Carnival Row review: Where being different is deadly dangerous

Carnival Row is now available on Amazon Prime Video. Here’s a spoiler-free look into the series, where being different is deadly dangerous.

Carnival Row is the latest new series released by Amazon on its Prime Video streaming platform. If you haven’t started the first episode yet, you need to make time for it. In a world where being different is deadly dangerous, there’s beautiful world building, plenty of thrilling storylines, and a deep romance that is sure to keep you entertained.

I’m keeping this Carnival Row review spoiler-free. There will be some teases, but that’s it. I’ll admit that I’ve only caught the first three episodes out of eight so far, so I couldn’t even spoil much if I wanted to.

Set in a Victorian-era style world, humans and fae live together. Although they don’t live together out of choice. After a war in their homeland, the fae has been forced into the world of humans, leading to them being segregated and discriminated against. Unless they’ve been extremely lucky, the fae has been forced into lives of servitude or prostitution just to get by.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that the humans are racist against these creatures. Well, most of them. There’s always the odd one who is sympathetic, and one of those is our lead male, Philo, played by Orlando Bloom.

It’s quickly revealed that he harbors a secret, and that secret isn’t just connected to his love for our lead female, Vignette, played by Cara Delevingne. There’s a secret that could lead to him being isolated and only Vignette knows. The good news is you don’t have to wait long to find out about this secret.

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Carnival Row

Photo: Carnival Row: Season 1.. Image: Amazon Prime Video

In terms of storyline, the fast pace of reveals is something that I appreciate. Instead of dragging out the past over the course of a few episodes, we spend Episode 3 in the fae homeland years before the series picks up. We learn the truth about how and why Philo left Vignette behind, while also learning his secret and the secrets of many others.

For the most part, you can probably guess the secrets. At least up to Episode 3, but these reveals serve an important part in the overall storyline. They help us understand the characters’ actions and emotions more.

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One thing that I adore is the focus on world-building without being boring. Far too often, the time is spent on introducing the various species of magical creatures. As viewers, we need to learn more about this universe and understand the differences in the creatures. It can become tiresome without a plot to carry it forward.

Carnival Row does delve into various elements of the world, while keeping the focus on the mystery of who is killing the fae. We learn more about the individuals, what they did in their homeland and what they’re forced to do now. This world being after the first episode is done through quick mentions or actions, allowing the focus to be on the plot without us feeling confused or disconnected.

Photo: Carnival Row: Season 1.. Image: Jan Thijs / Amazon Prime Video

Then there’s the romance that isn’t a typical romance story. Bloom and Delevingne are perfect together on the screen. You can sense the tension and that feeling of lost love between them. It’s clear they have a history from when Philo was in Vignette’s homeland, but it’s not until Episode 3 that you finally find out the full truth. Vignette does learn some of the truth in the first episode, which leads to her finding Philo and threatening his life (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer!) but she ends up walking away.

This is more than just a new love romance story. It’s one of love, loss, regret, and heartache. The will-they-won’t-they aspect of it has a different layer of heartbreak, making it far more interesting than many others romance stories out there.

If you love the likes of Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time, and Merlin, Carnival Row is a series that you’re going to want to check out. With eight episodes, it’s the perfect binge-watch series. I’ll be done by the end of the weekend. Will you?

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What do you think of Carnival Row? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Carnival Row is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The series has already been renewed for Season 2.

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