Carnival Row – Season 1 Episode 1 Recap & Review

Welcome To The Burgue

Episode 1 of Carnival Row begins with a brief prologue showing us the homeland of the Fae, which has been ravaged by warring human nations. This has inevitably caused the Fae to be caught under the tyrannical rule of The Pact – a hell which they wish to escape from. As we cut to real time action, a group of faeries try desperately to escape from humans as they chase after them, shooting blindly at the Fae. Stumbling off the cliff edge, Vignette makes it aboard a ship. Unfortunately, her survival is short-lived as the ship sinks and our faerie seemingly lost with it.

The story then picks up with Inspector Rycroft, who enters the rustic, beautiful city of The Burgue. He’s tasked with finding the men responsible for hurting the Fae as a string of suspicious deaths appear to point to events inside the city. Speaking to one of the victims, bruises lining her face, she tells him the man wore a uniform but struggles to remember what sort.

While all this is going on, the Parliamentary Republic of The Burgue sees two different groups vying for political power. Overseeing all of this is Absalom, who laments the stubbornness of the other politicians in the aftermath of a heated debate.

News of the ship-wrecked migrant vessel sends ripples across The Burgue as the Inspector realizes it may be linked to the recent string of Fae deaths. From the wreck, it turns out Vignette actually survived and is currently being held at the police station. As the police track down her owners, Vignette is dressed up and forced to be a maid for a rich family, a family home to brother and sister Ezra and Imogen. The Fae is tied up with her wings repressed, as she’s forced to work, leaving the house to fill a vial of perfume for Imogen at The Row. Making her way to her friend  Tourmaline, a blue-haired faerie, Vignette learns that Philo (Rycroft) is still alive.

Realizing it’s not a military uniform but actually that of a sailor’s, Rycroft hurries off to the fisherman’s tavern, determined to find answers. With the victim’s blows made to the right side of the head, our Inspector deduces that the man must be left-handed. In the distance, he sees a foul-mouthed, left-handed fisherman and feigns being drunk as he staggers over. Tumbling onto his back, Rycroft apologizes before lifting his sleeve and finding a tattoo of a Basilisk – the exact symbol he was told to look out for earlier in the episode.

Figuring out as much, a foot-chase ensues as the man scrambles away. Rycroft chases him out the building and they scramble across rooftops, where the Inspector stops the man in his tracks with his gun pointed at his chest. As the Basilisk-tattooed man stares wide-eyed at the Inspector, he tells him a dark god has awakened before jumping to his death.

Pushed to the edge, Vignette cuts her Widow’s braid off and leaves the house she’s been forced to work in. With a knife in hand, she flies over to Rycroft and threatens him in the middle of the night, demanding to know why he lied to her. After exchanging a hostile greeting, she tells him she wishes he died before leaving, as something far more sinister lurks in the shadows, pulling a Fae in and devouring her.

As an opening episode, Carnival Row does okay but a lot of the world building plays centre stage here in favour of the main narrative. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s also something that may prove to be a little problematic later on down the line. There’s certainly a lot of positives to take here though and the ending leaves things wide open for where this may go next but for now, Carnival Row gets off to an okay start, even if some of its themes are a little heavy-handed.


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