Carnival Row Season 1 Review – immigration is at the forefront series

By Daniel Hart
Published: August 29, 2019 (Last updated: March 27, 2023)
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Heavy on the political themes but with a good story behind it, Carnival Row Season 1 is a good start to the Amazon Prime Video series.

We review the Prime Video series Carnival Row Season 1, which does not contain any significant spoilers.

At a time when immigration is a super-heated topic in our fragmented democratic society, there’s never a more opportune time for Prime Video to release a fantasy political drama that metaphorically represents our world. Carnival Row Season 1 illustrates societal problems beat by beat; mythical creatures are forced to flee their war-torn homeland and reside in another city, where tensions between citizens and the immigrant population are rife.

Carnival Row Season 1 Review and Plot Summary

Behind the on-trend theme, Carnival Row Season 1 introduces the audience to two lead characters; Vignette Stonemoss, played by Cara Delevingne — she’s a fae (equivalent to a fairy) that has had to flee her home and find refuge at The Burgue. At The Burgue, there is a man named Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate played by Orlando Bloom, an investigator tasked to look into homicides. The two leading characters have a history, which is abundantly involved with the political setting.

Carnival Row is a murky, dark story that tackles characters’ secrets as an overriding precedent. The Burgue basks itself in newly written canon, formed with great intentions by the writers, with each chapter prepared to unskin the new universe for the benefit of the audience. Every character has a secret, and up to the finale, the Amazon series keeps many cards close to its chest ready for the reveals.

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The central premise in Carnival Row Season 1 is a series of murders taking place in The Burgue. Each death intensifies the tension between citizens and the immigrants (who are called The Crick as a derogatory term in the story). Philo is on an absolute mission to find the serial killer.

It’s clear from the outset that Philo and Vignette are toiling with their place in the world. The initial back story suggests that politics tore them apart. Finding oneself is the primary catalyst for character development. Other characters follow the same footpath; Imogen Spurnrose, for example, a woman doused in privilege and riches has to consider the existence of a wealthy neighbor, a creature called a Puck, who is frowned upon in her social circles. Nearly every crumb of the story in the Amazon series leads back to a strong theme, and it is powerfully apparent.

Is Carnival Row good?

Carnival Row is not overly burdensome with the plot either despite its purposefully dark exterior. The Prime Video series spans 8 chapters, which is a reasonable size for the story told. Season 1 does struggle with the exposition in the first three chapters, pumping the story into our brains, and then randomly spending an entire chapter giving us a back story to how Vignette and Philo met. This chapter, in particular, felt wedged in — it’s almost like the writers remembered that the audience required more history than what was initially given.

Cara Delevingne and Orlando Bloom do a worthy job at leading the charge for the Amazon series. Their characters cross paths only on occasion, but the actors use that time wisely, conjuring evidenced chemistry for the audience to believe in.

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Carnival Row Season 1 is not quite the stand-out series on Amazon this year, but it has a way of making our current debates on immigration look foolish. Replace an immigrant with a fairy, and we laugh at the absurdity that humans will not accept them in society. The same should apply regardless.

What did you think of Carnival Row Season 1? Comment below.

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