Carnival Row, Prime Video’s lavish “Victorian neo-noir” fantasy series that premiered in 2019, returns for one more season. (I called it “part murder mystery, part fairy tale, and 100% entirely original” in my review at the time.) The series was renewed for a second season even before the first season aired, but the pandemic has delayed those plans. The streaming platform has now announced that the upcoming second season, which will premiere in February, will be the last with the briefest of teasers.
(Spoilers for the first season below.)
As I wrote before, Carnival Row is based on a feature film script by Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim), written while still in film school in North Carolina 17 years ago. He worked in the school library and found himself reading about everything from Celtic mythology to Jack the Ripper. All of this fodder fueled a 10-page script for a short film about a neo-Victorian London constable visiting a fairytale brothel where a murder took place. His teacher suggested that the subject was better suited for a feature film. The finished screenplay made Hollywood’s first blacklist in 2005, an annual list of “highest-rated” screenplays not yet produced. It took another 14 years to make it into production. Legendary Entertainment eventually bought the script in 2015 and reimagined it as a series for Amazon Prime.
Orlando Bloom stars as Rycroft “Philo” Philostratus, an orphan from the Burgue, a human city coexisting in a world with other exotic lands that are home to various mystical creatures: fairies (“Pix”), fauns (“Pucks”) , trolls (“Trows”), centaurs, werewolves (“Morroks”), etc. The races lived peacefully in their respective regions until war broke out with a mysterious group called The Pact. The humans of the Burgue have sided with the fae to protect their homeland from invaders.
During his military service, Philo met and fell in love with the fairy Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne). But the lovers were torn as Burgue’s forces retreated. Knowing that Vignette would never leave him of his own free will, Philo faked his own death so that she evacuated with her fellow fae. Many of them ended up in the Burgue as refugees to escape being murdered by the occupying Pact forces. And Philo became a police inspector.
During S1, Philo worked to solve a series of heinous murders, with anti-immigrant sentiment among the humans of the Burgue on the rise. In the end, Philo solved his case, but not before he was falsely imprisoned as a suspect himself, not to mention finding out he was half-fae. His mother was a Pix singer named Aisling (Erika Starkova) who was reduced to recuperation to survive; she was also the first murder victim. Philo also learned that his biological father was none other than Chancellor Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris). Following the fae uprisings, Absalom’s other son, Jonah (Arty Froushan), created a ghetto for the fae in the season finale, forbidding them from leaving or interacting with humans. Philo chose to join Vignette and the rest of the fae in the ghetto.
The teaser simply shows a tender kiss between Philo and Vignette, seemingly in the air with Vignette wrapping him in his wings. Then she lets go and he begins to fall back on what looks like a burning Burgue. Beacham said that at least some of the characters will venture beyond the Burgue to expand the show’s reach in the second season, though the titular Carnival Row neighborhood will still be prominently featured. And it looks like there will be more murders for Philo to investigate. According to the official premise:
In a fantasy world where humans and creatures clash, the second season of Carnival Row picks up with former Inspector Rycroft Philostratus, aka Philo (Orlando Bloom), investigating a series of gruesome murders stoking social tensions. Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) and Black Raven plot revenge for the unjust oppression inflicted by the human rulers of The Burgue, Jonah Breakspear (Arty Froushan) and Sophie Longerbane (Caroline Ford). Tourmaline (Karla Crome) inherits supernatural powers that threaten her fate and the future of The Row. And, after escaping The Burgue and her vengeful brother Ezra (Andrew Gower), Imogen Spurnrose (Tamzin Merchant) and her partner Agreus Astrayon (David Gyasi) encounter a radical new society that upends their plans. With humans and fae divided and freedom at stake, each hero will face impossible dilemmas and soul-defining tests in the epic conclusion to Carnival Row.
The second and final season of Carnival Row will premiere on Prime Video on February 17, 2023.
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