Carnival Row Series Finale Review: What The Was That?

Carnival Row Reaches its End

I’m at a loss for words.

Well, Carnival Row is over. And it was… a TV show—one made by one of the most financially successful companies ever. Who could’ve done just about anything? But this is how it ends.


It all comes down to a final would-be battle and a showdown with the Sparas. All of which would be great if it… sort of didn’t conveniently wrap in absolutely nothing changes. In fact, I think the reason most people are upset about the series is that we’re meant to accept the status quo, including the treatment of the Fae in Carnival Row…

My answer to that is: WTF. Why?! 

After all of this loss and hard-to-watch violence. If we learned nothing and accept our political institutions as… the system. What was the point of everything? That’s my biggest issue. That’s all I have to say… End review.

… Alright, you know what? Let’s just run through it. One last time.


Episode 210 – Carnival Row

(L-R) Jacqueline Boatswain, Karla Crome (Tourmaline)

Everything has reached its end as the New Dawn intends to destroy Parliament. This is sort of what I think most fans of the series have been hoping for all this time. Of course, it begins with a story about how Darius wants to save Tourmaline. Even though they’re just friends and she apparently wants to be happy with Vignette. I’ve officially hit the give-no-Fs button regarding the romances in the show and this finale. Was easily the worst of it.

Meanwhile, I will say one of the big figures who has taken lead at Parliament since the deaths of its leaders in the mid-season finale… is um. Of course, revealed to be the enemy. Not the institution itself, which would have made for a great finale, but rather, just one of its members manipulating things behind the scenes. How this plays out and ties together is honestly rather unimaginative and reminds me of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Except instead of Emperor Palpatine, we get… a generic baddie who’s been there but we didn’t ever care about?  

Seriously, I had to Google who the hell this was to remember why they were important… and I still don’t care. 

Positive takeaway? Vignette as a rebel leader is a brilliant tactician with guts. You see it here in her reasons why and how the Black Raven should execute on their plans now, and you can immediately tell that she’s been the leader it’s lacking. Even if their tactics previously were mostly to just bumrush the enemy with knives… 

Hey, at least they can fly fast.

It’s really upsetting that they kept forcing Vignette romance arcs because this season could’ve easily just seen her fully embrace her rebel leader side. In fact, that would have been great. Instead…  we get a storyline that sees her embrace the anti-hero role one last time before riding off into the sunset… though with whom, I have to omit due to the embargo on spoilers. 

The delivery of the end makes for a satisfying conclusion. You see a nice little jump between the rebellion and the inner politicians of Parliament. The New Dawn makes its move. Combined, New Dawn and Black Raven make for a hell of a revolutionary group. And I wonder why we’d spent the season having these two act as separate organizations until now.

I can happily say: they do the things we’ve wanted for so long in presenting a real threat to the status quo that the world has needed for so long. Sure, racists burn the Row in this one, but the rebels then kill them in turn. In the end, it all boils down to a plot with the Sparas. A big bad, that’s I guess acting as the show’s weapon of mass destruction? Which is odd given that it’s a very slayable creature.  

Again, I think what the show forgot about is how to escalate tension. It’s well produced and acted best to the extent of the talents of its cast; however, anyone who thinks about the plot can realize that all of these actions could have been executed long ago. Back in Episode 1.

Why? Well, a trap to kill all the racists in the Row is easy. And the show more-or-less went a carrot-on-a-stick approach that felt like lazy writing. The Sparas? Was revealed to be someone who was always in a position to kill all of Parliament. In screenwriting terms, there was a ticking-watch moment that was forced in here because none of this was time-sensitive, which sort of makes this finale have little sense outside of forcing a prophecy Tourmaline had early on: her confrontation with the Sparas.

Honestly, from how it’s executed, I don’t think the series knew it was going to be canceled, as their resolution to everything was just to let the upset and angry fellows attack everything that represents the status quo. It’s something to be foiled due to the actions of our heroes. Toss in a few big speeches by our favorite characters and a lesson about how change is hard, and that’s the ending of Carnival Row

Except, every reviewer hated it. I might have been the only person to give it an episode-by-episode chance on a weekly basis, only to have my hopes dashed of what the show could have been.  The problem with the series is that nothing changes. The journey killed off so many characters. And the love stories felt moot in the end given the outcome. 

Truly, the show feels like it was written for Network TV circa 2004. With storylines that meander nowhere and characters that are cool enough with great emotions, and gems of promise… but are forced to rinse and repeat the same plots and romantic will-they/won’t-theys.

So I’m kind of happy to say it’s the end of Carnival Row.

Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles
Christian Angeles is a screenwriter who likes sharing stories and getting to meet people. He also listens to words on the page via audible and tries to write in ways that make people feel things. All on a laptop. Sometimes from an app on his phone.

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I’m at a loss for words. Well, Carnival Row is over. And it was… a TV show—one made by one of the most financially successful companies ever. Who could’ve done just about anything? But this is how it ends. Yep.  It all comes down to a final...Carnival Row Series Finale Review: What The Was That?