Friday, August 30, 2019

REVIEW: 'Carnival Row' - Vignette Escapes From Her Home While Philo Hunts a Killer in 'Some Dark God Wakes'

Amazon's Carnival Row - Episode 1.01 "Some Dark God Wakes"

Rycroft "Philo" Philostrate investigates "Unseelie Jack," a mysterious assailant with a grudge against the fae. Vignette Stonemoss barely escapes Tirnanoc with her life and arrives in The Burgue looking for a fresh start. Imogen Spurnrose meets her new neighbor. In Parliament, the fight over the critch heats up.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Amazon's Carnival Row.

"Some Dark God Wakes" was directed by Thor Freudenthal with story by René Echevarria & Travis Beacham and teleplay by René Echevarria

There is certainly a lot going on in this premiere. Yes, fantasy shows always have such an overwhelming burden at the beginning because there is so much work to do to establish the world and its mythology. A whole lot of backstory is condensed down to just a few sentences at the top of this hour. It explains just how war-town the fae home world of Tirnanoc has been for a long time. And yet, that's just one component of this expansive world. Everything absolutely has the hook of being a powerful allegory about immigration and refugees. A huge portion of The Burgue is antagonistic to the fae and various other creatures in this world. They view the fae as only being good for indentured servitude or sex work. That's absolutely horrifying. These people are abandoning their homes due to war that the Burgue has stopped fighting. The leaders of this world allowed the Pact to continue their rampage across Tirnanoc. More innocent lives were lost as a result. Vignette could no longer take that suffering. And yet, she endears so much of it at the start of the series. That is very overwhelming. Not only is she traveling to a world that condemns her kind. It also has to be important that she is the only survivor of this last hurrah for salvation. When a group is trying to make it to the refugee ship, she appears to be the only one who makes it out of the woods. And then, the ship sinks and the crew won't let its slaves free with the opportunity to survive. Of course, Vignette does. But that's a whole lot of suffering. She has already endured so much. She views herself as a widow even though the show makes it clear right away that Philo is still alive. He is known and respected in the Burgue. Not everyone knows his face but he has the skills to back up his reputation. He presents himself as the good guy. The honest soul in the police department who actually wants to help the fae after they are being targeted by a serial killer. He sees a growing resentment rising amongst humanity. He knows that there are factions of the police who openly discriminate against the fae. That's horrifying and despicable. It all amounts to Philo accusing one sergeant of being the killer only for it to be a navy sailor in the end. And yet, that's mostly just a tease that things won't provide as simple a solution as Philo hopes. Sure, it's still absolutely bleak as well. This man jumps off a building instead of being captured by Philo. He does so after noting how he believes he's in the right because of the darkness he has seen from the fae. There is no reason why the audience should believe that though. The fae present as an innocent people continually tortured by the world that has welcomed them. The doors of the Burgue may not be open for long though. Political drama is also a component of this world. That may articulate how it sometimes takes the right leader to be compassionate in order to help those fleeing the worst atrocities of the world. But even then, the discontentment amongst the citizens is still growing. Chancellor Breakspear continually has to argue against the xenophobia happening amongst the rival political party. That strangely feels separated from everything else happening though. It's hard to really muster all that much excitement about anything that's happening. Sure, it's terrifying to learn that there really is a monster hunting the fae and not just a serial killer. That's a gruesome sight that is bound to further incentivize Philo while also making him wonder if the man on the roof was actually right. The fae face these threats from everywhere though. However, that grim reality has to feature some support from intriguing character work too. Right now, Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne are doing a lot to sell the fantasy. It's just going to take more time to see if the connection can last between this world and a potential audience.