Carnival Row: What if Faeries Were One of Us?

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BY October 4, 2019

Amazon’s upcoming neo-noir fantasy series, Carnival Row, will make its debut on the streamer August 30th. Originally conceived as a full-length feature film, the series was created by Travis Beacham, known best for writing Pacific Rim. He created the show, along with René Echevarria, who also created The 4400. With that kind of pedigree, you’d expect something a little heavier on the sci-fi, but this is a world of fairies and fauns with a steampunk aesthetic. It’s also a world that seems close to us.

Real Life or Is This Fantasy?

Starring Cara Delevingne as faerie Vignette Stonemoss and Orlando Bloom as human Rycroft Philostrate–sure–the show takes place in a neo-Victorian world. After years of humans mucking about in fairy tale lands, the fairy tale denizens have washed up in the human world as refugees. Unsurprisingly, things are now tense between humans and their new neighbors. The new arrivals are forbidden to be who they are and they’re seemingly doomed to lives of servitude. They are the ultimate others.

If that seems a little on the nose, especially in light of recent political stories, then think of it as an unhappy coincidence. The show has been in the works for three years; they had no idea what stories would be making the news now. However, executive producer Marc Guggenheim didn’t shy away from the parallels, saying at their San Diego Comic-Con presentation, “Part of that world is a discussion…about racism and sexism and classism and spiritualism, and we kind of cover it all and we look at all the different ways that you can differentiate the people and creatures in society, and it makes for a very layered and complex show.”

A Killing on Carnival Row

Behind the big issues the show explores are smaller ones. We’re told, for example, that Vignette and “Philo,” as Bloom’s character is known, used to be in love. The war separated them and now they’re practically strangers. That is, until the murders start. (There’s a lot of that going around, apparently.)

Now in peacetime–or at least, a peace-ish time–Philo is a detective trying to solve this string of killings. At the same time, he and Vignette are taking tentative steps toward rekindling their relationship. As she’s more immersed in the fae world, I’m going to guess she holds some clues about the crimes.

The Bottom Line

Bloom, of course, is no stranger to fantasy. (On a semi-related note, Henry Cavill’s The Witcher character looks like Legolas but swole.) Delevingne is more well-known for other genres so far, but she seems to blend well into this world. That’s based, of course, on the limited material we’ve been able to see. Speaking of The Witcher, if it doesn’t replace Game of Thrones in your affections, this show just might. After all, it’s got the war and the magical creatures. And again, it’s got the added bonus of a mystery.

As part of its presentation, Amazon showed a number of clips, including the first full-length trailer for the series. That trailer is not yet available, but the other clips they showed–intros to Philo and Vignette–can be found herein.


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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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