Carnival Row Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Well-developed fantasy world; interesting detective story; bright characters; impressive ensemble cast; high-quality graphics and decorations Cons: Some plot moves are quite predictable Carnival Row / “Carnival Row”

Fantasy genre
Creators Rene Echevarria, Travis Beacham
Cast: Orlando Bloom (Rycroft Philostrate), Cara Delevingne (Vignette Stonemoss), David Gyasi (Agros), Karla Crome (Tourmaline), Indira Varma (Pieti Brickspear), Tamzin Merchant (Imogen Spurnrose), Jared Harris (Absalom Brickspear), Simon McBurney (Runyan Millworthy), etc.
Amazon Prime Video Channel
Year of release 2019
Episode 8
Site IMDb

Judge for yourself. In the city of Burg, where the main events of Carnival Row take place, people have difficulty getting along with crowds of refugees seeking refuge from the war. Fairies, fauns, centaurs and kobolds are forced to leave their homes and seek protection in Burg from the cruel authorities of the Pact, which has captured the kingdoms of magical creatures. Non-humans take away jobs, bring their own customs and beliefs, incomprehensible to the residents of Burgue, and generally become an eyesore for people with their wings, horns and hooves. The city is slowly boiling, and here another of the parliamentary parties demands the defeat of non-humans in the rights, and the second, on the contrary, wants to equalize them with people. Against this background, a series of brutal murders begins in the city, which must be dealt with by Inspector Rycroft Philostrate, a man with a mysterious past and an unusual attitude towards non-humans.

Yes, if you want, Carnival Row can easily be called leftist propaganda, parasitic on the topic of refugees that is relevant today. But if we take into account the surroundings, and we are clearly facing the era of the industrial revolution in Victorian England, and the Burgue itself looks like a steampunk version of London (in fact, it is Prague made up), then these are rather references to abolitionism, the fight against slavery in the 19th century.


By the way, the analogy with Taboo that flashed at the very beginning is not at all accidental. The main characters of Carnival Row often have to communicate with the darkest characters at the very bottom of the city and… face real devilry.

What’s impressive about Carnival Row is that the world is designed very well. The same fairies here are not subtle creatures in light dresses, capable only of enchanting a random traveler, but harsh mountaineers who wear thick fur clothes, build majestic fortresses on the passes and know how to survive in the snow. Not all fauns here are stupid creatures, capable of only the most primitive work; among them there are also successful businessmen who know how to dress elegantly and conduct salon conversations. And so on. The series is full of everyday little things that one might not bother with, but their presence allows Carnival Row to look realistic, no matter how strange it may sound in relation to fantasy.


Undoubtedly, for such realism we should thank the computer graphics specialists who turned Prague into a steampunk version of Victorian London, and the costume designers who thought through such details as dresses with slits for fairies’ wings, corsages for wings, engravings on the hooves of fauns, etc. And, of course, the decorators, who did a great job on interiors in the style of the 19th century with a slight touch of another world. For example, instead of Jesus there is a Martyr who was not crucified, but hanged; accordingly, in many rooms a ritual figure is hung in the red corner, and the monks wear around their necks not a cross, but a hangman’s rope.


The cast of Carnival Row is impressive, and Amazon clearly didn’t skimp on the fees. In addition to the leading actors Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean) and Cara Delevingne (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), it is worth noting the participation of such strong performers as Jared Harris (Chernobyl, The Terror), theater actor Simon McBurney (The Loudest Voice, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and Indira Varma (Game of Thrones, Patrick Melrose and BioWare games).


As for the detective plot at the heart of the story, it’s not too bad. Yes, some important nuances can be guessed already in the second episode, and the person behind the brutal murders can be figured out a little later, in the sixth episode, but it is almost impossible to guess who set off the series of events that led to such a denouement.

In addition to the difficult relationship between the main characters, who are united and separated by a common past, there are several other love stories here, also beautiful in their own way. And by the way, full of rather direct references to the morals of the English aristocracy of the 19th century.


If you wish, you can easily find fault with Carnival Row, accusing it of exploiting modern themes and promoting modern views: for example, all the women in the series control their own destinies, and sometimes openly push men around, but, frankly, I don’t want to. The world of Carnival Row looks very holistic, thoughtful and interesting and… very similar to Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. I don’t know about you, but for me this is important, because it is unlikely that we will ever see a full-fledged film adaptation of this brilliant game.

Even before the start of the first season, Amazon renewed Carnival Row for a second. Considering where we leave Bourguet in the final episode, the writers have a lot of options for how things could go.


A high-quality fantasy-detective series featuring famous actors and some modern overtones

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