CARNIVAL ROW Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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CARNIVAL ROW Review

We take a spoiler-lite stroll down Carnival Row.


I'm not exactly sure how I feel about Carnival Row, Amazon Prime's new neo-noir fantasy series. As a commentary on the way we treat refugees and the dehumanisation of those who look 'different', it sort of works and arrives at a time when a percentage of the western world could do with reminding that outside appearance is no substitute for inner worth. Unfortunately, this aspect of the series is so forefront and in your face that it's likely to turn off the same viewers who could've been educated by it.

As world building goes it's triumphant, in both visual appeal and backstory. The Fae have fled their homeland, ravaged by a bitter war between the Burgue and the Pact. When the Burgue withdrew the mythical creatures were left to the mercy of the Pact, who essentially showed none and began systematically killing all of fairy kind, decimating the entire population so they alone could control the land's riches.

Faerie Vignette Stonemoss is a Sparrowhawk who arranges transport for the lucky fae that manage to escape. Those refugees are taken to the relative safety of the human-ruled republic of The Burgue, a magical noir version of Victorian London, where they will repay their transportation debt in the service of wealthy ship owners, or look for work in the brothel district that is Carnival Row.

Unfortunately, xenophobia is ripe, and many of the native citizens do not care for the growing immigrant population. It's here that the parallels to our modern world couldn't be more obvious. Tensions are simmering over, and the uneasy peace that does exist is teetering on a knife edge thanks to a string of unsolved murders and attacks on fairykind. There are scenes and dialogue which could've been ripped straight out of "The Age Of Trump", from a paraphrase of 'very fine people' by the chief of police, to the politicians of Balefire Hall arguing the case for forced removal of fairykind. #Faexit if you will.

From the opening sequence in the kingdom of Tirnanocon on the magical fae continent of Anoun, where the genocidal Pact are wiping out the fae, to the republic of Burgue which is like a lucid Dickensian dream, Carnival Row is a visual treat. The set designs are superb, as are the costumes of the mythical creatures and the effects used for the fae's wings and flying sequences.

Where Carnival Row isn't quite as triumphant is in the acting stakes. Orlando Bloom plays Rycroft Philostrate, the police inspector investigating the fae murders. He grimaces his way through much of his dialogue, pulling the most unusual 'sniffing the fart' facial expressions. He's also adopted an almost Jack Sparrow like accent, which is quite odd.

Cara Delevingne is, perhaps surprisingly, the better of the two leads. Her take on Vignette Stonemoss feels quite natural, and although much has been made of her Irish-esque accent it doesn't detract from any element of her performance at all.

The supporting cast is equally hit or miss. For every Jared Harris there's an overacting wannabe with a jarring 'cor blimey g'vner' accent. The characters themselves range from the believable to the stereotypical, complete with whore with a heart of gold, posh privileged white girl and shaven head racist.

Carnival Row takes itself too serious on occasions and does itself a disservice with overuse of graphic violence, sex and language for, often, no necessary reason. As if it's trying to fill some Game of Thrones void and capture an audience on the lookout for fairy-tits and cheap thrills. It's possibly not the most binge-worthy series you'll find out there, and I suspect may have worked better in smaller doses, but for its rich world building and its surprising relevance to real world issues Carnival Row does enough to remain an intriguing watch throughout its 8 episodes.

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