Sunday, September 1, 2019

REVIEW: 'Carnival Row' - Philo and Vignette Face Off With the Threat Terrorizing the Burgue in 'The Gloaming'

Amazon's Carnival Row - Episode 1.08 "The Gloaming"

As tensions rise on Carnival Row, Philo must confront both darkness incarnate and the evil that controls it. Vignette gleans the true nature of The Burgue. Imogen lets her feelings for Agreus go unbridled. Breakspear's secrets catch up to him.

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 season finale of Amazon's Carnival Row.

"The Gloaming" was written by Travis Beacham and directed by Jon Amiel

This season deliberately kept the audience guessing until the very end. There were many false reveals where it felt like the viewer could understand what was going on only for it to later not be true at all. The previous episode ended on the suggestion that Chancellor Breakspear had something to do with the grand mystery that was driving the season forward. Instead, this finale only further proves just how ineffective a leader and father he has always been. He never knew that Philo existed. It's only after learning that Aisling was killed and her son was arrested for the crime that he reached out to Philo and saw him as a son. They may have their doubts and suspicions about one another. But it's ultimately a sequence where they just let everything out in the open about what happened in the past. It's once again very expositional in the hopes of it playing as a big reveal. That sets it up so it's even more explosive when Piety is revealed as the creator of the Darkasher who has been terrorizing the Burgue. Her motivation for that action is so one-note though. Everything she has done has been in response to a prophecy she received a long time ago saying that her husband's son will accomplish far greater things than him. That's the destiny she wants for Jonah. She doesn't care who she has to hurt in order to make it a reality. That includes Jonah. She kidnapped him. And now, she tells him that Sophie is his sister. That too is a major reveal. But it also means this is the latest fantasy world that features incest as a core component of the drama. It's not a big deal to Sophie whatsoever because she figures it's how political dynasties are formed. This would hardly be the first time it has happened across their lineages. Jonah is taken aback because he's still seen as the newcomer to this world and its complexities. He is completely willing to trust Runyan as his personal advisor even though he just met him. Moreover, Runyan was literally performing on the streets of the row just a week ago. It's a meteoric rise for him to power. And yet, that appears to be the core drive of the entire season. Of course, the political maneuvers in parliament have always felt the most tangentially connected to everything else going on. Yes, it was clear that the policies being discussed would have major consequences on the city below. But it was all an abstract conversation where their words didn't always inspire people to action outside of the room. And yet, the city is willing to take a stand against this current leadership. Quill is willing to make an assassination attempt on the Chancellor. Sure, that's pretty lame and ineffective. Piety ultimately has to finish the job. That's only because she wants to know exactly where Philo is and how to eliminate him as a threat. That ensures that an epic confrontation occurs here that showcases the great production design, monster effects and fight choreography within the show. It is impressive. But it's hard to feel anything when Absalom and Piety are killed here. It should feel like resolution to everything that happened this season. However, it mostly feels like the show just setting up a more precarious future. One in which the row is being segregated simply because of the fear that any creature could actually be a monster willing to kill. That's the leadership Jonah inspires as the new Chancellor. He is willing to wield that power with Sophie. But all of that also proves that Sophie was the one who sent all of this into motion by writing a blackmail letter to Piety pretending to be Aisling. That's what forced Piety into creating the Darkasher. That's a lame reveal because it hinges around a letter that has never been mentioned before the finale. So, it may be rewarding to see Philo and Vignette admit their true feelings to one another and choose to be together even though they are trapped in the city. Agreus and Imogen were seemingly the only people who made it out though simply because they had the luxury of a ship ready to set sail. But again, the season takes it cues from being a parallel to the real-life immigration crisis. It states that in blunt and visceral ways. Now, the show just has to examine it in a way that should leave the audience invested in the push back against this new repressive regime. More complexity is desperately needed. That doesn't mean more shocking twists and shady motivations. It means getting to the heart of why any of these characters take the actions that they do.