Amazon Prime’s ‘Carnival Row’ marries crime and fantasy

Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne star in the first season of the Prime original

Despite how hard they try to keep away, Philo and Vignette continue to be drawn together.

War, politics, romance and magical creatures can all be found in the Amazon Prime original “Carnival Row”, which has been approved for a second season.

This isn’t your typical fantasy. Fairies don’t spend their days flitting about or dozing in flowers. In “Carnival Row” the pixies (Pix) are the same size as humans, not an inch high like Tinkerbell, and have just endured a horrible war.

“Carnival Row” is like “Copper” or “Gangs of New York” meets William Butler Yeats.

The makeup and costume choices brings in a bit of whimsy to this dark tale.

My one complaint is that fabric wings appear to have been sown to the back of all the Pix garments. The wings were only animated when they were flying.

On the surface this sounds fine, but the fabric used is so devoid of structure that the Pix wings look like that of a newly hatched butterfly: still crinkled, damp, and utterly useless in flight.

In this fictional Victorian setting, a human war has left their magical creature (Critch) allies to suffer. After The Burge forces retreat, The Pact seize control of virtually every magical country and begin to brutalize its inhabitants.

The Burge, where most of the first season takes place, is grappling with the waves of Critch refugees after the war. Many of its human inhabitants find the Critch below them as they look so different and are deemed inferior cultures.

Most Critch only find work as indentured servants, prostitutes or lixir dealers for the Black Raven.

When Pix Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) escapes to The Burge, she hopes it is for a better life. Upon arrival however, she finds the distaste the humans have for her kind and other Critch a hard pill to swallow.

Delevingne executes this role exceptionally, portraying the emotional turmoil of Vignette authentically. Given spends most of season one flitting between rage and dramatic wails of grief, Delevingne’s portrayal is essential to preventing the character from seeming too dramatic.

Vignette’s presumed dead, lost love Philo (Orlando Bloom) is back in The Burge following the war and has become a detective. He also seems to be the only police officer to respect the Critch living in the city. Philo often takes on cases involving Critch assaults and murders when no one else will.

Bloom takes the role of the secretive, hardened detective of The Burge seriously. Unlike his counterpart, Philo is not as free with his emotions, remaining stone-faced while a flicker of despair flashes across his eyes.

This is a change from the Philo during his time with Vignette. Bloom makes sure to show the difference in Philo’s behavior without making the two seem like completely different people.

Blooms eye for the difference between acting and overacting, makes Philo’s character all the more devastating.

There is a threatening darkness leeching its way into The Burge, with a string of murders by a seemingly unearthly monster keeping the police and Critch alike on-edge.

Will Philo find the creature in time?

Will it mean his end?

How does Vignette find Philo alive, in The Burge?

Watch the first season of “Carnival Row” on Amazon Prime Video to find out.

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