puck to isn’t about to let anyone, human or otherwise, tell him how to live his life. Enjoying the fine home he purchased for himself and man-servant Jim, he also has the uncanny knack of knowing what humans are thinking. His relationship with Imogen is not one either is happy about but it does have its clever perks. Crome as Tourmaline sees what her friend Vignette is going through and it hurts her heart but for more reason that either wants to openly admit.
Varma as Piety is a woman who understands the politics that her husband is part of but also enjoys the lifestyle it provides. She also knows that something is changing on Carnival Row and wants her son to stay away. When he is kidnapped, she suspects everyone. Froushan as Jonah is a young man who is use to a certain lifestyle and doesn’t have much expected of him. Smothered by his mother and feeling like he is disappointing his father, he finds a strange solace at Carnival Row. Ford as Sophie begins to provide Jonah with another kind of distraction and no one is pleased about it. She is a strong character who doesn’t mind breaking the rules in order to get higher up in the ranks.
Harris as the Chancellor continues to be on an amazing streak of roles in the last few years. I absolutely love everything he does including the recent HBO mini-series CHERNOBYL, the AMC series THE TERROR, and the series THE CROWN. There is a presence about this actor that I’m drawn to see what role he will take next and in CARNIVAL ROW he once again is full of human frailty hidden under the robes of politics – even if it is the politics of the different.
Shout out to Alice Krige as Aoife who also is an actress that I follow because she is so multi-dimensional and in CARNIVAL ROW she is creepy yet honestly a character I was never afraid of. Of course Aoife could probably turn me into a toad if she wanted but there is something straight forward in this role that I appreciated and was fascinated by.
Other cast include Ariyon Bakare as Darius, Maeve Dermody as Portia Fyfe, Jamie Harris as Sgt. Dombey, Waj Ali as Constable Berwick, James Beaumont as Constable Cuppins, Jim High as Fergus, Erika Starkova as
Aisling and Simon McBurney as Runyon Millworthy.
This year CARNIVAL ROW made a showing at San Diego Comic Con International 2019 and the crowd couldn’t have been happier. Of course what made it even more special was that Bloom and Delevingne hid underneath costumes so that the big reveal brought the crowd to their feet with cheers. The audience was then treated to a special screening of the series and some even lucky enough to walk away with a pair of very luminescent wings. I knew then that the show was something special and am pleased to say that there will a second season.
I absolutely love the darkness of the show and I don’t mean the less than colorful costuming but the story and the characters that are wrapped up in every fiber of it all. Just when you think it’s all figured out – nope! Let’s be honest, the show starts out in a million knots and we are left, episode by episode, to unravel it like a fine chain necklace. Those who have ever tried to get knots out of a fine chain necklace know exactly what I’m talking about.
Vague in this review? Absolutely. There is no way I want to dive to deeply into the story because that is what makes CARNIVAL ROW such a draw. There is a lot going on so instead of giving it all away, I brought out some of the characters that I appreciated because something tells me we haven’t heard the last from any of them (well, maybe a few of them).
The story is based in a fantastical mythology of fae, pucks, spells, history, culture and a tale that is all too familiar in that what is different people are afraid of. By the end of the series you will understand why a second season is not only needed but necessary. I personally want to see where Philo and Vignette are going to take this journey of theirs and for reasons you will see when you binge watch the first season of CARNIVAL ROW on Amazon Prime.
In the end – they each have a story to tell!