TV Series Review: CARNIVAL ROW
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Fantasy television series are a guilty pleasure of mine and, until recent years, arguably an unappreciated genre of television. However, with the introduction of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” to general audiences, the fantasy TV genre has taken on more appreciation. That’s why when “Game of Thrones” ended, many of us wondered what exactly was going to fill the void that the series left in our fantasy-loving hearts. While The CW and Syfy had shows that dulled the ache that lingered, the ache that begged to be quenched by more fantasy TV shows, nothing had quite filled that hole. However, Amazon’s latest series CARNIVAL ROW has the potential to fill that gap despite some issues with pacing and side-plots.

The first thing you’ll notice immediately is how effective the world-building is in CARNIVAL ROW. Writer Travis Beacham effectively constructs a believable world for audiences to plunge into and any questions that anyone might have are addressed in some fashion whether subtle or not. Much like “Game of Thrones”, which I’m sure this particular series will be compared to a lot due to it being a fantasy series, there is an effective folklore and culture interwoven into the fabric of the writing. One of the most difficult things in fantasy is to convince the viewer of the believability of the world that they are about to immerse themselves in. The delivery of the world that the series resides in was well-executed and easy to take in without being overwhelmed as a viewer. In this alone, I would say that the series is worth watching.

Another element that stands out in this series is the relationship between Orlando Bloom’s Rycroft Philostrate and Cara Delevigne‘s Vignette Stonemoss. Aside from the lovely world-building (and the costumes because how could I forget the gorgeousness of the costumes), the relationship between these two doomed lovers is honestly the most addicting part of this show. Written much like what one would expect from a romance novel, which the series nods to in episode 3, you can’t help but want the best for these two characters. You’ll trudge your way through the slow-paced flow of the series to see what happens next between the two and that’s a feat that both Bloom and Delevigne should hold up proud. The chemistry cannot be denied and you’ll endure everything to see them both on-screen together.

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Unfortunately, one of the things that is really going to push viewers away from making it all the way through CARNIVAL ROW is the slow-paced nature of the series. There are only eight episodes in the series, so you would expect the series to feel like it flows by super quickly. Unfortunately, the episodes drag much like the last couple of seasons of “Game of Thrones”. Yes, I know. I’m bringing that series back up for comparison. Part of this slowness has much to do with what I might consider the addition of arguably unnecessary storylines and characters that don’t do much to add to the overall story.

The most blatant example of this can be seen with the whole back and forth shenanigans within the Breakspear family.  Arty Froushan’s Jonah Breakspear causes unnecessary problems for the Breakspear family as Absalom Breakspear (played by Jared Harris) has to constantly be on guard to defend himself from the enemies he’s made in the political sphere. Indira Varma’s Piety Breakspear is cunning and will do anything possible to make sure her schemes are enacted, even if it means potentially harming her loved ones. In all honesty, this particular web of storylines wasn’t bad per se. But it detracted from other plotlines that should have been placed more at the forefront. Instead, viewers will be distracted by the political drama that just arguably isn’t as interesting as say the romantic plot between Philo and Vignette or the overcoming of racial barriers that we see with David Gyasi’s Agreus.

Overall, the first season of CARNIVAL ROW has a lot of promise. The world-building is on point, especially since all species of characters are portrayed in such a realistic and effervescent fashion. I honestly would love a book that just explores the world created by Travis Beacham because I’m completely in love with the world he has crafted for us. Like any first season of a brand new show, the time is spent building up the characters so that the audience can understand them. With this ensemble of characters, it becomes quickly clear which ones we will care about and which ones we won’t moving forward. The way the series ends hopefully means that going into the second season will give the writers more of a chance to speed up the pacing a bit. That and, since the world is already somewhat established in this season, there will be fewer episodes spent on providing backstory and more on furthering the plot along.

All episodes of season one of CARNIVAL ROW will be available on Amazon on August 30, 2019.

Sarah Musnicky
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