Published Aug 17, 2019Carnival Row, the new offering from Amazon Prime Video, created by Rene Echevarria and Travis Beacham, is a conflicted series. While it can struggle to find its footing in the early going, it does not have any issues showing a complex and diverse world where the ordinary and extraordinary meet, as everyone looks for their place in the world.
Starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, its main strength comes from its world-building, seamlessly integrating the fantastical into a lived-in Victorian-era setting. It has the feel of complementing each other, one informing the other, allowing the humans and the fantasy-based characters to co-exist without looking visually off.
This comes from the production being top-notch, the makeup, costume design and the rich and vibrant city all allowing the story to be told not only through narrative but in its setting and atmosphere.
The story follows investigator Philo (Bloom), as he searches for the root of a string of killings in the Row, bringing him back into the life of Delevingne's Vignette, with whom he shares a past. The narrative expands beyond that into social justice, politics and the dark underbelly of the crime world, all synchronizing together to fill in a larger picture.
The use of class and race to tell stories between human and fantasy characters is properly served, though, discrimination and persecution rolling off some tongues while tolerance, acceptance and empathy come from others. It helps show the plight of some characters, as society struggles to accept them.
Orlando Bloom makes for a charming and charismatic lead as Philo, though the character can be a little hardened and closed-off. He brings a sympathetic worldview while being surrounded by bigotry. Delevingne is livelier from the start; her expressiveness and more sprightly character goes in a more interesting direction, at least initially. But Carnival Row finds its most exciting moments when their characters work together, both chemistry- and story-wise.