I’m starting to lose faith in Carnival Row. Not because of the acting, mind you, as the performances (especially, from the extended supporting cast) have been rather solid. But rather, because almost every episode seems to be repeating its own plot points lately: Cops and Black Ravens fight, the Sparas go on to murder someone, and then a romance gets teased.
Whereas last week saw the introduction of the Sparas, probably what bothers me about that aftermath was Philo’s punishment from the police. His sentence? To solve the murders in Carnival Row… Essentially, exactly what he’s been doing this entire time.
How this plays out is rather silly in episode 7, as detective Legolas chooses to walk the fence of who am I? Human or Fae? Yet again, effectively making a call but then reneging on it out of uncertainty about what to do…
We break it down in our review.
Episode 7 Review
In what seems like a promising Agreus and Imogen episode, the family begins with a jig and a beer… along with executing their plan to escape Ragusa, though their efforts go in vain. Whether it’s a bunch of Black Raven Faeries disrupting Philo’s grand announcement to Parliament about his status as the Chancellor’s other son, or last week when we decided England didn’t need a government… a common recurrence of this series are plans never going accordingly. This week, is no exception.
Philo, meanwhile, spends much of his time this week regretting his decision to support the humans, pretending to us the audience, that he’s actually made a choice to begin with. Spanked into sensibility, he’s bailed out by Darius a few times in this episode while losing himself on a bender.
Meanwhile, Darius is strangely becoming the show’s most realistically portrayed character outside of Millworthy. Because yes, Darius acknowledges how Carnival Row is garbage and knows that just about everyone is kind of trash. Especially, the government. This shows growth. Something Philo’s character is really struggling with this season.
In fact, of everyone in the series, Philo’s arguably the worst given that he’s still choosing to stay middle ground. No matter how much hate he’s experienced or the beatings he’s taken. The Detective still chooses to do his duty, and broker peace, for literally no reward. In fact, in this one, Philo’s detective story of the week seeks out a now-powerful Mr. Millworthy at Parliament, all for a major request for safe passage to Tirnanoc. Not just for his friends… but all the fae. It’s a little disturbing the level of white savior complex this entails until we remember that Millworthy, sort of knows Philo’s a thankless hero-of-sorts looking out for everyone for the sake of… actually, we don’t know anymore.
Maybe he’s just a good guy? The show has sort of lost Philo’s motivation in doing the right thing as he’s lost everything by now. Both his cop status and girlfriend defined his very, somewhat shallow, depth of character. Still, Philo refuses to go with the Fae back to their homeland.
Vignette meanwhile, spends much of this one finding ways to smuggle Tourmaline out of The Row (which is sad, because I’m at this point, team Darius+Tourmaline). I’m not fully buying their romance and I will say at this point, Vignette’s character arc has gotten rather terrible. She’s only helping her best friend and one-time lover’s salvation as a last-second redemption story for her own mistakes. She’s trying to sell to us that she’s a decent person. She kind of isn’t though. And a lot of her failures leading the Black Raven have led to most of the terrible atrocities we’ve seen these past few episodes. Likewise, I’m also not buying the chemistry between Vignette and Tourmaline.
In fact, there’s this scene in the middle of the episode where the characters ask themselves how did we get here? Get where, exactly, because we… didn’t really go anywhere. If anything, issues have only gotten worse regarding hate crimes in the city.
On the positive, what I really like about this episode is the focus on the people during the second half. I think the series works best examining class and political intrigue. With the best moments of this episode being the hatred of humans on the Row against the Fae. Especially, given the assassination of the chancellor (and also, just general racism).
The show works best when it actually addresses its townfolks and politics, compared to, the irritating-by-now love story that often moves in circles. Effectively wasting all of our time.
In fact, there’s a scene where Vignette talks to someone who’s been at the Row her entire life, realizing, that there’s a charm to being a first-wave immigrant in a new world. Sure, it’s a shanty, rundown sort of living… but it’s THEIR rundown sort of living. Something we see Darius later confirm regarding the city’s charm.
Honestly, this is what I think audiences like about the show. Though what happens by this episode’s conclusion? Well… it’s not that.
That ending is sort of the last two episodes on repeat. Which has me worried.