Trailer "Carnival Row" season 2 (Amazon Prime Video)
"Carnival Row", an invested urban fantasy series of Amazon Prime, is another one of the productions that was interrupted when the corona epidemic broke out.
Its first season premiered at the end of 2019, while its second (and final) season premiered just this month, almost four years later, and ended last Friday.
It's been so long, that "Amazon Prime" released a 20-minute summary of the events of the series so far, to refresh our memory in all the vicissitudes that the heroes went through in its complex world.
And it's a good thing, because it's a very compressed series not only plot-wise but also conceptually, bursting with details about an imaginary world inhabited by mythological creatures, political struggles and themes of oppression and rebellion.
This quasi-period story takes place in a world reminiscent of Victorian England at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, a sort of steampunk fantasy romantic film noir - yes, all of those things.
In this world, mythological creatures such as flying fairies and horned and hooved fauns, are forced to live as persecuted refugees among humans in the city-state "The Bourge", after the war between the powers "The Borg" and "The Pact" for control of the land Their origin tore her apart.
Different races of creatures live densely and suffocating in a kind of ghetto, whose main street is called "Carnival Row" and is the focus of all the fateful events that take place in the series.
At the beginning of the story, an investigation into a string of brutal murders by those refugees (called "Critch" as a general derogatory name) leads the human police inspector Raycroft "Filo" Philostrait (played by Orlando Bloom) to come up with a mystery that will affect not only his life but also the political forces who run the country.
When Fayello was a young Borg soldier he served in the lands of the Fae (or as they are mockingly called, the "Pixes") which have since been occupied by the Pact, and there he fell in love with Vynette (Cara Delevingne), a young and fey warrior, and years later they meet again in "Roo ".
Their love story was at the heart of the first season, along with the question of the identity of Philo, who is forced to choose between his two halves after the truth about his past is revealed to him.
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Even the colors are completely cloudy.
"Carnival Row" season 2 (Photo: Julie Vrabelova/Prime Video)
Something strange is happening with this series, which on paper sounds like an excellent escapism series, and an excellent binge option.
In fact, watching it continuously without breaks is a very bad idea.
It is crammed with never-ending action and twists of fate, the ceaseless tension that is only increasing between the humans and the "creech" is only escalating and becoming more and more violent.
There are many violent series or those that show us a harsh world with very little hope, but the problem with "Carnival Row" is that it is so bleak.
Everything is miserable, everything looks hard and cruel, even the colors of the series are completely cloudy, all the time.
Even when we leave the ghetto and visit the rich houses of the city, or in other countries of this world, the color does not become clearer.
Fantasy is supposed to take us out of our reality, and thus make us identify with situations and creatures that teach us about ourselves.
But it is very difficult to watch a fantasy that presents such a dark and bleak situation without offering a lot of hope and joy.
Everyone is in a difficult situation, all the heroes are suffering, everyone is fighting something that seems hopeless, and in every scene things just keep getting worse.
The series talks about the dangers in a world full of hatred - hatred of the stranger, fear of the other, a sense of superiority of one race over others.
The reference is supposedly to past periods in human history - England where the white man enslaves the black man, conquers weaker nations as colonies as if it were his natural right, sees any culture that is not his own as something exotic at best and backward and inferior at worst.
One whose value is measured in profits, cheap labor, natural treasures, historical treasures - any way in which it can be exploited to the fullest.
Although these are extremely important themes, the themes of oppression, hatred for everything that is different, the inability of the ruling class to give up a drop of power in order to reduce the shocking gap with the weaker classes - all of this is too close to our reality to allow us to immerse ourselves in the world of fantasy and be fascinated by it, which the creators They do not provide us with a glimmer of hope.
Please note, from here on spoilers for all "Carnival Row", including the last episodes.
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Orlando Bloom, "Carnival Row" season 2 (Photo: Julie Vrabelova/Prime Video)
In the second season, all these elements only increase until sometimes the plot is unbearable.
If in the past there were some clear pivots that helped it stay focused, this time "Carnival Row" loses its focus and the characters seem to sway from side to side in the struggle.
Philo swings between his two identities - he's human and he's a Faye, he's an honorable cop and he's Creech scum - but the question of his identity, which was one of the mainstays of the first season, becomes ridiculous in the second, when Philo and Wynette switch opinions and loyalties three times in the episode.
Their love story also can't hold the series anymore.
If before they groped their way back to each other in a way that felt inevitable, as if their love was fateful and stronger than any war or difference of class and race, then in the new season they are on two separate tracks that are only drifting apart.
Philo's romantic sacrifice at the end of the first season, regardless of whether he made the gesture in the name of love or because he had come to terms with his identity, turned out to be meaningless when the whole Borg is burning in this race war.
"What a couple we are, huh?"
He tells her at some point, and she replies, "Yes, we were. It was a pleasant illusion."
They can't be together, and that's okay because the series has also already lost the interest it had in their relationship.
Pailo, always a policeman despite the change in his status, tries with all his heart to maintain the status quo and prevent an all-out war in Roo, and in contrast to him Vineette becomes more and more militant and her leadership qualities help gather an army around her.
The cycle of violence escalates - the government, which feels threatened by the desperate attempts of the minorities to get their situation recognized, reacts with excessive severity.
Decapitated heads and torn wings hanging on the wall of the Hero to cause terror and oppression only make the frustrated pixies more extreme as they demand justice.
We viewers just have to sit and watch this escalation, with no hope of a solution.
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Their love is not interesting either.
David Gyasi and Tamzin Merchant, "Carnival Row" season 2 (Photo: Julie Vrabelova/Prime Video)
In this miserable world, love will not save us.
The other couples are not expected to have a better fate either.
Privileged Imogene ran away at the end of the previous season with Agrace, a faun who had become rich and demanded his place in high society.
Now the two are trying to find themselves in a divided world, and are testing the possibility that maybe the communist revolution taking place in "Paket" will allow them to realize their Bridgerton romance.
But their story also suffers from the same lack of focus, and when they reach their happy ending it is not clear who cares.
After two seasons packed to the point of exhaustion, it's hard to put your finger on why it doesn't work, why it doesn't manage to penetrate the heart.
Because, as it were, everything is here - a deep enough story, a wide and reasoned fantastic world, a love story that crosses continents and races, unique characters and a quite successful cast, who really give their all in impressive acting moments (especially Orlando Bloom), strong deaths and super-relevant to our lives.
Although the special effects are very noticeable and difficult to digest, it is clear that a lot of money was invested in the series, in the design of the various creatures in a way that looks organic (sometimes it succeeds, most of the time it is horrible) and the feeling of the wretchedness of the place and time.
And despite all the good qualities, in the end it's hard to feel strong feelings for the heroes and the relentless depressing atmosphere is simply exhausting.
The big problem of the series is not in style but in content.
So many ideas, but she can't make a decision.
What's the bottom line?
What lesson would you like us to take away from this story, other than "everything is bad and the world is unfair"?
In the end, all the twists and turns in the plot, all the heroic sacrifice, every time the characters are on the verge of death (or really dead) - after all, nothing changes the big picture.
It becomes clear right in the final episode of the series, when all the loose ends are supposed to be closed or at least lead to some kind of conclusion, but overall the world remains as it was, no character really went through any process, everyone returned to point 0 where the series started.
Vineet returned to Tirnuch her homeland to be reunited with her lover Tourmaline, and Paylo refused to realize his destiny and accept political authority over him, and in fact decided not to decide.
Although the entire series sold him as the hero of the people whose destiny was written so that he would unite all the fragments, he really chooses not to choose anything - just like the creators of this series, who are not ready to commit to a clear message.
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